Debbie Africa of the MOVE 9 Released from Prison After 40 Years

Debbie Africa of the MOVE 9 Released from Prison after 40 Years

Debbie Africa, with her lawyer Brad Thomson (left) and her son Mike Africa Jr. (right)

Debbie Africa, with her lawyer Brad Thomson (left) and her son Mike Africa Jr. (right)

On Saturday, June 16, Debbie Africa of the MOVE 9 was released from Pennsylvania state prison. Debbie was granted parole after spending 39 years, 10 months in prison.

Debbie was imprisoned since August 8, 1978, following an altercation between the Philadelphia police and the MOVE Organization. Debbie was one of 9 MOVE members, collectively known as the “MOVE 9,” who were convicted and sentenced to 30-100 years in prison following the 1978 altercation, despite evidence that exonerated them.

Debbie was eight months pregnant at the time of the 1978 incident and gave birth in jail to her son, Mike Africa Jr. (pictured above). Debbie has been incarcerated for Mike’s entire life and the two spent time together outside of prison for the first time following Debbie’s release.

People’s Law Office attorney Brad Thomson, along with lawyers from Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, represented Debbie in her application for parole. Unfortunately, Janet Africa and Janine Africa, two other members of the MOVE 9, were eligible for parole at the same time as Debbie and we denied.

MOVE is a Philadelphia-based radical, Black-led liberation organization opposed to environmental destruction and state violence. On May 13, 1985, seven years after the arrest of the MOVE 9, the Philadelphia police infamously dropped a firebomb on the MOVE home, killing 11 people, including 5 children and allowing over 60 homes to burn to the ground.

Debbie Africa with her attorney Brad Thomson, of People's Law Office

Debbie Africa after her release from prison, with Brad Thomson, one of her attorneys.

For more information, see:
The website for the MOVE Organization

“This is Huge”: Black Liberationist Speaks out After Her 40 Years in Prison – The Guardian

After 40 Years, First of MOVE 9 Granted Parole, Others Denied - Philadelphia Inquirer

MOVE 9 Member Debbie Africa Released From Prison After 39 Years – Philadelphia Magazine

Attorney Faults Parole Process for MOVE Members Still Jailed – AP Story on ABC News

After 40 Years, Debbie Africa of MOVE 9 Released From Prison – WHYY

MOVE’s Debbie Africa Speaks – Philadelphia Tribune

Baby-Snatching Practice Blocked Motherhood for 20-Million Seconds – This Can’t Be Happening

One MOVE 9 Member Gets Parole After 40 Years – Metro

Coming Home – Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against CPD’s Gang Database

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 19, 2018

Contact: Jessey Neves, 562-453-6342, Jessey.Neves [at] macarthurjustice.org

Tania Unzueta, 773-387-3186, tania [at] mijente.net

Community-Driven Federal Class Action Lawsuit & Report Targets Chicago Police’s Inaccurate, Racially Discriminatory Gang Database

At least 195,000 individuals – 95% Black and Latinx – are listed in an error-filled database from which their names can never be removed.

Chicago – The Chicagoans for an End to the Gang Database, a coalition of individuals and community organizations, gathered in City Hall on Tuesday to announce a new federal class action against the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department (CPD), targeting CPD’s unconstitutional Gang Database, and urging City Council to take action.

The suit was filed on behalf of four individual plaintiffs, three Black and one Latino. Each plaintiff was falsely identified as a gang member and has since been subjected to irreparable harm and harassment because of the wrongful designation.

“I came up in the streets and have worked hard to create a positive life for myself. I never joined a gang and I focused on getting my education. I want to help other young people do the same thing. That’s my calling and my mission in life. But because I’m a young Black man, CPD slapped a gang label on me. Now I can’t get my dream job. I’m filing this lawsuit to clear my name and to help other people whose lives are destroyed because of the lies CPD tells through the gang database,” said Donta Lucas, a Plaintiff in the suit.

