Roundup: Police targeted media during L.A. protests, ACLU alleges

Thursday, August 24, 2000

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a
federal lawsuit Aug. 21 charging that Los Angeles police targeted members of
the media in their attempts to control demonstrators outside the
Democratic National Convention
earlier this month. All of the incidents referenced in the lawsuit revolve
around police actions to disperse a crowd of several thousand people who
gathered for a free concert Aug. 14, the convention’s opening night. Four of
the five plaintiffs were free-lance photographers or television cameramen who
claim they were struck by rubber bullets or batons in the chaotic attempt to
move protesters away from the downtown Staples Center. The fifth was well-known
consumer advocate David Horowitz, who said officers knocked him to the ground.
Meanwhile, almost all the people arrested during protests outside the
convention have been released from jail. Forty-one protesters were released
Aug. 22, triggering the end of a hunger strike organized by supporters. Except
for a handful of people arrested on felony charges, the 41 had been the last
being held in connection with the demonstrations outside the convention. The
city attorney’s office agreed Aug. 21 to reduce misdemeanor charges against the
protesters. In exchange, they pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace. Some
of those released had been in custody more than a week. Many had their
incarceration extended because they refused to give authorities their names.
Police said 194 people were arrested during the convention. Associated

Missouri: State takes KKK Adopt-A-Highway case to Supreme

The Missouri Department of Transportation has asked the U.S. Supreme
Court to allow the state to banish the Ku Klux Klan from its highway cleanup
program. The department filed an appeal Aug. 21 from a March order by the 8th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the
state’s attempts to keep the Klan out
of the Adopt-A-Highway program were unconstitutional. Missouri’s
Adopt-A-Highway program allows groups — typically scouts and service
organizations — to pick up trash along a mile or two of roadway and, in
return, the state puts up signs recognizing the group. The Klan has adopted a
one-mile stretch of Interstate 55 south of downtown St. Louis. The Supreme
Court returns for its fall term in October and could decide then whether it
will hear the case. Associated Press

Montana: Human rights group urging white supremacist to stay

The Montana Human Rights Network is urging the leader of the
whites-only World Church of the Creator not to relocate to Montana. Matt Hale,
of Peoria, Ill., is considering settling in Montana or another state that will
allow him to practice law. Hale passed the bar exam in Illinois, but an
Illinois Supreme Court committee denied him permission to become a
lawyer based on character and fitness. While Hale ponders his options, the
Human Rights Network is asking its board members to circulate petitions to
residents concerned about Hale’s possible relocation to Montana. The World
Church of the Creator has held its annual national convention in Superior, in
northwest Montana, for the past three years. Fewer than two-dozen people
usually have attended. The church again is planning to hold the convention on
the Rev. Slim Deardorff’s land in Superior, probably this month, Hale said.
George Bousliman of Helena, executive director of the Montana Bar Association,
said the bar exam is given in July and February, and he hasn’t been notified
that Hale intends to take it. Associated Press

Virginia: Company sues over Virginia Beach’s billboard

A major billboard company is suing Virginia Beach over the city’s
13-year-old billboard ban. The Virginia Beach City Council banned new
billboards in 1987 as part of a citywide beautification effort. The ordinance
also limits the height and size of business signs, among other things. Adams
Outdoor Advertising filed a lawsuit earlier this month in U.S. District Court
in Norfolk, contending the ordinance violates the First Amendment. No hearing
date has been set. The lawsuit claims the ordinance restricts political speech
by banning political signs except during the period from 60 days before an
election to seven days after, and restricts free speech in residential areas,
where it allows only temporary signs, identification signs and construction
signs. The suit also alleges that the law discriminates against noncommercial
speech in favor of commercial speech. The law requires owners to tear down
billboards when repairs cost more than half of the billboard’s original cost,
or when the property on which a billboard sits is being developed. The lawsuit
also alleges that the city has enforced the law against Adams’ billboards, but
not the billboards of others. Associated Press

