The New York Police Department’s explanation that more Hispanics and Blacks are arrested on pot charges because complaints are higher in their communities doesn’t hold up.
While there are many ways to get detained on pot charges, one pattern has stayed true through decades of policy changes in the city: The primary targets are blacks and Hispanics.
Visit almost any courtroom in the city, and they fill the pews. Black, young men, waiting to talk to a judge about a crime that isn’t a crime in many states: possess marijuana. The young men talk about smoking in a housing project hallway or being in a car with a friend who was smoking.
Throughout the city, blacks are arrested on low-level charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic persons over the past three years. The New York Times found Hispanic persons were arrested at five times the rate. Go to Manhattan and the chasm is even bitter. There, blacks are arrested at 15 times the rate of whites.
Even as crime drops in The Big Apple and the police remain under pressure to justify the low-level arrests, a senior cop told lawmakers that more residents in black and Hispanic neighborhoods call to complain about pot smokers.
An analysis by The New York Times found that wasn’t exactly true. What The Times found is among neighborhoods where people called about marijuana at the same rate, blacks were arrested at a higher rate in the areas with more black residents.
For example, officers in the precinct which includes Canarsie detained people at rates which were over four times as high as the precinct which includes Greenpoint.
The Canarsie precinct is 85% black. Greenpoint? 4% black.
The newspaper’s analysis, blended with interviews with defendants facing pot charges, attorneys, and police officials, paint a picture of uneven enforcement. In some communities, cops are expected by their commanders to be aggressive on the streets, look for marijuana smell on the streets and detain people who are smoking.
Black neighborhoods content with more violent crime and more cops are deployed there. That means residents are more exposed to law enforcement. Nevertheless, marijuana arrests in the city are associated with reductions in serious crime although there is no good evidence of that.
Government surveys show blacks and whites smoke pot at about the same rate. Marijuana smoke drifts down streets all over the city. From the brownstones in upper-class areas of Manhattan to apartment buildings in working-class neighborhoods.
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Avoiding the fare on New York’s subway was a misdemeanor so these few minutes were just a brief interruption in his busy, but poor, life.
Richard was surprised when he was put in the paddy wagon and taken to Rikers.
He was even more shocked two-months later when he was still behind bars in a filthy, overcrowded cell.
Is Vance A Prosecutor For The Well-Heeled?
To listen to the media, the district attorney of Manhattan’s, Cyrus Vance, Jr., tends to look the other way when it comes to white-collar crime. And there’s evidence of a soft spot in the DA ’s heart for the Uber-wealthy.
In 2012 when Trump siblings, Ivanka and Donald Junior, were not prosecuted for hoodwinking prospective buyers in the SoHo Trump Tower, their attorney, Marc Kasowitz, threw a fundraiser for Vance and raised tens of thousands for Vance’s campaign.
Even after falling-from-grace, Harvey Weinstein confessed on tape, Vance still decided not to file sexual-assault charges. The International Business Times reported David Boies, Weinstein’s attorney, had made a $10,000 donation to Vance in 2015.
In March, New York’s Governor Cuomo, instructed the NY Attorney General to look into Vance’s treatment of the Weinstein Case.
Vance’s star is falling. Facing an unchallenged vote for a return trip to the office in November, 10% of Manhattan’s citizens are so tired of Vance’s willingness to say one thing but do another, they wrote in someone else’s name. Whose name? ABV — Anybody But Vance.
Smoke And Mirrors
With all the clouds hanging over Vance’s care and feeding of the affluent and acclaimed, another facet of his work is starting to become noticed. In spite of wrapping himself in a blanket, he calls “progressive reform,” Vance is more punitory to poor and ethnic defendants than he is to the fat-and-bloated.
Vance’s record is even worse than district attorney’s in the other divisions.
A survey released by a board on Rikers Island, revealed Vance was accountable for 38% of the jailed populace in 2016 — despite handling only 29% of all cases in the city. “No other district gets close,” the paper said.
Parade of Imprisonment
The march of confinement is exacerbated by Vance’s draconian requirements for bond. In 2016, Vance’s stats show he detained 17% of people accused of misdemeanors or insignificant violations — everything from jumping a turnstile to smoking a join.
