Roundup: Most claims of abuse during GOP convention unfounded, newspaper reports

Monday, August 21, 2000

Only a handful of allegations leveled by protesters regarding police
abuse at the Republican National
Convention are backed by medical evidence, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported.
Protesters have accused police and prison guards of 295 instances of
mistreatment and abuse, but in interviews with nearly two dozen activists
alleging some of the more serious claims, the newspaper found that only two
cases yielded corroborating medical evidence. The paper also discovered that
many of the more serious allegations were found to have no supporting evidence
beyond eyewitness accounts. According to the American Civil Liberties Union,
the only lawsuit filed so far was by people who volunteered as medics during
the protests, claiming they were mistreated by police during convention
demonstrations July 31 to Aug. 3. Some of the more serious accusations, such as
of having been beaten or choked, were the result of incidents that allegedly
took place while activists were, by their own admission, being uncooperative,
the newspaper said. So far, none of the protesters have filed complaints about
jail treatment with the city Commission on Human Relations or the Police
Advisory Commission, a police review board comprised of citizens. Associated

South Carolina: Groups vow to continue pre-football game

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe may
have barred students from leading
stadium crowds in prayer before football games, but school districts in
South Carolina say they cannot stop students from expressing their right to
pray. Union County School Board member Buck Peay requested to continue
student-led prayers at football games, but the board has postponed making a
decision. Meanwhile, about 100 Union High School students prayed together in
circle that reached from the end zone to the 20-yard line at a preseason game
Aug. 11. The Greater Gaffney Ministerial Association, which is made up of 20
churches of all denominations across Cherokee County, is encouraging
parishioners to stand together before football games and recite the
Lord’s Prayer after the National Anthem. Cherokee County School Board
Chairman Greg Kirby, encouraged by students, asked WAGI-FM radio, which
broadcasts to parts of six states, to allow a student to say a prayer from the
press box before the station starts its play-by-play action at Gaffney High
School’s home football games. Shell Dula, athletic director and football
coach at Greenwood High School, said he would continue weekly devotional and
prayers with their teams. The Rev. Mark Walker of Praise Assembly in Beaufort,
who has volunteered as a team chaplain in Seneca for seven years and now at
Beaufort High School, said he leads a weekly, non-denominational devotional
before the game. Associated Press

California: Vigil held for protesters at Democratic

Fifty of the nearly 200 protesters arrested during the
Democratic National Convention
remained jailed Aug. 19, many of them on a hunger strike, as supporters outside
the jail demanded their immediate release. Twenty-six of the 27 men and 19 of
the 23 women began refusing to eat on Aug. 18, said Sgt. Bob Killeen of the Los
Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees county jails. On Aug.
19, about two dozen demonstrators carried cardboard cutouts depicting their
comrades behind bars. “We are asking for a fair and just plea
bargain,” protest organizer Lisa Fithian said. The bulk of those still in
custody refuse to give authorities their names, even though if they did so,
they likely would be given court dates and released with a minimal amount of
bail. Kevin Rudiger of Direct Action Network said he hoped the demonstration
would persuade prosecutors to drop misdemeanor charges against the jailed
protesters and free them with credit for time served. Police said 194 people
were arrested during the convention. Associated Press

District of Columbia: Group objects to ‘Carnivore’
release plan

The Electronic Privacy Information Center objects to how the FBI plans
the public release of some of the 3,000 pages of documents describing its
“Carnivore” e-mail surveillance system. The civil liberties group
says the schedule laid out by the government is too open-ended. The Justice
Department told a federal judge Aug. 16 that the FBI had located 3,000 pages in
response to a Freedom of Information
request and lawsuit by the group, which asked for every document the FBI
has describing the computerized system. At her weekly news conference Aug. 17,
Attorney General Janet Reno declined to predict how long the entire process
could take. The department told U.S. District Judge James Robertson in a
written status report that the government has begun reviewing the pages to see
if any should be withheld as classified information. Next, a large number of
the pages would have to be reviewed by private companies that supplied them
under contract to see if they objected, the government added. The companies can
prevent release of their trade secrets. The Carnivore system, which has raised
an uproar among civil libertarians and in Congress, has software that scans and
captures “packets,” the standard unit of Internet traffic, as they
travel through an Internet service provider’s network. Associated

