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Gospel Singer Arrested On Abuse Charges
BlackLegalIssues.com Mar-13-2009 632 0


A star of gospel music is accused of assaulting his ex-wife on Valentine's Day weekend.

Debra Winans said her former husband BeBe Winans pushed her to the ground in front of their children. The two were married for 16 years before divorcing in 2003.

The alleged assault happened when BeBe Winans showed up at his ex-wife's Nashville home and the two began arguing about custody issues. Debra and BeBe Winans have a 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

According to an affidavit, what started out as a "verbal altercation" turned into assault when Debra Winans was "pushed to the ground."

Later, the Grammy-winning Gospel recording artist and judge of the Black Entertainment Television reality show Sunday Best was arrested.

"When you're married to someone known all over the world, it has serious challenges," said Debra Winans.

Debra Winans said people of faith are held to an even higher standard, and many Christians suffer through abuse rather than reaching out for help.

"Until you realize something's not changing, you pray all day long. The power of God is real, but one thing he's not going to do is go against someone's will. We make choices," said Debra Winans.

She said she is not afraid of her former husband and hopes by speaking out she will help others.

A spokesman for BeBe Winans said the singer is in Atlanta working as a judge on a BET program. As of Thursday evening, there was no statement from BeBe Winans regarding his ex-wife's allegations.

Debra Winans said she is working with other abuse victims in hopes of helping them find healthy solutions to their problem.

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AP Oct-01-2014 94 0
A Florida jury found Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in an argument over loud rap music.

Dunn, 47, a software engineer, testified he thought he was defending himself from an armed threat when he fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying Jordan Davis, 17, and three other black teens at a Jacksonville gas station parking lot. Dunn and the teenagers had argued about the loud music coming from the SUV.

The jury, composed of 10 whites and two blacks, took about five hours to reach Wednesday's verdict. In a February trial, a jury deadlocked on charge in Davis' death after four days but convicted Dunn on three counts of attempted murder for firing at the three surviving teens in the vehicle.

Dunn testified he was sure he saw a gun as a teenager appeared to emerge from the SUV making verbal threats against his life. Davis was unarmed, prosecutors said, and no weapon was found in the youths' vehicle.

During the weeklong retrial, prosecutors argued that Dunn's actions went far beyond self-defense.

Davis was struck by three bullets while leaning away from the gunfire, an expert testified during the trial. Dunn faced intense questioning as to why he did not call 911, which he blamed on fear and shock.

Under Florida law, Dunn will be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Davis, plus 60 years in jail for his February convictions.

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Corky Siemaszko Oct-01-2014 116 0
Funnyman Tracy Morgan leaned on a cane and grimaced at times Wednesday as he struggled to climb down the front two steps of his New Jersey home.

Morgan, who was badly hurt in a deadly crash that killed a close pal, could be seen pausing between steps before soldiering on in exclusive obtained by The Daily News.

Dressed in a white hoodie, jeans and a do-rag that was later replaced by a New York Giants cap, Morgan came out to inspect some landscaping work that had been completed at his Cresskill, N.J., home.

The beloved comedian was met with encouraging smiles from people who appeared to be relatives, but the cane soon gave way to a sturdier walker and his progress appeared to be painfully slow as he inched his way to a waiting SUV.

There have been few public sightings of the “30 Rock” star since June 7, when a Wal-Mart truck smashed into Morgan’s limousine bus on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Morgan was critically injured with a broken leg and broken ribs and another comedian, 62-year-old James (Jimmy Mack) McNair, was killed.

The 45-year-old former Saturday Night Live star sued Wal-Mart for negligence, arguing the company was culpable because driver Kevin Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.

The retail giant blamed Morgan for not wearing a seat belt and denied any responsibility for the wreck.

Roper was going 65 mph, about 20 mph over the speed limit, when he rammed Morgan's limo, federal investigators said.

Morgan's lawsuit alleges Roper fell asleep at the wheel.

Roper has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

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Sep-30-2014 197 0
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (AP) — Ernest Satterwhite was a laid-back former mechanic with a habit of ignoring police officers who tried to pull him over — an act of defiance that ultimately got him killed.

