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Tolan lawsuit revived by Supreme Court, but doesn't bring certainty of jury trial
The family of former minor league baseball star Robbie Tolan is now just a little more than a week away from a potential trial in a long-running civil rights lawsuit against the Bellaire Police Department that takes on new resonance with the nation focused on the treatment of minorities by law enforcement officers.

U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon of Houston still could dismiss the case in response to motions filed by the city of Bellaire and officer Jeffrey Cotton, who shot Tolan. Those filings argue that Cotton did not violate the law in firing at Tolan during an altercation outside the family's home in 2008.

But lawyers representing the family say they are confident that the Tolans will get their day in court following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last year that revived the case on grounds that a jury, rather than a judge, may need to eventually settle the matter.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

"The witnesses on both sides come to this case with their own perceptions, recollections, and even potential biases. It is in part for that reason that genuine disputes are generally resolved by juries in our adversarial system," the high court decision said, though the justices declined to expressly order a trial or offer an opinion about whether Cotton's actions "violated clearly established law."

Tolan, who intended to follow his father - Bobby Tolan - into the majors, was outside his Bellaire home in an SUV with his cousin, Anthony Cooper, around 2 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2008 when they were apprehended by Officer John Edwards, who mistakenly concluded the vehicle was stolen.

Edwards had noticed the black Nissan SUV as it turned into a residential area and parked on the street in front of a house. Two men, later identified as Robbie Tolan and Cooper, exited the vehicle. When the officer incorrectly typed the license plate number into the computer in his squad car, the SUV came back as stolen.

Edwards left his cruiser, drew his service weapon and ordered Tolan and Cooper to the ground. Hearing the commotion, Tolan's parents came out onto the porch in their pajamas.

The officer explained that he believed the vehicle was stolen and the Tolans replied that the SUV belonged to them, that the young men were their son and nephew and that the house was their home. When Edwards called for assistance, Cotton arrived and drew his pistol. Tolan's mother reiterated that nothing was out of order and Cotton told her to stand against the family's garage door.

During a scuffle between Cotton and Marian Tolan, Robbie Tolan told the officer to unhand his mother, and according to police rose up from the ground. Cotton fired three shots, hitting him.

The Tolans and Cooper sued Edwards, Cotton and other Bellaire officials ialleging that their civil and constitutional rights were violated. The case claimed that Tolan and Cooper came under suspicion that night because they were black and said that the Bellaire Police Department has a history of racial profiling in the predominantly white city.

Force claims

In 2012, Harmon dismissed the case's excessive force claims on the basis of qualified immunity - which shields public officials from liability to civil damages as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established law - by Cotton and Edwards. That dismissal did not include claims against the city of Bellaire.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 upheld Harmon's dismissal by finding that Cotton's actions did not violate clearly established law because the officer believed Robbie Tolan presented an immediate threat to his safety.

The Supreme Court specifically resuscitated Robbie Tolan's excessive force claim against Cotton because it found conflicts about the incident's details and determined that fleshing them out could influence whether the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.

Courts must review excessive force claims in "the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury" and determine whether the right in question was "clearly established at the time of the violation," the Supreme Court decision said.

The justices reached the "inescapable conclusion" that the 5th Circuit erred by giving more credence to Cotton's side of the story and not better scrutinizing contradictory evidence in four areas:

In depositions, Cotton said the Tolan family's porch was "fairly dark" while Bobby and Robbie Tolan described a better-lit area.

The parties disagree on how calmly Tolan's mother, Marian, spoke to officers and whether her comments intensified Cotton's belief that her son presented an immediate threat to the officers.

Tolan cursed when Cotton grabbed Marian Tolan's arm, but whether the young man was screaming and if his words amounted to an "overt threat" to Cotton is in dispute.

Was Tolan on his knees or his feet moments before the shooting? The record is unclear. Tolan and his mother said he was on his knees when he was shot, but the 5th Circuit gave more credit to Edwards' account that Tolan was "on both feet" in a "crouch" and looked like he was going to move forward.

Members of both legal teams say they are ready for trial.

"The United States Supreme Court has already ruled that there is factual dispute," said Daryl Washington of Dallas, who is among the new raft of lawyers hired last year by the Tolan family. The others include Florida attorney, Ben Crump, who represents relatives of Trayvon Martin, and Dallas lawyer Matthew Kita.

Their filings contend that the defendants lack the evidence to receive another dismissal.

"We have full confidence in the judicial system that we are going to go to trial on this matter," Washington said. "This is a matter that the jury should be able to hear and to decide."

The Supreme Court decision never guaranteed that a trial would be "appropriate or necessary to resolve this lawsuit," said Bill Helfand, who is representing Cotton and the city.

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Cindy George, Houston Chronicle Sep-04-2015 133 0
The family of former minor league baseball star Robbie Tolan is now just a little more than a week away from a potential trial in a long-running civil rights lawsuit against the Bellaire Police Department that takes on new resonance with the nation focused on the treatment of minorities by law enforcement officers.

U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon of Houston still could dismiss the case in response to motions filed by the city of Bellaire and officer Jeffrey Cotton, who shot Tolan. Those filings argue that Cotton did not violate the law in firing at Tolan during an altercation outside the family's home in 2008.

But lawyers representing the family say they are confident that the Tolans will get their day in court following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last year that revived the case on grounds that a jury, rather than a judge, may need to eventually settle the matter.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

"The witnesses on both sides come to this case with their own perceptions, recollections, and even potential biases. It is in part for that reason that genuine disputes are generally resolved by juries in our adversarial system," the high court decision said, though the justices declined to expressly order a trial or offer an opinion about whether Cotton's actions "violated clearly established law."

