Tag Archives: Missouri

Judge Rules Homeowner Must Grow Grass in Yard, Despite Being Allergic

St. Peters, MO – A federal judge ruled that Missouri homeowners Carl and Janice Duffner must follow a city ordinance mandating grass in their yard, despite one of the homeowners declaring an allergy to grass. U.S. District Judge John Ross issued a 17-page ruling, which stated that the Duffners can be forced to plant turf grass in their own yard and stated that the couple “failed to identify a fundamental right that is restricted by the Turf Grass Ordinance.”

David Roland, the attorney for Carl and Janice Duffner, said he will take this case to the U.S Supreme Court if an appeal to this judge’s ruling is unsuccessful. Roland released a statement on behalf of the Duffners, noting the precedent being set by the government to threaten a family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and decades of imprisonment for refusing to make an addition to their property that would cause themselves physical harm.

The statement from Roland explained:

The court’s ruling is bad for anyone who thinks they have a constitutional right to use their own private property in lawful, harmless ways, or to decide for themselves who and what they will allow on their private property. If the government can force the Duffners to plant grass instead of the flowers they prefer, there is nothing that would prevent a local government from forcing property owners – at their own expense! – to put in and maintain a fence or a swimming pool or holiday lights.

And it is utterly absurd that the government can threaten its citizens with hundreds of thousands of dollars and twenty years in prison simply because they would rather have lawful, harmless flowers on their property rather than a plant that makes them sick. 

The next step is an appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We feel like we have a good chance of getting this decision overturned.

After purchasing their home in 2002, Carl and Janice Duffner opted to plant a flower garden in place of a grass yard, as Janice, 69, said that she is allergic to turf grass. In 2008, the city of St. Peters passed an ordinance that requires homeowners to have a minimum of least 50 percent turf grass on their property.

The Duffners ignored the new ordinance and maintained their garden until neighbors reportedly complained about the garden and reported them to the city in 2014; the couple has subsequently become ensnared in a legal battle.

The Duffners applied for a variance that would allow them to be exempt from planting any grass on their property. The city of St. Peters Board of Zoning Adjustment responded by granting the couple a variance that reduced the amount of turf grass required from 50 percent to 5 percent and requiring the grass area to be in the front yard or in the side yard in front of the fence.

[RELATED: Civil Liberties Groups Warn CLOUD Act In Spending Bill Erodes Privacy]

Court documents indicate that the Duffners were required to comply by December 1, 2014, according to KARE 11. The couple refused because it still required them to grow grass, and they filed a lawsuit arguing that the 5 percent requirement “imposes a permanent obligation… for no reason other than that the government commands it.”

The Duffners filed a federal lawsuit in December 2016, which stated that the couple believed the city ordinance is “unnecessary for the advancement of any compelling or permissible state objective” and “imposes a permanent obligation on the owner to cultivate and maintain that unwanted physical presence on their property for no reason other than that the government commands it.”

The Duffner’s neighbor, Mark Letko, told KSDK News that some people in the neighborhood enjoy visiting the garden. “All of our friends want to walk through it,” Letko said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to take this pleasure away from her.” Letko also noted that some neighbors did not appreciate the garden and claimed it would “bring down the value” of their properties.

Letko questioned why the city has been making an issue out of the presence of a garden that is not harming anyone.

“If it was there to harm people or something like that but it’s not that way,” Letko said. “St. Peter’s have just gone too far. It’s not drugs or anything like that. We are talking about grass.”

Mo. GOP Rep.’s Bill Would Require Lobbyists to Report Sex with Legislators as ‘Gift’

Republican Missouri state Rep. Bart Korman introduced a bill in the Missouri House last Wednesday that would define sex between lawmakers and lobbyists as a “gift” and require such incidents to be reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

House Bill 2059, which sets rules for which expenditures lobbyists must report, states, “The term ‘gift’ shall include sexual relations between a registered lobbyist and a member of the general assembly or his or her staff.

Rep. Korman told KSHB-TV, “From a citizen aspect, if you’re an elected official having a relationship with a lobbyist to that degree, I think that they should know. A citizen should know if that’s going on.

[RELATED: Report: At Least 1,000 Police Officers Fired for ‘Sexual Misconduct’]

The bill contains an exception for “relations between married persons or between persons who entered into a relationship prior to the registration of the lobbyist, the election of the member to the general assembly, or the employment of the staff person,” presumably to exempt elected officials who are already coincidentally in a romantic relationship with someone technically employed as a lobbyist.

The bill’s text adds, “The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall not require a dollar valuation.

