February 28, 2013
By Krishana Davis
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
As a gun debate rages at the national, state and local levels, a Baltimore man with two previous felony convictions was sentenced on Feb. 19 to 15 years for unlawfully possessing ammunition.
Local law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the Baltimore home of Robert Hubbard, 37, after an informant purchased drugs from Hubbard at his place of residence. During the raid, police found a safe containing a .32 caliber revolver containing five rounds of ammunition, a box of ammunition, $150 in cash, a Ziplock bag of marijuana and bag containing seven Ziplock bags of heroin and another of cocaine.
Hubbard served time for two previous convictions of carjacking and two previous convictions of robbery, which made him ineligible to possess the ammunition.
Hubbard was initially found guilty after a three-day trial in November 2011. In addition to the 15-year prison term, Hubbard was sentenced to another five years of supervised release for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
February 28, 2013
By Antonio Harvey
Special to the NNPA from The Sacramento Observer
Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine students who desegregated Little Rock Arkansas’ Central High School in the 1950s, said she and her young civil rights counterparts indeed went through a tumultuous time. But she also expressed the vile and unpleasant harassment their parents had to suffer too in some aspects of the valiant move to desegregate the formerly all-White school. Brown Trickey’s parents, Willie and Imogene Brown, and the other Little Rock Nine’s matriarchs and patriarchs were “designated as the heroes of this,” Brown-Trickey, 71 told The Observer in a telephone interview this week.
Her father, an independent mason and landscaping contractor lost his business and didn’t get anymore work, she recalled.
“I think that happened with all the parents who were threatened with firings or were fired. There were hate calls all day and night,” she added.
The Little Rock Nine was the next step after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case, which held that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Brown-Trickey said 70 Black youth signed up to be the first students to integrate Little Rock High for the 1957-58 school year. Only 20 were selected by the school board, “but on the first day there were only nine of us,” she said. On early black-and-white television, the world watched as the Black youth, ages 14 and 15, faced constant verbal and physical harassment. However, between the Little Rock Nine and their parents, there were issues going on in the background no one knew about.
“While we’re trying to integrate the school, we didn’t tell our parents what was happening to us and they didn’t tell us what happening to them,” Brown-Trickey said.
“It was a way of survival that everybody participated in a certain way. But the parents are the real heroes because they knew it was hell.”
The 70 children who signed up to attend Little Rock High were not forced to sign up or pressed in any other way as some would imagine, Brown Trickey said. They signed up by choice and with courage. Despite their interests, the parents of the Little Rock Nine also knew that there would be a price to pay. That price, Brown-Trickey said, is truly where they became the nine youth’s heroes.
“I skipped home and told my mom, ‘oh I just signed up to go to Central,’” Brown-Trickey said.
“She said what moms would always say, ‘We’ll see’ and then they let us do it. Looking back, I think that’s the heroic in it because we wanted to do it and they let us do it. They knew it was hard but they trusted us. Yes, they are the brave ones.”
Read Part II of Brown-Trickey’s story, how she was expelled from Little Rock Central High School, her move to New York afterwards, and her interactive traveling trips with Sojorn to the Past in next week’s SENTINEL.
February 21, 2013
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER and PETE YOST | Associated Press
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., holding back tears, entered a guilty plea Wednesday in federal court to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces 46 to 57 months in prison, and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000, under a plea deal with prosecutors.
A few hours later, his wife, Sandra Jackson, pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She faces one to two years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $40,000.
In a 17-page prosecution document, Jackson’s wife admitted that from mid-2006 through mid-October of last year, she failed to report $600,000 in income that she and her husband earned from 2005 to 2011.
Before entering the plea to a conspiracy charge, Jesse Jackson told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins, “I’ve never been more clear in my life” in his decision to plead guilty.
Later, when Wilkins asked if Jackson committed the acts outlined in court papers, the former congressman replied, “I did these things.” He added later, “Sir, for years I lived in my campaign,” and used money from the campaign for personal use.
Jackson dabbed his face with tissues, and at point a court employee brought some tissues to Jackson's lawyer, who gave them to the ex-congressman. Jackson told the judge he was waiving his right to trial.
“In perfect candor, your honor, I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers’ time or money,” he said.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen called the guilty plea “so tragic because it represents such wasted potential” and that Jackson used his campaign as “his own personal piggybank.” He said that Jackson could have been the voice of a new generation.
Machen credited Jackson for coming in early and telling the truth. “But today is his day of reckoning,” the prosecutor said.