Tolan, who intended to follow his father - Bobby Tolan - into the majors, was outside his Bellaire home in an SUV with his cousin, Anthony Cooper, around 2 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2008 when they were apprehended by Officer John Edwards, who mistakenly concluded the vehicle was stolen.

Edwards had noticed the black Nissan SUV as it turned into a residential area and parked on the street in front of a house. Two men, later identified as Robbie Tolan and Cooper, exited the vehicle. When the officer incorrectly typed the license plate number into the computer in his squad car, the SUV came back as stolen.

Edwards left his cruiser, drew his service weapon and ordered Tolan and Cooper to the ground. Hearing the commotion, Tolan's parents came out onto the porch in their pajamas.

The officer explained that he believed the vehicle was stolen and the Tolans replied that the SUV belonged to them, that the young men were their son and nephew and that the house was their home. When Edwards called for assistance, Cotton arrived and drew his pistol. Tolan's mother reiterated that nothing was out of order and Cotton told her to stand against the family's garage door.

During a scuffle between Cotton and Marian Tolan, Robbie Tolan told the officer to unhand his mother, and according to police rose up from the ground. Cotton fired three shots, hitting him.

The Tolans and Cooper sued Edwards, Cotton and other Bellaire officials ialleging that their civil and constitutional rights were violated. The case claimed that Tolan and Cooper came under suspicion that night because they were black and said that the Bellaire Police Department has a history of racial profiling in the predominantly white city.

Force claims

In 2012, Harmon dismissed the case's excessive force claims on the basis of qualified immunity - which shields public officials from liability to civil damages as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established law - by Cotton and Edwards. That dismissal did not include claims against the city of Bellaire.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 upheld Harmon's dismissal by finding that Cotton's actions did not violate clearly established law because the officer believed Robbie Tolan presented an immediate threat to his safety.

The Supreme Court specifically resuscitated Robbie Tolan's excessive force claim against Cotton because it found conflicts about the incident's details and determined that fleshing them out could influence whether the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.

Courts must review excessive force claims in "the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury" and determine whether the right in question was "clearly established at the time of the violation," the Supreme Court decision said.

The justices reached the "inescapable conclusion" that the 5th Circuit erred by giving more credence to Cotton's side of the story and not better scrutinizing contradictory evidence in four areas:

In depositions, Cotton said the Tolan family's porch was "fairly dark" while Bobby and Robbie Tolan described a better-lit area.

The parties disagree on how calmly Tolan's mother, Marian, spoke to officers and whether her comments intensified Cotton's belief that her son presented an immediate threat to the officers.

Tolan cursed when Cotton grabbed Marian Tolan's arm, but whether the young man was screaming and if his words amounted to an "overt threat" to Cotton is in dispute.

Was Tolan on his knees or his feet moments before the shooting? The record is unclear. Tolan and his mother said he was on his knees when he was shot, but the 5th Circuit gave more credit to Edwards' account that Tolan was "on both feet" in a "crouch" and looked like he was going to move forward.

Members of both legal teams say they are ready for trial.

"The United States Supreme Court has already ruled that there is factual dispute," said Daryl Washington of Dallas, who is among the new raft of lawyers hired last year by the Tolan family. The others include Florida attorney, Ben Crump, who represents relatives of Trayvon Martin, and Dallas lawyer Matthew Kita.

Their filings contend that the defendants lack the evidence to receive another dismissal.

"We have full confidence in the judicial system that we are going to go to trial on this matter," Washington said. "This is a matter that the jury should be able to hear and to decide."

The Supreme Court decision never guaranteed that a trial would be "appropriate or necessary to resolve this lawsuit," said Bill Helfand, who is representing Cotton and the city.


DANIELLE GROBMEIER Sep-03-2015 137 0
Christian Taylor, the black, unarmed 19-year-old whose fatal shooting by an Arlington police officer last month garnered national attention, had used a synthetic drug that can cause hallucinations before his death, according to an autopsy report released Wednesday by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

The autopsy characterized the illegal psychedelic found in Taylor’s blood, an NBOMe, as a drug that’s known to “cause distorted perceptions, agitation and hallucinations” and one that has been “associated with random and bizarre behavior in users.” The autopsy report likened some of the drug’s effects to those of LSD. Taylor’s autopsy also indicated recent use of marijuana.

Taylor, an Angelo State University football player, was shot four times in the early morning of Aug. 7. Brad Miller, an officer in training, was one of six officers responding to a burglary call at a car dealership. He fired after Taylor reportedly rushed him. Surveillance video showed Taylor acting erratically before the shooting.

Taylor’s death was ruled a homicide. Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson fired Miller four days after the shooting, citing Miller’s failure to follow proper police procedures during the call. Police said at the time they expected to present the case to a Tarrant County grand jury.

Zhivonni McDonnell, a public information officer for Arlington police, said late Wednesday the department declined to comment: “The case will continue progressing through the criminal justice system.”

Taylor’s family could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Mike Heiskell, an attorney who represents the family, told WFAA-TV (Channel 8) that “regardless of what may have been in his system, this was still an unjustified death of a young man.”

But John Snider, the attorney representing Miller, said in a statement that the autopsy report is “very significant evidence.”

“In light of this crucial development we hope that Chief Johnson will reconsider his rush to judgment,” he said in an emailed statement.

Snider had previously criticized Johnson, saying he only fired Miller to “appease anti-police activists.”

The footage

Surveillance camera footage released shortly after the shooting showed Taylor at the dealership, at one point standing on the hood of a silver Ford Mustang, stomping on the glass and trying to rip it away, and eventually trying to climb inside. Taylor also drove his Jeep through the dealership’s showroom window, though that’s not shown on camera.

