TIME justice

Feds Say No Evidence Black Man Found Hanged in Mississippi Was Murdered

Investigators rule out the possibility of hate crime prosecution for the death of Otis James Byrd

Investigators concluded that there was no evidence that a 54-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi was the victim of homicide, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

Officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division met with Byrd’s family on Friday to convey the news that the investigation would conclude without charges of a federal hate crime.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd’s death was a homicide,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual willfully caused bodily injury because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.”

TIME Education

Chinese Nationals Accused of Vast SAT Cheating Conspiracy

They helped foreign students cheat on college entrance exams, according to an indictment

A group of 15 Chinese nationals are accused of orchestrating a vast conspiracy to help foreign students cheat on standardized college entrance exams administered in the U.S., in what appears to be one of the more brazen testing-related scandals in the past decade, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday.

For the past four years, the defendants provided counterfeit Chinese passports to impostors, who then sneaked into testing centers, mostly in western Pennsylvania, where they took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), while claiming to be someone else, according to the indictment.

It’s unclear how many students used these fraudulent test scores to gain admission to American colleges and universities, and to therefore illegally obtain F1 Student Visas.

“These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system,” said special agent John Kelleghan of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to protect our nation’s borders and work with our federal law enforcement partners to seek out those committing transnational crimes and bring them to justice.”

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh issued an indictment on May 21 on 35 charges, including conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, and defrauding the Educational Testing Services (ETS) and the College Board, according to U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

If the defendants are found guilty, they face a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

TIME justice

Cleveland Police Restrictions by DOJ Among the Most Extensive, Expert Says

Cleveland Police Shooting Protest
Tony Dejak—AP Protesters congregate in front of city hall Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Cleveland. Members of about 40 churches are protesting the acquittal of a white patrolman charged in the deaths of two unarmed black motorists with a march through downtown Cleveland.

The 110-page report's mandates rank alongside New Orleans' requirements

The U.S. Department of Justice’s 110-page settlement agreement with the Cleveland Police Department released Tuesday includes one of the most extensive sets of restrictions ever placed upon a law enforcement agency, according to a federally appointed monitor working on a similar case.

The agreement requires Cleveland’s police to adopt hundreds of new policies and procedures to fix what the federal government has called a pattern of systemic abuses and unconstitutional practices. It includes mandates to adopt community policing strategies, prohibitions on use of force for people who are handcuffed or restrained and restrictions on firing from and at moving vehicles, as well as extensive mandates on logging use of force incidents—including each time officers unholster their weapons.

The agreement also includes a mandate to invest in police resources like computers, vehicles and other equipment. Geoffrey Alpert, a federally appointed monitor working with police in New Orleans, says he’s never seen a DOJ agreement that included a pledge to boost resources.

“I think that’s essentially the Justice Department saying, ‘Part of the problem is you didn’t fund your police department adequately,'” Alpert says.

Alpert monitors the implementation of what is generally considered the most extensive comprehensive agreement handed down by the DOJ to a law enforcement agency: the 2012 consent decree involving New Orleans police.

MORE: The Problems With Policing the Police

Following a DOJ report that found a history of corruption, use of excessive force and discrimination throughout New Orleans police, the government issued a 122-page agreement calling for a new reporting system to track all use of force incidents; prohibiting threats of violence during suspect interviews; requiring recordings of all interrogations; and even offering guidelines on how officers should refer to transgender residents.

But just as important, says Alpert, the agreement was the first to include outcome measures to determine whether the department was fulfilling its mandated requirements. And since then, he believes the DOJ agreements with departments like Ferguson, Mo., Newark, N.J., and Albuquerque, N.M., have improved over time for each agency.

“Justice has a learning curve,” Alpert says, referring to the DOJ. “You learn from your mistakes, and the agreements after those are oftentimes better versions.”

As the department implements its reforms, Cleveland is awaiting a decision on whether officers will be charged in the deaths last fall of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot as he was playing with a replica gun, and Tanisha Anderson, who died following an altercation with police. Rice’s family is suing the police department for negligence.

