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Franklin County Prosecutor candidates weigh in on police-involved shootings, diversion programs, equal protection

by Steve Palm-Houser
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

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On September 14, two candidates for Franklin County Prosecutor answered questions about how they would respond to officer-involved shootings, if elected. As the candidates’ forum at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church proceeded, only one mile away 13-year-old Tyre King was pursued and shot multiple times by Columbus police. He was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and pronounced dead a few minutes after the candidates’ forum ended.

Adrienne Hood spoke at the beginning of the forum. Her son Henry Green was killed by Columbus police on June 6. “It’s unfortunate that the person who can give me the justice that my son deserves is not here,” she said, indicating the empty chair reserved for Ron O’Brien, the incumbent County Prosecutor candidate. O’Brien has not responded to demands by Green’s family to indict the officers who shot him and appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the case.

Diversion programs

People’s Justice Project organizer Tammy Alsaada posed the first question to Democratic candidate Zach Klein and Green Party candidate Bob Fitrakis. “Would you keep families together by expanding diversion programs for youth, for addiction, and for mental health issues in underserved and overlooked communities?” she asked. “And how would you help keep people out of the system and get the treatment they need?”

“Yes,” Zach Klein said. “I’m a firm believer that the cycle of incarceration breeds a cycle of poverty, which breeds a cycle of incarceration. I think we need to be aggressive in expanding our diversion program to ensure that there is treatment” for drug addiction and mental health issues. “We also need a diversion program that recognizes when some people turn to crime to make ends meet. It may be a small number of people, but there are people who lack opportunity. Jail is for people that we’re afraid of, not for people we don’t know what to do with.”

There is currently “no rhyme or reason or policy directive out of the prosecutor’s office for who is eligible for diversion,” Klein said. “It’s all at the whim of whether the prosecutor knows the defense attorney. That’s not fair, open, or transparent.”

Bob Fitrakis also responded “yes” to Alsaada’s question. “As prosecutor I will not arrest anyone for drug possession,” he said. “It’s a medical problem, and that’s how it will be handled.” Instead, he would go after the people involved in heavy drug trafficking. “Many of these are connected with legitimate businesses. The people who fueled the crack epidemic in this town in the 1990’s were Southern Air Transport. They were bringing heroin and other drugs into this country. Instead of going after someone with ten balloons in their stomach, let’s go after the large aircraft that are coming in by the planeload, contaminating these communities.”

Fitrakis cited the recently revealed admission by Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman that the War on Drugs was started not to curb drug use, but to marginalize blacks and the hippies who opposed the Vietnam War. “This has been a systematic campaign against the poor community, against the black community,” he said. “We need to redefine the problem.”

Equal protection under the law

“Research shows that mass incarceration disproportionately affects low-income people, and people of color,” said Jasmine Ayres, field director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “We need more information to make evidence-based decisions on policies and practices. For example, black people in Franklin County are 3.8 times more likely to be in jail than whites.

“Will you collect and share demographic data — including race, gender, and income level — on who is charged, what they are charged with, what plea is offered, and what bail is recommended? And how would you set alternative metrics to evaluate your staff?”

“Will I comply with the open records law? Yes,” Bob Fitrakis responded. “There needs to be full transparency. For many years, before the Free Press went after the judges, they were double-bonding people. The bondsmen were running the court until they were exposed.

“I’m going to remove the jump-out boys,” he said, referring to plainclothes police officers who patrol so-called “crime hot-spots,” a code word for neighborhoods with many poor, black, and Latino residents. “They post white police, walking around with money, pretending they’re on drugs, acting like bait. They should be removed or charged criminally, because they’re causing the violence. They need to get off the streets.”

Fitrakis recalled teaching police officers about the U.S. Constitution in 1980. “They weren’t really receptive to it, but we were able to work out certain things,” he said. “We should pay our police well, and we should make sure they know our fundamental principles.”

Zach Klein responded, “Yes, as someone who’s running for prosecutor, trying to get that information that you seek. It doesn’t exist. We should have an open, transparent system in the prosecutor’s office that uses the best practices and technology, that’s not only available, but easy to understand.

“In 2014, which is the last year this data was available, there were 12,000 criminal filings in Franklin County. 190 went to trial. Think about the 11,810 cases that never went to trial, that fall squarely within the programs and opportunities that you’re talking about. But outside of knowing they didn’t go to trial, we don’t know anything about the defendants, the pleas, or the cases.

“Having an open and transparent prosecutor’s office restores the community’s faith in the criminal justice system,” Klein said. “We need to have a prosecutor’s office that is outward-facing, that is engaged in the community, that doesn’t just go home to the suburbs, that looks like the community,” Klein said. “What do I know about Ron O’Brien’s office? Four percent of his lawyers are African American. I think that’s abysmal. We need to have a more aggressive approach to recruiting African American, Latino, LGBT, and female lawyers.”