Taylor died from gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen, according to the autopsy. The report stated “all the bullets appear to have been fired in front of him,” indicating Taylor was facing Miller when he was shot.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug commonly known as “N-Bomb” that was found in Taylor’s blood can cause agitation, aggression and visual and auditory hallucinations, among other health issues.

At least 19 deaths nationwide have been linked to a set of synthetic drugs known as the NBOMe compounds, according to the DEA.

A bill introduced in the Texas Legislature this year by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, added the NBOMe compounds and other substances derived from the same chemical structure to Penalty Group 1-A, which carries felony punishment.

That law went into effect Tuesday.

Friends’ reactions

Taylor was arrested in 2013 on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. The charge was dismissed after he completed probation this summer.

His friends said they never saw him using drugs.

Legista Beckford, who was Taylor’s close friend and teammate at Angelo State, said the budding defensive back was always the first person to say no to any kind of unsafe behavior.

“He was always the guy to be like, ‘Put on your seat belt,’ or ‘Be safe in my car,’” Beckford said.

Taylor’s close friends from Mansfield Summit High School said he had specifically steered clear of narcotics.

“In front of my face, I’ve never seen him do drugs,” said Sam Armardi. “Marijuana is probably the only thing anybody did in high school.”

And after Taylor turned suddenly religious over the summer, his friends said, he seemed intolerant of even small vices.

“He was saying: ‘You shouldn’t be smoking. You shouldn’t be doing this. You shouldn’t be doing that. God is good. God is great,’” Armardi said.

Armardi said he had heard unconfirmed rumors that Taylor had used LSD with a friend one month before his death and had planned to use it again the night he was slain.

“Those were the only two times they did it, and we never heard about the drugs again until after he passed away,” Armardi said.

Several friends recalled Taylor talking about running out of time or being tired. Most assumed he was just worn out from football practice or college stress.

“He told me he was a little depressed,” said Jordan McHenry. “We were just wondering if he needed help.”

Taylor didn’t respond well to the suggestion.

“Jordan just called me thinking that I’m crazy and need help,” he texted to his friends’ group chat a few weeks before his death. “Are you crazy?? … I know I’m living right with God.”

sarah mervosh Sep-03-2015 272 0
The ongoing legal battle between former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders and his ex-wife, Pilar, has taken yet another turn.

Pilar Sanders recently filed a lawsuit in Dallas County seeking damages from her ex-husband because she says his legal maneuvers have caused her emotional distress, embarrassment and what she says was an unfair stint in jail.

In the lawsuit filed Aug. 26, Pilar Sanders alleges that her ex-husband gave false testimony that led to a judge to find her in contempt of court, sentence her to seven days in jail and put her on a one-year probation.

Her other allegations include that Deion Sanders lied about when he had rights to their children, disobeyed a judge’s order to pay her a nearly $1 million judgment and used the judicial system and the Internet to destroy her image, freedom of speech and access to her children.

Her suit is the latest development in a lengthy legal battle that has the wake of their divorce, which included Deion Sanders filing a defamation lawsuit against Pilar Sanders in 2014.

JASON SILVERSTEIN Sep-03-2015 157 0
Justice may finally be served to four young Louisiana women accused of attacking a teenage McDonald’s worker at her restaurant last week — a beatdown that went viral days later thanks to a shocking cellphone video.

Three teenagers and one 20-year-old were arrested Wednesday for the McDonald’s melee, NOLA.com reported. One of the suspects, 17-year-old Kailin Holland, was charged with second-degree battery, a felony, and released on $10,000 bond. The other three — Sierra Gregoire, 18, Bradnika Gregoire, 20, and a 16-year-old who hasn’t been identified — face misdemeanor summonses for simple battery.

The arrests come one week after the four allegedly pulled the 16-year-old victim out of the drive-through window at the Laplace fast food franchise and beat her in the parking lot.

Days after the assault, cellphone video appeared online showing a teen — now identified at Holland — grabbing the McDonald’s worker by her hair and yanking her through the drive-through window and into a car, to the horror of her screaming friends. The clip appears to have been filmed by a passenger in the car, and one of Holland’s friends is heard screaming to someone named “Quita.” After the attack, the victim refused treatment at the scene, L’Observateur reported.

The victim and her four accused attackers are all said to be acquaintances, but police are still unsure what prompted the dispute.

A manager at the McDonald’s referred questions from the Daily News to McDonald’s corporate office.

Abby Ohlheiser Sep-02-2015 137 0
Facing a deadlocked jury, Judge Robert C. Ervin has declared a mistrial in the case of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall Kerrick, who shot and killed an unarmed man in September 2013.

Prosecutors argued during the three-week trial that Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots at 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, striking him 10 times, after Ferrell did not follow officers’ instructions. Kerrick testified that he opened fire because he believed Ferrell was “trying to get my gun.”

The jury deliberated for three and a half days but failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether Kerrick, who is white, should be convicted on a single charge of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ferrell, who was black. If convicted, Kerrick could have gone to prison for up to 11 years.

The jury remained in an 8 to 4 stalemate late Friday afternoon after multiple votes. It was not immediately clear which way the majority of jurors were leaning, or whether prosecutors would seek to retry the case, as the Charlotte Observer noted.

Police officers are rarely charged for fatally shooting people in the line of duty. A Washington Post analysis published in April found that of thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police officers, just 54 officers were charged since 2005 — and most were subsequently cleared or acquitted.

Since April, a handful of other officers have been charged in fatal shootings and taser incidents, including three this week. On Monday, a former Fairfax County, Va., police officer was charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting an unarmed man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home. And on Tuesday, two former Georgia officers were charged with murder in the death of Gregory Towns, a 24-year-old unarmed black man who died after a stun gun was used on him while he was in handcuffs.

