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Gospel Singer Arrested On Abuse Charges
BlackLegalIssues.com Mar-13-2009 751 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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lee moran Apr-18-2015 77 0
An adopted Ohio woman who was searching for her biological mom was left stunned after learning that the woman she was looking for was actually a co-worker at the same company.

La-Sonya Mitchell-Clark found out her mother's name was Francine Simmons after the state's Department of Health released birth records for those born between Jan. 1964 and Sept. 1996.

The 38-year-old, from Youngstown, searched for her on Facebook, reports WYTV.

And she was shocked to discover that they both in fact worked for teleservices firm InfoCision in nearby Boardman.

It then clicked — and Mitchell-Clark realized that her birth mom worked in volunteer recruitment on the front desk of her company.

The duo spoke for the first time in almost four decades over the phone, where they learned that they lived just six minutes apart.

And Mitchell-Clark also discovered that she had three sisters, one of which also works at InfoCision.

Company spokeswoman Samantha Wells described the reunion as "wonderful."

She said Mitchell-Clark had worked there for four years, while her mom had been there for 10.

Simmons was forced to give up her daughter after giving birth at age 14, and said she was 'still in shock' over the newfound relationship.

Kamala Cummings cries as she says she feels relief for her mother, Francine Simmons. Cummings als works at the same teleservices company.

"They would come in contact around the building and during events such as our corporate summer cookouts, parties, and using the facilities or in the hallway," she added.

But neither of them knew the other's true identity, reports ABC News.

Simmons, who was forced to give up her daughter after getting pregnant at age 14, said she was "still in shock" about the "amazing" development.

And Mitchell-Clark's new found sister Kamala Cummings, who works at the same business, said she "felt a sense of relief" for her mother.

"It's just amazing that all this time we're thinking about her and trying to find her and she was trying to find us, too," added her other sibling Maisha Cummings.

Mitchell-Clark, who said she'd always wanted to know who her biological mom was, said her adoptive parents were happy for her.

"My mom and dad have always been supportive of me. (They've) always encouraged me to look for them. They're going to be a part of this, too," she told WYTV.

"Now, we've got a bigger extended family where we can just be together," she added.

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Timothy M. Phelps Apr-18-2015 98 0
Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO, in 1970 out of a concern over rising mob infiltration of unions and corporations.

It was aimed at jailing gangsters behind killings that were plaguing New York and New Jersey, and at seizing corrupt companies or criminal enterprises.

When eight Atlanta educators were convicted under a state RICO statute of manipulating their pupils' test scores and sentenced to prison Tuesday, many were surprised that the law had been stretched so far. Over the last half-century, the definition of a criminal enterprise has come to include Atlanta public schools. And "racketeers" could be teachers and school administrators.

But it did not surprise veteran observers of RICO laws such as Atlanta law professor Morgan Cloud, who watched the federal statute clobber the mob in the 1980s and then move on to such unexpected targets as the Roman Catholic Church, Major League Baseball, anti-abortion activists, the Los Angeles Police Department and Wall Street financier Michael Milken.

"Almost any form in which humans can carry on human activity can be a criminal enterprise," Cloud said. "It can be a group of guys who meet on the corner."

Prosecutors like RICO laws because they carry tough penalties and make it easier to get at top officials or leaders who previously often escaped conviction. Before the laws existed, prosecutors found it more difficult to convict the person who ordered a slaying than the one who actually pulled the trigger.

Now, a person involved in a criminal enterprise commits at least two of a long list of crimes, is part of a pattern of racketeering activity, and can be sentenced to up to 20 years, and the ill-gotten gains of the enterprise can be seized. Certain individuals can also sue under RICO laws.

The Atlanta case was the first academic misconduct trial in the nation in which elementary school teachers were convicted of violating a RICO act.

A state investigation had found that as early as 2005, educators gave answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Evidence of cheating was found in 44 schools, with nearly 180 educators involved.

The case became a signpost for the pressure placed on teachers and administrators by the heavy emphasis on standardized testing. Teachers whose students performed well received bonuses, while those who failed to meet targets were threatened with demotion.