Explaining the purpose of that particular line of legislative text, Rep. Korman said, “Thats been the local discussion, how to price that or how to put a performance on it and I try to address it as a zero price tag to eliminate that discussion if at all possible.

[RELATED: DOJ Report Exposes DEA Agents’ Sex Parties with Prostitutes Funded by Colombian Drug Cartels]

According to The Kansas City Star, the House is working on legislative ethics reform in response to sex scandals that rocked the Missouri General Assembly last year.

KHSB-TV notes that former Missouri House Speaker John J. Diehl Jr. resigned last year after sexually-charged text messages that he sent to an intern were published in The Kansas City Star. Former Senator Paul LeVota resigned last summer amid allegations that he sexually harassed an intern.

Mizzou Communications Professor Resigns From Appointment After Threatening Reporter

By Kerry Picket University of Missouri faculty member Melissa Click apologized Tuesday night and resigned her courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism. David Kurpius, dean of the journalism school at MU, posted the news to Twitter just before 9 p.m.

Click’s resignation came one day after she joined protesting students in the school’s quadrangle who were angered over two incendiary on campus incidents, which led to the resignation of both the president of the school and later the chancellor.

A courtesy appointment permits members of one academic department to serve on graduate committees for students from other academic departments. Click teaches mass media in the Communication Department. The School of Journalism is separate from the Communications Department.

Click and Assistant Director of Greek Life Jana Basler were both captured on video verbally intimidating student photographer Tim Tai, who was on a freelance assignment to cover the protests. Towards the tail end of the video, Click asks for “muscle” to deal with the video maker MU junior Mark Schierbecker. The video was later uploaded to YouTube.

“Yesterday was an historic day at MU — full of emotion and confusion. I have reviewed and reflected upon the video of me that is circulating, and have written this statement to offer both apology and context for my actions,” Click said in a statement released to the Columbia Missourian Tuesday afternoon by the College of Arts and Science.

“I have reached out to the journalists involved to offer my sincere apologies and to express regret over my actions. I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behavior, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students’ campaign for justice,”she said in the statement.

Tai told The Huffington Post that Click had apologized to him, and said she was “very gracious.”

“I don’t have — and never had — bad feelings against her and feel bad that she’s been receiving threats and other nasty messages,” Tai told HuffPost. “I wish she had handled the situation differently, but as a journalist it really just became part of the scene I was presented with and I never took her or anyone else’s actions personally.”

 

This article was republished with permission from The Daily Caller.

Ferguson Commission Calls For Police To ‘Minimize Use of Militarized Weaponry’

A report released on Monday by the commission appointed to study the racial divide and the unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, advised that police reduce their use of military-style tactics and weapons.

The 198-page report, titled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity,” was released by the 16-member commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and includes 189 policy “calls to action” for police.

The commission was assembled after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Aug. 2014, sparked protests throughout the community. Police responded to those protests with military-style tactics and equipment.

The protests turned into riots, and the response from police, along with a scathing report from the Department of Justice, highlighted the racial divide in the St. Louis suburb, and the discriminatory practices exercised by local police against the black community.

[RELATED: Truth In Media Gets It Right, DoJ Says Policing For Profit Part Of Ferguson Discrimination]

The report suggested that the state be directed “to cease providing, and local departments to cease using, militarized weaponry that does not align with a use of force continuum that authorizes only the minimal amount of force necessary.”

According to the report, departments across the state also need to “revise use of force policies and training to prioritize de-escalation and to clarify the instances when officers should engage in tactical withdrawal.”

“The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust, and making community safety even more difficult,” the report noted.

In addition to recommendations about police tactics, the report also advised that the state increase the minimum wage from $7.65 per hour, expand eligibility for Medicaid and merge the 60 police forces and 81 municipal courts that cover the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson Commission’s report has been met with skepticism by Missouri residents such as John Parker, who runs a public relations firm in the area. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he sees the commission as a way for Nixon to “save face.”

“The governor put this commission together to save face on race relations in this city,” Parker said.  “If you actually want to effect change, you effect change. Change is not putting commission members together to discuss what everybody already knows. That’s a waste of time.”

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Root Of Police Militarization]

Investigative journalist Ben Swann looked at the root of America’s current problem with the militarization of police in communities including Ferguson in an episode of Truth In Media in Dec. 2014:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=UsRV3y37qcs

Mo. Grandfather, Once Condemned to Life in Prison Without Parole for Pot, Walks Free

62-year-old Missouri grandfather Jeff Mizanskey walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center on Tuesday, where he was met by a cheering crowd of friends and family members.

