Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mayor Tecklenburg taken to hospital following dizziness (Update: Released)

Get well soon

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 2:58 PM

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg
Emergency vehicles rushed to City Hall early Tuesday afternoon to evaluate Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.

According to a statement from city spokesman Jack O’Toole, Tecklenburg experienced a “bout of sustained dizziness” while working in his office. As a precaution, the mayor was transported to a local hospital for an assessment, according to the city’s statement.

Mayor Tecklenburg was later discharged from the hospital at 3:30 p.m. with a diagnosis of mild vertigo. He is currently resting at home with his family, according to O’Toole.

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Joey Meek sentenced to 27-months for concealing knowledge of Emanuel AME shooting

Judge: ‘On that horrible night, he knew what had happened’

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Meek wrote letters to the families of each of the Emanuel AME worshippers his friend Dylann Roof shot and killed. - COURT DOCUMENTS
  • Court Documents
  • Meek wrote letters to the families of each of the Emanuel AME worshippers his friend Dylann Roof shot and killed.
Standing in the same courtroom where Dylann Roof was handed down the death penalty, Joey Meek was sentenced 27 months in a federal prison for concealing knowledge of Roof’s crimes and calling on others to remain silent.

Dressed in a well-fitted suit and breaking down into tears as he addressed the court, Meek appeared as a polar opposite to his childhood friend who murdered nine parishioners during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church. Throughout Roof’s capital trial, the white nationalist who had hoped to ignite a race war, refused to express any sign of repentance or emotion.

A week before the shooting, drunk on vodka, Roof told Meek about his desire to lead an attack on a church in Charleston. Dismissing these comments as drunken rambling, Meek said he didn’t give much consideration to Roof’s words that night. It was days later, when news of the shooting in Charleston spread, that Meek came to realize that Roof had acted on his plans. But as the gunman drove across the state, Meek remained silent. And when a friend convinced that Roof had played a role in the attack said he would contact police, Meek persuaded him to keep quiet. That is the moment that U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said Meek broke the law and endangered others.

Leading up to Meek’s sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors announced their intentions to pursue a lengthier penalty for the 22-year-old. While his charges — misprision of a felony and making false statements to investigators — carry a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, Meek had pled guilty to his crimes last April in hopes of a reduced jail time. Sentencing guidelines provided to Meek’s attorney, Deborah Barbier, by prosecutors placed his expected punishment between 27-33 month in prison.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Barbier attempted to show the judge a worst-case scenario of what a prison sentence might be like for someone linked to Roof’s crimes — from the threat of violence from his fellow inmates to the likelihood of solitary confinement.

James Aiken, a 45-year career veteran in corrections, was the first of two witnesses called to testify by the defense. A stern-looking man with a gray beard and booming voice, Aiken said that there is a high chance that Meek would be killed if placed into general population with other inmates aware of his association with Roof.

“Mr. Meek is in a very precarious situation,” Aiken told the court, suggesting that Meek would likely be held in solitary confinement for the duration of his sentence.

Judge Gergel refuted the defense’s argument, saying that the notorious nature of Meek’s crimes cannot simply excuse him from confinement. If the possibility of solitary confinement was enough to preclude a criminal from being sentenced to prison, Gergel said, then he would never be able to send someone to jail.

For Gergel, the partial basis of Meek’s sentence is that his punishment serve as a deterrent for others who may find themselves in his position — torn between whether to contact authorities regarding knowledge of a crime or looking out for their own personal interests. It is this self-centered view of the world that Meek’s psychiatrist, the second witness to take the stand, said had dogged Meek his entire life.

Described as the product of a broken home and a dysfunctional upbringing, Meek’s chaotic early life is when he developed an “every man for himself” mentality, said Dr. Thomas Martin who has been meeting with Meek for the past 17 months. In addition to anxiety and depression, Martin said that Meek has the coping skills of a two-year-old. Learning to lie to avoid conflict at home, Martin claimed that Meek was often the target of threats from his father.

“When we first started to meet, he would lie to me just like he lied to federal agents. That’s why he’s here,” Martin said. “He just never learned that he wasn’t good at it.”

Since he began to seek treatment for his emotional problems and drug abuse, Meek has been able to hold down a full-time job at a restaurant. Martin said that Meek has been clean and kept himself out of trouble in the months following his indictment. But for Judge Gergel, Meek’s recent rehabilitation does not make up for his actions on the night of the shooting at Mother Emanuel.

