Louisiana warns 37,000 Medicaid recipients they may face loss of care over budget cuts

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Louisiana lawmakers made deep cuts to the proposed budget to make up for a $650 million shortfall, which could end a temporary tax funding Medicaid benefits. The governor also warned that both of the state’s medical schools might have to close and that several big hospitals may have to lay off staffers.

For Jamie Duplechine, a quadriplegic who has spent more than half of her 38 years in a wheelchair, it’s an endless source of amusement that three of the caregivers who watch her around the clock in her Louisiana apartment just happen to be named Shonda, Shamanda and Sherry.

Image: Shonta Faulk uses a harness to get Jamie Duplechine into bed

Image: NBC News

Karen Scallan is also on a first name basis with the caregivers who come to her suburban New Orleans home to help her take care of her 17-year-old son, who has Down syndrome — and free her up so she can work and take care of her 63-year-old husband, who suffers from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

So when the letter arrived this week warning them that they were at risk of losing their health care services starting on July 1 because of their state’s budget crisis, they reacted the same way — with dread.

“I have staff with me throughout the day and night,” Duplechine, who was paralyzed at age 15 in a car accident, told NBC News. “They do my hygiene, my catheter care, my bowel care. They cook my meals, they bathe me, they drive me everywhere. Without them, I’m in a devastating state.”

 

More sadness at NBC News

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In Louisiana, Threatening to File a Complaint Against Police Can Lead to a Five-Year Prison Sentence

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Livingston Parish Sheriff’s deputies (Facebook)

On April 30, 2015, William Aubin Jr. was at home with his wife in Livingston Parish, Louisiana when a patrol car from the sheriff’s office pulled onto his street. The deputy, William Durkin, was there to investigate a reckless driving complaint. Aubin wasn’t involved in the incident but he knew about it and went outside of his home to speak with Durkin. During a vulgar and combative conversation, according to Aubin, Durkin repeatedly called Aubin a “pussy.”

“I’m calling your supervisor,” Aubin said. “I’m gonna get you fired.” Aubin took out his cell phone, called the sheriff’s department, and started walking back towards his house. But before he made it inside, Durkin arrested him. The charge: intimidation of a public official — a felony that in Louisiana carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office (whose jurisdiction includes Livingston Parish) ultimately declined to prosecute Aubin. But in a lawsuit filed in April 2016 in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Louisiana against Durkin and his supervisor, Sheriff Jason Ard, Aubin challenged the constitutionality of the statute that led to his arrest. The statute prohibits “the use of violence, force, or threats … with the intent to influence [an official’s] conduct in relation to his position, employment, or duty.”

The statute’s constitutionality was also called into question in a December 2015 incident in nearby Tangipahoa Parish, when officers pepper sprayed a man named Travis Seals even though he was already in handcuffs. After telling the officers he was going to file a complaint against them, he too was charged with public intimidation. Seals then launched his own lawsuit, also in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry intervened in both cases to defend it. But in the past year, federal judges in the two cases have called the statute unconstitutional. In a September 2017 ruling, Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana pilloried the application of the statute in the Aubin case. “The right to criticize the police without risk of arrest distinguishes a democracy from a police state,” he wrote.

In the Seals case, Jane Triche Milazzo, a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District Of Louisiana, ruled last July that the statute violates the First Amendment.

“The Attorney General does little in the way of arguing that [the law] is constitutional as written or in overcoming the presumption of unconstitutionality,” Milazzo wrote. She noted that the statute broadly criminalized “threats to engage in lawful conduct such as, criticizing a police officer, writing a letter to the newspaper, filing a lawsuit, voting for an official’s opponent, or filing an ethics complaint.”

Landry has appealed her ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. His office did not respond to requests for comment.

Kearney Loughlin, the New Orleans-based attorney representing both Aubin and Seals says that the statute has become a “sort of a hammer that the police officers can use” since it was ratified in 1942. “You get a higher bail because it’s a felony,” he said. “It’s a more serious felony than battery on a police officer. You can punch an officer and not face the same ramifications.”

According to Loughlin, higher bail means that often many are jailed simply because they can’t afford to purchase their freedom. Loughlin also says that prosecutors may be using the law against defendants arrested for less serious offenses, such as public intoxication, in order to leverage them into pleading guilty to lesser charges.

In August 2017, the ACLU condemned the statute after it was used in the case of a Northern Louisiana man who raised his middle finger to a state trooper. “Among the freedoms this country provides is the right to criticize the government and public officials, including police officers,” wrote Marjorie Esman, who was then the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

Sheriff Ard, one of the defendants in the Aubin lawsuit, argued in court filings that the statute is necessary to protect public officials from threats and coercion. “The government certainly has a substantial interest in ensuring that such threats are not allowed to influence the behavior of police officers and other officials,” Ard’s office wrote in a memo submitted to court in January 2017.