And on Tuesday, a New Mexico judge decided that two police officers facing murder charges will go to trial.

Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, wrecked his car in a residential neighborhood in Charlotte on the evening of the 2013 shooting. He went to a nearby home and banged on the door, prosecutors say, in an attempt to get help.

The woman inside called 911 and told operators that she had opened the door to her home expecting to find her husband, but instead saw Ferrell, a man she didn’t know.

“There’s a guy breaking in my front door — trying to kick it down,” the panicked caller told operators, according to a transcript released after the shooting. “He’s not in the house, he’s in the front yard yelling.” The caller, Sarah McCartney, said Ferrell was yelling at her to “turn off the alarm,” which triggered when she opened the door to her home, McCartney later testified.

Kerrick was among three officers who responded to that 911 call. One officer armed his taser as Ferrell approached them, the Charlotte Observer reported. Kerrick had his gun out before that. At the trial, prosecutors and Kerrick’s defense team presented wildly different accounts of what happened next.

Lead prosecutor Adren Harris told the jury that Kerrick “panicked” and “abandoned all of his training,” including “a litany of other nonlethal options” he could have used to stop Ferrell’s approach.

Prosecutors added that Ferrell ran from officers in fear after one of them trained the laser sight from a taser onto his chest without first giving an order, the Associated Press reported.

Defense attorneys argued that Kerrick followed his training by using deadly force against Ferrell, and they accused prosecutors of using the “race card” during the trial to garner sympathy for their version of events, the Observer reported.

Kerrick’s lawyers also argued that Ferrell made bad choices that forced their client to fire at him, and they said Ferrell had used alcohol and marijuana before the wreck in the residential neighborhood where he died. A toxicology report showed that Ferrell had caffeine, nicotine and alcohol below the legal limit in his system at the time of his death.

Part of the encounter was captured on a dashcam video from one of the patrol cars at the scene. The video was released during the August trial; both sides have said they believe it proves that their version of events is correct.

The video shows Ferrell walking, and then running, toward officers. Once he’s out of frame, an officer yells “get on the ground” multiple times, and gunshots are heard.

The prosecution argued that the video shows that Ferrell was not behaving erratically or aggressively, as a police account had described, before he was shot. Defense attorney George Laughrun countered that an absence of the behavior in the video doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. “The Revolutionary War was in 1775. Did that not happen? There is no video,” he told the court, according to the Observer.

Kerrick was arrested after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe viewed the video of the encounter. The officer “did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter,” Monroe said at the time.

In an earlier interview with The Washington Post, Jonathan Ferrell’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, said she was worried that jurors would accept the defense’s version of events not on the basis of evidence, but because “society has put it into our heads that the officer is always right.”

Ferrell’s family and the city of Charlotte settled a civil lawsuit for a reported $2.25 million this year.

Jonathan Ferrell’s sister, their mother noted, is a law enforcement officer herself. “My daughter loves being a police officer,” Georgia Ferrell told The Post, “but she knows that the uniform doesn’t make you a good person.”

STEPHEN REX BROWN Sep-02-2015 141 0
A basketball player hanging out at a Washington Heights block party was brutally pummeled by cops who severely reinjured his torn Achilles tendon, a new lawsuit charges.

J-Quan Johnson says he was following police orders to disperse the "Love is Love" block party on Aug. 31, 2014, by hobbling away on crutches when Officer Dwight Powell allegedly shoved someone into him.

"Why are you being so aggressive?" Johnson asked the cop, telling him to be careful of his leg.

Johnson, 25, had stitches in his left ankle, as well as an intravenous PICC line administering antibiotics to his chest as a result of the basketball injury he’d suffered in June.

Powell allegedly replied, "I don't give a f--- about your foot!"

Johnson fired back that he didn't care that Powell was a cop, prompting Powell to slap him in the face, papers charge.

Then five unidentified cops pounced on Johnson and the beating began, according to the suit.

A video shows an officer swinging his baton at Johnson as cops are piled on top of him. Papers charge that blow was directly on his injured foot.

“It's an outrage,” Johnson's attorney Michael Braverman said. “They were completely out of control.”

J-Quan Johnson's suit says he had to undergo skin grafts to his ankle as a result of the police beating.

Braverman said his client has no criminal record and that an assault charge stemming from the incident was dismissed last month.

In the ambulance an officer twice punched Johnson in the face, papers charge.

The antibiotic line was dislodged and Johnson’s ankle was severely damaged. His foot was infected and his tendon was re-ruptured. He underwent skin grafts and several surgeries to repair it, according to the suit.

Johnson was hospitalized at New York Presbyterian Hospital from Aug. 31, 2014 to Oct. 3, 2014, as a result of the beating, documents claim.

He seeks damages to be determined at trial.

A city Law Department spokesman said the suit will be reviewed.

BARRY PADDOCK Sep-02-2015 142 0
A devastated mom braced Wednesday to bury her second son in three years after the teen was fatally shot just three blocks from the corner where his big brother was killed.

“I don’t even know what to tell you right now,” Sharon Plummer said outside her Brooklyn home, where she held a photo of slain 16-year-old Neshawn.

“All I know is we’ve got to do something to stop this gun violence,” she added. “It’s a lot for one mother to go through, to bury two kids.”

Neshawn was mortally wounded Sunday night at Seagirt Ave. and Beach 126th St., a short walk from the 129th St. spot where Shawn Plummer, 18, was killed with a single shot to the head on July 13, 2012.

“It’s hard,” the distraught mom said. “I’ve got to take some me time right now.”

Police sources said two men on foot approached Neshawn at about 9:50 p.m. Sunday, with one firing a bullet into the teen’s head before they both fled.