21 years earlier, Mizanskey had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for three non-violent marijuana convictions under Missouri’s since-repealed, three-strikes style Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. However, passionate and relentless protests by supporters led elected officials in Missouri to intervene, climaxing in Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s May commutation of Mizanskey’s sentence, which granted him the opportunity for parole. In August, Missouri’s Board of Probation and Parole reviewed his case and approved his parole request.

According to KRCG-TV, Mizanskey said that he plans to continue his advocacy of cannabis legalization and prison reform and wants to get back to work remodeling homes. He recommended that prisons provide inmates with training in information technology careers to help their chances of reintegrating into society after their release.

The newly-freed Mizanskey reportedly dined on steak and eggs with friends and family at a local restaurant after leaving the maximum security prison in which he had been imprisoned for over two decades.

The Free Jeff Mizanskey Facebook page celebrated his freedom by posting several pictures of him following his release, including a picture, seen below, captioned, “Getting some food and meeting his great granddaughter.

11013163_937676336290551_9220606179546459258_n

In the original Change.org petition that supporters used to drum up support for his release, Mizanskey’s son Chris wrote, “While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man.

Mizanskey’s family has created a crowdfunding page on the website GoFundMe which seeks help with his transition back into society after being incarcerated for decades.

Watch the Truth in Media Project’s Consider This video, embedded below, which exposes some important and lesser-known facts about non-violent inmates serving hard time under the War on Drugs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zTOFxdUsQw

Missouri To Set Free Grandfather Sentenced to Life Without Parole for Pot

Since September of last year, Truth in Media has reported on the the plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a 62-year-old grandfather who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for three non-violent marijuana convictions under Missouri’s since-repealed, three-strikes style Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. After a rising chorus of supporters begged for his release, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon unexpectedly commuted Mizanskey’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole last May, qualifying him for an August 6 hearing before Missouri’s Board of Probation and Parole.

[RELATED: MO Governor Jay Nixon Commutes Grandfather’s Life Sentence for Pot]

At the hearing, Mizanskey, who has already spent over 21 years in a maximum security prison, was granted parole and, according to ABC 17 News, he is set to be released within 10 to 25 days of the parole board’s decision.

A message posted on August 10 on the Free Jeff Mizanskey Facebook page read, “Great news everyone… Jeff is coming home this month! We want everyone to know how greatful[sic] we are for all the support received throughout this whole ordeal. There is a lot of people to thank but I don’t wanna forget anyone so I need to make a list but we are so thankful to everyone that had a part in helping us bring him home.” The post contains a link to a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds to help Mizanskey get back on his feet after decades of incarceration.

Jeff Mizanskey’s son Chris summed up his experience in lobbying for his father’s release for all these years in comments to KCRG-13, “It really does go to show you that people being together on one voice can change a lot of issues.” Chris Mizanskey said that supporters who had pressured officials on his father’s behalf deserve credit for his release.

Watch the Truth in Media Project’s Consider This video, embedded below, which exposes some lesser-known and important facts about non-violent inmates serving hard time under the War on Drugs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zTOFxdUsQw

Peaceful Protests End In Violence As Gunfire Erupts On Anniversary Of Michael Brown Shooting

Ferguson, Mo. – A day of peaceful protests commemorating Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed man who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago on Sunday, turned violent after gunfire erupted Sunday night leaving one man in critical condition.

Police claim that gunfire was initially exchanged between two groups of protesters, and that officers only engaged after one of the protesters opened fire on four detectives in an unmarked vehicle. They returned fire, and the man was critically injured.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that gunfire erupted after police officers had threatened to arrest any protesters who stayed in the street, and at that point protesters were “estimated at fewer than 100 and were outnumbered by members of the media.”

At a 2:30 a.m. press conference on Monday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that the groups exchanging gunfire “were criminals” rather than protesters, and that he believes there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.”

The man injured by police has been identified as Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, from St. Louis. His father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his son went to high school and was good friends with Michael Brown, and that, regarding Sunday night’s shooting, he thinks “there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said.”

Belmar said that in addition to being in an unmarked vehicle, the four detectives were not wearing body cameras. This decision was criticized by coalitions such as the Ferguson Action Council, who said that “having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”

[RELATED: Ferguson Police Have Body Cameras… But Don’t Wear Them]

Reuters noted that the gunfire on Sunday night was in “marked contrast to a day of mostly subdued, peaceful commemorations” in Ferguson, where about about 1,000 people gathered together to share 4-1/2 minutes of silence in honor of the 4-1/2 hours Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot, and to release doves and embark on a “silent march through Ferguson to honor Brown and others killed in confrontations with police.”