“The Chicago Police Department documented me as a gang member when I was just 14,” said Lawrence Vaile, another class member. “The police would stop me and ask me what gang I’m in, they would slap me for lying to them, because the computer shows them I’m in the gang. This put me in danger from the cops and from the streets.”

Also joining the lawsuit are a number of community-based organizations with deep roots in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, including Black Youth Project 100- Chicago, Blocks Together, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Latino Union, Mijente, and Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD).

“As long as the Gang Database continues to indiscriminately add Latinx and Black Chicagoans to their list, Mayor Emanuel cannot call Chicago a Sanctuary City. Making Chicago safe for immigrants starts today with making sure that the gang database stops being a list of people for ICE to pick up during immigration raids,” said Tania Unzueta, Policy Director for Mijente and one of the organizational plaintiffs.

The lawsuit notes that CPD has not developed any consistent guidelines on inclusion in the Gang database, such as information on an individual’s criminal conduct or active gang activity. Instead, CPD officers have unlimited discretion to add names to the list.

“CPD has long been on notice that the Gang Database discriminates against Black and Brown Chicagoans and violates people’s constitutional rights by creating barriers to employment and immigration relief, subjecting people to unlawful detention and searches and seizures and constant police harassment and surveillance. The gang database is riddled with inaccuracies and serves no legitimate law enforcement purpose—all it does is further institutionalize CPD’s well documented policy and practice of racial profiling.” Said Vanessa del Valle, counsel for the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The CPD confirmed that, as of May 2018, the Gang Database lists more than 128,000 adults. Although data on juveniles was not released, a new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Policing in Chicago Research Group estimates that the total number is closer to 195,000. Of those, 95% are Black or Latinx.

In addition to using the database to harass and falsely detain people, CPD provides its incorrect, inconsistent database to third parties. This shared, inaccurate information triggers further repercussions that can include job loss, denial of access to public housing and public education, inability to secure certain licensures, ineligibility for bond, and denial of immigration relief.

“Despite condemnation from local, national and international organizations the Chicago Police Department, in coordination with ICE and elected officials, continues to use the gang database as a tool to brutalize, surveil, and harass Black and Brown communities. This database hasn’t led to positive change for the Chicago communities directly impacted. Our tax dollars should not be spent on instruments of racism, or on tools that criminalize and scapegoat people of color.  Chicago’s so-called problem with violence is rooted in Chicago’s problem with racism and inequality.  Our resources should be used on the tools, projects and initiatives that enhance our communities, bring ordinary people together, and allow us to prosper”, said Todd St Hill, Member of BYP100.

The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and alleges multiple violations of due process protections under the U.S. Constitution. The suit also alleges that the manner in which CPD gathers and disseminates false information about gang membership violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination. Defendants include the City of Chicago, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and several officers within the Chicago Police Department. Additional attorneys for class include Elizabeth A. Homsy of the Law Office of Elizabeth A. Homsy, Sheila Bedi of the MacArthur Justice Center Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Brendan Shiller, Chris Bergin, Tia Haywood of Shiller Preyar, LLC. and Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office.

MEDIA RELEASE: MOVE Member Debbie Africa Released on Parole After Over 39 Years in Prison

MEDIA RELEASE: MOVE Member Debbie Africa Released on Parole After Over 39 Years in Prison

Debbie Africa and her son Mike Africa, Jr.

Debbie Africa and her son Mike Africa, Jr. after Debbie’s release from prison

June 18, 2018: On Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at 10 a.m., MOVE member Debbie Africa will make her first public appearance since being released from prison after 39 years and 10 months of incarceration. On Saturday, June 16, Debbie was released on parole from State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cambridge Springs. Debbie will be speaking at a press conference that will be held at Faith Immanuel Lutheran Church, at 65 Penn Blvd. in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. Other speakers will include Debbie’s son Mike Africa Jr. and Brad Thomson, one of Debbie’s attorneys.