A surveillance video released by police showed three suspects — two running away, and a third climbing into a waiting car. Neshawn died Tuesday at Long Island Jewish Hospital.

.
No arrests were made in either the killing of Neshawn Plummer or his older brother, cops said.

DAREH GREGORIAN Sep-01-2015 177 0
A Fox News anchor says she’s no hamster—or choking hazard.

In papers filed in New Jersey Federal Court, Harris Faulkner says she’s suffered “substantial commercial and emotional damage” from a plastic hamster doll that shares her name.

“Harris Faulkner, the uniquely named, acclaimed veteran journalist and author, has worked for decades to establish and maintain her personal brand and laudable professional reputation,” her $5 million lawsuit says.

But toy giant Hasbro Inc. has “willfully and wrongfully appropriated Faulkner’s unique and valuable name and distinctive persona for its own financial gain—by creating, manufacturing, and distributing for sale a plastic toy hamster named ‘Harris Faulkner.’”

The adorable toy, which was released last year, is part of Hasbro’s hit “Littlest Pet Shop” toy line.

Faulkner, 49, doesn’t think there’s anything cute about the big-eyed hamster, saying in her suit that Hasbro’s portrayal of her as “a rodent is demeaning and insulting.”

The company’s “manufacture, sale, and distribution of the Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll is extremely concerning and distressing to Faulkner,” the suit says.

Fox News anchor named Harris Faulkner is suing Hasbro over its 'Harris Faulkner' hamster toy.
In addition to its “prominent and unauthorized use of Faulkner’s name,” it also has a “physical resemblance to Faulkner’s traditional professional appearance, in particular tone of its complexion, the shape of its eyes, and the design of its eye makeup.”

Also upsetting to Faulkner is that the toy’s packaging says its a “choking hazard.”

“Faulkner is extremely distressed that her name has been wrongly associated with a plastic toy that is a known choking hazard that risks harming small children,” the suit says.

The suit, which was first reported by Courthouse News, seeks $5 million in damages and a court order barring Hasbro “from further violations and misappropriations of Faulkner’s name, likeness, identity, or persona.”

Hasbro, which also makes Transformer toys, Nerf balls, Play-Doh and numerous board games, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Faulkner, a 49-year-old married mother of two, joined FNC in 2005, and anchors “Fox Report Weekend.”


NANCY DILLON Sep-01-2015 233 0
Jay Z doesn’t want a California jury to hear about his hard-knock life.

The rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has asked a federal court judge to bar testimony about his criminal past – and current high-flying lifestyle – from an upcoming civil trial.

Now a megabuck mogul, the Brooklyn native’s rap sheet includes arrests for weapons charges and a 1999 stabbing.

His lawyers say none of that should figure into his current court case, where he and Tim (Timbaland) Mosley are defending themselves in a civil suit charging they swiped a song sample for the Jay Z smash “Big Pimpin.”

The suit was brought in 2007 by a relative of an Egyptian composer named Baligh Hamdi, who said the tune ripped off Hamdi’s 1960 song “Khosara, Khosara.”

Timbaland has said in court papers that he thought he’d bought the rights.

Despite how long the case has been dragging through the court system, Hamdi’s lawyers didn’t mention they wanted to bring up the records of Jay Z and the other defendants in the case until last month.

“Plaintiff has not identified the purpose of offering Defendants' criminal histories, let alone articulated how the probative value of such evidence substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect. Nor can he: the criminal record is entirely irrelevant and poses an overwhelming risk of biasing the jury against Defendants,” Jay Z’s lawyer said in a recent court filing.

He noted that “none of the defendants have been convicted of a crime within the last ten years,” and said that “Any evidence or argument relating to any of the Defendants' criminal histories should thus be excluded."

He also urged the judge to shoot down any inquiry into his client’s “wealth and resources.”

Hamdi’s lawyers contend those should be fair game, because it would show that Jay Z could have easily afforded a thorough investigation into the title of the song, but he simply didn’t bother to do so.

Jay Z’s lawyer Andrew Bart said that was a bogus argument.

“Of course, the real reason that Plaintiff wants to mention Defendants’ financial condition is to bias the jury against Defendants, emphasize their wealth, and artificially inflate the size of a potential damages award,” Bart wrote in court filings. “Accordingly, even if marginally relevant, this evidence is unduly prejudicial and should be excluded.”

A judge has yet to rule on the dispute, which was first reported by TMZ.

Both Jay Z and Timbaland are expected to testify in the trial, which is slated to start next month.

TINA MOORE Sep-01-2015 153 0
A Queens woman sporting nine fake fingernails told cops she wasn’t with her boyfriend when he was shot to death in his left side early Saturday. But the lie fell apart — leading to her arrest Monday — when a sharp-eyed detective noticed her one naked digit.

“On his body we find a fingernail and we noticed that when we talk to his girlfriend she’s missing a fingernail,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. “We take her back into custody, we start speaking to her, and she makes admissions she actually killed him.”

After the murder, police say Dawn McIntosh, 46, of Long Island City, enlisted the help of her son and daughter to carry Sh-Ron McWhorter’s body to a car. He was too heavy, so McIntosh tried to burn the victim’s body to mask the crime. The mom was charged with murder, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

Firefighters doused the blaze, but the 43-year-old Brooklyn man couldn’t be saved. Police identified McWhorter by the “Sugar Sha” tattoo on his left arm, sources said.

McWhorter’s heartbroken mom called McIntosh “a stalker” and said her son wanted nothing to do with the accused killer. Wiping away tears, she said she turned 67 on Monday and her son always remembered her birthday.

“I didn’t get that call from him saying, ‘Happy Birthday,’” Barbara McWhorter said.

Channell Barber, mother of the victim’s 16-year-old son, Donte, identified the charred remains over the weekend.