On Sunday night, a few local businesses were looted and robbed, and Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel said that he was beaten and robbed while covering the protests.

MO Governor Jay Nixon Commutes Grandfather’s Life Sentence for Pot

In September of last year, Truth in Media highlighted the plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri grandfather who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for three non-violent marijuana convictions under Missouri’s since-repealed, three-strikes style Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. The 62-year-old low-level pot dealer had been caught in a tough-on-crime loophole as Missouri’s only inmate serving a life sentence for non-violent pot convictions.

Jeff Mizanskey told KTVI that, during his almost 22 years in prison, he has “seen guys who committed murder go, and come back, and go again.” Now, St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has unexpectedly commuted Mizanskey’s sentence, rendering him eligible for parole immediately.

According to Riverfront Times, Governor Nixon said, “The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness. In the case of the commutation, my action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole.”

Aaron Malin, a local activist for the group Show Me Cannabis who is in contact with Mizanskey, described Mizanskey’s parole chances and said, “In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. Tell me that’s not a model prisoner. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that’s not a model prisoner.”

Republican Representative Shamed Dogan, who authored a letter signed by approximately 130 other Missouri legislators asking Governor Nixon to grant clemency for Mizanskey, said, “I am just glad the governor did the right things. Drug addicts, drug users need rehabilitation before they need incarceration.” A Change.org petition begging for Mizanskey’s release has been signed by almost 400,000 people.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen told Riverfront Times that Mizanskey will have a parole hearing this summer and should find out whether parole will be granted within three to six weeks of the hearing.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode on the federal government’s mixed messages on cannabis. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

https://youtu.be/zuX9y0hiqWE

Report: 2 People Shot After Demonstration Breaks Out In Ferguson

KMOV.com

Ferguson, Mo. – According to reports, two people were shot late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning during a demonstration that broke out in Ferguson, around the area where Michael Brown was shot and killed by then-police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.

KMOV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, reported that a man was shot in the leg Tuesday night, near the intersection of West Florissant Avenue and Canfield Drive. The man then ran to a nearby Chinese restaurant for help. According to reports, a second person was shot in the neck around 12:20 a.m. Wednesday on Canfield Drive, and was then taken to the hospital.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the man who was shot in the leg was among a group of about 50 protesters demonstrating on West Florissant near Canfield, and that while it was “unclear if the shooting was related to the protest,” police took a suspect into custody and recovered a gun.

KMOV reported that two suspects were arrested, and that in addition to other shots fired throughout the night, a Mobil on West Florissant was looted around 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, for the third time since August 2014, and five suspects connected to the looting were arrested.

The Post-Dispatch reported that protestors initially gathered on Tuesday night, chanting things such as “No justice, no peace” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho. These killer cops have got to go,” while police officers patrolling the scene told protesters they were “unlawfully assembled” and that arrests would be made and “chemical munitions” used against them, if they did not leave.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French reported via his Twitter account that police were arriving in riot gear, and that demonstrators were throwing rocks at the SWAT vehicles as they arrived to the scene.

(The following video contains graphic language)

The Post-Dispatch reported that witnesses said they heard 15 gunshots around 11:50 p.m., and that although several of the protestors retreated after the gunfire, there was still a small crowd present around 1 a.m.

The demonstration in Ferguson comes at a time when protests are also breaking out in Baltimore, Md., following the unexplained death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 from a severe spinal injury, while in custody of the Baltimore police.

After days of peaceful protests, riots broke out on Monday, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard.

The scene of demonstrators throwing rocks and other objects at police in Ferguson is reminiscent of the scene in Baltimore, where dozens of minors were seen throwing rocks at Baltimore SWAT officers on Monday, and at times, the officers were seen picking up the rocks and throwing them back.

 

BREAKING: Michael Brown’s Parents File Civil Lawsuit Against City Of Ferguson

At a press conference on Thursday, the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, announced that they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, former police chief Thomas Jackson, and former police officer Darren Wilson.

Reuters reported that the Brown family is seeking “unspecified punitive damages, $75,000 in compensation and changes in policing,” and the lawsuit requests a court order “prohibiting the use of police techniques that demean, disregard, or underserve its African-American population.

During Thursday’s press conference, the attorneys representing Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. said pursuing the civil lawsuit will lead to new evidence that will show that Wilson should have been indicted and held responsible for Brown’s death.

The attorneys said that this lawsuit is a way to “challenge the police officers who kill people of color,” and they used the recent examples of shooting victims such as Walter Scott, and Tamir Rice, to highlight the fact that “the standard police narrative is contradicted by the objective evidence” in many cases.

