Jonny Bonner

Why Is California Giving More Water to Golf Courses Than Wildlife?

A Southern California water district is giving golf courses 25-year contracts but only 1-year deals to a wildlife preserve that shelters millions of birds and dozens of protected species, environmentalists claim in court.

Keep reading... Show less

Court Rules that, Yes, Kidnapping and Branding a Swastika on a Mentally Disabled Navajo Man Can Be Considered a Hate Crime

A New Mexican who kidnapped a mentally disabled Navajo man and branded a swastika into his arm cannot duck the Hate Crimes Act, the 10th Circuit ruled.
     The Navajo man is identified only as V.K. in court documents. V.K. had gone to a Farmington, N.M., restaurant in 2010 when three workers there - William Hatch, Paul Beebe and Jesse Sanford - persuaded him to go to Beebe's apartment.
     "At Beebe's apartment, the three white men drew on V.K.'s back with markers," the ruling states. "They told him they would draw 'feathers' and 'native pride' but actually drew satanic and anti-homosexual images. They then shaved a swastika-shaped patch into V.K.'s hair. Finally, they heated a wire hanger on the stove and used it to brand a swastika into V.K.'s arm."
     New Mexico prosecutors then charged the men with kidnapping and aggravated battery, as well as conspiracy to commit both crimes.
     While state prosecution was pending, the federal government charged the assailants with violating, and conspiracy to violate, 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1) - a portion of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that makes it a felony to physically attack a person due to race.
     In May 2011, Hatch was convicted in state court of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, but otherwise acquitted.
     That same month, Beebe, Sanford and Hatch moved in federal court to dismiss the federal indictment, calling 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1) unconstitutional and claiming that Congress "lacked the authority to criminalize purely intrastate conduct of this character."
     A federal judge nevertheless credited Uncle Sam's argument that the Hate Crimes Act was authorized by the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
     Hatch then individually pleaded guilty but reserved his right to appeal, which he did while serving 18 months on the state conviction, running concurrently with a 14-month sentence on the federal charge.
     A three-judge panel of the Denver-based federal appeals court affirmed Hatch's conviction last week.
     "The portion of the Hate Crimes Act under which Hatch was charged and convicted - 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1) - is a lawful exercise of the powers granted to Congress by Section 2 of the 13th Amendment. We therefore affirm Hatch's conviction," Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote for the panel. 
     "Although the 13th Amendment by its terms applies to slavery and involuntary servitude, Supreme Court precedent confirms Congress's authority to legislate against slavery's 'badges and incidents,'" the 34-page ruling states. 
     "Section 249(a)(1) rests on the notion that a violent attack on an individual because of his or her race is a badge or incident of slavery," Tymkovich added. "Congress reached this conclusion by accounting for the meaning of 'race' when the 13th Amendment was adopted, the state of mind of the attacker, and the attack itself."
     Joined by Judges Michael Murphy and Terrence O'Brien, Tymkovich cited Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., a 1968 case permitting a federal private right of action against private individuals for housing discrimination.
     "Under the authority of Jones, we conclude Congress rationally determined that racially motivated violence is a badge or incident of slavery against which it may legislate through its power to enforce the 13th Amendment," the ruling states.
     Congress enacted the 13th and 14th Amendments as part of the Civil Rights Act in 1875.
     That act guarantees "that all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of" public facilities such as inns, theaters, and rail cars, "subject only to ... conditions and limitations ... applicable alike to citizens of every race and color."
     In 2009, Congress enacted the Hate Crimes Act prohibiting physical violence - or threats of it, in certain circumstances - on account of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability

Black Man Arrested, Put in Straight-Jacket for Wearing Saggy Pants at Airport

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A young black man claims in court that U.S. Airways had him arrested and put in a straitjacket for wearing saggy pants that showed his underwear, but not "any inappropriate parts of his anatomy."

