CAUGHT ON VIDEO: CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF HANDCUFFED MAN KICKED IN THE FACE BY FORMER MPD OFFICER MICHAEL GASSER

Attorneys for Plaintiff Rafael Rosales, who was brutally attacked by former Milwaukee Police Officer Michael Gasser, have today filed a multi-count federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages against the City of Milwaukee, Gasser, and numerous other MPD officers. As alleged in the complaint, after surrendering to police following a car chase, Rosales was attacked by Gasser, who kicked Rosales in the face while he was subdued face down on the ground, handcuffed behind his back, completely vulnerable and unable to protect or defend himself, causing Mr. Rosales serious physical injuries, including a broken nose, and triggering multiple epileptic seizures, which left him hospitalized and on a breathing tube for three days. The complaint alleges that eight additional Milwaukee Police Officers were standing nearby, yet did nothing to stop the attack, and instead congratulated and joked with Gasser afterward, and then covered up for Gasser by writing false reports of the incident and lying to investigators.

After officers from the Greenfield Police Department, who also witnessed Gasser’s attack, came forward and reported Gasser to the MPD Internal Affairs Division, a criminal investigation was initiated, and in September 2018, Gasser was criminally charged with misconduct in office and substantial battery, both felonies. Gasser pleaded guilty to lesser charges of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct, resigned from the Milwaukee Police Department, and was sentenced to 14 days in jail and 18 months of probation. However, none of the MPD officers who lied and covered up for Gasser were investigated or disciplined in any way by the MPD.

As alleged in the complaint, Gasser had a disturbing history of misconduct, which included his involvement with Michael Vagnini and Jason Mucha in the District 5 body cavity search scandal, and a resultant $506,000 jury verdict, obtained by Attorney Robin Shellow, that was entered against Gasser in 2014, yet the Department took no disciplinary action against him, essentially giving him free reign to further abuse citizens of Milwaukee as happened in this case. Accordingly, the complaint alleges that the City of Milwaukee is equally responsible for Rafael Rosales’ injuries because its police department had in place widespread practices and customs of failing to properly monitor, control and discipline its officers and the attendant police code of silence.

Attorneys Flint Taylor, Ben Elson, and Christian Snow from the People’s Law Office and Robin Shellow from The Shellow Group are counsel for Rafael Rosales. The attorneys will show footage from the video at the press conference at which time it will be made available to the media.

Attorney Elson said:

The MPD knew for years that Gasser was a problem officer, who repeatedly engaged in serious misconduct. All of the red flags were there, yet the MPD failed to do anything about it until his wanton brutality was caught on video and officers from the Greenfield police department broke the code of silence. The actions of the additional defendant officers, who attempted to cover up for Gasser, and the MPD’s failure to punish these officers, like the officers who covered up the Vagnini body cavity search scandal, demonstrates that fifteen years after Frank Jude the code of silence is still alive and well in the MPD.

For Further Information, Please Contact: Flint Taylor and Ben Elson, People’s Law Office (773) 235-0070; Robin Shellow, The Shellow Group (414) 263-4488.

People’s Law Office Represents Markham Firefighter in False Arrest Case

Markham Firefighter Sues Chicago Cops for False Arrest

After a community cleanup in Englewood, volunteers end up in violent confrontation with dozens of cops.

November 15, 2018

On an April afternoon in 2017, 35-year-old Vairrun Strickland came to the intersection of 63rd and Ashland in Englewood with dozens of other people wearing black T-shirts and brandishing green, red, and black Black Liberation flags. As part of New Era Chicago, a community service and black empowerment group, Strickland and the others were there to clean up the neighborhood and mingle with residents. A firefighter with the Markham Fire Department who grew up in Englewood, he’d helped organize similar cleanup outings in other south- and west-side neighborhoods.

“We walk through the neighborhood with our New Era T-shirts and we pick up trash,” Strickland explained in a recent interview with the Reader. “While we’re doing that we make little chants to promote black love. We also go door-to-door and pass out literature to support black-owned businesses in the neighborhood.”

Nothing about that morning was unusual, he said. As the procession wound its way from block to block, kids and neighbors joined in to help pick up bottles and food wrappers from vacant lots. A police car trailed the group for the three hours they were out there—something that always happens during New Era’s outings, Strickland said, despite the group’s having asked the Chicago Police Department not to send escorts so as not to discourage engagement with local youth who might be wary of cops.

Read the full article in the Chicago Reader.