USA Today reported that the lawsuit alleges “Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights through a deprivation of his right to unlawful detention and the use of excessive and deadly force,” and it accuses both the city of Ferguson and former chief Jackson of “failing to hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation, alleging the police department had a custom or policy of negligently hiring and retaining officers, failing to property train and/or supervise officers in the use of deadly force.

On March 4, the Department of Justice announced that it declined to indict Wilson with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. Both the initial shooting, and the decision not to indict Wilson led to protests and riots throughout the city of Ferguson.

Michael Brown’s parents originally announced that they would file the lawsuit during a press conference on March 5. During that conference, their lawyer Anthony Gray, maintained the fact that they have felt from the very beginning that “Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown, Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him.”

Just days before the announcement was made that Wilson would not be indicted, the DOJ released a report, which revealed that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

Missouri National Guard Labeled Civilian Protesters ‘Enemy Forces’

National Guard Defends Language as ‘Generic’

by Jason Ditz, April 17, 2015

Adding to the backlash from the bloody crackdown on public protests in Ferguson, Missouri last year, leaked international Missouri National Guard documents reveal that the Guard was officially referring to demonstrators as “enemy forces” in mission briefings.

Missouri Army Chief of Staff Col. David Boyle realized pretty early on how bad that looked and in a November 18 email urged officials to reduce the “public militarization perception” and avoid potentially inflammatory language.

Still, the National Guard is defending the label, with Captain John Quinn insisting it was “standard language” in “general military planning.” Capt. Quinn went on to insist that the National Guard would also consider inclement weather and heat potential threats.

Which underscores just what a blunder it was to use the term “enemy forces,” as despite Capt. Quinn’s protestation, presumably state National Guards do not, as a general rule, refer to tornadoes or thunderstorms as “enemy forces.”

The decision to label civilian protesters as “enemy forces” is deliberately provocative, and part of a policy throughout the Ferguson debacle of treating civil unrest and unfriendly media coverage as problems to be solved through military force of arms.

Ferguson Shooting Suspect Recants Confession, Says He Was Abused by Police

On Tuesday, the attorney for Jeffrey Williams, the suspect in the shooting that wounded two police officers just after midnight on Thursday, claimed that not only had Williams not fired a weapon, but that his confession was made when he was in a great amount of pain, after being physically abused by police.

Jerryl T. Christmas, the attorney for the 20-year-old who was arrested Saturday night and charged with two counts of first degree assault and one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, told Yahoo News that Williams claimed he was in a “tremendous amount of pain,” after he was pistol-whipped by police officers before being interrogated by detectives.

He told me that he never fired a weapon,” said Christmas, who explained that “under those circumstances,” he believed Williams would have said anything.

Anytime someone is questioned without counsel and then I see that kind of bruising, then I’m suspicious about any statements that he may have voluntarily given,” Christmas said.

While St. Louis Police have called the accusation that Williams was abused “completely false,” Christmas pointed to the bruising on the right side of Williams’ face in his mugshot. “I don’t see how they are denying it, it’s right there on their own mug shot,” Christmas said.

Christmas told Yahoo News that officers struck Williams “in the face, neck, back and head while arresting him at his girlfriend’s house late Saturday,” and that he has “a knot on the back of his head where he says they hit him with the butt of a pistol.”

At a press conference on Sunday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that Williams had been arrested and was being charged in the shooting that wounded two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department as a protest from Wednesday night was coming to a close.

Protestors had gathered following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in the wake of a scathing report that revealed the police department in Ferguson exercised discrimination against the black community.

He has acknowledged firing the shots,” McCulloch said, referring to Williams. “He was on probation here in St. Louis County for accepting stolen property.”

McCulloch also claimed that Williams was a regular protestor, and had attended several of the demonstrations in the Ferguson community that have occurred since an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014.

Following Sunday’s press conference, journalists and activists took to Twitter and contested the claim that Williams was a “regular protestor.”

Activist DeRay McKesson wrote that he could not recall ever seeing Williams at any protests, including the night of the shooting, and Journalist Matt Pearce wrote that judging from what he and other reporters remembered, Williams was “no mainstay, if he had ever protested at all.

BREAKING: Officials Announce Suspect Has Been Arrested in Ferguson Shooting

St. Louis, Mo. – On Sunday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams was arrested around 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and charged in the shooting that wounded two police officers just after midnight Thursday.

At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, McCulloch said that Williams has been charged with two counts of first degree assault and one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

He has acknowledged firing the shots,” McCulloch said, regarding the suspect, who is African American and lives north of Ferguson. “He was on probation here in St. Louis County for accepting stolen property.”