Not everyone in law enforcement, however, agrees that the statute is necessary to ensure the safety of public officials. Twenty-first Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux recently told the Advocate that there are other laws that his office can use to fulfill the statute’s original aim — protecting public officials from true threats and coercion. Perrilloux did tell the newspaper, however, that he believes that the basis for the statute is sound.

But Seals’ and Aubin’s attorney Loughlin maintains that the statute’s broad reach is a clear violation of constitutional protections. “Ultimately the case is, can you threaten to do something lawful and go to jail for it, or is that protected by the first amendment,” Loughlin said. “That’s what this comes down to.”

By Michael Stein/InJusticeToday

Posted by The NON-Conformist

White Man Arrested In Deaths Of Two Black Men, Firing On Family In Louisiana

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A 23-year-old white man was arrested Tuesday and accused of cold-bloodedly killing two black men and shooting up a black family’s home in a string of attacks last week that police say may have been racially motivated.

A law enforcement official said authorities found a handwritten copy of an Adolf Hitler speech at Kenneth James Gleason’s home, and investigators said surveillance footage and DNA on a shell casing link him to the crimes.

Authorities said he would be charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of a homeless man and a dishwasher who was walking to work. In each case, the killer opened fire from his car, then walked up to the victim as he lay on the ground and fired again repeatedly, police said.

“I feel confident that this killer would have killed again,” interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam said.

Gleason’s attorney, J. Christopher Alexander, said his client “vehemently denies guilt, and we look forward to complete vindication.”

Authorities found the Hitler speech during a search over the weekend, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on.

Asked whether police suspect the shootings were motivated by race, Sgt. L’Jean McKneely said: “We’re not completely closed off to that. We’re looking at all possibilities at this time, so we’re not going to just pinpoint that.”

District Attorney Hillar Moore said he may seek the death penalty.

“It appears to be cold, calculated, planned (against) people who were unarmed and defenseless,” he said.

Authorities also said that just after midnight on Sept. 10, Gleason fired into the home of a black family who lived three houses down from Gleason and his parents.

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An Ill-Advised Lawsuit Against Black Lives Matter Activists

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Last July, Gavin Long, a black, 29-year-old former Marine, ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three officers and wounding three more before being killed. Now one of the wounded, who was rendered permanently disabled in the shooting, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter movement and activists including DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, whom he blames for inciting the attack.

Image: Time Magazine

The unnamed police officers’ injuries were so grave, and so grievously unfair, that it’s not hard to understand this officer’s urge to hold someone accountable. But blaming Black Lives Matter is wrong.

Passages like the following are typical of the complaint:

In 2016, as a leader of BLACK LIVES MATTER, DERAY MCKESSON and the other Defendants planned the Summer of Chaos, Weekend of Rage, and used the internet and social media to organize, stage and orchestrate protests and to attend and/or lead multiple protests and violence that accompanied the protests including, among many others, those in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; McKinney, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Baton Rouge protests, in large part, took place outside the Baton Rouge Police Department located in front of the former Woman’s Hospital on Airline Highway. This place is the same area where this shooting took place.

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Killer Cops Get Immunity, No Matter Who’s in the White House

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Image: africanamerican.org

Two courtroom events this week serve to remind us that, no matter which party’s president is in the White House, the right to life and liberty does not apply on the streets of Black America, where the police enjoy effective immunity from prosecution. On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would not file charges in the death of Alton Sterling, the 37 year-old Black man who was shot to death by cops while helpless on the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last year. Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department and South Carolina officials accepted a former cop’s guilty plea to the charge of using excessive force when he shot 50 year-old Walter Scott five times, while he was running away after a traffic stop, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Both killings were recorded in gruesome detail on video. But, when it comes to killer cops, the best of evidence is never enough.

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New Orleans Starts Tearing Down Confederate Monuments, Sparking Protest

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New Orleans officials removed the first of four prominent Confederate monuments early Monday, the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy.

The first memorial to come down was the Liberty Monument, an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League.

Workers arrived to begin removing the statue, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, around 1:25 a.m. in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials said have made death threats.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has called the Liberty Monument “the most offensive of the four” to be taken down, adding it was erected to “revere white supremacy.”

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Changes coming to LA criminal justice system to reduce high incarceration rate

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With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana lawmakers are taking steps to change that.

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Image: NOLA.com

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana lawmakers are taking steps to change that.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force approved five measures, amending criminal justice laws.

Rep. Terry Landry, who sits on the committee said, “What we’ve been doing for the past 20, 30 years have not worked. So, if you keep doing the same thing and getting the same results, they tell you you have to change course.”

The reform is something many have look forward to for decades.

New Orleans resident Fox Rich said, “They sentenced my husband to 60 years as a first-time felony offender in LA in a crime that no injury was sustained by any of our victims. So, this is an opportunity that we’ve waited a very long time for and we’ve worked a very long time for to make sure we have prepared ourselves for his return into society.”

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