The 68-year-old black great-grandfather was shot to death after a slow-speed chase as he parked in his own driveway, by a 25-year-old white police officer who repeatedly fired through the driver's side door.

Investigators determined that North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven broke the law. A prosecutor, in a rare action against a police officer, sought to charge him with voluntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But the grand jury disagreed, indicting him on a misdemeanor.

The debate over how police use force against unarmed people has become a national issue since an unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot to death in August by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where unrest still lingers.

But most police shootings make only local headlines, and just for a day or two. The refusal of authorities to release public information about these on-duty actions by taxpayer-paid officials is a big reason why. As with many such killings, Satterwhite's death in February remains shrouded in mystery.

Video can make a difference: South Carolina gained the national spotlight last week after a dashboard camera showed how in just a few seconds Trooper Sean Groubert went from asking motorist Levar Jones for his license for a supposed seat belt violation, to shooting at him repeatedly without provocation, even as Jones put his hands in the air. Jones was hit once and is recovering.

State Public Safety Director Leroy Smith called that shooting "disturbing," and Groubert was promptly fired and charged with felony assault.

Sometimes, the video can exonerate officers: In August, a South Carolina prosecutor refused to file criminal charges against a York County deputy who wounded a 70-year-old man after mistaking his cane for a shotgun during an after-dark traffic stop. Using video, the sheriff showed how the cane's shaft could be mistaken for a gun barrel in the dim light.

So far, 35 people were shot by police in South Carolina this year; 16 were killed. The state is on pace to surpass last year's total of 42 people shot by police.

In Satterwhite's case, prosecutors won't say why they sought a felony charge against Craven, who chased Satterwhite for 9 miles, beyond city limits and into Edgefield County.

Experts say it's the first time an officer was charged in a fatal shooting in roughly a decade. But the grand jury opted for "misconduct in office," a charge used for sheriffs who make inmates do their personal work, or officers who ask for bribes. Their single-page indictment, returned in August, contains no details other than accusing Craven of "using excessive force and failing to follow and use proper procedures."

Black leaders were astonished that an officially unjustified shooting of an unarmed man should merit such a light charge.

"It diminishes the nature of the violation — of the death. This man's life is only worth a misdemeanor?" said state Rep. Joe Neal, a Democrat who has spent decades speaking out against racism in law enforcement and demanding accountability through data and police cameras.

Neal, who is black, also wants authorities to release evidence more quickly in police-involved shootings. Authorities often say doing so could taint potential jurors. Neal says that doesn't give people enough credit.

The State Law Enforcement Division denied requests filed by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act to learn what evidence was gathered against Craven. Solicitor Donnie Myers, who is handling the case, didn't return phone calls. North Augusta Police, the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office and Craven's lawyer, Jack Swerling, declined to comment.

The few details released raised concerns among law enforcement experts. In the likely 10 to 15 minutes he trailed Satterwhite, Craven should have had time to learn he was headed home and had no violent incidents on his criminal record, said University of South Carolina criminology professor Geoffrey Alpert.

Police records show Satterwhite had been arrested more than a dozen times for traffic violations, most of them for driving under suspension or under the influence. Most of the charges led to convictions. He also was charged at least three times for failing to stop as officers tried to pull him over. But his record shows no evidence he ever physically fought with an officer.

Edgefield County deputies who joined in the chase reported that Craven ran up to Satterwhite's parked car and fired several shots into the driver's side door, telling the other officers that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun. The other officers couldn't get Satterwhite's door open, so they broke the passenger side window, unlocked that door and dragged him out.

"Why would he run up to the car like that?" asked Alpert. "Why would he put himself in a situation to use deadly force? Why would he put his gun close enough for him to grab it?"

Satterwhite, who worked for years as a mechanic, liked to fish and was remembered by his family as a laid-back man who kept to himself, left behind six children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Seven months after the funeral, and eight days after his indictment, Craven was put on administrative leave — with pay.

Satterwhite's family then sued the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, Edgefield County and its sheriff's office.

The lawsuit alleges Craven ignored the Edgefield deputies' orders to stop and let them manage the chase when it entered their county, about 2 miles from Satterwhite's home. It claims Satterwhite never tried to grab the officer's gun when Craven fired five times, hitting him with four bullets — two in the chest.