McCulloch said that Williams was a regular protestor, and that his intention in the shooting is pending investigation, due to the fact that he may have been targeting someone other than police. McCulloch added that the weapon police recovered from Williams matched the casings found at the scene.

The shooting occurred just after midnight on Thursday, as a demonstration was winding down outside of the Ferguson Police Department. Protestors had gathered on Wednesday night following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in the wake of a scathing report that revealed the police department in Ferguson exercised discrimination against the black community.

At a press conference on Thursday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that two officers were wounded in the shooting: a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from the suburb of Webster Groves was shot in the face. Both officers were released from the hospital on Thursday.

March 15, 2015, 4:10 p.m. Eastern: UPDATE: Following the press conference with St. Louis County officials on Sunday, Mediaite reported that both reporters and protesters spoke out on Twitter, and contested the claim that Jeffrey Williams was a “regular” at at any of the  Ferguson protests.

DeRay McKesson, an activist and a regular protestor as the Ferguson demonstrations, said that he hadn’t seen Williams at the protest on the night of the shooting, or at any protests prior to that night: 

Matt Pearce, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, questioned whether Williams had ever attended a Ferguson protest:

Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, said that none of the regular protestors he knew were familiar with Jeffrey Williams:

Search for Suspects Continues in Ferguson Shooting that Wounded 2 Police Officers

Ferguson, Mo. – The search for suspects continues on Friday, in the shooting that wounded two police officers at a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department just after midnight on Thursday.

Reuters reported that while “investigators scoured streets near the scene of the shooting for clues” and several people were brought in for questioning after a SWAT team raided a Ferguson home, they were all later released and there have been no arrests.

On Thursday night, residents gathered to hold a candlelight vigil where they grieved for the wounded officers and prayed for the community of Ferguson as it moves forward.

The Associated Press reported that while the vigil was followed by about 200 protesters gathering outside of the police department, “the scene was a marked contrast to the previous night, when fights broke out before the shootings.”

President Obama addressed the shooting on Thursday night during an appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. He called the discrimination in Ferguson “oppressive and objectionable” and “worthy of protest,” but said that there was “no excuse for criminal acts.”

Whoever fired those shots should not detract from the issue — they are criminals, they need to be arrested,” Obama said. “And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law enforcement, who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race — that they are able to work together to come up with some good answers.”

Obama has yet to visit the St. Louis suburb since protests initially broke out following the death of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot by white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9, 2014.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that the shooting on Thursday came at a time when many in Ferguson “had expected a peaceful night,” given the fact that Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson had announced his resignation on Wednesday night following the release of a scathing report from the Department of Justice that revealed racial bias and discrimination against the black community in Ferguson.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that both officers, one who was shot in the shoulder and the other in the face, were lucky to be alive. Belmar called the shooting “an ambush” and said that the muzzle flashes from the suspect’s gun came from about 125 yards away, indicating that the suspect was embedded in the crowd of protestors.

In contrast, activist Rev. Osagyefo Sekou from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who is on the ground in Ferguson, told Ben Swann that the gunshots came from “an area where the protestors were not gathered.”

Those shots did not come from the protestors, contrary to what Chief Belmar said. The shots were not coming from someone who was embedded with us,” Sekou said. “As a community, we’ve been grieving for over 200 days, and we grieve with the families of the police officers.

Michael Brown’s Parents Will File Lawsuit Against City of Ferguson, Darren Wilson

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that it will not charge Darren Wilson, a white police officer from Ferguson, Missouri, with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager on August 9, 2014.

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., have confirmed that they will pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against both Wilson and the city of Ferguson.

Anthony Gray, one of the attorneys representing the Brown family, spoke at a press conference on Thursday, and maintained the fact that the Brown family has felt from the very beginning that “Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown, Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him.”

“We are officially in the process of formulating a civil case that we anticipate will be filed very shortly on behalf of the family,” Gray said. “In our case, we plan to show and outline pretty much the same evidence; however, you will get a more clearer, a more accurate of what took place that day.”

Darryl Parks, another attorney representing the Brown family, said that the family is not surprised by DOJ’s findings, and that they were only choosing to file a lawsuit now, because they did not want to get in the way of the DOJ’s ongoing investigation before, and they are now “entering a different phase of this action.”

As previously reported, the DOJ’s decision not to charge Wilson with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Brown, comes at the same time as a report from the department, which revealed that the Ferguson police department exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

Federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that upon investigation, they found that 88 percent of the time use of excessive force was documented by Ferguson police, it was being used against a black individual, and that out of the city’s 53 police officers, only three were black.