“On that horrible night, he knew what had happened ... He didn’t just shut down. He stopped someone else from reporting it, while Roof was still on the loose. Thankfully, nothing happened,” Gergel said.

In a final plea to the court, before his 27-month sentence was handed down, Meek told the court that he was sorry from the bottom of his heart. He’s been working. He’s been going to church and spending more time with his family. While Meek’s dreams of joining the military were no longer within grasp, he said he wanted to one day become a firefighter.

“I feel like I am on the best track I’ve ever been on in my life,” he said through the tears.

But Judge Gergel recalled another person in Meek’s life who was on the right track — the young man who said they should call the police when they learned of the shooting in Charleston. And on that night, it was Meek who stood in the way of doing what was right.

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The Agenda: Summey delivers Meals on Wheels; Gowdy drills Comey on leaks

Senn comes out against gas tax bump

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 11:21 AM

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey volunteered on Monday for Meals on Wheels, a federal program that's set for elimination in President Donald Trump's proposed budget - COURTESY OF CITY OF NORTH CHARLESTON
  • Courtesy of City of North Charleston
  • North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey volunteered on Monday for Meals on Wheels, a federal program that's set for elimination in President Donald Trump's proposed budget

A proposed method to stabilize the state pension system could force local governments and schools to reduce services. Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal

SB Nation headline: 'NCAA moved March Madness out of North Carolina because of HB2, only to run into Confederate flags in South Carolina'

Dylann Roof's friend Joey Meek will be sentenced today after lying to the FBI about what he knew about Roof's mass murder at Mother Emanuel in 2015. Source: AP

S.C. Congressman Trey Gowdy pressed FBI Director James Comey hard on Monday in an attempt to gain insight on how the federal agency was handling leaking of potentially classified information to the media. Source: USA Today, P&C

Gowdy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will hold a joint telephone town hall for 4th District residents this afternoon. Source: Greenville News

Former Gov. David Beasley told the P&C this week that Gov. Henry McMaster should consider cutting ties with embattled consultancy headed by Richard Quinn, whose business was named in a surprise ethics indictment last week of S.C. Sen. John Courson. Source: P&C

Meals on Wheels may be on the chopping block in President Donald Trump's proposed budget, but it sure seems like North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, a Trump supporter, isn't on board with that plan. Summey delivered Meals on Wheels yesterday, leaving a spokesman to say "Mayor Summey always has supported Meals on Wheels, and he's going to continue to do that." Source: P&C

Charleston GOP state Sen. Sandy Senn: "Gas tax hike a bad deal for urban drivers who pay the most"

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Ask Ta-Nehisi Coates questions via social media in advance of his sold-out lecture tonight


Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 11:02 AM

Ta-Nehisi Coates - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
Tonight, writer, journalist, and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks at TD Arena to a sold out crowd; the highly anticipated lecture, "A Deeper Black: Race in America," was rescheduled from October.

In advance of the lecture, attendees are asked to post questions to Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #CoatesatCofC. Coates will answer some of the questions tonight.

The Baltimore native has been examining issues of racial injustice his whole life from his time at the alt-weekly Washington City Paper, to the publication of his second book, Between the World and Me (July 2015, Spiegel & Grau). Coates is a 2015 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, and was named one of Times 100 Most Influential People. As a writer, Coates challenges his readers to face, head-on, what it means to be black in America, regardless of how uncomfortable facing that truth may be.

Didn't secure a seat in the arena? Be sure to read Coates' comprehensive and illuminating essay for The Atlantic, My President Was Black. [event-1]

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Attorneys jockey over evidence as the federal trial of Michael Slager nears

Counting the Days

Posted by Dustin Waters on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 3:00 PM

The federal trial of Michael Slager is scheduled to begin May 15, while the the former officer's state retrial is set to begin in August - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • The federal trial of Michael Slager is scheduled to begin May 15, while the the former officer's state retrial is set to begin in August
On the morning of May 9, in a Columbia courthouse, it will begin again. Individuals from all over the state will be sworn in and questioned as to why they can or cannot serve on the jury tasked with determining the fate of Michael Slager. While a state jury was unable to arrive at a unanimous decision regarding the guilt or innocence of the former North Charleston police officer last December, perhaps 12 new arbiters culled from throughout South Carolina can provide some form of resolution.