The family says the officers yanked the mortally wounded man out of the car, restrained him and left him on the ground unattended until paramedics arrived.

Their lawyer, Carter Elliott, hopes to force authorities to release any video and other evidence.

North Augusta's Public Safety Department has refused to release any details about Craven's history. City officials didn't make him available for interviews, and he didn't respond to emails.

Police agencies hurt their own credibility when they withhold information, allowing rumors and speculation to fill the void, Alpert said.

"They work for us — the public," Alpert said. "You need to put as much accurate information out there as you can to get in front of the issue and create your own story."

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Sep-30-2014 218 0
Suspected gang members shot a seventh-grader to death on Chicago's gun-plagued South Side Sunday, authorities said.

Demureye Macon, 13, was returning to a playground in Marquette Park with a friend after walking a girl to a bus stop at around 8:30 p.m. when a group stopped them, asked Macon if he was in a gang and then shot him in the torso, friends and family told The Chicago Tribune.

Macon tried to escape, but collapsed on the sidewalk on South Talman Ave., where he was later pronounced dead.

Cops were hunting for the shooter, but didn't have any suspects as of Tuesday.

"Why? Why would they do this? It's senseless," the boy's mother, Tawana Macon, told the Tribune.

"Quit doing this to these kids. They babies," she said.

The Fairfield Elementary Academy student's killing capped a bloody weekend in the city that left five dead and at least 40 wounded.

Both Chicago police and the slain boy's mother said he had no gang ties. He was the oldest of four children.

John Phillips, who lives near the shooting site, recalled hearing several gun blasts on the night the boy was killed.

"It was a boom, boom, boom. Like you could tell that they hit something," Phillips told local ABC 7. "If you really know the gunfire, you could tell they hit something."

On Monday, friends and family gathered at the shooting site to weep and comfort one another, and some mourners placed stuff animals on the spot where the boy died.

"He (was) too young," Phillips said. "He didn't even live out the weekend."

The little boy's death came about a week after police nabbed four gangbangers in the murder of 9-year-old Antonio Smith, Jr., who was shot to death on the South Side on Aug. 20.

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Philip Caulfield Sep-29-2014 262 0
A Los Angeles man was playing with a gun when he accidentally shot his best friend — and then, in a moment of intense grief, committed suicide in front of a crowd of their friends, authorities said.

Dominique Barnett, 24, was showing off his piece to around 10 friends hanging out in front of Jerrod Taylor's Willowbrook home early Sunday when the gun suddenly went off, striking Taylor with a single round, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Taylor, 23, would die later at a local hospital.

Overcome with guilt by what he'd done to his best friend, Barnett then shot himself in the head at the scene.

Police described the grim turn of events as an accident brought on by the collision of tragic luck and a loaded gun.

Witnesses said Taylor was upset Barnett was showing the gun off and was trying to take it away from him when it went off, CBS Los Angeles reported.

"Preliminary investigation is indicating that both the gunshot victims knew each other, and that they were friends, so there was no malicious intent at this point that we know of for the shooting to occur," L.A. Sheriff's Det. Steven Lankford told the station.

Those who knew them said the pair had been best friends since they were 11. Taylor had a child.

"Jerrod was a great kid," his cousin, Laretha Kelly, told KTLA-TV.

"He worked very hard. … He was just so willing to help people."

Antoine Barnett, Dominique's father, said he was sickened to receive a phone call early Sunday saying his son was dead.

"Being a father, getting that phone call in the morning is nothing easy," Barnett said.

He said he imagined his son was "distraught" by the accident and didn't see a way out of the situation.

"I wish he would have called me, there's not much more I could have done, but at least I (could have) talked to him," Barnett said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "I didn't even get the chance to say bye to him. "

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Sep-28-2014 288 0
A Florida school plagued with allegations of bullying which led to the on-campus suicide of a 14-year-old boy deliberately ignored and in some cases hid student discipline issues to boost its image, according to an anonymous letter allegedly written by a staff member.