Debbie said, “I am happy to finally be home with my family, but Janet, Janine and the rest of the MOVE 9 are still in prison, in the same situation that I was in, and they deserve parole too.”

Debbie was imprisoned since August 8, 1978, following an altercation between the Philadelphia police and the MOVE Organization. Debbie was one of 9 MOVE members, collectively known as the “MOVE 9,” who were convicted and sentenced to 30-100 years in prison following the altercation.

Debbie was eight months pregnant at the time of the incident and gave birth in jail to her son, Mike Africa Jr. Debbie has been incarcerated for Mike’s entire life and the two spent time together outside of prison for the first time on Saturday, following Debbie’s release.

“After being born in jail and never being with my mom or dad, I’m happy to be with my mom at home for the first time ever in almost forty years. But my family is still incomplete because my dad is still in prison. Forty years of separation is not over for our family,” said Mike Africa, Jr. His father, Mike Africa Sr. is also one of the MOVE 9 and still in prison. Mike Sr. is scheduled to next appear before the parole board this upcoming September.

Janet Africa and Janine Africa, also of the MOVE 9, were denied parole after appearing before the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) on the same day as Debbie. Debbie is the first member of the MOVE 9 to be granted parole. The surviving members of the MOVE 9 have been eligible for parole since 2008 and have each been denied parole when previously appearing before the PBPP.

One of Debbie’s lawyers, Bret Grote, of Abolitionist Law Center, stated, “This historic release of Debbie Africa renders the Parole Board’s decision to deny Janet and Janine all the more incomprehensible, as each has maintained DOC records that are as exemplary and essentially identical to that of Debbie.”

Debbie had not had a misconduct for violating prison rules since 1992. She also received the recommendation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), as well as recommendations from Corrections expert and former DOC Secretary Martin Horn, and Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Janet and Janine also received the support of the DOC, Martin Horn, and the District Attorney’s Office.

In letters written to Leo Dunn, the Chairman of the PBPP, Carolyn Engel Temin, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office First Assistant, wrote on behalf of District Attorney Larry Krasner that she was “confident” that Janet and Janine “will not pose a threat to the Philadelphia community” and that their “continued incarceration does not make our city safer.” In spite of these letters, the PBPP cited the “negative recommendation of the prosecuting attorney” as a basis for denial.

Brad Thomson, of the People’s Law Office, who is also a lawyer for Debbie, Janet, and Janine stated: “It is shocking that Janet and Janine were denied parole. Their circumstances and institutional records are nearly identical to Debbie’s. The decision to deny Janet and Janine appears arbitrary and it is difficult to understand how the Parole Board could justify it based on the facts that were presented.”

“The Parole Board has the opportunity to correct its mistake regarding Janet and Janine, stop playing politics with parole determinations for the MOVE 9, and release our clients,” said attorney Bret Grote. “If they do not take the chance to do the right thing, however, we fully intend to vindicate our clients’ rights and keep fighting until they join Debbie.”

In addition to Janet, Janine and Mike Sr., three other members of the MOVE 9 remain incarcerated, while two others died in custody. During the August 8, 1978 altercation, a Philadelphia police officer was killed and following a highly politicized trial, the MOVE 9 were convicted of third degree homicide. The six surviving members of the MOVE 9 who are still incarcerated are serving sentences of 30-100 are all eligible for parole.

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EDITORIAL: Lessons of the Jackie Wilson Murder Trial Saga

EDITORIALS: Lessons of the Jackie Wilson Murder Trial Saga
By: Chicago Sun-Times Editorials

We are disgusted, too.

A judge on Thursday ordered a new trial for a convicted cop killer, Jackie Wilson, ruling that his two previous trials were unfair because a key piece of evidence against him was extracted through police torture.

We, like so many Chicagoans, are disgusted that almost 40 years after two honorable police officers were killed, their families have not been granted the small peace that might come with an end to this judicial farce.