People’s Law Office is Pleased to Announce our new Associate, Christian Snow

Christian is a recent graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. During her time at Northeastern Christian was a chair of the Black Law Students Association, a Teaching Assistant, a Research Assistant, a Lawyering Fellow, and an elected SBA  representative for the Experiential Education and Assessment Committee. Additionally, she participated in the American Bar Association’s Judicial Clerkship Diversity program and was also awarded a Davis-Putter Scholarship. Prior to law school, Christian was a Resident in Social Enterprise, a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. She brings a wealth of experience in community organizing, including working with Street Level Youth Media and Assata’s Daughters around issues including access for young people, divestment from Black communities, bail reform, and prison and police abolition.

Habeas Petitions Filed to Free MOVE 9 Members

Attorneys from People’s Law Office and Abolitionist Law Center File Habeas Petitions on Behalf of Janet Africa and Janine Africa of the MOVE 9

Janet Africa (left) and Janine Africa (right), two of the MOVE 9 still in prison

October 4, 2018

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Today, the Abolitionist Law Center and the Peoples Law Office filed Habeas motions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Janet Hollaway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa of the MOVE 9, to appeal the decision of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (board) to deny them parole in May of 2018. Despite maintaining favorable recommendations and receiving no disciplinary infractions for decades, Janet and Janine were denied parole even though others similarly situated were released by the board.

In May of 2018, the board ruled the petitioners should not be granted parole due to their lack of remorse, minimization of the offenses committed, and an unfavorable recommendation of the prosecutor.  One of the many issues the petitioners, through their attorneys, raise is the erroneous justifications used to deny them parole because the board’s false allegations are contradicted in the record.  While the board stated there was opposition to their release, there was in fact support from the district attorney’s office. As such the motion argues the board violated substantive due process rights of Janet and Janine by denying them appeal for reasons that do not include rehabilitative and deterrent purposes. Not only do the petitioners have a favorable recommendation in support of their release, they also have family and community support, employment options, and access to stable housing. Moreover, the petitioners have accepted responsibility for their actions before the board, in their community,and with their advocacy works.

The Parole Board’s decision to deny Janet and Janine was completely arbitrary and lacked any rational basis. The justifications provided by the Board are contradicted by the evidence, including the false claim that the District Attorney’s Office opposed parole. Janet and Janine are well deserving of parole-DOC staff describe both women as model prisoners, they have not had a disciplinary incident in decades and they’ve both participated in community fundraisers, the dog training program and other social programs inside of prison. ~ Attorney Brad Thomson

In addition to Janet, Janine and Mike Sr., three other members of the MOVE 9 remain incarcerated, as two 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. All nine were sentenced to 30-100 years in prison. The six surviving members of the MOVE 9 are all eligible for parole.

Contact

Brad Thomson, People’s Law Office, 773.235.0070 ext. 123, BradJayThomson[at]gmail.com

Bret Grote, Abolitionist Law Center, 412.654.9070,  bretgrote[at]abolitionistlawcenter.org

Read the Briefs in Support of the Habeas Petitions:

Janine Phillips Africa v. Oliver – Brief in Support of Habeas Corpus Petition

Janet Holloway Africa v. Oliver – Brief in Support of Habeas Corpus Petition

#NoCopAcademy Goes to Court to Compel the Mayor’s Office to Produce Withheld Emails Concerning $95 million Police Academy

Today, attorneys from the People’s Law Office representing the #NoCopAcademy campaign, presented a motion requesting the Honorable Judge Sophia Hall to both review records withheld by the Mayor’s Office and to order the Mayor’s Office to produce any records withheld in violation of the law.

The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the #NoCopAcademy campaign against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 million Chicago police academy. Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn submitted FOIA requests seeking relevant emails from key players in the development of the cop academy. The Mayor’s Office produced some messages, but indicated it was withholding emails sought by Glasco and Southorn – thus prompting this lawsuit.

The Mayor’s Office has now confirmed that it has withheld and/or redacted at least 27 emails about the new police facility and has offered little to no explanation as to why these emails have been withheld, even in the context of a lawsuit. The Mayor’s Office has also refused to say whether City employees used private email accounts to communicate about the new police academy.

The Mayor’s Office’s decision to withhold information from Glasco and Southorn, like its decision to construct a new multimillion dollar facility for Chicago police, has been cloaked in secrecy.  The lawsuit pushes for the kind of transparency the people of Chicago are entitled to when considerable amounts of taxpayer funds are being spent on a facility many believe is not necessary and counter-productive, as the City is in desperate need of funds for Chicago Public Schools and mental health clinics. Such transparency is also vital for the effort challenging the expansion of policing in Chicago, an effort embodied by the #NoCopAcademy campaign.

The #NoCopAcademy campaign is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, GoodKids MadCity, and several other organizations and is supported by 80 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visit https://nocopacademy.com