Massachusetts: Muslim security guard’s discrimination ruling

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has upheld a
$300,000 award to a Muslim man who was forced to stop praying at work. Lule
Said of Quincy quit his job as a guard for Northeast Security Inc. of Brookline
in 1991, claiming he was ridiculed and harassed by fellow employees. He claimed
that his prayer rug was trampled on and kicked into a corner. The company also
told Said not to pray during his 16-hour work shifts. Muslims are required to
pray five times a day. Northeast Security appealed Commissioner Charles E.
Walker’s 1996 award to the full three-member commission, and a hearing was held
April 26. The commission asked Walker to review the damage award and consider a
1997 state law requiring employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.
In a ruling issued Aug. 14, Walker upheld his original findings, but allocated
the award differently. He reduced damages for emotional distress from $300,000
to $250,000, but ordered the company to pay $50,000 in new damages. Howard
Brown, an attorney representing the company, said he had filed papers to appeal
it again to the commission. Associated Press

West Virginia: School board institutes pre-meeting

The Wetzel County Board of Education has approved a public prayer
before its meetings, overriding the advice of its attorney. The board voted 3-1
Aug. 8 to say a prayer before each meeting. At a special meeting Aug. 15
— the first meeting since the vote — President Jim Fauber gave the
invocation. Schools Superintendent Martha Dean said Aug. 18 she did not
participate in the decision to pray. The board, which opened its meetings with
prayers, halted the practice about eight years ago. The board’s attorney, Larry
Blalock, said, “I do not claim to be a First Amendment expert, but I feel you
should not implement this policy. … I just think this is an envelope that
does not need to be pushed.” Associated Press

South Carolina: Defense attorney asks judge to bar TV cameras from
murder trial

An attorney representing the man accused of murdering a Greenville
County deputy last year has asked that television cameras be banned from his
client’s trial. John Mauldin, the defense attorney for Cory Sentell Harris,
said that the pressure to perform in front of a television audience could
prevent the prosecutor from accepting a plea bargain and could intimidate
witnesses. Judge John W. Kittredge has not ruled on the motion yet but issued a
gag order Aug. 21 preventing both attorneys from talking to the media.
Prosecutor Bob Ariail has said a camera’s presence would not affect his case.
Harris is charged with the murder of Deputy Marcus Whitfield along with two
counts of assault and battery with intent to kill in a shooting in front of the
Waffle House in August 1999. Associated Press

Maryland: Federal judge OKs Baltimore County’s X-rated zoning

A federal judge in Maryland has upheld a Baltimore County law that
restricts new adult book and video stores to industrial areas. U.S. District
Court Judge Frederic N. Smalkin ruled the County Council’s two-year-old law
does not violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech or due process.
The council voted in 1998 to restrict X-rated businesses, tattoo shops and
massage parlors to areas dominated by warehouses and manufacturing plants. The
law also prohibits adult businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of
schools, religious institutions, parks, libraries and homes, and within 2,500
feet of each other. The county was sued by three adult businesses: Allno
Enterprises in Middle River, Southwest Enterprises in Arbutus, and Love Ones
Lingerie and Gift Shop Inc. in Towson and Owings Mills. They have reportedly
appealed the decision. Adult business owners contend the law was designed to
force them out of business by shunting them to areas with little visibility and
traffic. But the judge disagreed, saying there were more than a dozen locations
where the businesses could locate under the law. Under the law, a business is
considered “adult” if it devotes more than 20% of its inventory and sales space
to sexually explicit material. Associated Press

Michigan: Sheriffs, prosecutors back state’s anti-stalking

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Michigan
Sheriffs Association and state Sen. Dianne Byrum said Aug. 21 that they are
among those asking a federal judge to uphold Michigan’s anti-stalking law. The
1993 law, which allows people to be convicted of a felony if they make unwanted
contact with a victim at least two times and make a “credible threat” at least
once, was declared unconstitutional
last month by U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen, who presides over western
Michigan. Enslen said the law was overbroad and didn’t protect the free-speech
rights of a Barry County man convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend. Attorney
General Jennifer Granholm appealed
Enslen’s decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio, which
is expected to hear arguments in the case in October. Granholm said she expects
the appeals court to issue a decision in December. If the appeals court rules
that Michigan’s anti-stalking law is unconstitutional, Granholm said she would
appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Also joining Byrum in writing
the brief were the Michigan Conference of the National Organization for Women
and the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Associated