Vance is also known for his tight-fisted approach to making defense attorneys available to detainees. It’s not just defense lawyers Vance refused to make available. When an accused has his lawyer, Vance still won’t hand over law enforcement’s reports and eyewitness accounts needed to mount a vigorous defense.
As the rest of the metro’s DAs have crept toward “open file discovery,” Vance’s approach is called “trial by ambush” by the city’s defense lawyers.
Reforms? What Reforms?
New York lawyers who work with the poor say Vance has failed to enforce his reforms. “We’re still getting bail requests on people who are charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies,” says Tina Luongo, chief attorney for the Legal Aid Society. “The whole country is talking about not setting bail for the poor, but Vance can’t motivate his office to follow suit.”
“It’s frustrating to hear someone boast about reform and not see they are running two different prosecutorial shops,” said Arkady Bukh, an internationally known criminal defense attorney. “New York has two pipelines for justice. One for those with influence and the other for the poor.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have stepped up arrests of people with no criminal backgrounds according to a report released recently. The figures reflect the current administration’s commitment to throw out a wider net and worry less about who may be captured.
Community Projects as Social Activism, by Benjamin Shepard, says ICE reported 65% of arrests between October and December were criminals. Arrests of criminals jumped 14% to over 25,000 from 22,000 while arrests of non-criminals tripled to more than 13,000 from under 5,000.
Deportations went up compared to the final full three months of the Obama administration as well. There was over 39,000 deportation between October and December 2017. Those figures reflect an increase of 43% from Obama to Trump.
The current administration claims people with criminal records are a priority, but no one is immune. Individuals with longstanding ties to the country were permitted to stay under the Obama administration but now are ordered to leave.
Food Vendors Lose Sales And Income
In a cramped alley in Queens, Hernan’s Kitchen makes over 4,000 churros daily. The dough is shaped by a dispenser which drips it into the hot oil. Similar to long, straight doughnuts, the churros are finished with a hand sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon before being stacked on baking trays.
The churro makers work quickly and grab dough from the mixer. The churros must be ready when his vendors come in at 3 am to pick up their orders. Hernan’s churros are time sensitive. He can’t risk losing any more buyers.
Hernan has taken 14-years to build his wholesale churro business. In just one week, he lost half of his customers. That was the week following Trump’s election. His market has not recovered.
“My business is affected this year. My vendors are scared they will get deported,” said Hernan. “They have left.”
Just during the first three-months of Trump’s presidency, ICE has spurred a drop not only in vendors but the number of street vendors’ customers.
“During the first months of Trump, there was no one on the street in Queens. No vendors and no vendor customers,” said Sean Basinski, The Street Vendor Project Director.
In the Queens neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Jamaica, where street sales of food is common, some vendors report losing a significant part of their business and income.
In 2016 Hernan thought he had reached a turning point. He had earned enough to afford a larger facility with industrial equipment and possibly hire an additional baker. Now his income is sliced in half, and he has returned to the streets. Weekends are reserved for a drive to suburban Westchester to sell his churros to churches with large Latino congregations.
Glady, a street vendor on Queens’ Roosevelt Avenue has lost over half of her income selling shish kebabs.
“I haven’t even made $50,” Glady says as she heats the grill.” The change in Washington has made people hang on to their money since they don’t know when they may be arrested and deported.”
A vendor operating across the road from Glady says people aren’t buying as they don’t want to be obvious and risk their, or family members, being deported.
“Many people don’t come like they used to,” she said. “People don’t have the same liberty as before.”
Any contact undocumented immigrants have with law enforcement is seen as raising the risk of being detained by ICE and eventually deported,” said Matthew Shapiro, the senior lawyer at The Street Vendor Project.
Shapiro and immigration lawyers are concerned over the bump in ICE arrests around courthouses. The Immigrant Defense Project says arrests, in and around courthouses in New York City, have jumped by over 900%.
The Street Vendor Project knows how a significant decline in street vendors and their incomes will have a cultural and economic impact for the city.
“Who could imagine New York City without street vendors,” asks Basinski. “If we lose the streets as a home for small business to start and thrive, eventually the economy of New York City will be impacted.”
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Cohen, 51, has one supporter, Anthony Scaramucci. When Katy Tur asked “The Mooch” if there were any change Cohen would wind up flipping, Scaramucci said, “No. Michael is an extremely faithful person.”