The fraud, perpetuated over seven years, was “not a momentary lapse of judgment,” Machen said.He called Jackson’s victims the American people and said that Jackson betrayed the trust of contributors who “donated their hard-earned money.”
Machen declined to say what launched the investigation, but he said it did not stem from the House Ethics Committee investigation into Jackson’s dealings with Rod Blagojevich when he was governor. Blagojevich is serving a prison sentence for trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.
Jackson had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 28, and his wife on July 1. Wilkins, who presided over both guilty pleas, is not bound by the terms of the plea agreements. Both Jacksons are free until sentencing.
Since last June, Jesse Jackson has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, and he stayed out of the public eye for months, even during the November elections. His attorney said after the court appearance that Jackson’s health is “not an excuse” for his actions, “just a fact.”
Jackson entered the courtroom holding hands with his wife and looking a bit dazzled as he surveyed the packed room. He kissed his wife and headed to the defense table.
Jackson’s father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, sat in the front row. Before the hearing started, he wrote notes on a small piece of paper. When the proceedings started, he sat expressionless and virtually motionless, hands folded. As he made his way back to the courtroom for Sandra Jackson's hearing, he took in a deep breath and let out a sigh. Several other family members also attended.
Jesse Jackson Jr., wearing a blue shirt and blue-patterned tie and dark suit, answered a series of questions from the judge, mostly in a muffled tone. When the judge asked if he had consumed any drugs or alcohol in the previous 24 hours, Jackson said he had a beer Tuesday night.
As the proceedings wound up, Jackson sat at the defense table, furrowed his brow and shook his head, in what looked like an expression of disbelief. After the hearing was adjourned, he walked over to his wife, grabbed her hand, and then was greeted by his father. Jackson Jr. patted his father on the back a few times.
“Tell everybody back home I’m sorry I let them down, OK?” Jackson told Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet, according to her Tweet from the scene.
Sandra Jackson, 49, wearing a black pantsuit, sobbed visibly during her court hearing, as her husband watched from the row behind the defense table. Sandi, as she’s known, was a Chicago alderman before she resigned last month during the federal investigation.
Jesse Jackson Jr., 47, used campaign money to buy items including a $43,350 gold-plated men’s Rolex watch and $9,587.64 worth of children’s furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the court documents said. Under the plea deal, Jackson must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of memorabilia items and furs. Sandi Jackson must also pay $168,000 in restitution.
More details emerged in a 22-page statement compiled by prosecutors, filed Wednesday, in which Jackson admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy 3,100 personal items worth $582,772.58 from 2005 through April of last year. Personal expenditures at restaurants, nightclubs and lounges cost $60,857.04. Personal expenditures at sports clubs and lounges cost $16,058.91, including maintaining a family membership at a gym. Personal spending for alcohol cost $5,814.43. Personal spending for dry cleaning cost $14,513.42.
Among the individual purchases made with campaign credit cards:
—A $466 dinner for two of “a personal nature” at Mandarin Oriental’s CityZen restaurant.
—A washer, a dryer, a range and a refrigerator for the Jacksons’ Chicago home.
—Multiple flat-screen televisions, multiple Blu-Ray DVD players and numerous DVDs for their Washington, D.C., home.
—A five-day health retreat for one of Mrs. Jackson’s relatives.
—Stuffed animals and accessories for them.
—Goods at Costco, from video games to toilet paper.
According to the prosecution’s court papers, Jackson even arranged for the use of campaign money to buy two mounted elk heads for his congressional office. Last summer, as the FBI closed in, a Jackson staffer identified only as “Person A” tried to arrange for the sale of the elk heads, but the FBI was one step ahead. The bureau had an undercover FBI employee contact the staffer, claiming to be an interior designer who had received the person’s name from a taxidermist and inquiring whether there were elk heads for sale. They agreed on a price of $5,300.
Jackson’s wife, knowing that the elk heads had been purchased with campaign funds, directed the staffer to move the elk heads from Washington to Chicago and to instruct the sale contact to wire the proceeds to her husband’s personal account.
Over the years, the unidentified “Person A” provided significant help to the Jacksons in carrying out the scheme. Jackson used the aide for many different bill-paying activities, including paying construction contractors for work on Jackson’s Washington home.
From 2008 through last March, Jackson’s re-election campaign issued $76,150.39 in checks to the staff member, who was entitled to only $11,400 for work done for the campaign. The aide spent the remainder of the funds from the campaign for the Jacksons.
Machen, the U.S. attorney, said that prosecutors could have come up with more severe charges against Sandi Jackson.
