Posts tagged with "criminal charges"

Allison Christensen for use by 360 Magazine

Kyle Rittenhouse Murder Trial

By: McKinley Franklin

18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is currently on trial for the killing of two men and wounding of another. Rittenhouse’s shooting occurred on the night of August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin at protests that occurred following the police shooting of Black man Jacob Blake. On the night of the shooting, Rittenhouse shot at a total of four people, resulting in two fatalities and one wounding. Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded.

Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and first-degree attempted homicide. The prosecution seeks out to show that Rittenhouse’s acts were uncontrolled and criminal, whereas the defense argues that he was acting in self-defense.

Let’s recount the night of August 25, 2020:

Prior to the night of Rittenhouse’s killings, Kenosha had endured two nights of protests concerning the shooting of a local Black man, Jacob Blake. The protests were referred to as chaotic, and police were using rubber bullets and tear gas to “control” crowds.

At around 10 pm on the night of the killings, Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, held an AR-15-style rifle outside of a used-car dealership with other armed men. While testifying, Rittenhouse said that he was asked to help guard the dealership to prevent looting and arson. He also testified that he had a medical kit with him and that his goal was to help anyone who may become injured that night.

During his testimony, Rittenhouse states that Rosenbaum threatened his life twice this night, and that he eventually ambushed him. Rittenhouse says that he tried to run from him, and that Rosenbaum threw a bag at him that he mistook for a chain. Then, Rittenhouse aimed the rifle at Rosenbaum, and Rosenbaum proceeded towards him, Rittenhouse also testifying that Rosenbaum grabbed his gun. Rittenhouse states that he then heard a gunshot behind him, and then fired four times at Rosenbaum, killing him.

After fleeing the scene of the Rosenbaum shooting, a crowd followed him, and he began to get hit with a skateboard by Huber and had rocks thrown at him. This caused him to fall to the ground, and Huber hit him with the skateboard again. Again, Rittenhouse states that Huber grabbed his gun and even “felt the strap coming off [his] body,” and he proceeded to fire a shot, killing Huber.

Grosskreutz, also armed, then ran up to Rittenhouse, with his hands raised in a “surrender” position. Grosskreutz continued to proceed towards Rittenhouse, and he fired a shot towards him, hitting him in the arm. Rittenhouse testifies that Grosskreutz was pointing the pistol towards his head before he shot.

After the shootings, Rittenhouse testified that he approached police with his hands up, but they ordered him to get out of the way and go home. Rittenhouse then turned himself in at the Antioch Police Department an hour after these events.

The murder trial has drawn in a great amount of attention, for numerous reasons. Most recently Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is overseeing the case, made an inappropriate joke regarding Asian food. As the court was prepping to take a lunch break on November 11, 2021, the judge stated, “I hope the Asian food isn’t coming… isn’t on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor.” Schroeder’s comment seems to refer to the supply chain backlogs that have stemmed from overcrowding problems in California ports. John Yang, president, and executive director of AAJC says that the judge’s comment “harms our community and puts us in the crosshairs of micro aggressions as well as physical violence.”

Schroeder’s insensitive comment comes only a week after a juror in this trial was dismissed over another inconsiderate joke. This time, the juror made a joke concerning the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the shooting that ultimately has direct correlation to the Rittenhouse trial. Schroeder summarizes “what he remembers” about the comment the juror made, stating that, “He was telling a joke … he made a reference about telling a joke about ‘Why did it take seven shots to shoot Jacob Blake,’ something to that effect.” Prosecutors argued that the comment alludes to racial bias, and both the defense and prosecution agreed to dismiss the juror. In response to the dismissal of the juror, Schroeder stated that, “It is clear that the appearance to bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case.”

The jury of eight men and 10 women were reduced to 12 by a drawing of names. More on the final status of the case HERE.

Child illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Child Friendly Faith Project

Child Advocacy Group Highlights Abuse in Religious Institutions for Child Abuse Prevention Month

With National Child Abuse Prevention Month underway, the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), a national nonprofit that educates the public about religiously enabled child maltreatment, is raising awareness of crimes against children perpetrated in religious institutions.

The CFFP is also drawing attention to a dangerous court decision that could prevent abusive institutions from being held accountable and offering a valuable resource to parents and guardians to help them determine whether they should enroll or continue to enroll their children in certain religious institutions.

The little-known ecclesiastical abstention doctrine (EAD) guides courts in deciding First Amendment, religious matters. While historically the EAD has been raised in cases relating to claims of wrongful termination, in recent years religious schools facing lawsuits involving allegations of child harm have pushed courts to interpret the EAD very broadly to get cases dismissed. In one recent case, the Episcopal School of Dallas was permitted to ignore its own legal contracts with parents and the emotional harm suffered by a child never came to light.

Given this alarming legal precedent, parents and guardians of children who have been harmed by private institutions could lose their right to seek relief in court, while the institutions might never be held accountable.

