Day: February 11, 2019

A timeline of the Chicago police shooting of Laquan McDonald

CHICAGO — Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in January to six years and nine months in prison in the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, including after the 17-year-old was on the ground. A jury convicted him in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet he fired.

Some key moments in the case:


Oct. 20: Van Dyke fatally shoots McDonald after responding to a call about a teenager breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard. Other officers back Van Dyke’s claim that McDonald, who had a small knife with its blade folded, posed a threat to Van Dyke’s life.


April 15: The Chicago City Council approves a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family.

Nov. 24: Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announces that she is charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder. Hours later, the city responds to a judge’s order and releases dashcam video of the shooting that shows McDonald veering away from officers. The footage contradicts the accounts of Van Dyke and other officers on the scene that he lunged at them with the knife. The video’s release sparks days of protests.

Dec. 1: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after a public outcry over the handling of the McDonald case.

Dec. 7: The U.S. Department of Justice announces that its civil rights division will investigate the police force, looking for patterns of racial disparity in its use of force.

Dec. 9: Emanuel apologizes for McDonald’s killing in a speech before the City Council. He says Chicago’s police force needs “complete and total reform.”

Dec. 16: A grand jury indicts Van Dyke on charges of first-degree murder and official misconduct.


Feb. 16: The city of Chicago says it will release videos of police shootings and in-custody deaths within 60 days, after being criticized for refusing to release the McDonald shooting video for more than a year.

March 16: Alvarez loses the Democratic primary to challenger Kim Foxx , who goes on to become the first African-American woman to lead the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

April 12: A task force established by Emanuel to look into police practices in the wake of the McDonald shooting says the department must acknowledge its racist past and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations. It also recommends abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates officer misconduct.

April 21: Emanuel announces changes to how police shootings and misconduct cases are handled but draws criticism for stopping short of abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority.

May 13: Emanuel announces that he is abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority and replacing it with the Civilian Police Investigative Agency, which will have more independence and resources.

June 3: Chicago releases hundreds of videos that offer startling glimpses into violent encounters involving police, including the fatal shooting of a robbery suspect speeding toward officers in a van and an incident in which an officer slammed his night stick against a man’s head at a party.

Aug. 18: Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says seven Chicago police officers should be fired for filing false reports in the McDonald shooting.

Oct. 7: Johnson releases details of a proposed new policy that would require officers to use the least amount of force necessary and emphasizes the “sanctity of life.”

Nov. 16: A special prosecutor says a grand jury has been impaneled to hear evidence into a possible coverup by Chicago police officers in the McDonald shooting.


Jan. 13: The Justice Department announces the findings of its civil rights investigation. It says the Chicago Police Department has violated the constitutional rights of residents for years — permitting racial bias against blacks, using excessive force and killing people who didn’t pose a threat. It concludes that the pattern was attributable to “systemic deficiencies” within the department and the city, including insufficient training and a failure to hold bad officers accountable for misconduct.

March 23: A grand jury adds 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm to the first-degree murder charges against Van Dyke in the McDonald shooting.

May 17: The Police Department releases a new use of force policy that requires its officers to undergo de-escalation training and imposes stricter rules on when they can fire their weapons at fleeing suspects.

June 3: Media reports say the city of Chicago and the Justice Department have negotiated a draft agreement that calls for an independent monitor to oversee changes for the police force, which is the nation’s second largest. But it is unclear whether there will be court oversight at some stage in the future.

June 14: Leading community groups, including a Black Lives Matter organization, file a class-action lawsuit against Chicago in a bid to bypass or scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the Justice Department that seeks to reform the police without federal court oversight.

June 27: Three Chicago police officers are indicted on felony charges that they conspired to cover up Van Dyke’s actions in the killing of McDonald.

Aug. 28: The city changes course and says it wants to carry out far-reaching reforms of its police under strict federal court supervision, abandoning a draft deal on reforms with President Donald Trump’s administration that envisioned no court role.

Nov. 14: The grand jury that indicted three Chicago police officers on charges that they conspired to cover up what happened when Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald disbands without indicting anyone else in the department.

Dec. 11: The Chicago Police Department says all patrol officers are now equipped with body cameras.


March 20: The American Civil Liberties Union and several community organizations say that they have reached an agreement to provide input into changes being proposed for the Chicago Police Department.

Sept. 13: Lawyers finish choosing 12 jurors and five alternates for Van Dyke’s murder trial. Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, meanwhile, unveil an updated plan to reform the city’s police, saying it will ensure permanent, far-reaching changes within a 12,000-officer department that has a long history of committing serious civil rights abuses. The more than 200-page document is submitted to U.S. District Judge Robert Dow for his consideration.

Sept. 17: Testimony begins in Van Dyke’s trial. He is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct.

Oct. 4: Jury begins deliberations after being told that they also can consider the lesser charge of second-degree murder .