In 2013, 35 educators were indicted on charges that also included making false statements and theft. Some pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

But Tuesday, after a sometimes raucous six-month trial, three school administrators were sentenced to seven years in prison and five other educators to terms of one to two years, in some cases double what prosecutors had recommended.

Veteran Atlanta criminal defense lawyers expressed concern this week that a law intended for gangsters had been used to prosecute educators.

The state RICO statute, modeled after the federal law, was used by prosecutors "as a large club designed to get people's attention and to beat people over the head with it if they didn't succumb to the prosecution's plea offers," said defense attorney Steve Sadow.

Sadow said that state parole guidelines are set very high for RICO, meaning that those sentenced to seven years would probably serve five or more.

Sadow said the severity of the sentences had triggered a legal and moral debate in Atlanta.

"The defense attorney in me says they may be legally justifiable, but morally it's too severe for the criminal conduct," he said. "The citizen in me says the harm from the criminal acts is long-term suffering by the students. One might argue some of these teachers got off light."

"I think it's overkill," said Bruce H. Morris of the Finestone & Morris law firm in Atlanta. "RICO was originally designed for organized crime — folks who band together through a group effort. It was nowhere intended from the outset to go after a legitimate entity through which people violated the law.

"In this particular case you have teachers at different schools on different days at different times not knowing that other teachers were making corrections on these tests."

When one of the defense lawyers in the trial objected to the harsh sentences this week, Judge Jerry W. Baxter reacted strongly, saying that students who needed extra help were the educators' victims.

"I think there were hundreds and thousands of kids who were lost in the schools," Baxter retorted. "That's what gets lost. Everyone's crying, but this is not a victimless crime that occurred in this city."

After the federal RICO law was passed in 1970, prosecutors were at first slow to take advantage of the unproven weapon, even against gangsters. Frank "Funzi" Tieri, who headed the Genovese crime family, was the first Mafia boss convicted under it, in 1981. But in the 1980s, as courts upheld convictions for a wider array of crimes, it became widespread.

In 1989 financier Michael Milken, one of the creators of the junk bond market that fueled some of the financial excesses of the 1980s, was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud. But with lengthy RICO sentences looming, Milken was persuaded to plead guilty to securities fraud and served less than two years in prison.

Asked whether calling the Atlanta Public Schools a criminal enterprise is a stretch of the law, Cloud, who teaches at Emory University School of Law, said: "Anyone who has worked professionally in this (legal) field for very long could not have been surprised. I was not surprised in the least. It's sufficiently egregious, and this clearly fit within the way the RICO statute has been applied since 1970."

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Tim Kenneally Apr-17-2015 228 0
Eurydice “Eury” Davis, a talent agent whose clients included “Kill the Messenger” actress Jena Sims, “Ouija” actress Claudia Katz and “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor Christian Martin, died Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office told TheWrap on Monday. She was 38.

According to the coroner, Davis died of a gunshot wound to the head. Her manner of death has been identified as suicide by the coroner.

The coroner said that Davis was pronounced dead at 10:13 a.m. Wednesday at UCLA Medical Center. She suffered the gunshot wound at approximately 5:45 a.m.

Davis’ agency, the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based The Davis Talent Agency, had no comment for TheWrap.

In addition to her work as an agent, Davis had a handful of acting roles. Her IMDB page lists credits including the 2007 film “Norbit,” the television series “Identity” and “The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down.”

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Apr-17-2015 175 0
The death of a man sharing a prison cell with former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was ruled a homicide by strangulation, according to a coroner's report released Thursday.

Damion Soward, 37, was found lifeless early Saturday in a Central California prison cell, and he was later pronounced dead. The cause of death was neck compression asphyxia, the report by the Kern County Sheriff's Office said.

Officials have said they suspect Phillips, 39, an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison serving a sentence of 31 years and four months. It wasn't clear if Phillips has an attorney.

Once one of the nation's top college football players at Nebraska, Phillips played for the St. Louis Rams, until he was released in 1997 for insubordination. He also played for the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.

He was convicted of twice choking his girlfriend in 2005 in San Diego and later that year of driving his car into three teens after a pickup football game in Los Angeles.