Georgia: Judge considers request to lift gag order

Superior Court Judge Stephanie Manis is considering a request from a
former black radical leader to lift a gag order that prevents him from talking
to the media about murder charges he faces. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly
known as H. Rap Brown, is accused of shooting two Fulton County sheriff’s
deputies in March, killing one, as they tried to serve him with an arrest
warrant. Manis said the gag order was necessary to prevent pretrial publicity
from influencing potential jurors. She rejected Al-Amin’s Aug. 15 request
to lift the gag order immediately, but said she would review other court
decisions about a defendant’s right to free speech and issue a ruling in
two to four weeks. Al-Amin was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee and, for a short time, a member of the Black Panthers. In his only
statement about the case, Al-Amin said the murder charge brought against him
was a government conspiracy. Associated Press

New Hampshire: Library revokes Web filtering policy

Nashua Public Library officials have revoked a policy that forced
people browsing the Internet on library computers to use Web filtering
software. The First Amendment Legal Defense Fund, a free-speech advocacy group,
threatened to sue the library last month, saying the policy interfered with
rights of adults to view any material they wish. The library’s board of
trustees voted Aug. 16 to rescind the policy, according to the People for the
American Way Foundation. The board agreed to remove the screening software from
all computers, except for one in the children’s room. Arthur Barrett,
chairman of the library trustees, said although he personally supports the
filter programs, defending the policy in court would have been almost
impossible. Library officials had defended the software, saying officials
wanted to keep people, especially children, from using library Internet
connections to access pornography. But the First Amendment Legal Defense Fund
said the filtering software, regardless of good intentions, prevented people
from accessing constitutionally protected information. Associated Press

California: O.J. Simpson tries to stop TV movie on his murder

O.J. Simpson has sent his lawyers to court seeking to halt production
of the first television movie dealing with his murder trial. Superior Court
Judge David Yaffe, however, refused to issue a restraining order. The movie,
“American Tragedy,” is based on the best-selling book of the same
title by Lawrence Schiller and James Willwerth. Simpson said the movie reveals
inside secrets of his defense team and violates his attorney-client privilege.
The lawsuit names Schiller and former Simpson lawyer Robert Kardashian as well
as Project 95, the company producing the movie for CBS network. Yaffe on Aug.
15 set another hearing for Sept. 6 and said he would read the script in the
interim to see if it discloses any information not already in the book.
Schiller’s lawyers said the challenge comes four years too late, that
Simpson never pursued litigation when the book was published and that he
can’t show that the movie will cause him any harm. Simpson was acquitted
of murder in the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her
friend, Ronald Goldman. Simpson was subsequently found liable for the killings
in a civil trial and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages. Simpson’s
lawyers, Adam Belsky and Terry Gross of San Francisco, filed affidavits from
eight members of the defense team who claimed they were misled in talking to
Schiller during preparation of the book. Associated Press

Louisiana: Judge refuses to throw out free-speech lawsuit

Judge Patricia Hedges refused to throw out a lawsuit filed by a
Madisonville mom who was barred from criticizing her son’s first-grade
teacher at a public St. Tammany Parish school board meeting. The court battle
stems from a March incident when Dana Thompson, the mother of a Madisonville
Elementary School student, walked into an empty classroom and put fliers into
students’ backpacks requesting that parents attend a school board meeting
where she planned to voice dissatisfaction with her son’s first-grade
teacher. School Superintendent Leonard Monteleone responded by obtaining a
temporary restraining order against Thompson, barring her from publicly airing
her complaints about the teacher. Thompson, backed by the American Civil
Liberties Union, sued the school
board, accusing board members of violating her First Amendment rights and
damaging her reputation. Her lawsuit seeks to have the board’s policies
in limiting public comments declared unconstitutional. She also seeks damages
and the removal of the restraining order. Associated Press