Oct. 5: Van Dyke is found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

Nov. 27: The bench trial of ex-Officer Joseph Walsh, former Detective David March and Officer Thomas Gaffney begins. They are charged with lying to protect Van Dyke from criminal prosecution after he fatally shot McDonald.

Dec. 6: After hearing a week’s worth of testimony, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson says she will analyze the evidence before delivering her verdict to the three.

Jan. 17: Stephenson acquits Walsh, March and Gaffney of trying to cover up the shooting death of McDonald.

Jan. 18: Van Dyke is sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for the shooting death of McDonald.

Feb. 11: Prosecutors ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review what they see as a too lenient sentence for Van Dyke.


For the AP’s complete coverage of the Jason Van Dyke case:

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 11, 2019 Off

Fears rise in Nicaragua over new social security overhaul

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaraguans revolted last April when the government announced it was raising payroll taxes and cutting retirement benefits to bolster a social security program hemorrhaging money.

The unrest led authorities to quickly withdraw the measure, but as the protests boiled for months and broadened into demands that President Daniel Ortega leave office, security forces responded with a harsh crackdown that killed over 300 people. Hundreds more were arrested and an estimated 50,000 fled into exile.

Now, with the dissident movement cowed, a new plan to cut pension payments by 30 to 40 per cent and raise payroll taxes is taking effect. And economists and businesspeople are warning that it threatens to have even more severe effects for Nicaraguans and could plunge the country into deeper recession and unemployment.

“This measure is absolutely much more drastic since it’s not gradual but instead immediate, and it will affect the nearly 800,000 insured in the country,” said Mario Arana, who was minister for development, head of the Treasury and president of Nicaragua’s Central Bank during the 2001-2006 administration of Ortega’s predecessor.

“All sectors of the economy will be damaged,” Arana said.

The social security package was approved in January by a legislature dominated by Ortega’s allies and took effect Feb. 1.

Businesses with over 50 employees will see their social security tax payments rise from 19 per cent to 22.5 per cent of pay while the tax on a worker’s wages will go from 6.25 per cent to 7 per cent. The tax on independent workers increases from 18.25 per cent to 22.25 per cent of income.

At the same time, the tax that funds disability, age and death insurance programs is rising from 10 per cent to 14 per cent.

That has people like Mercedez Ramirez, who owns a beauty salon in the capital of Managua, worried. Over the last decade, she has already seen her clientele plummet and had to lay off two of her four stylists. Now she doesn’t know if she can afford the social security taxes for the two who remain.

“This situation can’t go on,” Ramirez said. “If I let my employees go I’ll have to close my business and then … what will we live on? My children are out of work.”

Gustavo Porras, an Ortega ally who heads congress, which begins a new session Tuesday, said the change aims to “guarantee payment of all pensions and the rights of workers that were won under this government.”

Yet authorities have not detailed how reforms will affect the finances of the Social Security Institute. Nor have they said whether they will address administrative costs at the agency, whose budget as of November was running at a record deficit of $86 million, up 57 per cent from a year earlier.

Enrique Saenz, an economist and former lawmaker who left Nicaragua months ago due to his opposition to Ortega, characterizes the crisis at the institute as a problem of Ortega’s own creation, blaming “fiscal mismanagement, professional incompetence and irresponsible populism.”

Saenz said the institute was operating with a $60 million surplus when Ortega returned to power in 2007. But over the last 12 years its administrative costs more than doubled and its payroll more than tripled to over 4,000 workers, while executive positions rose from 10 to 136, he said.

The International Monetary Fund has been warning since 2017 that the agency’s troubled finances threatened what had been relative stability in Nicaragua before the political crisis. The economy had been averaging annual GDP growth of about 4.5 per cent since 2014.

Despite the new tax increases, Nicaragua has not seen a repeat of last year’s mass protests. And it seems unlikely to, since Ortega, a 73-year-old ex-guerrilla who was first president from 1985 to 1990, forcefully quashed the challenge to his power, including effectively outlawing opposition demonstrations since September.

The Associated Press and rights groups have documented physical abuse and torture of some people taken into custody. Many others lost jobs, were expelled from universities, or suffered other reprisals for taking part in protests.

“We are not in the streets because there is a state of terror in Nicaragua, because there are police and shock troops that arrest you and beat you,” said Ana Margarita Vijil, leader of the dissident Sandinista Renewal Movement, which the government accuses of promoting a “terrorist coup.”

Still, Vijil insists there will be protests because “this type of reforms … only aggravate the crisis.”

The 2018 political crisis pummeled the Central American nation’s economy, particularly tourism, commerce, infrastructure and investment. About 350,000 jobs were lost, including 160,000 that paid into the social security system, and the economy contracted 4 per cent, according to World Bank figures.

Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the High Council of Private Enterprise, contends the new overhaul will cause more joblessness and capital flight, run businesses into bankruptcy and inflate the cost of basic goods. The council is preparing to mount a legal challenge.

