PA supreme court: was illegal to steal elderly woman's home because her son sold $140 of weed

It took four years, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of 72 year old grandmother Elizabeth Young, whose house was seized by the Philadelphia District Attorney under asset forfeiture rules when her son was caught selling $140 worth of marijuana to undercover agents.

Under civil forfeiture rules, cops and DAs get to steal property suspected of being the proceeds of a crime, then they sue the inanimate objects. The owners of the objects can hire lawyers to represent their property, while the taxpayers foot the bill for the state's side of the suit. If the government wins, it gets to keep the property or sell it and pocket the proceeds.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blasted the DA for the seizure and reminded the state's lawyers and cops that they can only invoke civil forfeiture when there is good reason to believe that the property's owner "knew of and agreed to the crimes" in question.

The cop who bought the marijuana from Young's son is currently serving a 3.5 year federal prison sentence for planting drugs on suspects.

Young is far from the only person to have her house seized by the Philadelphia D.A. for a minor drug crime that she didn't even commit. In 2013, Philadelphia police seized the house of Christos and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling $40-worth of drugs outside of it.

The Sourovelis' sued, with assistance from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states.

Read the rest

Suburban Chicago library set to fire only African American librarian who spoke out about racial equity

Cheryl writes, "The sole African American librarian in Evanston Public Library (population ~75K-- first 'burb north adjacent to Chicago) faced a termination hearing today related to social media posts she made in protest to the library's lack of action related to addressing racial equity in library services." Read the rest

The coded gaze: biased and understudied facial recognition technology

Rod McCullom at Undark has a terrific overview of the perpetual "virtual lineup," where half of all American adults "are enrolled in unregulated facial recognition networks used by state and local law enforcement agencies." Read the rest

Matt Ruff's "Lovecraft Country" adapted for TV by Jordan Peele and HBO

Well, this just made my day: Matt Ruff's outstanding anti-racist novel Lovecraft Country has been picked up for development into a TV show by Jordan "Get Out" Peele, JJ Abrams and HBO. Read the rest

America's top cop-killing domestic terror threat is far-right "sovereign citizens" and militias

A 2014 survey of 175 US law enforcement agencies found that they ranked "sovereign citizens" as the top domestic terror threat, and with good reason: members of the heavily armed, white-supremacist-adjacent movement regularly kill cops during routine traffic stops and other interactions. Read the rest

Louisiana's public defender's office is largely nonexistent so poor people just plead guilty

Louisiana has always been a backward place for criminal justice, the only state in the union that funds its public defenders' office with conviction fees, leaving a public defender's office that averages $238 spent on each accused. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions orders prosecutors to charge Americans "with the most serious offense you can prove"

Racist, perjuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued guidance to federal prosecutors, ordering them to charge the people they will face in court with "the most serious offense you can prove," paving the way for a surge in America's already-shameful record of racially biased, family destroying, community-devastating, private-prison-enriching mass incarceration, which already outstrips the rates of incarceration in Apartheid-era South Africa, China and the USSR. Read the rest

For today's college kids, the Rodney King beating seems mild and unremarkable

In 1991, George Holliday's video of Rodney King being kicked and nightsticked by LAPD officers shocked the nation and sparked an uprising that galvanized the discussion about police brutality. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions wants to bring back long mandatory prison sentences for minor drug offenses

Donald Trump's racist, perjuring Attorney General, former senator Jefferson Sessions, was signaled that he will reverse Obama-era AG Eric Holder's memo that told federal prosecutors not to bring charges against petty drug offenders, because these crime carry absurd minimum sentences that resulted in America imprisoning a greater proportion of its population than any country in the history of the world, including the USSR and Apartheid-era South Africa. Read the rest

Uber threatens to leave Seattle if drivers can unionize; drivers rejoice

The City of Seattle voted to allow Uber drivers to form a union, and Uber says that if its court challenge to the rule is unsuccessful, it might leave Seattle. Read the rest

Trump administration wants to force visitors to US to reveal social media passwords and answer questions about political beliefs

The latest crayon-scrawled, unconstitutional, sure-to-be-challenged plan from the Trump White House for America's borders would require visitors to the US to reveal their social media passwords so CBP officers could read their private messages and look at their friends lists; they will also have to answer questions about their political beliefs -- the plan would cover visitors from all over, including countries in the US Visa Waiver program. Read the rest

Monopoly capitalism destroyed American black businesses, which provided safe employment for civil rights activists

For a generation, Americas anti-trust enforcers have walked away from their duties, gripped by an ideology that says that bigger companies mean more profits (which benefit the rich) and lower prices (which benefit everyone else). Read the rest

Conservative trolls pretending to be black on Twitter "sad" and "obvious"

A sharp increase in right-wingers pretending to be black on Twitter as they troll people has been noted.

"I'm used to trolling, and it doesn't bother me, but the idea of a black woman selling her sons out to police with everything we know now was so sad to me that I couldn't wrap my mind around it. And the idea that anyone — let alone a black person — could say Emmett Till deserved to die is just so beyond the pale," he said.

Over the past few months, Black Twitter has noticed an increase in the number of white trolls creating fake Twitter accounts. Newkirk says he first noticed this around election time last year, when people began posting directions on how to create these fake accounts on websites and forums.

This sounds like a play-for-play repeat of a strategy defined during the gamergate imbroglio: a generic female name, a googled cutesy avatar and a comically idealized personality that supposedly will bring the enemy to their knees but which convinces no-one but fellow believers. "All very cartoonish," as Newkirk describes.

...one of the common mistakes trolls make is misusing or overusing African-American Vernacular English. "It's not just that they get the rules of AAVE wrong — both the spoken and written conventions — they also don't code switch the way black people do. Not a lot of effort goes into these accounts, in my honest opinion," Rosenbaum says.

Likewise, the gamergate-era trolls would mix up various strata of queer theory and feminism in precisely the same uncannily comical way. Read the rest

Internal Islamophobia and racism are costing the FBI its vital, tiny cohort of Muslim and Arab agents

FBI agents have described the 83% white Bureau as "Trumpland," where conspiracy theories about Sharia law takeovers of America are taken seriously; the far-right, racist nature of so many agents has resulted in the loss, firing, and purging of many of the Bureau's tiny, dwindling minority of Arab and Muslim agents, who have been identified as crucial to the Bureau's counterterrorism mission. Read the rest

Privately run immigration detention is so violent that prisoners beg to be kept in solitary

With Obama's federal government reducing the role of private prisons in the incarceration of Americans, companies like Corrections Corporation of America (now known as Corecivic) and GAO aggressively moved into providing detention facilities for people awaiting deportation, like the 2,000,000+ people deported under the Obama administrations. Read the rest

Trump wants to separate small children from their mothers in immigration detention

A leaked Trump administration briefing described by Reuters reveals a plan to separate children, including very young children, from their mothers for immigration detention purposes, seemingly as a deterrent to parents who attempt to cross the US border without authorization. Read the rest

US border guards can't believe Nigerian man is a software engineer, google "questions to ask a software engineer" and give him a pop quiz

Celestine Omin is a Nigerian software engineer who works for Andela, a technology company backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded to give talented African coders an entree into the leading American tech firms; this week, he flew to the USA on a B1/B2 visa to meet with the company, but he found himself detained at the border. Read the rest

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