But we also know the judge was doing his job — and doing it right.

The blame for this endless travesty lies not with the judge, or with Wilson’s defense attorneys. The blame lies with a crew of rogue officers who once had so little respect for our criminal justice system that they beat confessions out of suspects. Now those bad confessions, transparently worthless, continue to haunt.

The simple hard truth is that Jackie Wilson, whatever the character of the man, has yet to receive a fully fair trial. And our disgust is with the original sin of police torture.

EDITORIAL

As Cook County Circuit Court Judge William Hooks thoroughly documented in a 119-page opinion, former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his associates at the time of the slayings routinely tortured African-American men to get confessions, including Wilson.

To read the rest of the editorial, click here.

Historic Decision in Jackie Wilson Police Torture Case

On June 14, 2018, Cook County Judge William Hooks, in a historic 119 page opinion that he read from the bench, overturned the conviction of Jackie Wilson and ordered a new trial. That opinion can be found HERE. Jackie Wilson is represented by Flint Taylor and John Stainthorp of People’s Law Office, along with Elliot Slosar of Loevy and Loevy.

In 1982, Wilson was tortured by Chicago police detectives and forced to confess to being involved in the fatal shooting of two Chicago police officers. This tortured confession led to his conviction and imprisonment for over 36 years.

Judge Hooks’ ruling is the result of an evidentiary hearing that has continued over the past several months. During the hearing, Wilson took the stand and emotionally described the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of Area 2 detectives, including Jon Burge. Burge and the other detectives responsible for Wilson’s torture asserted their Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer any questions, and a voluminous record of the racist and systemic pattern and practice of Chicago police torture was also made part of the record.

Commenting on the ruling, People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor stated, “It was a courageous decision. It was the right decision, and it’s a decision that I think not only speaks to Jackie Wilson but all of the victims of police torture under the regime of Jon Burge.” Most significantly, it is the first time that a Cook County Criminal Court Judge has made detailed factual findings that document the decades long police torture scandal.

The latest chapter in this scandal implicates the Cook County Board and its “Special Prosecutor’s” Office that has continued to fight this case despite the overwhelming evidence that Judge Hooks has now adopted in his opinion. Upon hearing Special Prosecutor Mike O’Rourke – - whose law firm has already made more than $200,000 fighting the case – - – vow that he will immediately appeal the decision rather than abide by Judge Hooks’ award of a new trial, Taylor told the press that it “was well past time for the County Board and President Preckwinkle to stop this ‘pin striped patronage’ and demand that Special Prosecutor O’Rourke act in the interests of justice rather than at the beck and call of the Fraternal Order of Police, who has been calling the shots in Jackie’s case.

Judge Hooks will hear Wilson’s motion for a reasonable bond on Thursday June 21, 2018.

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For more information:

Statement Opposing SB 2562 – Increased Police Surveillance by Drone

The People’s Law Office has signed onto the below statement opposing SB 2562.

No Drone

We the undersigned organizations stand together in opposition to SB 2562. This bill would allow police to use drones equipped with facial recognition capabilities to spy on large public gatherings across the state of Illinois.

Increased surveillance of demonstrations and other public gatherings will make us all less safe because it intimidates and deters people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest, a necessary tool for holding elected officials accountable–especially in the age of Trump. If we want to build a more equitable world, the Illinois legislature must encourage political engagement, not scare our fellow Illinoisans away from its most elemental form: public gathering.

We are greatly troubled by the dramatic expansion of surveillance powers this bill would make available to Illinois law enforcement. The Chicago Police Department’s long history of violating the rights of protesters is well known and includes unlawful surveillance and targeted abuse of people working to make this a more just city for our most marginalized residents. Chicago police violence as exemplified by the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the murder of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in 1969 continues today. We need only look at the recent attempts by the Chicago police to interfere with protected First Amendment activity by the #BlackLivesMatter to be convinced that the Chicago police are not to be trusted with a legal tool that will allow them to invade personal privacy and impede political activity from the skies.  