“Let us remember that the political cost of applying these reforms and provoking more unemployment will be on the hands of the government,” Aguerri said Friday at a news conference.

According to the Central Bank, about 58 per cent of the workers who receive social security payments get less than $307 a month. The cost of the basic monthly food basket stood at $415 as of December.

Also worried are some 82,000 Nicaraguans who are over 55 years old and about to retire, and whose pensions stand to fall by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

“I turn 60 this year and plan to retire in October, but under this law I will no longer get $400 in a monthly pension but just $280,” said a private accountant who insisted on speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals.

Gabriela Selser, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 11, 2019 Off

The Latest: UK, Switzerland sign post-Brexit trade deal

LONDON — The Latest on Britain’s plans to leave the European Union (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

Switzerland and Britain have finalized a deal to maintain their trade and economic ties as they are — whether or not Britain reaches a deal with the European Union over its exit from the 28-nation bloc.

The government of Switzerland, which is not an EU member, says the agreement “replicates the vast majority of the trade agreements with the EU that currently govern relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.”

British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Swiss Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin, who heads the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, finalized the deal between their countries in Bern on Monday.

The accord follows a Swiss “Mind the Gap” strategy developed after British voters approved Brexit. It covers issues like free trade, public procurement, agriculture and the fight against fraud.


10 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a compromise with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in hopes of securing a divorce deal with the European Union.

Justice Minister Rory Stewart told the BBC on Monday that differences between the two aren’t as great as some suggest, but the government can’t accept a customs union that would prevent Britain from negotiating trade deals with other countries. He says May’s agreement can achieve “a great deal of what Jeremy Corbyn is interested in without taking away that option of having other trade deals.”

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but Parliament has rejected May’s divorce deal. EU leaders have rejected any changes to the legally binding withdrawal agreement.

The impasse risks a chaotic departure that would hurt the economy.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 11, 2019 Off

2018 Tony Awards – Red Carpet

2018 Tony Awards - Red Carpet

Supergirl co-stars Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood are set to wed.

The actress took to Instagram on Sunday to announce the big news, posting an image in which she showed off her diamond engagement ring while Wood kissed her on the cheek. The happy couple, both 30, appeared in front of a fire in the snap, which she captioned “yes yes yes it will always be yes”.

Wood shared the same shot on the photo-sharing site writing, “The happiest.”

He followed up the post by sharing a smiling photo of himself alongside Benoist attending a friend’s wedding.

“not from our wedding BUT IT WILL BE SOON,” he wrote.

Celebrity jewellery designer Jennifer Meyer shared her excitement, congratulating the pair and revealing Wood had a hand in designing the stunning ring.

“As a designer it’s being a part of moments like these that mean everything,” she posted. “Congratulations Melissa & Chris on your engagement! Chris, when you designed this ring with me, you made some girls on the JM (Jennifer Meyer) team wish you had a brother. Wishing you both a lifetime of love, happiness and lots of babies!”

Benoist and Wood met on the set of the superhero TV series, in which she stars as the titular character. Wood signed on to portray her on-screen love Mon-El in 2016. News the two were dating emerged the following year after they were photographed kissing in Cancun, Mexico.

Benoist was previously married to Glee co-star Blake Jenner. She and the actor tied the knot in 2015 and filed for divorce in 2016.

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By The Wall of Law February 11, 2019 Off

Taser training-Owen Sound Police Services

Taser training-Owen Sound Police Services

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A man and his wife are suing a Phoenix suburb and three of its police officers, alleging they used excessive force during a 2017 traffic stop.

A lawyer for the couple said Glendale police body camera video shows officers using a stun gun 11 times on Johnny Wheatcroft after he questioned why he had to provide identification.

Attorney Marc Victor has scheduled a news conference Monday to release the video and issue a statement about the case. He declined to do either Sunday.

Wheatcroft was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle driven by a family friend on July 26, 2017. Wheatcroft’s wife, Anya Chapman, was in the backseat with the couple’s two children as they headed to a motel.

Officers pulled over the car because of a traffic violation and discovered the driver didn’t have a license, police said in a statement Friday. Wheatcroft declined to show police his driver’s license and questioned why he had to provide identification.

The officers saw Wheatcroft reaching under his seat for a backpack and he “continued to argue, yell and physically resist” as they tried to remove him from the vehicle, police said.

The lawsuit said the situation then escalated with officers using stun guns multiple times on Wheatcroft, who was “writhing in pain while his family watched and screamed for the officers to stop.”

Wheatcroft was jailed on suspicion of aggravated assault and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dropped.

The lawsuit says police used “unlawful, unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive force” on Wheatcroft and violated his civil rights. It seeks damages to be determined at trial.

Police said one of the officers involved was suspended for three days after a review.

Glendale officials and the Police Department didn’t immediately return requests for comment on the lawsuit Sunday.

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By The Wall of Law February 11, 2019 Off