In a courtroom full of green ties, lead defense attorney Andy Savage began last week’s St. Patrick’s Day hearing by wishing a sardonic “top ‘O the morning” to U.S. District Judge David Norton. Drawing a polite chuckle from those seated in the courtroom, Norton responded by saying it was better to have the attorneys in the courtroom on a holiday than the following morning. It was just after Thanksgiving last year that Slager took the stand during his state murder trial to provide his account of the shooting of Walter Scott. Fleeing from a traffic stop for a non-functioning taillight, Scott was shot five times in the back by Slager, who claimed that he feared for his life after Scott seized control of his Taser. Scott would draw his last breaths the day before Easter, lying facedown in an empty trailer park as ants swarmed his body.

Since 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has maintained a count of potential deaths that occur during arrests by a state or local law enforcement agency in the United States. Between June 2015 and March 2016, that number totaled almost 1,400 deaths across the country. Breaking down the more than 400 arrest-related deaths identified in the three months following Scott’s death, the agency found that 64 percent were deemed homicides, which includes justifiable homicide by law enforcement officers, with 18 percent resulting from suicides and 11 percent deemed as accidents. Of those 425 deaths taking place during June, July, and August 2015, seven occurred in South Carolina. A 2016 investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found that over the previous 10 years federal prosecutors only pursued charges in 4 percent of cases where law enforcement officers faced allegations of civil rights violations.

Finally laying to rest any uncertainty regarding the Justice Department’s efforts to pursue a conviction against Slager under the new presidential administration, federal attorneys assured Judge Norton last week that two administrations fully support the prosecution and intend to go forward with the case. During the Obama administration, 25 investigations into police departments were opened by the Justice Department, but current Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated earlier this year that the Department of Justice would “pull back” on suing law enforcement agencies for civil rights violations. While Slager’s state trial focused on the charges of murder or voluntary manslaughter, the former officer’s federal trial stems from an indictment alleging deprivation of rights under the color of law, use of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and obstruction of justice. Slager faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Much like the previous state trial, Slager’s attorneys again attempted to have eyewitness video of Scott’s shooting excluded from evidence, arguing that the recording was incomplete and the only perspective jurors should consider is that of the officer. Prosecutors opposed the defense’s motion to exclude the video, saying that the video not only shows that Slager shot an unarmed man, but also refutes statements he made shortly after the shooting when he claimed to have provided CPR to Scott. Reviewing the cellphone video, the circumstances of the struggle that occurred immediately before the shooting remain unclear. Judge Norton denied requests from the defense to exclude the video.

With Slager’s federal trial set to begin May 15 in a Charleston courthouse directly across the street from where his mistrial was declared, several key issues related to the case remain unresolved. A future hearing has been scheduled to examine evidence surrounding statements that Slager made to SLED investigators just days after the shooting before learning of the existence of the eyewitness video. Slager provided his account of the shooting to investigators on April 7, 2015, while sitting in the office of his former attorney, David Aylor. Attorneys for the defense now ask that these statements be excluded from the trial on the grounds that SLED agents failed to inform Slager’s attorney about the existence of the video.

“They have the right to mislead Slager, but not the lawyer he had been told to rely on,” Savage told Judge Norton last week.

Prosecutors responded by saying that Slager’s interview with investigators was voluntary and had he been informed about the existence of the video at that time, he would have either refused to provide a statement or “lied differently.”

During a meeting shortly following this initial round of questioning, Slager and his former attorney were shown the video of the shooting. According to Slager’s current legal counsel, Aylor then told Slager that he would no longer represent the officer. As a part of their request to exclude the SLED interview with Slager from evidence in the federal trial, the former officer’s attorneys filed copies of email exchanges that took place between Savage and Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, as well as Aylor.

In an email exchange from October, Wilson, the lead prosecutor in Slager’s state trial, wrote that SLED agents may have been “intentionally vague and perhaps misleading” when initially asked about the case by Aylor, adding, “They told Aylor that his client needed to tell the truth.”

In response to Wilson’s message, Aylor wrote to Slager’s current attorneys, “Peterson wasn’t vague, she lied.”

This matter along with several other undecided issues are set to be discussed during an upcoming hearing scheduled for April 4, 2017 — two years to the day since Walter Scott was killed.

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