In the eye-opening letter claiming to have been written by an employee of Greenwood Lakes Middle School, where Lamar Hawkins shot himself on Sept. 10, administrators are accused of trading student and teacher safety for funding.

"For many years now, referrals have been downgraded to minor offenses ... Some referrals would not be dealt with for weeks, until the teacher who wrote them would have forgotten about them," just one allegation packed in the letter reads.

Attorney Matt Morgan, who's representing Lamar's parents, revealed the letter this week after it was sent to him unsigned to allegedly protect the author's employment.
In addition to accusing administrators of eliminating In School Suspension for the last two years and banning the word "bully" from staff emails and referrals, the letter reads: "We had at least 10 fights on campus. Only 2 were reported. The other fights were downgraded to 'horseplay.'"

Reasons for blanketing such crucial issues at the school are blamed on it affecting their financial standing.

When the school dropped to a C-rated school during the 2013-14 school year, "the teachers were blamed for that," the letter accuses. "We were instructed to handle discipline in our classroom with more 'tolerance.' We needed to keep the students in our classes at all cost."

When they were stamped as a Title I school at that year's end, due to their percentage of low income students and having "no serious discipline problems," they were awarded with $200,000.

"I will let you draw the conclusions why last year admin wanted our number of referrals down," the anonymous author states.

Since Lamar's tragic death, his parents have said that they had reported their son being bullied to school officials "multiple times," but nothing was done.

A friend of Lamar's, 11-year-old Jordan Gonzalez, has also since come out saying he not only witnessed his friend being abused on a regular basis, but that he was bullied too.

In a disturbing letter later sent by Jordan to his mom, the boy said he too wants to die because of the non-stop abuse, his mom revealed.

Requests for comment from Greenwood Lake's principal and the Seminole County school district's Superintendent were not immediately returned to the Daily News Friday.

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Victoria Taylor Sep-28-2014 285 0
Fired UPS employee Walter Earl Morrison, 20, has been accused of stealing a valuable diamond from a UPS cargo plane and swapping the gem, which was valued at $160,000, for $20 worth of marijuana, according to KNXV.

Authorities said Morrison swiped the stone at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix and hid the package under his shirt.

He then supposedly traded the expensive rock for pot before he was caught.

A UPS spokesperson told KNXV that the diamond has been recovered and given to the intended recipient,

Morrison reportedly faces felony theft charges and is scheduled to appear in the Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

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Deborah Hastings Sep-28-2014 320 0
Georgia authorities went to a great deal of trouble to nab a woman who filed a state income tax return for a whopping $94 million.

State revenue agents actually cut a check for $94,323,148 and told Brigitte Jackson to come on down to a Cobb County bank inside a supermarket to cash it.
And when she arrived and tried to redeem the bogus document, the handcuffs came out, reported WSB-TV.

"It doesn't matter if it's $94 or $94 million," Special Investigations Chief Josh Waites told the station. "We're going to go after you and hold you accountable."

The woman had claimed $99 million in wages as the basis for the mammoth refund amount, authorities said.

She has been charged with theft and conspiracy to defraud the state.

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Eliott C. McLaughlin Sep-27-2014 252 0
It's rare that a defendant is put on trial knowing that whether he wins or loses, chances are he'll still spend his life in prison.

That's exactly the scenario Michael Dunn faces, as his second trial in the November 2012 killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis approaches. Jury selection began Monday morning. The retrial will follow and is expected to last about two weeks.

Before jury selection began, Davis' parents, Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, were outside the Duval County Courthouse, along with Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen killed by a neighborhood watch captain earlier the same year.

"This trial speaks to me because I am that family," Fulton said. "The family that's missing a son. I'm the family that's a victim of senseless gun violence. That's the purpose of me coming here, that's just to stand with the family, to be with the family and to show the support."

About 40 people gathered demanding justice for Jordan Davis as well as other slain African-Americans, including Emmett Till, Rodney Mitchell and Karvas Gamble Jr. Protesters carried signs that said "Justice 4 Jordan" and "Is it OK to murder me because I like loud music?"
A pastor led the group in prayer before Davis' parents entered the courthouse. The gathering promptly dispersed, but not before McBath thanked the crowd for supporting her son.