“When I went to identify the body, I was hoping it wasn’t him,” Barber said.

The chain of events that ended with McIntosh’s arrest began early Saturday when the couple began arguing about his alleged infidelity at a Long Island City residence on 14th St., police said.

“She shoots him twice,” Boyce said. “She put lighter fluid on him and then started the fire.”

McIntosh, at first, insisted that she hadn’t seen her boyfriend and that he had stood her up, Boyce said. Then detectives noticed she was missing the fingernail. Trapped, McIntosh told cops that after the killing, she called her son Donte Watkins, 21, and her 15-year-old daughter to help get rid of the body, sources said.

But McWhorter was too heavy for Watkins to lift into the victim’s Jeep, the sources said. So as her kids looked on, McIntosh set the body on fire.

Watkins was later charged with tampering with evidence. His sister was not charged with a crime.

McIntosh, who lives in the Astoria Houses less than a mile from where her beau’s burning body was found, has two prior arrests on her rap sheet but the records are sealed.

A neighbor found it hard to believe McIntosh was involved with McWhorter.

“He was a street guy,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “Something just doesn’t add up.”

McWhorter’s rap sheet lists 28 arrests, 18 of them drug offenses in Brooklyn. He was busted for a criminal sex act in 2003. And records show McWhorter was named in four domestic violence reports filed by another woman in 2007 and 2008.

There have been 222 murders in the city this year through Sunday — an 8.3% increase over the same time period last year when there were 205. The number of people who have been shot this year is up by less than a percentage point. Serious crime is down 4% citywide.

JASON SILVERSTEIN Aug-31-2015 196 0
A black man from Michigan and a police officer in Ohio have agreed to sit down for “a conversation” about an incendiary video showing their confrontation during a traffic stop, police said.

The video, filmed by John Felton when he was in Dayton, shows the officer saying he pulled Felton over because they made “direct eye contact.”

“This is why I hate coming to Dayton,” Felton, from Detroit, wrote on his Facebook page when he posted the video Aug. 15.

“What kind of s--- is that? Dayton Police this cop needs to be on desk duty. Fake ass white collar thugs eager to meet their quota.”

The cell phone clip started getting attention days after it went online, and came to national prominence late last week, getting nearly 50,000 views on Felton’s Facebook alone.

It starts with the officer telling Felton he’s getting pulled over because he didn’t signal 100 feet prior to a turn.

Immediately outaged, Felton accuses the cop of trailing him for miles for two miles and then stopping him outside Felton’s mother’s house. Felton's brother sits in the passenger seat, and the two discuss how they "knew" the cop would stop them.

“You just needed a reason to pull me over, sir,” Felton tells the officer.

“Sir, you trailed me for how long? You just needed a reason to pull me over. Like, no disrespect, I don’t have nothing against police officers, but all the s--- that’s going on right now, that’s some scary s---.”

The officer lets Felton off with a warning, and when pressed for an explanation, he tells Felton: “Because you made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you... I’m not going to argue about it anymore.” He threatens to issue a citation if Felton keeps talking back.

Felton says in the video he’s driving in a car with a Michigan license plate, which might have caught the cop's eye.

"He ain't about to Sandra Bland me," John Felton says in the video he filmed during the traffic stop.

He and his brother were heading to a birthday party around 11 p.m. before getting stopped, according to WKEF.

The officer is never seen in the video. He has not been identified and his ethnicity is unknown.

Dayton Police said they were “reviewing” the video, and announced in a statement Friday Felton “agreed to a conversation with the officer, facilitated by the Dayton Mediation Center... to discuss the specifics of the incident.”

"The traffic infraction was verified by the video; however making direct eye contact with an officer is not a basis for a traffic stop," the statement said.

Felton says in the video, during a moment the officer has stepped away, that the cop “ain’t about to Sandra Bland me,” referencing the Chicago woman who was pulled over in Texas for not signaling a turn. The officer arrested her after a heated dispute, and she hanged herself three days later in a jail cell.

Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose fatal injury in police custody triggered violent riots in the city, was stopped by police in April after making eye contact with officers and running away.

Felton’s attorney did not immediately return requests for comment. A person who answered the phone at Felton’s home said Felton was not available and hung up.

Aug-31-2015 232 0
Dallas police say a man is in custody after fatally shooting his wife just after midnight Sunday morning at the Bank of America tower in Oak Cliff.

Police were called at about 12:02 a.m. to the building in the 400 block of South Zang Boulevard, where the 30-year-old woman was found dead.

Investigators said the woman came to the Bank of America tower, where her husband, 34-year-old David Thompson, works as a licensed commissioned security officer, to confront him about alleged marriage infidelity. The two began to have a physical struggle, and Thompson later told police he believed his wife was reaching for his pistol, so he shot her in self defense, according to the arrest affidavit.

Thompson called 911, providing the dispatcher with his location and the location of his gun.

He was later arrested and charged with murder.

Police said the woman did not have any weapons in her possession at the time of the shooting.

MEG WAGNER Aug-30-2015 293 0
The first man an Alabama woman ever brought home to meet her grandma shot and killed his new sweetheart after he had Sunday dinner with her family, police said.

Antonio Williams, 22, is charged with capital murder in Jacoria (Shug) Ray’s Sunday death. Her body was found on the side of a Birmingham road about two hours after she and Williams left her grandmother’s house Sunday, AL.com reported.

Police have not detailed the relationship between Williams and Ray, but her family said the former Army soldier was the first man Ray ever brought home.

Ray and her new beau had an early dinner at her grandmother’s home Sunday afternoon. The two seemed happy — but grandma Cynthia Brown said she got a bad feeling from Williams.

"She thought maybe she had found someone special,” Brown said, but added, “I wasn't feeling it.”