Truth in Media Gets It Right, DOJ Says Policing for Profit Part of Ferguson Discrimination

A report from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

While the full report has not yet been released, anonymous federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that it “chronicles discriminatory practices across the city’s criminal justice system, detailing problems from initial encounters with patrol officers to treatment in the municipal court and jail.

The investigation began weeks after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the city of Ferguson in August.

The officials told the Associated Press the investigation found that in a city that is 67 percent African American, “black were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge.”

The officials also found that 88 percent of the time use of excessive force was documented by police, it was being used against a black individual, and that out of the city’s 53 police officers, only three were black.

Investigative Journalist Ben Swann documented the clashes between the residents and local police when he visited the city of Ferguson in November.

Swann pointed out that while a lot of people would describe the moment Brown was shot by Wilson as the moment conflict began, some of the city’s residents would say the shooting was the highlight of something that has been building under the surface for decades.

Mark and Earl Banks, brothers who grew up in Ferguson, and now live in Detroit, told Swann that they aren’t surprised by this incident, and that the issues in Detroit are no different than the issues in Ferguson.

Joe Stevenson, who also grew up in Ferguson, told Swann that 30 years ago, just like today, the relationship between citizens and police was tense. He attributed this to the fact that police would look for anyone to write tickets for in order to obtain money from fines.

You could make the argument that this all comes back to social media and new media: the ability for people to rally together, to protest, to communicate, for information to rise to the surface,” Swann said. “Maybe this incident was a long time coming, but for many they’re glad that the moment is finally here.”

MO Republican Introduces Bill to Free Nonviolent Grandfather Serving Life for Pot

In September of last year, BenSwann.com reported on the plight of 61-year-old Jeff Mizanskey, a small-time, nonviolent pot dealer who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for three marijuana offenses under Missouri’s since-repealed Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. Though he remains behind bars, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that one freshman Republican state-level lawmaker is taking aggressive steps to free Mizanskey, who has already spent over two decades behind bars. Since Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has yet to take action and grant clemency for the incarcerated grandfather, Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has introduced HB 978, a bill that “requires the Board of Probation and Parole to authorize the release of any offender who is incarcerated on August 28, 2015 and who is serving a life sentence without parole for marijuana offenses.”

As it happens, only Jeff Mizanskey fits that description, and, considering the fact that the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender law that led to his incarceration officially expires on January 1, 2017, he will likely be the last to suffer such a fate in the state. In a February 18 press release cited by Riverfront Times, Rep. Dogan said, “It is unconscionable to me that this man, who is no danger to society, will spend the rest of his life in prison at taxpayer expense… Many of my legislative colleagues have come together to implore the governor to commute Mr. Mizanskey’s life sentence, but to date the governor has done nothing more than promise to review Jeff’s case before he leaves office.”

The bill, which Rep. Dogan feels is unlikely to pass, has been introduced in an effort to launch hearings that he hopes will put pressure on Governor Nixon to grant clemency for Mizanskey. Though Nixon ignored Mizanskey’s pleas for clemency for quite some time, he has recently changed his tune and said that he is going to closely review the case. Governor Nixon spoke with KMBC-TV earlier this month about the perpetually-imprisoned grandfather and said, “It’s a very serious amount of time… If the laws change after someone is sentenced, then you want to give those things a close look.”

Rep. Dogan described his views on criminal justice in his press release on HB 978, “I fully support long sentences for repeat violent offenders, because I believe the punishment should fit the crime… In Mr. Mizanskey’s case, I am outraged by the fact that someone who violated our marijuana laws is being treated as harshly as a murderer and incarcerated for life.” Missourinet notes that Rep. Dogan said, “I think when the criminals in the prisons realize the injustice of something, something’s wrong… The idea that these people who have committed robberies, who’ve committed rapes, who’ve committed all kinds of violent crimes, and are a threat to our society can get out after five or ten years, and he’s still sitting there after twenty.”

Missouri bill proposes banning availability of police captured footage

A bill has been proposed by Missouri lawmakers which would exempt any footage recorded on a police operated camera from being viewed by the public.

Senate Bill No. 331 reads, “Any recording captured by a camera, which is capable of recording video or audio…shall not be a public record… [and] shall not be disclosed by a law enforcement agency except upon order of a court in the course of a criminal  investigation or prosecution or civil litigation.” Footage captured on any police camera attached to a piece of police equipment, car, aircraft, or police person, would therefore be protected by this bill.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Doug Libla (R), and Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster (D), has voiced his support of barring the public from access to these videos.

Koster said, according to St. Louis Today, the footage would be considered closed records and therefore unavailable under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The footage would be available, however, to people investigating an incident resulting in a civil lawsuit, or by a court order to others.