Keep reading... Show less

Utah Cops Assassinated 21-year-old Woman Sitting in Her Car, Parents Claim

Police shot a young woman to death "assassination style" as she sat in her car, amid "widespread and systemic corruption" in the undercover drug force, the woman's parents claim in court.
     Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, sued West Valley City, its police Officers Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, Lt. John Coyle, Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen, and 10 Doe officers, in Federal Court.
     West Valley City, pop. 125,000, is a suburb of Salt Lake City.
     According to the complaint: "On Nov. 2, 2012, at approximately 1:30 p.m., decedent Danielle Misha Willard, 21 years old, was fatally shot in the back of her head, assassination style, by defendants Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, members of the narcotics unit of the West Valley City Police Department, while she was seated in her vehicle in the parking complex of the Lexington Apartments, ... Defendants' execution of Danielle Willard was without justification, unrelated to any legitimate law enforcement purpose, and done purposefully and/or in reckless disregard of her safety and well-being."
     Willard's parents say the "brutal killing" was "untimely and unwarranted," and that Cowley and Salmon "were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct." 
     "Since the tragic shooting of Danielle Willard, it has been uncovered that Officers Cowley and Salmon were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct and widespread and systemic corruption, sanctioned by the West Valley Police Department, culminating in the unjustified and senseless killing of Danielle Willard," the complaint states.
     The narcotics unit was disbanded after the shooting, the parents say, and West Valley City admitted "rampant corruption and systemic constitutional violations by its officers," including mishandling evidence and confiscating drugs for personal benefit.
     "In the months following Danielle Willard's fatal shooting, the narcotics unit of the West Valley Police Department was disbanded. To date, two supervisors and five other rank and narcotics [sic] unit officers have been placed on administrative leave, along with Officers Cowley and Salmon; another West Valley City Police Department officer, Michael Valdes, was discovered in Wyoming, dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound; and Chief Nielsen has retired.
     "West Valley City admits to rampant corruption and systemic constitutional violations by its officers, including mishandling of evidence, confiscation of drugs for personal benefit, theft of seized property, illegal use of GPS tracking systems, improper use of confidential drug informants, and commission of perjury.
     "Since the shooting death of Danielle Willard, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has sought the dismissal of 115 criminal cases and the United States Attorney's Office has dismissed eleven criminal cases as a result of the illegal conduct of the defendant officers and others within the department," the complaint states.
     The parents do not say why Danielle Willard was in the parking lot where she was shot, or her whereabouts before the fatal shooting. But they say Cowley and Salmon were no strangers to "misconduct."
     "West Valley City continued the employment of Cowley and Salmon and allowed little to no supervision of these officers in spite of the fact that these officers had prior citizen complaints for misconduct," the complaint states.
     "The city's deliberate indifference in the training of its law enforcement officers related to the use of reasonable force and lawful seizures, as well as the deliberate indifference by the police department's hierarchy to the safety of its citizens or the adherence to the Constitution's protection of individual rights, are the moving force behind the misconduct engaged in by Officers Cowley and Salmon. The widespread corruption and misconduct of West Valley City officers are all factors leading to the shooting death of Danielle Willard."
     The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for wrongful death and civil rights violations.
     They are represented by Mark Geragos of Los Angeles and Jon Williams of Salt Lake City. 