The two left together in Ray’s Dodge Charger around 4 p.m. They planned first to drop off Ray’s 12-year-old brother at another relative’s home and then deliver a plate of leftovers to Ray’s mom, who was sick in bed and couldn’t make the family dinner. Ray promised she would be at her mom’s house by 6 p.m.

When Ray wasn’t home by 7:30 p.m., mom Deandra Ray called her daughter, but the 20-year-old didn’t pick up. Around 9:30 p.m., she went to police headquarters to file a missing person report.

“I didn't know at this point that they already had found her,” Deandra Ray said.

Police found Ray shot dead on the side of 47th Ave. Bridge around 6 p.m. — the time she should have been arriving at her mother’s house.

Williams was arrested a day later. Cops cornered him at a gas station where he was pumping gas into Ray’s car.

“He took my baby from me. There's nothing that can be done to ease this hurt.” Deandra Ray told AL.com. “That was my Shug, my chocolate drop.”
“He just took a jewel,” her grandma added.

Williams, a former Army soldier who had recently applied to attend Miles College, is being held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail.

A week before her death, Ray had accepted a job as a disaster claims specialist for a private company, her family said.

“She was so smart, so bright, always full of life,” her mom said. “She had the type of spirit that would light up a room.”

>>--More Black Legal News

Sep-09-2014 1936 0
On yesterday social media went crazy after the video of Ray Rice was released. Within hours Rice was released from the Ravens. Don't think for one second that it was not as a result of the public outcry on social media. The Ravens and the NFL did not have a choice but to release Rice because they had been exposed. However, the saddening part about of all of this is that the powers to be proclaimed they had not seen the video until yesterday.

Why do we live in a society where there's always a cover-up? If we are going to be angry at the police chief in Ferguson, MO for trying to cover up for one of his officers who killed Michael Brown we should also be upset with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Coach John Harbaugh because it appears that they took part in a scheme to deceive the public and by tuning in to the games as usual we are saying it's okay to cover-up a crime. Sean Payton, head coach of the Saints, was forced to sit out a year because an alleged wrongdoing took place under his watch. In my opinion, the same needs to happen to the Roger Goodell and Coach Harbaugh because somehow I think they knew and if they did not know it's even worse because they allowed a poor investigation to support a two game suspension.

Let's look at the severity of what they did. Their actions in trying to protect the NFL brand send the wrong message to ladies who are victims of domestic abuse. What the message says is that you should protect the abuser if there's something to lose. In this case, it was football games and plenty of revenue for a major brand. Their actions could help persuade a victim of domestic abuse to participate in a press conference in order to save a star and risk her life. This was not the right thing to do because someone following that same example could end up dead.

Releasing and/or suspending Rice for the year was the proper thing to do months ago but there are additional suspensions that need to be handed down before we stop talking about this. Take a year off Mr. Commissioner and Coach Harbaugh because you dropped the ball on this one. Better yet, if you won't suspend yourselves, donate your salaries for the year to a charity that supports domestic violence victims if you are really serious about the mistake that was made.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Feb-16-2014 2547 0
After the Michael Dunn verdict was read many voice their displeasure with the judicial system, rightfully so. However, the killing of our young black men is nothing new. Each time something bad happens we come together as a group for a month or so and then the energy dies down. When the Zimmerman verdict came back there were those who demanded that we stop supporting the state of Florida yet what happened to the follow-up to let us know how effective the efforts were? It reminds me of whenever someone dies. When we run into people we have not seen in years we all make a vow to do better and to make time for each other but after two or three months has past by we are all back to doing the same things.

As a country, we came together after 9/11 but soon thereafter the unity went away. There's so much happening in our communities. I thought the Zimmerman verdict would be our wake up call to do more but our young black men continue to be gunned down at a high rate by Men who don't look anything close to their fathers and most of them get away with it. Just in case you mention the black on black crime, remember that the killer normally ends up in prison.

Just recently, the grand jury failed to indict a North Carolina police officer for the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, a young black male, but after there was a public outcry about the injustice that took place he was eventually indicted. Right here in Dallas, Texas we have black men being killed by white police officers and in a great majority of the cases, the police officers are not indicted and judged by a jury of their peers. Instead, the victim is placed on trial and society has become conditioned to believe that it's okay to kill someone if they have a prior criminal record or considered a menace to society. Well, it's not and it's time that it stops.

We need to be proactive and make sure laws that don't benefit us are changed. I will continue to say this until I can't say this anymore; we have to get out and VOTE during the mid-term elections. We need to make sure the right people are elected and the wrong people are removed from office, irrespective of their race. If the same people are in office (local officials) yet we are having some of the same problems, it's time for change. Vote for someone who wants to make a change. Don't just vote based on race or political affiliation; that's what has gotten us to this point where we are today. We have to be proactive or the next Jordan Davis might be our brother, our son, our nephew, our father or our friend. Let's do it. Get involved or get out of the way!!!!!



Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.


















Daryl K. Washington Nov-26-2013 2885 0
ARE WE DOING ENOUGH FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITIES?: I just finished talking to a mother who lost her son as a result of a police shooting. Hearing this mother talk about her son and how much he loved the holidays was simply heart wrenching. She went on to tell me that she's pleaded for help from our local politicians, pastors, leaders, etc. but no one wants to take her call, especially if the cameras are not rolling. To worsen matters, many of the leaders have put her son on trial and he's dead.

On last week they staged a protest in Dallas and sadly, 95% of the protestors were white. That made me wonder why do people make it in life and fail to reach back to help others? Why do people hear about injustices yet fail to say anything about it other than to say "that's sad!" During the 60's the leaders were individuals (black and white) who had college degrees, had bright futures ahead of them but they risk it all for us to be in the positions we are in today. The sad thing is that many of us believe it's all about us.