We strongly encourage elected officials to oppose SB 2562 and the widespread use of surveillance technology by police.

Signed,

For more information on 2562, click here.

What You Can Do

PLO Files Lawsuit Demanding Mayor’s Office Release Information to #NoCopAcademy

Activists with the #NoCopAcademy campaign file suit against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 Million new CPD facility, including evidence that the DOJ report did not prompt the new facility construction.

Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn, of the #NoCopAcademy campaign, are filing a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit against the Mayor’s Office for refusing to disclose crucial emails and records regarding the early planning for the proposed $95 Million new police academy. They are represented by attorneys with the People’s Law Office, the full complaint can be viewed here.
https://nocopacademy.files.wordpress.com/…/nocopacademy-com…

“As a librarian and information worker who believes that people have the right to access and scrutinize city plans involving their communities, I’m dismayed to see that the Mayor’s Office continues to prioritize secrecy regarding a plan that will have a substantial impact on Black communities across Chicago,” says Erin Glasco, one of the individuals filing suit. “Even as Mayor Emanuel attempts to paint a picture of this new facility as the answer to the CPD’s problems since the cover-up of the Laquan McDonald murder, he is continuing the same practices which led to that scandal in the first place – secrecy and collusion with CPD.”

Glasco and Southorn filed numerous requests for information with the Mayor’s Office upon learning about the proposed new training facility, including their communications with key players in the cop academy including the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, the Office of Alderwoman Emma Mitts, and the Department of Planning and Development. While some information has been shared, critical e-mails and records are still being withheld. The documents released so far indicate evidence that the plans for the new facility were initiated four months before the Department of Justice report was released, debunking the Mayor’s justification for the facility since it was first announced in July of 2017.

Shubra Ohri of the People’s Law Office, who is one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said, “The Mayor’s refusal to provide full and complete information to the #NoCopAcademy campaign about developing a $95 million police training academy is a clear violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. We hope this lawsuit will help provide more transparency and government accountability concerning this massive misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

This afternoon’ lawsuit is in solidarity with young Black people in Chicago, who are trying to stop his new plan to construct a massive new training facility for Chicago Police. His plan to spend $95 million on a new, 32-acre police academy this year in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, has drawn criticism from communities across Chicago, including celebrities like Chance the Rapper. The #NoCopAcademy campaign in Chicago is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, and is supported by over 52 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visithttps://nocopacademy.com

 

Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional DNA Charges by Wisconsin Officials

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 7, 2018

WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER HIGH LEVEL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS APPROPRIATED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM CRIMINAL DEFENDNANTS TO FUND THE STATE’S DNA ANALYSIS PROGRAM, FEDERAL CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ALLEGES

Attorneys for three men who were assessed a $200 DNA surcharge as a result of being convicted of misdemeanors have today filed a federal civil rights class action damages lawsuit on behalf of these men and a class of 10,000 similarly situated individuals against former Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, current Attorney General Brad Schimel and numerous high level government officials, including fourteen judges.

The suit alleges that in 2013 the Wisconsin Department of Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Van Hollen, successfully lobbied the Wisconsin legislature to enact a law requiring that a DNA sample be collected from everyone convicted of a crime in Wisconsin. It alleges that in order to build up funding for the new DNA program without expending any resources, Van Hollen requested that the new law require anyone convicted of a misdemeanor pay a $200 DNA surcharge but not submit a DNA sample for a 15 month period of time, then after the 15 month period of collecting surcharges but no samples, the new law would require anyone convicted of a misdemeanor to both pay the $200 surcharge and submit a DNA sample for analysis. The suit asserts that Van Hollen requested that the new DNA surcharge scheme be structured in this manner so that funding for the Department of Justice’s expanded DNA program would not have to come from the Department of Justice budget or from the State of Wisconsin but instead from people who were convicted of a misdemeanor and who did not have to submit a DNA sample for analysis over a 15 month period of time. The suit further asserts that Van Hollen’s scheme ensured that the Department of Justice would receive millions of dollars for doing nothing, so that it would have funding for its new DNA program so that 15 months later it would be able to handle the significant increase in DNA samples which all criminal defendants would be required to submit.