South Carolina: Sheriff’s department says it’s not a public

A newspaper’s efforts to get records concerning misconduct allegations
lodged against deputies have prompted the York County sheriff’s office to say
that it is not a public body. The
of Rock Hill sued last month after the sheriff’s
office would not give reporters access to records concerning a March
investigation into sexual and professional misconduct allegations by deputies.
Four deputies were suspended after a Rock Hill woman filed a complaint. In its
lawsuit response, the sheriff’s office said that it is not a public body and
that the public interest, if any, in the information requested “is outweighed
by personal privacy interests of affected deputy sheriffs in minimizing
embarrassment and an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Even if it were
a public body, the sheriff’s office said, it doesn’t have to provide the
information because: It is personal information that would constitute “an
unreasonable invasion of privacy”; the information is protected by
attorney-client privileges and federal and state laws; and the sheriff can
decide what information to release. Associated Press

California:, Sony settle copyright dispute

The online music storage company reached a settlement with
Sony Music Entertainment, the fourth such settlement with plaintiffs in a
lawsuit claiming that its business violates copyright law. Under terms
announced Aug. 21, San Diego-based will pay an undisclosed amount to
Sony for past violations and enter into a non-exclusive North American license
for use of Sony’s songs in the company’s listening service.
had already reached settlements with Warner Music Group, BMG and EMI and
is still negotiating with Universal Music Group. The settlement comes one week
before both sides were due back in court. A federal judge has ruled that a
trial is still necessary to decide whether willfully infringed on
copyrights of major record companies by letting people store copied songs on
its computers. The case is set to resume Aug. 28. Earlier this year,
said it has reserved $150 million to pay for legal settlements with music
companies and music publishers. Associated Press

Colorado: Police enforce city’s 27-year-old law banning

Maybe they should have seen it coming, but owners of three shops say
they were blindsided when undercover police stormed in to see if anyone was
engaged in fortune-telling, clairvoyance or palmistry. Michael West, owner of
Spiritways, which holds classes on meditation, said officers came in waving
copies of the Denver’s 27-year-old ordinance forbidding fortune-telling and
threatened to arrest violators. His shop and two others along Colfax Avenue
were targeted over the past few weeks. No arrests were made. The law forbids
anyone from practicing “fortune-telling, palmistry or clairvoyance” for
payment, unless it is for religious reasons exempted by the Internal Revenue
Service. Records show the city hasn’t written a citation for the ordinance
since 1998. Violating the code is a misdemeanor and usually involves a small
fine. Denver Assistant City Attorney John Poley tried last year to get a Denver
City Council committee to scrap the ordinance, citing successful lawsuits
against Lincoln and Milwaukee for similar laws that were found to be violations
of the freedom of speech. The committee, though, kept the ordinance on
recommendation of the police department, which claims the ordinance is a safety
net. Associated Press

Nebraska: Coalition upset trooper’s hearing is closed

Domestic violence opponents are upset that a decertification hearing
for a Nebraska state trooper accused of beating his wife was closed to the
public. Sgt. Steve Hauser, a 20-year veteran of the Nebraska State Patrol,
requested the closed hearing before the Nebraska Police Standards Advisory
Council, which was scheduled to begin Aug. 21 at the Law Enforcement Training
Center in Grand Island. Lauri Shultis, executive director of the Crisis Center
in Grand Island, said she was “distressed” that the decertification hearing
would not be open. The rules allow the person who is being considered for
decertification to request a closed hearing. Nebraska Crime Commission Director
Allen Curtis said Hauser was the first to make such a request. Curtis said
that, even though the hearing will be closed to the public, the transcripts
will probably be public record. Associated Press

California: Bill requires public reports to be listed on state Web

California state reports available to the public would have to be
listed on the state’s Web sites under a bill that is one step from the
governor’s desk. Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, said the measure would prevent
state agencies from burying reports that they don’t want the public to see. The
bill, by Assemblyman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, would require state agencies to
list on their Web sites all their reports that are subject to disclosure under
the Public Records Act. Interested persons could then use that information to
get a copy of the report. The Senate approved the bill 37-0 Aug. 22, sending it
back to the Assembly for a vote on Senate amendments. Associated Press

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