Last week, a judge acquitted Officer Michael Brelo, who is white, in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both of whom were black. Officers fired 137 shots into their vehicle following a police chase. Brelo, who was acquitted of manslaughter, fired 15 shots into the car after climbing onto its hood. Last year, Cleveland settled a lawsuit with the victims’ families over their deaths.

TIME Soccer

Swiss Authorities to Investigate FIFA Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids

FBL-FIFA-CORRUPTION-US-SWITZERLAND
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on May 27, 2015

The suspects are likely to be extradited to the U.S.

Swiss officials rounded up seven leading soccer officials in Zurich on Wednesday morning as a part of an operation that will likely see the suspects extradited to the U.S. on corruption charges, reports the New York Times. The arrests come just days ahead of the 65th congress of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, which is scheduled to commence in the Swiss city on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in Switzerland have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and said they have seized “electronic data and documents” at the FIFA headquarters as part of the investigation. Police officials said 10 executive committee members who took part in the 2010 votes will be questioned. The U.S. Department of Justice has also unveiled an indictment against nine FIFA officials, including vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugene Figueredo, and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

The soccer organization has been long bedeviled by rumors of graft, especially relating to World Cup bids and broadcast rights.“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” an unidentified law-enforcement official told the newspaper. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

[NYT]

TIME Courts

How Attica’s Ugly Past Is Still Protected

Attica After Riot
Santi Visalli Inc. / Getty Images The vacant prison yard strewn with debris at the Attica State Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, on Sept. 14, 1971

Why advocates and survivors are disappointed by a new release of records from the 1971 retaking of Attica Correctional Facility

On the morning of Sept. 13, 1971, New York State troopers, along with other members of law enforcement, shot 39 men to death. They wounded scores of others so severely that many suffered permanent disabilities. Not only did these men shoot countless rounds of ammunition at people who had no guns, but they also decided not to log the serial numbers of the deadly weapons they wielded. Some of them had even removed their badges so they couldn’t be identified.

This carnage took place at one of America’s most forbidding penal institutions—the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York—where, four days earlier, over 1,200 prisoners had begun a historic protest against abysmal conditions and abuses. To ensure that the State of New York would consider their demands and not harm them, these men had taken hostages and also asked that outside observers come to the prison to oversee their negotiations with state officials. On day five, however—despite hostages, observers, and prisoners alike begging them to continue talks—state officials decided to retake the prison with force.

The results were disastrous. Within 15 minutes of hundreds of troopers, as well as some sherrifs, park police and corrections officers storming the prison, Attica’s D Yard was soaked in blood. Hundreds of men lay dead, dying or descending into shock from their gunshot wounds.

Despite this horrific scene, however, no member of law enforcement was ever held responsible for what he did that day. Indeed, even though 39 people had been felled by bullets, including the state’s own employees, no one ever stood trial for these killings. Instead, the State of New York spent the next 40 years resisting any attempt to make public its extensive records regarding who exactly did what to cause so much trauma at Attica.

A few days ago, however, Attica’s survivors and families of the deceased had some measure of hope that this might finally change. On Thursday morning, they waited with bated breath because finally, it seemed, the State of New York was going to release some particularly key records related to Attica, thanks to their relentless pressure and a judge’s ruling back in April. For decades these survivors have wanted the records opened. They believe that, if nothing else, they have the right to know who was responsible for their catastrophic losses. And, at 2:00pm those records were officially released–at least sort of.

What survivors hoped to see was insider information about the retaking of Attica, information that is contained in two previously-sealed volumes of the so-called Meyer Report—a report commissioned back in 1976 when the state was accused by one of its own of, among other things, covering up law-enforcement crimes committed at Attica. Finally getting to read volumes two and three of this report might mean, for example, that surviving hostage Michael Smith could finally find out who had riddled his lower abdomen with bullets, almost killing him and causing him years of agony. These volumes might also allow Traycee Barkley, the younger sister of slain 21-year-old prisoner L.D. Barkley to learn who had shot her brother to death and perhaps also to learn whether in fact, as various prisoners as well as respected state assemblyman observer Arthur Eve kept insisting back in 1971, he was shot to death after the retaking was complete. Or possibly the family of Attica prisoner Kenny Malloy might finally learn the name of the trooper who not only shot him to death, but also then proceeded to shoot out his eyes. Maybe the family of correction officer John Monteleone could finally learn how he ended up bleeding to death from a bullet wound to his chest.

