More than five dozen activists were indicted on RICO charges last week over the ongoing efforts to halt construction of the city of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center in DeKalb County.
The sweeping indictment, handed up last Tuesday in Fulton County, is being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.
A total of 61 protestors have been charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. Some face additional charges of domestic terrorism and money laundering. Most are not from Georgia.
There has been numerous acts of violence and arrests over the past year and half at the training center site.
Arrests began back in May 2022, when protestors were taken into custody at the training center site and accused of throwing Molotov cocktails towards officers and causing a small fire as police officers tried to clear the site.
In December, five protestors were charged with domestic terrorism and other offenses after officials alleged they “threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles.”
Protests turned violent in Downtown Atlanta in January, when protestors set a police car on fire and broke businesses windows. Five people were arrested that night and are the only co-defendants in the recent indictment that face domestic terrorism and arson in the first degree charges, in addition to the RICO charge.
The January protest were in response to the death of Manuel “Tortugita” Teran, who was shot and killed by Georgia State Patrol troopers during a “clearing operation” on Jan. 18. Officials allege Teran shot at officers first. The GBI turned over the case file to the Mountain Circuit District Attorney’s Office in April.
The bulk of the defendants named in the indictment involves protestors arrested on March 5 at the training center site. Twenty-three protestors were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism after allegedly throwing large rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police officers at the site. All 23 only face one count of RICO in the indictment.
Three people accused of handing out flyers in April identifying one of the troopers involved in the Teran’s death were also indicted. The flyers were distributed in Bartow County, which is the area where the trooper is believe to live, according to The Intercept.
The indictment also names bail fund organizers, Marlon Scott Kautz, Adele Maclean and Savannah Patterson, who were arrested in May 2023 during a raid at a home on Mayson Avenue for alleged actions taken as executives with the nonprofit Network for Strong Communities, which supported the nonprofit Defend the Atlanta Forest. All three face one count of RICO and 15 counts of money laundering in the indictment.
In June, DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced that she would withdraw her office from prosecuting cases relating to the training center, citing differences in “prosecutorial philosophy” with the AG’s Office.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee was originally assigned to the case but an order of recusal was filed by McAfee on Tuesday. According to the order, McAfee regularly collaborated with the Prosecution Division of the Attorney General’s Office during his time at the Georgia Office of the Inspector General, and discussed aspects of the investigation that led to the indictment.
The case has been reassigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Adams.
The Cop City Vote Coalition, a group of organizers aiming at putting the training center on the ballot, released a statement condemning the indictments and accusing Attorney General Chris Carr of seeking to “intimidate protestors, legal observers, and bail funds alike, and send the chilling message that any dissent to Cop City will be punished with the full power and violence of the government.”
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Last night I had much to say about Republicans refusing to redraw Voting Rights Act-compliant congressional districts that didn't disenfranchise Black voters in multiple states, and that SCOTUS had all but eliminated any enforcement power to remedy it.
Today, a three-judge federal panel unanimously found Alabama's GOP was violating the VRA and ordered a court-drawn map.
A panel of three federal judges on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s latest version of its congressional map, saying the state’s Republican-led legislature did not follow a court order to comply with the Voting Rights Act when it last redrew districts in July.
The judges have directed a special master and cartographer to create a remedial map.
“We do not take lightly federal intrusion into a process ordinarily reserved for the State Legislature. But we have now said twice that this Voting Rights Act case is not close,” the judges wrote in the order. “And we are deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.”
The order also says the judges were “disturbed by the evidence that the State delayed remedial proceedings but ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy.”
The U.S. Supreme Court had issued a decision in June upholding the panel’s earlier ruling, which found that the Alabama legislature drew congressional districts that unlawfully diluted the political power of Black residents in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. The three-judge panel had ordered the state to produce a new congressional map that included either an additional majority-Black district or a second district in which Black voters otherwise would have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
The redrawn map was approved by the Republican-controlled Alabama legislature in July. It had apportioned the state’s 7th Congressional District to include a population that is 50.65 percent Black and its 2nd Congressional District to have a population that’s 40 percent Black. The Alabama Senate voted 24-6 to pass the new plan, and the House approved the map 75-28.
Challengers argued that lowering the percentage of Black voters in the map’s sole majority-Black district and allocating a 40 percent Black voting population to another district did not meet the court’s requirement to produce a district that is “something quite close to” a Black majority.
In Tuesday’s order, the panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, took particular issue with the legislature’s failure to comply with a federal court order.
“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” the judges wrote. “The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.”
First lady Jill Biden tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the White House said. President Joe Biden has tested negative.
The diagnosis has upended the first lady’s plans to begin teaching the fall semester at Northern Virginia Community College on Tuesday. She is working with the school to “ensure her classes are covered by a substitute,” Vanessa Valdivia, the first lady’s spokesperson, said.
Dr. Biden, who remains at the family’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, typically teaches on Tuesday and Thursdays.
An administration official told CNN Monday that there are no changes to White House Covid protocols or to the president’s schedule at this time.
The diagnosis of the first lady, 72, comes amid a busy week for Joe Biden, who delivered a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia earlier in the day. The president is scheduled to present the Medal of Honor to an Army captain in a White House ceremony Tuesday before departing for the G20 Summit in India on Thursday.
CNN has asked for more details on both the president and first lady’s regular Covid testing cadence and if Joe Biden was with his wife when she began exhibiting Covid symptoms.
Last summer, the first lady tested positive for Covid-19 while vacationing in South Carolina in August. President Biden tested positive last July. Both experienced rebound cases shortly after being treated with Paxlovid.