Missouri Rep. Galen Higdon has called for similar legislature, saying, according to the River Front Times, “Capturing a crime on video, whether it was perpetrated by an officer or perpetrated by a perp, the chain of evidence needs to be protected.” Higdon also said if the footage is available to the public before a trial, the jury pool could potentially be tainted and this may slow the trial down.

Sarah Rossi, the director of advocacy and policy for the Missouri’s American Civil Liberties Union, has said the proposed legislature is just an “end run around Missouri’s Sunshine Law.” Current Sunshine Laws, said Rossi, already allow law enforcement officers to restrict the public from viewing evidence which is involved in active police investigations.

Libla’s bill also proposes police departments shall not be required by the state to provide their officers with body cameras, and no department shall require an officer to wear a body camera.

Ferguson Sued For Running “Debtor’s Prison”

Washington D.C.- Civil rights lawyers are taking the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. to court over what they are calling unconstitutional “debtors prisons.”

The claim is that city officials routinely burden low-income individuals with outrageous fines before proceeding to throw them in jail for failure to pay these penalties, the group of attorneys is targeting the largely African-American city’s second largest source of income.

In the video above, Ben Swann talk with RT’s Marina Portnaya.

MO Cities Sue in Effort to Overturn Voter-Approved Ban on Red Light Cameras

In November, voters in St. Charles County, MO approved a charter amendment that prohibits municipalities within the county from using red light cameras to enforce traffic laws. According to KMOV-TV St. Louis, 73% of voters gave support for the ban, overwhelmingly sending a message that citizens in the county do not approve of cities using the cameras, which are seen as a revenue generating tool. However, the cities of St. Peters, Lake St. Louis, and O’Fallon are suing in an effort to reverse the ban, claiming that the county government has no authority over municipalities’ traffic rules.

KMOV-TV St. Louis cited a statement by the City of St. Peters on the issue, which said, “No authority exists for St. Charles County to lay claim to the regulation of traffic on city streets.” Proponents of red light cameras claim that the devices promote safe driving and that the ballot measure banning them was titled in a manner that misled voters. The charter amendment was titled “Proposition Red Light Camera.”

John Young, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case, says that the suit could take months or even years to work its way through the courts. Meanwhile, red light cameras in the county remain in place pending the forthcoming ruling, though they have been kept in a powered-off state since September.

St. Charles County Councilman Joe Brazil, who opposes the use of red light cameras, commented on the politics of the lawsuit, “Seventy-three percent of the voters pass a ban on red light cameras so what these cities are doing are suing 73 percent of the voters in St. Charles County, within their own cities. They’re suing their own residents.” St. Louis Today notes that O’Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper and Dardenne Prairie Mayor Pam Fogarty personally signed on to the lawsuit against the charter amendment banning red light cameras, which bears political risk given the fact that a strong majority of St. Charles County voters came out to the polls in support of the ban. The plaintiffs claim that they have standing to go forward with the lawsuit, which was filed in St. Charles County Circuit Court, because the cities involved would lose revenue if the ban were to be enforced.

Roger Dalsky, a local supporter of the ban on red light cameras who was interviewed by KMOV-TV St. Louis, said, “The federal government has jurisdictions over the states, states have jurisdictions over the counties, the counties have jurisdictions over their municipalities, so it’s fairly clear that they have the right to impose laws on those municipalities, especially if those laws are voted into law by the voters.”

County Councilman Joe Brazil parroted Dalsky’s sentiment, saying in comments to St. Louis Today, “The people have the right to change the constitution of the county… That’s what voters do.” Brazil also pointed out the fact that some of the plaintiffs on the case have themselves promoted county-wide referendums on other issues that would have affected municipal policies, acts which he characterized as hypocritical.

The Missouri Supreme Court is currently considering three separate red light camera cases, which had their first hearings on December 2. In one case, the Missouri Supreme Court is reviewing a decision by St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer in which he invalidated two fines which were issued via red light cameras to two women whose cars were being driven by someone else at the time that the tickets were issued. The Missouri Supreme Court is also weighing the broader issue of whether municipalities can use red light cameras without the state legislature granting specific authority to do so.

As TheNewspaper.com points out, St. Peters, MO once hosted the nation’s first ever corruption trial over red light cameras, as former St. Peters Mayor Shawn Brown was convicted of taking a bribe from the company Redflex Traffic Systems in exchange for his support for a measure installing the company’s cameras city-wide. According to St. Louis Public Radio, Brown was sentenced in 2007 to an 18-month stint in federal prison over the scandal.