Instead they learned little more than many of them already knew firsthand.

Prisoners’ decades-long insistence that police officers had brutalized them long after the state had regained control of the prison was, for example, confirmed in this release of records. This is no small thing since, for decades, state officials firmly denied that such abuses ever took place. Notably though, the prisoners who endured the retaking of Attica already knew that they had suffered mightily at the hands of law enforcement and, thanks to their tenacity in the courts over the last 40 years, their trauma had been acknowledged legally; juries awarded them damages for that trauma back in 1997 and in 2000 the State of New York was forced to pay them a settlement. That troopers had used excessive force when they retook Attica had also been confirmed and legally censured in 1982 when a judge issued his scathing ruling in a case brought against the State of New York by the widow of a slain hostage.

But, remarkably, of the 340 pages of the Meyer Report that the judge viewed for release, only 46 pages were given to the public and even these pages were partially redacted. It was no surprise that there would be redactions: To the satisfaction of the state’s Police Benevolent Association, the April ruling that led to the release of the papers had specified that no grand-jury testimony would be disclosed, in respect for the traditional secrecy of such proceedings. Still, the extent of the omissions came as a shock. The crucial names and the hoped-for details contained even in non-grand jury materials also remain hidden.

And so, despite the fanfare that accompanied the recent release of records related to the Attica uprising, Attica’s victims are left disappointed. Still they remain in the dark as to whom state officials knew, or believed strongly, had killed 39 people during the retaking or who had worked so hard to make sure those shooters would never be held accountable. Still those who retook Attica with such ugliness are protected–those individuals who unloaded round after round of buckshot and countless explode-on-impact bullets into the backs and bellies of hundreds of unarmed men. Indeed, in this disclosure of the Attica records there is no mention of these acts or these men–let alone any information revealed about them that might allow Attica’s victims some sense of closure.

Perhaps the State of New York is right to be concerned about disclosing all it knows about what exactly happened at Attica back in 1971. After all, there is no statute of limitation on murder in this country, and not only has the public been glad to see quite a few decades-old cases reopened in recent years, but men have gone to prison for crimes they committed long ago. And, what is more, for many months now Americans in cities across the country have been taking to the streets to demand that law enforcement be held accountable for citizen deaths. But Attica’s survivors don’t seem to be out for that kind of justice—or at least they hold no hope that it might be attained. Yet individuals, along with organizations like the Forgotten Victims of Attica, continue to press for an opening of the records. They just want closure. One day, they hope, state officials will finally care more about Attica’s victims than protecting those who caused the chaos.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan who writes regularly on contemporary issues of incarceration and policing and soon will be publishing the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the events at Attica, here in the TIME Vault: The Bitter Lessons of Attica

TIME justice

Cleveland Agrees to Strict New Policing Rules After Federal Probe

Cleveland Police Shooting
John Minchillo—AP Riot police stand in formation as a protest forms against the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a patrolman charged in the shooting deaths of two unarmed suspects, on May 23, 2015, in Cleveland.

New agreement with Justice Department would curtail use of excessive force, and encourage a more diverse police department

The Cleveland Police Department agreed Tuesday to strict, legally binding new regulations, after a Justice Department probe found it had regularly used unnecessarily excessive force.

The department agreed to close oversight from an independent monitor, pledged to overhaul its use of force regulations, and said it would develop a recruitment policy to attract a more diverse force. The city will also create a Community Police Commission, made up of representatives from across the community as well as police representatives.

The new agreement with the DoJ, which will be enforceable in court, is the response to the Justice Department investigation begun in 2013, which concluded in December that the Cleveland Police Department regularly engaged in a pattern of excessive force.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that every American benefits from a police force that protects and serves all members of the community,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement. “The agreement we have reached with the city of Cleveland is the result of the hard work and dedication of the entire Cleveland community, and looks to address serious concerns, rebuild trust, and maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.”