“They do have children. We’re sensitive to that,” he said. “We utilized our discretion.”
One of Jesse Jackson Jr.’s lawyers, Reid H. Weingarten, told reporters after the hearing that there’s reason for optimism.
“A man that talented, a man that devoted to public service, a man who’s done so much for so many, has another day. There will be another chapter in Jesse Jackson’s life,” he said.
Weingarten said that his client has “serious health issues. And those health issues are directly related to his present predicament. That’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact. And Jesse’s turned the corner there as well. There’s reason for optimism here too. Jesse’s gotten great treatment, he’s has great doctors, and I think he’s gotten his arms around his problem.”
As the hearing for Jackson got under way Wednesday, newly filed court papers disclosed that the judge had offered to disqualify himself from handling the cases against Jackson and his wife.
As a Harvard Law School student, Wilkins said he had supported the presidential campaign of Jackson’s father and that as an attorney in 1999, Wilkins had been a guest on a show hosted by Jackson’s father.
Prosecutors and lawyers for the couple said they were willing to proceed with the cases with Wilkins presiding. Judicial ethics require that a judge disqualify himself if his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
February 21, 2013
By JULIE PACE | Associated Press
The Obama administration is quietly considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriage, a step that would mark a political victory for advocates of same-sex unions and a deepening commitment by President Barack Obama to rights for gay couples.
Obama raised expectations among opponents of the Proposition 8 ban when he declared in last month's inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be "treated like anyone else under the law." The administration has until Feb. 28 to intervene in the case by filing a "friend of the court" brief.
The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 and overturned a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.
An administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the Justices but the federal government's opinion does carry weight with the court.
A final decision on whether to file a brief has not been made, a senior administration official said. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, said the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.
While the Justice Department would formally make the filing, the president himself is almost certain to make the ultimate decision on whether to file.
Obama has a complicated history on gay marriage. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he opposed the California ban but didn't endorse gay marriage. As he ran for re-election last year, he announced his personal support for same-sex marriage but said marriage was an issue that should be decided by the states, not the federal government.
To some, Obama's broad call for gay rights during his Jan. 21 inaugural address was a signal that he now sees a federal role in defining marriage.
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," Obama said during his remarks on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. "For if we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
But administration officials said Obama — a former constitutional law professor — was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry.
Seeking to capitalize on growing public support for gay marriage, advocates are calling on the administration to file a broad brief not only asking the court to declare California's ban unconstitutional but also urging the Justices to make all state bans illegal.
"If they do make that argument and the court accepts it, the ramifications could be very sweeping," said Richard Socarides, an attorney and advocate.
The administration could also file a narrower brief that would ask the court to issue a decision applying only to California. Or it could decide not to weigh in on the case at all.
The Supreme Court, which will take up the case on March 26, has several options for its eventual ruling. Among them:
— The justices could uphold the state ban on gay marriage and say citizens of a state have the right to make that call.
— The court could endorse an appeals court ruling that would make same-sex marriage legal in California but apply only to that state.
— The court could issue a broader ruling that would apply to California and seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. In those states, gay couples can join in civil unions that have all the benefits of marriage but cannot be married.
— The broadest ruling would be one that says the Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex unions.
For weeks, supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 have been lobbying the administration to side with them.
Last month, Theodore Olson and David Boies, lawyers arguing for gay marriage, met with Verrilli and other government lawyers to urge the administration to file a brief in the case. A few days later, Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, met with the solicitor general to ask the government to stay out of the case. Those kinds of meetings are typical in a high court case when the government is not a party and is not asked by the court to make its views known.
Boies and Chad Griffin, president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, also had a meeting at the White House on the case.
Ahead of next week's deadline, nearly two dozen states have filed briefs with the Supreme Court asking the Justices to uphold the California measure.
"There's a critical mass of states that have spoken out and believe states should continue to have the right to define marriage as between one man and one woman," said Jim Campbell, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents supporters of Proposition 8.
Public opinion has shifted in support of gay marriage in recent years. In May 2008, Gallup found that 56 percent of Americans felt same-sex marriages should not be recognized by the law as valid. By November 2012, some 53 percent felt they should be legally recognized.
Obama has overwhelming political support among those who support same-sex marriage. Exit polls from the November election showed that 49 percent of voters believed their states should legally recognize gay marriage. More than 70 percent of those voters backed Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
One day after the court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on another gay marriage case, this one involving provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The act defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.
The Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law in 2011 but continues to enforce it. Because DOMA is a federal law and the government is a party to the case, the administration does not have to state its opposition through a friend of the court brief.