Wisconsin: U.S. Chamber of Commerce sues city over records

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sued the city of Milwaukee over a
request for public records related to the city’s possible lawsuit against
lead paint makers. The chamber said the city was “stonewalling” its
July 21 request to provide the records. City Attorney Grant Langley said the
chamber had made 66 requests involving 10 city departments for records related
to lead paint dating back 50 years. The Housing Authority must review tens of
thousands of files to fulfill the request, which the city plans to do, he said.
He called the chamber lawsuit “nothing more than calculated
harassment.” City officials are scheduled to vote Sept. 6 on whether to
file a lawsuit against the paint industry to force the cleanup of homes where
old lead-based paint is poisoning children. Associated Press

Indiana: Lawmakers to draft new curfew legislation

Lawmakers plan to rewrite Indiana’s curfew law in the upcoming
session of the General Assembly to replace a statute
struck down last month by U.S.
District Judge John Tinder. Tinder ruled that Indiana’s curfew law was
too restrictive and violated the First Amendment rights of minors. On Aug. 17,
a county judge and law enforcement officials told the Interim Committee on
Juvenile Law and Restorative Justice that a state curfew law is needed to help
protect teens and make parents more accountable. Although some communities are
drafting local curfew ordinances in light of Tinder’s ruling, Marion
county Sheriff Jack Cottey said, they do not include the power to arrest and
will lead to a patchwork of regulations. The committee plans to draft new
legislation that would broaden exemptions to the current law so it is less
intrusive on the First Amendment rights of minors. But Monroe Circuit Court
Judge Viola Taliaferro said too many exemptions would dilute the law to the
point of being meaningless. Associated Press

Ohio: Court reaffirms stance on confidential records

Records of investigations by the state Medical Board are confidential
under Ohio’s public records law, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Aug. 16 in
a decision that reaffirmed its stance on such records. Alvin Wallace had sued
the Medical Board and the Ohio Department of Insurance for the records of their
investigations against him and his company, Surgical Skills, Inc., a business
that provides hospitals with surgical assistants. He claimed the records were
no longer considered confidential because the agencies allowed a third party
— Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield fraud investigator Richard Wilson
— to access the information by sitting in on interviews with witnesses.
The court ruled it was improper for the Medical Board to allow an individual
from a private company into interviews conducted during investigations. But,
the court said, the action did not waive the right of privacy for individuals
named in the documents. Tom Dilling, executive director of the Medical Board,
said the board would abide by the court’s ruling. Associated Press

California: Nonunion University of California workers sue over
union dues

Nonfaculty workers at the University of California system sued in U.S.
District Court Aug. 15 to overturn legislation requiring nonunion workers to
pay partial union dues. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
sued UC regents and two unions, claiming the Legislature did not have the
authority to make those demands on approximately 14,000 employees. Only the
Board of University Regents has such authority, the suit says. The foundation
wants a federal judge to halt the practice, which began in May and is expected
to cost nonunion workers about $5.6 million annually. The suit, which seeks
class-action status, said the dues violate nonmembers’ “freedom of
speech, association, petition, belief and thought guaranteed by the … United
States Constitution.” Daniel Martin, a spokesman for University of
Professional and Technical Employees, noted the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Chicago Teachers Union v.
that said unions could demand payment from nonunion
members if their fees solely cover the cost of collective bargaining and are
not used for political contributions. Associated Press

Wisconsin: Court blocks release of teacher reports

A Walworth County Circuit Court judge has temporarily blocked police
from releasing information about the investigation of a former Whitewater
teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student.
The Janesville Gazette filed a
request June 19 for the police reports under Wisconsin’s Open Records
Law. The high school teacher resigned in June and has not been charged by
prosecutors. Whitewater City Attorney Martin Harrison said the city had been
prepared to release the police reports to the
Aug. 14 until attorneys for the teacher and the girl
obtained temporary restraining orders. Judge John Race will consider the
teacher’s and the girl’s requests for a permanent injunction
against release of the reports during a hearing Aug. 21. Associated Press

California: Kent Pollock to head California First Amendment

Kent Pollock, former editor of the
Anchorage Daily News
, will become executive editor of the
California First Amendment Coalition next month, the organization announced
Aug. 17. Pollock will take over the job at the 12-year-old nonprofit group in
early September. CFAC provides information to journalists and others about
access to public information. Associated Press

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,