U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio said he thinks this agreement can serve as “an example of what true partnership and hard work can accomplish – a transformational blueprint for reform that can be a national model for any police department ready to escort a great city to the forefront of the 21st Century.”

The announcement comes in the wake of widespread unrest in Cleveland following the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a Cleveland police officer who was charged with manslaughter after he climbed on the roof of an unarmed black couple’s car and fired at least 15 shots at close range, killing them both.

In total, Brelo and his fellow officers fired more than 100 shots in eight seconds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after pursuing them in a high-speed chase for 22 miles. After the verdict was announced Saturday, protestors took to the streets of Cleveland, demanding justice and reform.

TIME Education

Mom Attends High School Graduation in Late Son’s Place

A Chicago area woman sat among students at Thornton Fractional North High School's graduation in honor of her son who died in a car crash

A mother mourning the loss of her son took his place at the high school graduation ceremony on Wednesday that he was supposed to attend.

Katherine Jackson’s son, 18-year-old Aaron Dunigan, died in a weekend car crash in suburban Chicago after his senior prom, NBC Washington reports. Dunigan was the passenger in a vehicle that crossed over a median and collided with another car; the driver of the car Dunigan rode in was charged with DUI causing death, as well as reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.

On Wednesday, Jackson took her son’s spot among the graduates of Thornton Fractional North High School and walked the stage to receive his diploma.

“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” she said. “I’m going to be his legs and he’s going to be my wings and we’re going to go up there and get our diploma.”

Dunigan, a quarterback, was set to play football at Southern Illinois University in the fall.

[NBC Washington]

TIME celebrities

Josh Duggar Responds to Child Molestation Claims: ‘I Acted Inexcusably’

19 Kids and Counting star responds to accusations

Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the family chronicled in TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting, has spoken out after it emerged he had been accused of child molestation in the past.

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Duggar, who was accused as a teenager of molesting five underage girls, told PEOPLE in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.”

Duggar, 27, who has since resigned from his role at the Family Research Council, said his parents took him to the authorities and later arranged for him and his victims to receive counseling. In a statement to PEOPLE, his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, reaffirmed their support for their son and called the events “one of the most difficult times of our lives.”

“I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Duggar added. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

Read more at PEOPLE

TIME justice

Six Baltimore Officers Indicted in Freddie Gray’s Death

Gray died April 19, a week after his arrest

Six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray have been indicted by a grand jury, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Thursday, the latest milestone in a case that brought riots and protests to the city and reignited the national debate over police force.

Gray, 25, died on April 19, a week after suffering a severe spinal injury in police custody after being arrested over a knife in West Baltimore. Mosby said Thursday that the charges against the officers—Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller, Edward M. Nero, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White—were similar to what she had announced on May 1.

“As is often the case, during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based upon the evidence,” Mosby said, declining to take questions. Additional charges were brought against three officers, she said, while three others had a charge of false imprisonment dropped. A charge of reckless endangerment was added to the earlier charges against all six officers.

Goodson remains charged with the most serious of the charges against the officers, called second-degree depraved-heart murder.

Marc Zayon, who represents Nero, told the Baltimore Sun that he was “quite confident” of securing an acquittal after the charge of false imprisonment and one of the second-degree assault charges were dropped against his client.

Ivan Bates, one of White’s attorneys, told the Sun he “looks forward to trying this case against Mrs. Mosby herself and proving that Sgt. Alicia White is innocent.”

MORE: What Is ‘Depraved Heart Murder’?

Mosby said Gray’s injury occurred while he was being handcuffed and put head-first into a police van. She added that his pleas for aid were repeatedly ignored. Attorneys for the officers had previously called for Mosby to be dismissed from the case for what they claimed as potential conflicts of interest or bias. The Justice Department began a civil rights investigation into the city’s police department after Gray’s death.

In an interview with CNN, Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said he wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s announcement, adding, “Now it’s up to our court system to process this.”

Read next: Why Charges in the Freddie Gray Case Came Quickly

TIME justice

Why This Red State Is Poised to End the Death Penalty

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.