Soward was sentenced from San Bernardino County to serve 82 years to life for a first-degree murder conviction.

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Jason Molinet / Apr-17-2015 121 0
An irate mom and her teenage niece were arrested after choking, punching and kicking a teacher unconscious inside a middle school in Hempstead, L.I., officials said.

Annika McKenzie, 34, allegedly ambushed a veteran math teacher at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on Wednesday after claiming the instructor "put her hands on" on McKenzie's 12-year-old daughter that day, Hempstead Village police said.

McKenzie reportedly walked past a security checkpoint and confronted Catherine Engelhardt, a 22-year veteran of the Hempstead School District, outside her classroom at 2 p.m., where she shoved the teacher against a wall, placed her in a headlock and then threw her to the floor in an incident caught on school surveillance.

"She's taught in the middle school for over 20 years. She's very passionate and committed about her job," fellow middle school teacher Elias Mestizo told the Daily News. "I was talking to parents today and all spoke highly of her."

He said McKenzie's daughter called her mom from school and not long after the mom put Engelhardt in a chokehold. The teacher lost consciousness for several minutes, Mestizo said.

Once on the ground, Engelhardt was punched and kicked by several students, including McKenzie's 14-year-old niece, police said.

"A juvenile female, relative of the adult, began to punch the teacher in the head," Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan told Newsday.

McKenzie was arraigned at Nassau County's First District Court on Thursday, charged with second-degree assault and strangulation. Bail was set at $5,000.

The niece, who was not named, has been charged as a minor.

And more teens could face discipline, according to reports. The investigation has been handed over to Nassau County police.

McKenzie could not be reached for comment.

"It's not like I thought a parent would do something, but I knew something violent was going to happen," Engelhardt told WABC Thursday night. "I've warned them time and again that the children have no respect for adults. Yes, I fear for my safety. They can't control the kids."

Engelhardt was treated and released at an area hospital.

But the violent assault brought calls for tighter security at Hempstead schools.

"Security did not ask for credentials, did not ask where she was going. She walked right by them," Mestizo, president of the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association, told the Daily News.

"We have teachers saying for more than a year there's a systemic problem with security of district buildings," Mestizo added. "Teachers don't feel safe. Students don't feel safe."

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ap Apr-17-2015 116 0
Damani Terry just wanted to join a group of girls dancing in a park across the street. The 2-year-old stepped into the road — right into the path of an oncoming van.

The van hit the toddler, and the driver jumped out to check on the badly injured boy, setting into motion a chain of events that included an uncle fatally shooting his own nephew and a stranger and then taking his own life. In the end, four people were dead.

It all started Sunday as Archie Brown Jr. drove his van through the northwest side of Milwaukee on an errand to Home Depot.

Brown hit Damani and leaped from the vehicle to attend to the toddler. Damani's 15-year-old brother, who had been celebrating a birthday in a nearby house, ran to his brother after witnessing the accident.

At that point, police said, the boys' uncle, Ricky Chiles (pictured), took the law into his own hands, emerging from a home into the street with a gun. He fired at the 40-year-old Brown, striking him and hitting Chiles' teenage nephew, who witnesses said was attempting to help when he was shot.

Brown died at the scene, alongside Damani. The teenager, Rasheed Chiles, died at a hospital.

"This sad example is what we get when we have folks who decide it's their responsibility to use their guns to redress their grievances," Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Thursday at a news conference.

Mayor Tom Barrett earlier in the week called Brown's shooting an "assassination."

"Someone got angry," Barrett said. "Someone took a gun and basically assassinated this gentleman."

On Thursday, Ricky Chiles III shot himself as police and federal marshals closed in on him at a motel in the Chicago suburb of Lyons, where he was staying with his girlfriend.

"I'm glad it's over, but I think he took a ... cheap way or a cowardly way out," Brown's father, Archie Brown Sr. of Milwaukee, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday.

Brown, a 68-year-old minister who goes by the name Prophet Brown, said he forgives Chiles for what he did, "but I'm not saying it's an easy process."