Parents who have children enrolled in private, faith-based schools (or are considering enrolling them) should be aware of the potential harm posed by the EAD. With this in mind, CFFP’s campaign is offering parents valuable tips on how to determine whether they should enroll (or continue to enroll) their children in private, faith-based schools:

  • Determine whether the institution your child is enrolled in (or might be enrolled in) could claim to be faith-based. Some private schools have stretched the meaning of “faith-based” as a way to be shielded by the EAD in court. Even if an institution seems to operate in a way that appears secular, as long as a facility, school, program, or daycare operation can claim that it has some sort of faith-based or spiritual component, it could convince a court that it should be protected by the EAD and cannot be sued for child abuse or neglect.
  • Read the school’s contract carefully. Many schools specify in their contracts how legal issues must be resolved. For example, some require parents to agree to mediation. It’s important to know what legal recourses you’re agreeing to. However, be aware that if a case goes to court, the EAD does have the potential to make contracts of religious school’s moot.
  • Ask to see a school’s child-abuse prevention policies & procedures. Those that take abuse seriously and proactively develop and enforce comprehensive abuse-prevention policies are usually open to making these policies available and may even post them on their websites.
  • Research whether the school has a history of abuse allegations. Conduct an online search using the name of the institution and words such as “lawsuit,” “sued,” and “abuse” to determine if it has been accused of abuse or of covering up cases in the past. Be extremely wary if you find a pattern of abuse allegations, even if you do not find information about final court decisions.
  • Explore the educational programs of secular private or public schools. Children can receive a high-quality education and experience at many different types of schools. Consider the offerings of private secular schools or public schools, which would be unable to raise the EAD in court.

Recent abuse cases

The CFFP has previously exposed issues of religious institutional child abuse and offered support to survivors and affected families. An example is its efforts to make public the decades-long, egregious abuses perpetrated at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Recently, other cases have also made the news:

  • Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — Last February, the SBC’s executive committee voted to expel two member churches for employing pastors who were convicted sex offenders. One pastor, who had been with his church since 2014, had pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape of a minor in the 1990s. The other pastor led his church since 2018, despite having been on Florida’s sex offender registry since 1993. In 2019, the SBC published a report on preventing and responding to cases of sexual abuse and later launched its “Caring Well Challenge” that calls on all SBC churches to adopt the report’s recommendations. Unfortunately, the program is voluntary.
  • Circle of Hope Girls Ranch — The owners and operators of this faith-based boarding school in Missouri face more than 100 criminal charges of sexual, physical and mental abuse of girls in their care. Their arrests came after their estranged daughter, Amanda Householder, posted social media videos of former residents talking about the abuse they endured. In an interview with a Missouri TV station, Householder said that victims had been speaking out since 2007. “Why did it take ten years for anyone to do anything?” she asked.

A dangerous court decision

While it’s heartening that these cases are receiving public attention, it is possible that they, and many more like them, could be dismissed thanks to a legal precedent set by a Texas appellate court in 2018. The case involved the Episcopal School of Dallas which invoked a common-law doctrine known as the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine” (EAD). The EAD provides guidance to courts when weighing in on First-Amendment, religious matters. However, in the Dallas case, in which a father alleged that his son had been wrongfully expelled and in violation of school policy, it was applied very broadly and used to shield the school from being sued.

In another case involving Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas, a district court, in recognizing the EAD, threw out a lawsuit filed by a mother whose son had endured repeated racist bullying by other students. The mother wanted the school to hold the perpetrators accountable after the school had only demanded a written apology and suspended them for one day. Despite emotional trauma suffered by the victim, the judge agreed with the school’s claim that a court should not “intrude upon a religious institution’s management of its internal affairs and governance.”

“The EAD allows courts to prioritize a religious institution’s desire for secrecy and avoidance of accountability over the wellbeing of children,” said CFFP founder Janet Heimlich. “In cases in which organizations invoke the EAD, the public may never learn what abusive or neglectful actions took place, and parents may unwittingly enroll their children in those schools.”

To schedule an interview with a representative of the CFFP, an affected parent or a survivor of religious institutional child abuse, contact Jeff Salzgeber  through email or (512) 743-2659 cell.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP) is a national, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to end religious child maltreatment by raising awareness of this issue through educational programs that benefit the general public, survivors, professionals, and faith communities.

Assembly Bill 3080 Is Bad for Jobs

Three years ago Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation on employment arbitration, saying he wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the issue. Now the Supreme Court has spoken: Businesses can ask employees to sign arbitration agreements to settle employment disputes instead of going through costly and lengthy litigation. So it’s time for the governor to follow through with another veto.

Any attempt to contradict the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing arbitration in employment contracts, as proposed in Assembly Bill 3080 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, would, as you have warned in the past when you vetoed similar legislation, “result in years of costly litigation and legal uncertainty.” What we can guarantee is that signing this bad bill would certainly add to an already unstable and hostile environment for California employers and forcing a burden on them that does not exist in other states.

Under AB 3080, California businesses, especially in cases involving disputes over alleged sexual harassment or misconduct, would be victimized. Not only would businesses and employers face civil liabilities for any violations of AB 3080, but they could also face criminal charges as well.

Business owners must be able to operate in an environment that is fair and competitive, not one that is legally stacked against them.

It’s clear that as written, AB 3080 could be greatly misused and serve to help trial attorneys, not workers. It creates an environment where lawyers can troll for unsuspecting employees willing to sue their bosses, under the auspices of a large payday. The number of civil claims that could then result from this law would overwhelm the state’s judiciary system by, in effect, forcing all claims to be tried by a judge and jury.

For read entire story, click here.