It would be the first conservative state to do so since 1973

As a college student in the mid-1990s, Colby Coash attended an execution at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. Two groups gathered to bear witness. On one side were death-penalty opponents, who prayed quietly. On the other side, the atmosphere was festive.

“It was like a tailgate party,” Coash recalls, replete with a band and barbecue, and locals banging on pots and pans. As the minutes ticked toward midnight and the condemned was strapped into the electric chair, the crowd drank beer and counted down “like it was New Year’s Eve,” says Coash, who supported the death penalty at the time. “Later, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t like how it felt to be a part of the celebration of somebody’s death.”

Coash now serves in Lincoln as a state senator, and on Wednesday he was among a cadre of conservatives who voted to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska. If the measure becomes law, Nebraska would become the first red state to ban capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican who supports the death penalty, has threatened to veto the bill. But Wednesday’s 32-15 margin in the Nebraska legislature indicates supporters have the votes to override such a move. Ricketts has five days to sign or veto the measure before it automatically becomes law.

The landmark vote was a reflection of the shifting politics of criminal justice. For decades, law-and-order conservatives have been staunch proponents of capital punishment. But in recent years, a growing number of Republicans have begun to oppose the death penalty, arguing it violates the central tenets of conservatism.

“It does things that are cardinal sins for conservatives,” says Marc Hyden, a former NRA staffer from Georgia who serves as coordinator of a national group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “It risks innocent life. It wastes taxpayer money when there’s cheaper alternatives, and fails to be representative of a limited government—while it meanwhile fails to deter crime.”

Overall, Americans’ support for the death penalty is relatively stable, according to a 2015 Gallup poll that found 63% of respondents favored capital punishment for convicted murderers. But among conservatives, support for the practice appears to be dropping, though it remains high. In 2014, Gallup found that 76% of Republicans supported the death penalty, down from 81% the year before. Says Hyden: “It’s just a broken government program that conservatives are speaking out against in greater numbers nationally.”

Eighteen states have banned the death penalty, mostly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Nebraska might seem an unlikely candidate to join them. The state is a conservative stronghold, and while its unicameral legislature is officially nonpartisan, 36 of its 49 seats are held by Republicans.

But the Cornhusker State has been down this road before. In 1979, a bill banning capital punishment passed the legislature before it was vetoed by the governor. Though Nebraska has 11 inmates on death row, no one has been executed in the state since 1997. In 2013 some observers believed there were enough votes to pass such a measure, though not enough to override a veto. The current legislature had voted twice already to abolish the death penalty.

In preparation for the push, opponents of the death penalty lobbied lawmakers extensively, circulating studies that show the practice is ineffective as a deterrent to crime and enlisting the family members of murder victims to testify about how the endless appeals process compounded their grief.

Stacy Anderson, a conservative Christian and former Republican operative who directs a group called Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the unique nature of the state legislature—the only nonpartisan, unicameral legislature in the U.S.—helped break down traditional partisan lines. “It’s a very cordial, small body,” Anderson says. “They engage the issues far beyond the regular political rhetoric.”

Some conservatives originally ducked meetings on the topic, Anderson added. Over time, a number came to change their minds. “They learned how much it cost, the risk of executing innocents, how it didn’t align with pro-life values,” she says.

Death penalty opponents hope Nebraska’s vote will be the beginning of a trend. A push to abolish capital punishment in conservative Montana fell one vote short earlier this year. Anti-death penalty legislation has also been introduced in Kansas.

Before the vote Wednesday, Ricketts released a statement urging lawmakers to listen to their constituents. “No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska,” he said, calling a vote to abolish the death penalty a vote to “give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences. This isn’t rhetoric. This is reality.”

For Coash, that’s precisely the point. “People sent me here to Lincoln to find and root out government waste,” he says. In addition to the expense, he came to believe that the protracted appeals process prevented the families of victims from achieving closure. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he says. And “I’m a pro-life guy. I couldn’t reconcile my pro-life beliefs regarding the unborn with doing something different with the condemned.”

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