The shootings are part of a spike in violence in Milwaukee in 2015. The city has counted 43 homicide victims so far this year, compared with 14 at the same point last year.

"There just seems to be a sensibility among a segment of the community that committing acts of violence in support of one's reputation, to get revenge for a perceived slight or for a perceived business dispute over illegal drugs or to exact revenge is somehow approved," Flynn said. "And in that set of circumstances there's going to be not only tragedies, there's going to be dreadful mistakes."

Barbara Sprewer, who lives next door, said she saw Damani looking around before crossing the street, apparently intending to join the girls in the park. She saw the van and estimated it was going 25 to 30 mph.

"Nobody was watching the baby," she said.

After the child was hit, she saw the driver get out. She said she heard shots, but did not see who fired.

"I feel helpless. I feel numb," she said. "I saw them alive, and I saw them deceased. I've been reliving this since I woke up."

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ap Apr-16-2015 141 0
Marion (Suge) Knight will stand trial on murder and attempted-murder charges after the former rap music mogul struck two men with his pickup truck in January, killing one and seriously injuring the other.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen made the ruling Thursday after concluding a hearing that focused heavily on testimony from Cle (Bone) Sloan, who was hit outside a Compton burger stand.

The judge also reduced bail from $25 million to $10 million.

Sloan told detectives that he attacked Knight but testified Monday that he didn’t remember the fight and did not want to be a “snitch.”

Prosecutors played Sloan’s statement to police, which offered a lucid, detailed account of the events Jan. 29 that led up to the deadly encounter.

Authorities contend Knight intentionally hit the men, killing Terry Carter, 55.

Knight’s attorney, Matt Fletcher, says his client was ambushed and was trying to escape Sloan’s attack when he ran over the men.

Sloan’s testimony demonstrated the difficulty in prosecuting Knight, who has gang ties and a reputation for intimidating witnesses.

“I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison,” Sloan testified, adding that he was only on the stand because he was subpoenaed.

Prosecutors granted Sloan, a former gang member who’s known Knight for decades, limited immunity after he said he intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Knight, 49, was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s, and his label once listed Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg among its artists.

Knight lost control of the company after it was forced into bankruptcy.

Sloan, an adviser on the upcoming film “Straight Outta Compton,” said he was trying to forget details of the crash, in which he suffered two fractured ankles, a serious cut to his head, two torn knee ligaments and a shoulder injury.

“Every day, I try to forget it,” Sloan said. “I just know, I screwed up, and Terry’s dead.”

Sloan’s memory troubles prompted the judge to comment on his testimony: “I find that this witness is being deceptive.”

The judge also heard from the lead detective investigating the case and watched security camera footage of the crash.

The camera caught a limited view of the parking lot but shows Knight struggling with Sloan through the window of his truck before putting the vehicle in reverse, striking Sloan, then hitting him again and running over Carter while fleeing the scene.

Fletcher, Knight’s attorney, pressed Sloan on his feelings toward Knight and whether he was “enraged” at him on the day of the crash.

Sloan said he was mad but disputed that he told detectives he was enraged. Fletcher also painted Sloan as the aggressor, saying Knight “hadn’t attacked you in any form, fashion or manner. You agree?” “Yes,” Sloan said.

Knight faces up to life in prison if convicted in the case. He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun.

Knight pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years’ probation in an assault on two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.

The rap figure was sentenced to prison in February 1997 for violating terms of that probation by taking part in a fight at a Las Vegas hotel hours before Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by attack as he rode in Knight’s car near the Strip.

Shakur’s slaying remains unsolved. Prosecutors only had to present a fraction of their evidence against Knight during the preliminary hearing that began Monday.

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AP Apr-15-2015 169 0
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the downfall of an athlete who once had a $40 million contract and a standout career ahead of him.

Hernandez, 25, looked to his right, pursed his lips and sat down after the jury forewoman announced him guilty in the slaying of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. The first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole and automatically triggers an appeal to Massachusetts' highest court.

Hernandez's mother, Terri, and his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, cried and gasped when they heard the verdict, and Lloyd's mother also cried. Jenkins wept loudly on his mother's shoulder. Hernandez, his eyes red, mouthed to them: "Be strong. Be strong."