We must do more. We have to do more. We have to demand that our politicians and pastors step up to help us fight this battle. It truly takes a team effort. We must hold all of our community leaders accountable. When they ask for your vote, ask them to list ten things they did for the community in the last four years. Ask them how many times have they've attended a rally to show support to a grieving mother or father. We have serious issues and it takes all of us to stop this mess. I'm tired of seeing people who have never fought against a single injustice accept the Martin Luther King drum major for justice award. It's time for change.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Oct-19-2013 4506 0
I don't know all of the specifics and I most certainly will not respond to all of the comments, especially some of the racists comments I've read because if it continues I will personally make a National Call for all of the black athletes, especially the ones who attend the large institutions like LSU, Penn State, USC, etc., to stand in unity with the players at Grambling so that a true change can be made in college athletics. If you want to see changes made and need to bring attention to problems, you can learn from the athletes at Grambling. Let's see how many people will comment about this when their teams are not playing because the athletes are tired of not receiving a share of the billion dollars. The funniest thing I've read were the comments from some black people who did not attend a HBCU acting like it was not their problem but ours.

When Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis he was there to help the Black garbage collectors, not the Black Preachers. I'm glad he did not see it as their problems. Do we turn our backs on people just because it does not personally impact us? I personally wish things could have been handled differently but now that the ball is in motion, it's time for SOLUTIONS.

I will not let Grambling State University take all of the blame for this. First, we have to look at the leadership of the State of La. and what he has done. A lot of the problems start with him, although a lot of his supporters will beg to differ. Had he not played the politics and did what was in the best interest of the state of La., things may be different. Second, we have to look at the NCAA. For years the NCAA has turned its back to the cheating in recruiting because it does not want to penalize the large schools that help bring billions of dollars to the bottom line. Demand needs to be made to institute a revenue sharing program similar to what's in the NFL so that the small schools that play by the rules receive a share of the revenue made by the big schools who use an unfair advantage to recruit.

Finally, now that this problem has been brought to light, I hope some of the wealthy people in our country remember that but for Grambling and other HBCU's there would be no RG3, Russell Wilson, Michael Vick, Kap, etc. so start giving to the HBCU's. Let's not turn our backs on the HBCUs because you did not attend. Remember, if our President is not able to nominate one or two individuals to the Supreme Court before his term is up, Affirmative Action will be under attack and if some decisions are reversed, where will our kids go if there are no HBCUs? Will it be only our problems then? It's time to wake up.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Jul-17-2013 1403996 0
I've finally had the opportunity to review the complaint filed against Paula Deen. For one, many people have been making this incident about the "N" word only, but it's much more than that. I personally find it to be offensive whenever someone from another race is accused of using the "N" word they are somehow given a pass because of the use of the "N" word by some in the black communities. Let me be the first to say that I find the use of the word by anyone to be wrong. However, when it's used in a racist or insulting manner, it hurts more.

I think individuals who are trying to defend Paula Deen's use of the "N' word should probably familiarize themselves with all of the facts of the case against her. Just so you know, in case you didn't know, the person who initiated the complaint against Paula Deen and her brother is not "Black." She is a "white female" who was subjected to years of abuse and was finally fed up with her black employees being treated poorly, so stop thinking it was a black person complaining about Paula Deen's use of the N word. Furthermore, Paula Deen indicated that she used the N word over 20 years ago. That is not what's being alleged against her. She went as far as telling a guy he was as black as a blackboard. That lady is something else and I'm glad I never supported any of her ventures. I personally find it insulting that so many black people are coming to the defense of Paula Deen after reading what she and her family subjected their employees to. When I learned about the major companies dropping Paula Deen without being demanded to do so, I knew it was deep. The fact that any civil rights activist is supporting Paula Deen is insulting and is a slap in the face.

Here's a summary of some of the things being alleged against Paula Deen, her brother Bubba Hiers and the Deen business entities:

Summary:

Paula Deen, while planning her brother's wedding in 2007, was asked what look the wedding should have. She replied, "I want a true southern plantation-style wedding." When asked what type of uniforms the servers should wear, Paula stated, "well what I would really like is a bunch of little n*ggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around;

Black staff had to use the back entrance to enter and leave restaurant;

Black staff could only use one bathroom;

Black staff couldn’t work the front of the restaurants;

Brother Bubba stated his wishes: “ I wish I could put all those n*ggers in the kitchen on a boat to Africa”;

Bubba asked a black driver and security guard "don’t you wish you could rub all the black off you and be like me? You just look dirty; I bet you wish you could." The guy told Bubba he was fine as is;

Bubba on President Obama: they should send him to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so he could n*gger-rig it;

He shook an employee (Black again) and said” F your civil rights…you work for me and my sister Paula Deen;

Paula’s son Jaime's best friend managed the Lady & Sons restaurant. He threatened to fire all the 'Monkeys' in the kitchen. When Paula found out…she slapped him on the wrist and suggested that the employee visited Paula's $13,000,000 mansion so he felt special and could be massaged.

I feel Paula Deen, her brother and anyone who treats people poorly should not be given a free pass. I wonder if Paula is truly sorry that she used the "N" word or that she was reported by someone who looks just like her. I appreciate the lady having the courage to report Paula Deen. It's people like her and the videographer who leaked the 47% comments made by Mitt Romney who should be receiving the attention, not Paula Deen.


Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Sports and Entertainment, Civil Rights, Litigation and Business Transactions. The opinions expressed in the commentary are those of Daryl K. Washington. You can follow Daryl on twitter at dwashlawfirm or you can email him at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. Go to the Black Legal Issue Home page and check the like button to receive future updates.

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