The suit claims that the DNA surcharge law violated the constitutional rights of approximately 10,000 people who, during this 15 month period of time, were convicted of misdemeanors and assessed a $200 DNA surcharge but did not submit a DNA sample. The suit alleges that Van Hollen and Schimel along with numerous judges and other high level government officials knew that the DNA surcharge law was violative of the constitutional rights of thousands of people, and that they had the opportunity and duty to intervene to prevent the violations of these people’s rights, yet they failed to do so.

“It has been over three years since the Department of Justice conceded that the DNA surcharge statute they came up with was unconstitutional, yet during that time the Department of Justice has just sat back and done nothing as hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal DNA surcharges continue to be collected and deposited into the Department of Justice bank accounts. To this day, the Department of Justice is still receiving money from people who agreed to pay the DNA surcharge on monthly payment plans,” said John Bradley, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “This is a gross example of the leadership of the Wisconsin Department of Justice not playing fair with the citizens of this state.”

Ben Elson of the Chicago-based People’s Law Office, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, said, “the people of the State of Wisconsin need to know that their Department of Justice built its DNA database on a rotten foundation from money that was unconstitutionally taken from more than ten thousand people and that their criminal justice system condoned and facilitated this taking. We hope that this lawsuit will correct this outrageous wrong.”

The plaintiffs are represented by John Bradley of Strang Bradley, LLC in Madison, and Ben Elson, Flint Taylor and Brad Thomson of the People’s Law Office.

Charges dropped in 1989 murder investigated by Chicago cops tied to Jon Burge

By: Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune.

Kevin Bailey admits that there were moments during his 28 years in prison that he lost hope he would ever be cleared of murder.

“But I just kept fighting,” he said with a smile moments after his release Tuesday afternoon from Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. “Just kept fighting.”

Hours earlier, with Bailey in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, a Cook County special prosecutor dropped charges against him and Corey Batchelor, who had been paroled in 2004. The two had long alleged that Chicago police detectives with ties to disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge had physically abused them into confessing to a brutal 1989 murder.

After Judge Alfredo Maldonado formally tossed out their convictions, Batchelor and Bailey, both 48, embraced in the courtroom.

Bailey then grinned, pumping his fists in the air as spectators in the courtroom applauded.

“I never, ever wanted to give up,” Batchelor, his voice at times emotional, later told reporters in the courthouse lobby. “At times, Kevin used to actually tell me that he was giving up, that he actually didn’t believe that we were ever going to get out. And all I did was motivate and motivate and motivate him, and let him know no matter what … the fight would continue.”

Batchelor and Bailey were 19-year-olds with no criminal history when they were arrested for the murder of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago police officer, according to court records. Woods was found stabbed to death in her South Side garage in June 1989.

Read the whole article here: Chicago Tribune 

7th Circuit Allows Malicious Prosecution Case to Proceed

A malicious prosecution case brought by a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her son will continue in district court after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the grant of summary judgment to the United States government.

After a fire destroyed her home and claimed the life of her 3-year-old son in June 1995, investigators with the Indiana Fire Marshal’s office decided Kristine Bunch had intentionally set the blaze. But when samples from Bunch’s home were sent to William Kinard, a federal forensic chemist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he determined no accelerants were present in the living room and boy’s bedroom, where the fire began.

According to Bunch, the investigators told Kinard they were not happy with the results of his report, so he agreed to fabricate findings and report that accelerants were found in the two central locations. Bunch was subsequently convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 60 years.

Read the whole article here: The Indiana Lawyer

Read the 7th Circuit Opinion Here.