Police Officer Shot Man Dead for Peeing, Mother Claims in Court

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A Utah sheriff's deputy saw a man peeing by the side of a road, then chased him at low speed and shot him to death, the man's mother claims in court.
     Carolyn Clark sued Box Elder County, its Sheriff's Department and two deputies, including Officer Austin Bowcutt, in Federal Court. She claims Bowcutt shot and killed her son, Troy Burkinshaw, in October 2012.
     "On the evening of Oct. 26, 2012, Box Elder County sheriff's deputy Austin Bowcutt stopped Troy Clark Burkinshaw (age 52) on westbound SR-13, after he allegedly observed Troy urinating on the side of the highway," the complaint states. "Before the traffic stop was complete, Troy drove away and headed toward his home. Deputy Bowcutt called for backup and initiated a pursuit.
     "Troy traveled mostly at low speeds through an agricultural/residential area, at one point repeatedly circling the same block. Troy eventually turned down a dead end road. Deputy Bowcutt attempted to block the exit with his police truck while Troy attempted to edge his car around the police truck.
     "Without waiting for backup to arrive, Deputy Bowcutt exited his truck with his weapon drawn, placed himself in front of Troy's car, and shouted for Troy to stop. Deputy Bowcutt then fired three shots directly into the car, two of which struck Troy in the chest, killing him.
     "Less than 7 minutes expired between the time Troy left the traffic stop to the time deputy Bowcutt fired the fatal shots."
     Clark claims Bowcutt had a number of options, but failed to use any of them, including shooting or slashing the tires of her son's Volkswagen Jetta, de-escalating the situation or disengaging from the chase.
     The complaint does not state how a law enforcement might de-escalate from a peeing situation.
     Bowcutt did not wait for backup before killing her son, Clark says.
     The complaint tells the story again: "As defendant Bowcutt was traveling eastbound on SR-13, he observed what he believed to be Mr. Burkinshaw urinating on the side of the road off the westbound lane, just east of the city of Corinne, Utah.
     "By the time defendant Bowcutt had turned his truck around and crossed onto westbound SR-13, Troy had gotten back in his car and driven off.
     "Defendant Bowcutt pulled up behind Troy's dark blue Jetta, turned on the truck's overhead lights, and initiated a traffic stop.
     "Troy pulled over as required.
     "Defendant Bowcutt claimed that he smelled alcohol and observed a brown paper bag in the back of the Jetta while he was speaking to Troy.
     "Defendant Bowcutt then returned to his truck leaving Troy in the Jetta.
     "While Defendant Bowcutt was in his truck, Troy started up the Jetta and drove away at a low rate of speed."
     Bowcutt called for backup and identified Burkinshaw by full name during the 5-minute chase, with the men "occasionally reaching speeds of 40 mph," Clark says in the complaint.
     "Defendant Bowcutt encountered no pedestrians and only one other vehicle during the pursuit, a car that was entering SR-13 as they were exiting.
     "Defendant Bowcutt followed Troy through agricultural and residential areas and ended up following him around the same block several times.
     "Troy eventually turned down a dead end road where defendant Bowcutt attempted to block the exit with his police truck.
     "Approximately four seconds later, defendant Bowcutt jumped out of his truck with his gun drawn and shouted at Troy to stop and get out of the car.
     "Troy attempted to drive around the truck, but was driving so slowly that defendant Bowcutt walked up to the Jetta, voluntarily stepped directly in front of it, and continued to shout at Troy with his gun drawn and pointed at Troy through the windshield.
     "Defendant Bowcutt continued shouting and walked backwards as the car moved forward at an extremely low rate of speed for approximately seven seconds.
     "Defendant Bowcutt then fired three shots from his gun, point blank into the car's windshield.
     "Two of the bullets struck Mr. Burkinshaw in the chest, killing him.
     "At no point during these events did Troy drive in an aggressive manner or do anything that posed a risk of death or serious physical injury to defendant Bowcutt or the general public."
     Burkinshaw was traveling with his girlfriend's dog when he was killed, Clark says.
     "After the shooting, the Jetta rolled off the road and into a bush.
     "Defendant Bowcutt returned to his vehicle, with lights and siren running, and repositioned it behind the Jetta.
     "Approximately one minute after the shooting, defendant Bowcutt walked calmly from his truck to the Jetta, broke open the driver's side window, and opened the driver's side door, at which point the dog jumped out and sat near the car.
     "For the next two minutes or so, defendant Bowcutt kept reaching into the Jetta and repeatedly shouted 'Stay with me!' after which defendant Bowcutt simply stood by and waited for backup," the complaint states.
     "At no time did defendant Bowcutt provide any first aid assistance to Troy.
     "Approximately six minutes after the shooting, additional offices arrived, removed Troy from the car, placed him on the ground, and began first aid.
     "Shortly thereafter, Troy was pronounced dead at the scene."
     Clark seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, willful misconduct and civil rights violations.
     She is represented by James McConkie with Parker & McConkie. 

BRAND NEW STORIES

Happy Holidays!