The former football pro was also found guilty on both weapons charges he faced. The jury deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before rendering its verdict.

For reasons that were never made clear to the jury, Lloyd was shot six times in the middle of the night on June 17, 2013, in a deserted industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough.

Police almost immediately zeroed in on Hernandez because they found in Lloyd's pocket the key to a car the NFL player had rented. Within hours of Hernandez's arrest, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the game.

Prosecutors presented a wealth of evidence that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time he was killed, including home security video from Hernandez's mansion, witness testimony and cellphone records that tracked Lloyd's movements.

Hernandez's lawyer, James Sultan, acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed.

But the attorney pinned the shooting on two of Hernandez's friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, saying his client was a "23-year-old kid" who witnessed a shocking crime and didn't know what to do. Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial later.

Prosecutors have suggested Lloyd may have been killed because he knew too much about Hernandez's alleged involvement in a deadly 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston. But they were not allowed to tell the jury that because the judge said it was speculation.

As a result, they never offered a motive beyond saying Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a nightclub two nights before the killing.

Hernandez faces further legal trouble: He is awaiting trial on murder charges in the drive-by shooting. He is accused of gunning down two men over a spilled drink at a nightclub.

In the Lloyd killing, the defense argued that investigators fixated on Hernandez because of his celebrity and conducted a shoddy investigation in their zeal to confirm their suspicions.

Prosecutors said Hernandez organized the killing, summoned his two friends to help carry it out, and drove Lloyd and the others to the secluded spot in the industrial park. During closing arguments, prosecutors also accused Hernandez of pulling the trigger, though under the law it was not necessary to prove who fired the shots to convict him.

Security video from inside Hernandez's home showed him holding what appeared to be a gun less than 10 minutes after Lloyd was killed. The surveillance system also captured Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz relaxing at his home hours after Lloyd was shot, hanging out in the basement "man cave," lounging by the pool and cuddling Hernandez's baby daughter.

Hernandez was an All-American out of the University of Florida who was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round in 2010.

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Apr-14-2015 200 0
Sentencing resumed this morning for 10 former APS educators found guilty of cheating.

Judge Jerry Baxter gave each educator two options during sentencing on Monday: admit guilt and take a deal or risk going to prison. He gave them until 10 a.m. today to make the decision.

Baxter encouraged the convicted educators to take the deal offered by the district attorney's office over the weekend: weekends in jail instead of prison time. In return, they would have to accept their guilt and give up their rights to appeal.

As of the time court resumed Tuesday morning, only one defendant, Donald Bullock, accepted the DA's office deal for sentencing.

Bullock read a statement apologizing and accepting responsibility for racketeering and making false statements. Bullock was given 5 years probation, 6 months of weekends in jail, a $5,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.

The state then recommended sentences for the rest of the defendants: five years to serve three for Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts; five years to serve two for Dana Evans, Tabeeka Jordan and Angela Williamson, five years to serve one for Theresia Copeland, Pamela Cleveland and Diane Buckner-Webb.

Things got heated in the courtroom before the judge handed down sentences. When one lawyer raised his voice, Baxter fired back "Sit down or I'm going to put you in jail."

Baxter then sentenced School Resource Team Executive Directors Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts as first offenders to 20 years with seven to serve, 13 years probation, 2,000 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.

Former Dobbs Elementary principal Dana Evans received a sentence of five years to serve one, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service and she was sentenced as a first offender.

Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary, and Tabeeka Jordan, former Deerwood Elementary Assistant Principal, were sentenced as first offenders to the state’s recommendation of five years to serve two, three years probation, 1,500 hours of community hours and $5,000 fine

Former Dunbar Elementary teacher Diane Buckner-Webb and Former Benteen Elementary Testing Coordinator Theresia Copeland were sentenced as first offenders to five years to serve one, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.

Dunbar Elementary Teacher Pamela Cleveland was the final educator to be sentenced. She received five years probation, 1,000 hours of community service, curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the first year and a $1,000 fine. She was sentenced as a first offender.

The defendants were then required to return to jail for processing, but have been granted an appeals bond.

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