Very few of Trump’s supporters feel assured Cohen will respect “omerta.” In a conversation with Trump on Friday, Jay Goldberg, another of Trump’s attorneys, told the President, “Michael won’t stay by you if he’s accused by the government.”
Trump doesn’t have anything to fret about, right? Unless. Except if Trump perpetrated a felony which Cohen knew of.
In a rambling conversation with The Wall Street Journal, Goldberg spelled out his anxieties about the disastrous result it would have if Cohen cooperated. “The mob was fractured by Sammy “The Bull” Gravano when he flipped on Gotti to get out of a prison sentence.”
In describing the situation, many insiders are using Mafia vernacular. “I think for a couple of years, Cohen would be a stand-up guy and he’d tell investigators to go piss up a rope. But if they look at him and say he’s facing a couple of decades, well, how loyal will he be?”
Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano
Gravano was an underboss inside the Gambino crime family in New York. When ‘the feds’ turned their sites on him, Gravano folded and helped bring down Mob Boss, John Gotti. Facing serious prison time, Gravana was given a few options: 1. Testify against Gotti, 2. Cooperate with federal law enforcement, 3. Confess to crimes he committed. If he refused, Gravano was looking at the rest of his life behind bars.
The option? Work with the feds, no prison time, and enter the Witness Protection Program.
Omerta is an honor code which emphasizes silence and non-cooperation with authorities. The fundamental principle behind omerta is that it is not ‘manly to look for help from legally constituted authorities to settle personal disputes.
One of omerta’s fundamental test is it is exceptionally demeaning to betray one’s deadliest enemy to law enforcement, and for this reason, many Mafia-linked crimes have stayed unsolved.
According to the first Mafia researcher, Antonio Cutrera, Omerta is a code of silence.
Omerta was first broken, in America, by Joe Valachi, an Italian-American mafioso. In 1963 Valachi told of the Mafia’s existence and testified before Congress.
Will Michael Cohen break omerta? Well, he hasn’t been accused, so far, of being any part of a mob family, but will he break the principle which has protected criminals in New York, and elsewhere, for decades?
We may soon see.
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When cops shot an unarmed man in Brooklyn, they knew emotionally charged protests would launch, and the New York attorney general would be investigating.
What they didn’t realize is the amount of vitriol sent out on social media over another needless, mindless police shooting of an unarmed black male.
About 4:40 on a recent spring evening in Crown Heights, cops got a few calls about a black man point what the caller said was a “silver firearm” at people on the street.
“There’s a man walking on the street,” one caller said. “He looks like he’s crazy and he’s going something looking like a pistol.”
Five cops showed up and saw Saheed Vassell pointing an object at people.
“The suspect took a two-handed firing stance,” said police spokesman Terence Monahan. “He brandished an item at the officers.”
Four cops opened fire on Vassell, striking him several times. Ten rounds were fired.
The object Vassell held was a metal pipe.
In one video, Vassell is standing on a corner, facing the intersection. The cops opened fire on him.
Vassell was in his neighborhood. He lived around the corner from where he was killed. Neighbors and family told local journalists Vassell had bipolar disorder and was well known to the police and shopkeepers. They all described Vassell as ‘harmless.’
“Everyone knows him,” said a stylist at Glamors Beauty across the highway from the spot where Vassell’s body still lay and an hour later. “I guess when the police came they thought it was a gun.”
Vassell, 34, had moved to America from Jamaica when he was 6, Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, told reporters. “He was well known to residents and cops,” the elder Vassell told The New York Times.
The next morning, Vassell’s aunt, Nora Ford, visited the corner where he nephew was killed, so she could “feel the blood where he fell.”
“It was a piece of metal, and they killed him for a piece of iron,” Ford told reporters. “If he were a white kid, they wouldn’t have fired at him.”
Police refused to discuss whether they gave Vassell a warning and NYPD spokesman refused to respond to questions sent by email.
Police in America has shot — and killed — over 3235 persons since January 2015. Black victims make up 24$ of those and 36% of the 222 unarmed people who have been shot and killed.
Over 290 people have been shot and killed — by cops — in 2018. One-fifth of those were in the middle of a mental or emotional breakdown when they were shot.
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