"We just want to thank the country and thank you all for the wonderful support and prayers that you've given us these last two years. We could not do this without you. We're very grateful for every moment that we've been on your minds and your hearts," McBath said.

She added, "Whatever verdict we receive, we will be humble and abide by. But the verdict and the justice that we seek will always and will only come from God."

Defense attorney Waffa Hanania expressed concern to County Court Judge Russell Healey that the rally, which "appears to be sanctioned by Mr. Davis' family," could influence potential jurors.

Healey responded that there is "only so much I can control," but conceded that "it's not helpful to us getting a jury here in Jacksonville." He said that the court would determine what potential jurors heard and saw when they're questioned.

The first trial

Earlier this year, on what would've been Davis' 19th birthday, a Jacksonville, Florida, jury found Dunn guilty on four of five counts in the case.

While Dunn said he shot into a Dodge Durango full of teenagers in self-defense, he was convicted on three counts of second-degree attempted murder -- one each for firing at Davis' pals, Leland Brunson, Tommie Stornes and Tevin Thompson -- and one count of shooting into a vehicle.

The attempted murder convictions alone carry a cumulative minimum sentence of 60 years in prison for the 47-year-old Florida man.

Opinion: Why prosecutor is retrying 'loud music' murder case

The 12 jurors, however, deadlocked on the final and most serious charge: premeditated first-degree murder.

Dunn claimed that after a heated argument over loud music at a Jacksonville gas station, Davis threatened him and Dunn thought he saw Davis produce a gun or lead pipe.

Though Davis had a knife in his pocket, police recovered no weapons matching Dunn's description, and his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, testified that Dunn never mentioned seeing a weapon.

Following the argument, Dunn pulled out a handgun and began firing. He continued firing even as Stornes, the driver, put the Durango in reverse and retreated, witnesses said.

Dunn fired 10 shots at the SUV. Three of those bullets hit Davis, one piercing his liver, lung and aorta.

'... they didn't call 911'

After the shooting, neither Dunn nor Rouer called police. They drove 40 miles to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, and once there, defense attorney Cory Strolla said, Dunn took his dog for a walk and Rouer ordered a pizza and movie.
"They had cell phones, but they didn't call 911. He didn't drive to a police substation," Assistant State Attorney John Guy said during the first trial. "That defendant put his head on his hotel pillow and went to sleep."

Asked why he never called police, Dunn said, "It makes sense that I should have (contacted authorities). We didn't. I can't tell you why."

In the morning, Rouer watched a news report about the shooting and the two then drove another 130 miles home to Satellite Beach where Dunn was apprehended.

What happened in the hours after the shooting may play a role in the new murder trial, as prosecutors must prove that Dunn planned to kill Davis. In the first trial, prosecutors alleged that Dunn's actions after the shooting were indicative of his intent, an assertion Dunn's defense attorney denied.

Davis' father, Ron Davis, was certainly struck by Dunn's actions after killing his son and expressed satisfaction in February that Dunn would face a lengthy prison bid.

"He is going to learn that he must be remorseful for the killing of my son, that it was not just another day at the office. My son will never be just another day at the office where (Dunn) can leave the scene and be stoic," he told reporters.

Awaiting sentencing

Dunn has not yet been sentenced on the original counts. In addition to the 60-year minimum he faces on the attempted murder charges, he could spend another 15 years in prison on the count of shooting into a vehicle.

While his new defense attorney, Hanania, hasn't been speaking to media, Strolla has said his client would appeal the original verdict.

That may explain why -- even though, pending appeals, Dunn could spend the rest of his life in prison -- prosecutors are preparing for another highly publicized trial on the murder charge.

To hear prosecutor Angela Corey tell it, it's about justice.

"Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any victim," she said after the first trial in February.

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said he can see how some people might think it defies logic to try the case again, but from Davis' parents' perspective, it makes all the sense in the world.

"If he winds up with 60 or 75 years in jail, from a pragmatic standpoint it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to retry the case," Callan said after the first trial.

"On the other hand if you're the parents of Jordan Davis and you believe, as well you should, that your son's reputation has been besmirched by this self-defense claim, the family (might) want a retrial, and that's something that a prosecutor has to consider carefully."

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