Trying juveniles as adults

“Youth should not be tried as adults. Research shows that if you send youth to adult prison, they are more likely to re-offend. They are more likely to be sexually abused,” said Candice Williams-Bethea, a grassroots educator with the People’s Justice Project. “How will you handle the practice of trying minors in adult court? And how will you use developmentally-informed decision making appropriate to youth?

“Those statistics are real, which is why any prosecutor should be careful about charging any juvenile as an adult, or as a juvenile,” Zach Klein responded. “A prosecutor’s office should be working with faith and community leaders to play quarterback on this issue and others, to give juvenile offenders a chance to pull themselves out of the cycle. A proactive prosecutor will bring the parties together with a mentor program that can give kids an opportunity to make a difference, not just treat them like a number.”

“I’m not charging any juvenile as an adult if I am prosecutor,” said Bob Fitrakis. “Social science states the obvious: the amount of lawbreaking between affluent suburban white kids and inner-city kids is about the same. The only difference is who gets charged, who gets a record, and who ends up doing time and being profiled for the rest of their lives.”

As an attorney, Fitrakis sees “more justice when I go to mayor’s court in Worthington, Grandview, and Hilliard, when youth are charged with a minor misdemeanor because they’re good boys and girls and about to go off to a private school.” For the same offense a young person in Columbus might be given a first degree misdemeanor or a felony charge, he said. “That must end in the prosecutor’s office.”

Independent prosecutor for police-involved shootings

“Recently the Supreme Court of Ohio acknowledged the bias of the grand jury process when it comes to indicting police,” said Aramis Malachi-Ture Sundiata, statewide organizing director for the People’s Justice Project. “Will you appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate all police-involved shootings in Franklin County? And if not, how will you handle police-involved shootings?”

“If you appoint an independent prosecutor, who do you hold accountable?” Zach Klein responded. “When I am prosecutor, I want you to hold me accountable for decisions I make, not only in police-involved shootings, but in any issue of crime.”

Klein cited Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who lost a re-election campaign when he failed to indict police officers in the killing of Tamir Rice. “He was held accountable and got fired,” Klein said. “If we appoint independent prosecutors, I’m afraid that we might lose the accountability. You can’t vote an independent prosecutor out of office.”

“I have no problem with an independent prosecutor,” Bob Fitrakis said. “I just don’t think it goes far enough. I believe that there needs to be an independent civilian review board, with subpoena power, that is elected from the area commissions, and that is responsible in these shooting cases.

“Part of the problem is the tremendous hold the FOP has on elected officials,” Fitrakis said. “That has to stop. We need not only an independent prosecutor; we need a civilian review board with an auditor. We need real citizens from the high-crime neighborhoods. We should be able to elect people from those communities, because they’re the victims.”

At a Columbus City Council candidates’ forum last fall, Zach Klein went on record as opposing a civilian review board with subpoena power.

Both candidates agreed to meet with the groups who held the candidates forum’ 100 days after the election.

For each of the questions posed, the audience applause was consistently louder and longer for Bob Fitrakis than for Zach Klein.

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Bob Fitrakis Speaking The Jill Stein Rally, Capital University, Columbus, OH

September 2nd. 2016


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Distrust of 2016’s Hackable Election Is a Media Landslide With Just One Solution: Hand-counted Paper Ballots

Finally, the major for-profit media is approaching consensus that it’s easy to hack U.S. political elections. Even candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are raising unprecedented doubts – from very different directions – about the reliability of the upcoming vote count.

Ultimately, there is just one solution: universal hand-counted paper ballots, with carefully protected voter registration rolls, and a transparent chain of custody.

The corporate media and the Democrats are obsessed with the “Russians.” Donald Trump rants about a mythological army of voters voting multiple times.

But the real threat to our election system comes from private for-profit corporations that register voters, control voter databases, then count and report the vote with secret proprietary software and zero transparency, accountability, or recourse.

After ignoring or attacking the reportage since Florida 2000 of Bev Harris, Greg Palast, freepress.org and numerous others, the corporate media seems finally to be getting the message: under the current system, any American election – even the one for president – can be stripped and flipped by a tiny handful of electronic hackers working anywhere from the Kremlin to a party HQ to a state governor’s office to a teenager’s garage.

Here is some of what the mainstream media is finally admitting. In an article posted on July 28, 2016, NBC News pointed out that our elections are vulnerable to hacking because they “are not part of the vast ‘critical infrastructure protection’ safety net set up by the Department of Homeland Security.”

CBS News wrote August 10, 2016, about “the hackers at Symantec Security Response” who demonstrated how “Election Day results could be manipulated by an affordable device you can find online.”

Former national coordinator for counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, reporting for ABC News on August 19, 2016, analyzed the particular security problems related to battleground states like Ohio and Florida: “In 2000 and 2004, there were only a handful of battleground states that determined which presidential candidate had enough Electoral College votes to win. A slight alteration of the vote in some swing precincts in swing states might not raise suspicion. Smart malware can be programmed to switch only a small percentage of votes from what the voters intended. That may be all that is needed, and that malware can also be programmed to erase itself after it does its job, so there might be no trace it ever happened.” Clarke was on the White House National Security Council during both Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s administrations.

Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the North Carolina School of Information and Library Science, in his August 12, 2016 New York Times op-ed “The Election Won’t Be Rigged but It Could Be Hacked,” wrote: “The mere existence of this discussion is cause for alarm. The United States needs to return, as soon as possible, to a paper-based, auditable voting system in all jurisdictions that still use electronic-only, unverifiable voting machines.”

On August 30, 2016, the Washington Post wrote: “Deleting or altering data on voter rolls could cause mayhem on Election Day disenfranchising some voters. Many voting machines themselves also are vulnerable, especially touch-screen systems that do not create a paper record as a guard against fraud or manipulation.” The Post also supplied a list of the 15 states with the most vulnerable voting systems.

The list of those now admitting the obvious includes the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, USA Today, The Guardian, Mother Jones, and Politico, some of which have previously mocked those of us reporting on this issue. Most important has been the highly influential The Hill, which weighed in on May 2, 2016 with “Election fraud feared as hackers target voter records.” The lede was straightforward: “A series of data breaches overseas are spurring concerns that hackers could manipulate elections in the United States.”

Trump advisor Roger Stone wrote a column in The Hill with the headline: “Can the 2016 Elections Be Rigged? You Bet.” He also referred to our latest summary volume, “The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft,” as “a must-read book on the strip and flip techniques used to rig these machines.”

But in the 2016 primary election, there are other must-reads as well. Perhaps the most important is Election Justice USA’s report entitled “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries.” This report cites six major areas of election irregularities in this year’s 26 primary elections:

1) Targeting voter suppression

2) Registration tampering

3) Illegal voter purges

4) Exit poll discrepancies

5) Evidence for voting machine tampering

6) The security (or lack thereof) of various voting machines types.

In their 96-page report, Election Justice researchers documented how Hillary Clinton’s campaign benefited from these “various types of fraud.” Their conclusion: “Based on this work, Election Justice USA has established an upper estimate of 184 pledged delegates lost by Senator Bernie Sanders as a consequence of specific irregularities and instances of fraud.”

Election Justice’s well-documented estimate that Sanders lost 184 delegates means that if the election had been conducted fairly, the Senator from Vermont would now be the Democratic nominee.

Another document essential to understanding election irregularities that allowed Hillary Clinton to capture the Democratic Party nomination is a paper co-authored by Axel Geijsel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Rodolfo Cortes Barragan of Stanford University. Their analysis found that primary election results in states with the most vulnerable and hackable voting machines and without a paper trail overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton 65 percent to 35 percent. Sanders led Clinton 51 percent to 49 percent in states where the vote count could be verified with a paper trail.

The correlation between the increased Clinton vote and the increased vulnerability of the voting machines has been avoided like the plague by the corporate media.

Equally important to read is mathematician Richard Charnin’s blog. Charnin is a man the mainstream media often attacks – but not with mathematical formulas to rebut Charnin’s detailed analysis. Rather they attack him because, like the vast majority of Americans, he believes that John F. Kennedy was not killed by a lone gunman. In 2016, official Democratic primary vote counts compared to exit poll results were significantly outside the margin of error in 12 of 26 states. Charnin concluded that the probability of those official vote tallies being correct are one in 78 billion. There were no such discrepancies in this year’s Republican primaries.

Now 16 years after the theft of the presidency in Florida 2000, and a dozen since it was done again in Ohio 2004, the corporate media are approaching consensus that it is indeed very easy to strip millions of legitimate citizens from the voting rolls, and then to hack electronic voting machines and computerized central tabulators to flip the official final outcome.

The threat to this year’s election does not come from non-existent armies of mythological hordes voting multiple times. It comes from the private partisan companies with their secret proprietary software that control the voter rolls, the electronic machines, and ultimately the final outcome at all levels of government. The mega-corporations are the ones that flipped George W. Bush into the White House and Hillary Clinton into the Democratic nomination, not to mention manipulating countless Senate, House, and state and local elections along the way.

For a hopelessly vulnerable electronic election system which is flawed, hackable and riggable from top to bottom, there is just one solution: transparent unhackable voter rolls, and universal hand-counted paper ballots open to public scrutiny from the precinct level to the final official tallies, as dutifully reported by our slowly awakening corporate media.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, available at www.freepress.org and www.solartopia.org, where Bob’s Fitrakis Files and Harvey’s Solartopia! can also be found.

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What Really Happened at Jill Stein’s Green Party “Wrong City” Rally

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

SEPTEMBER 5, 2016

Jill Stein raising her fist at the podium

So the corporate media indulged itself with the idea that Green Party candidate Jill Stein flew to the “wrong city” for a Friday rally at Capital University in central Ohio. Her lateness was in the headline, lead and conclusion of every mainstream article about the September 2 event.

As usual, they ignored the real story.

Jill originally had a speech scheduled in Cincinnati, which was moved, although the tickets weren’t. So she was in Covington, Kentucky about a half-hour before the scheduled noon start of her talk at Capital, where Harvey is in his thirteenth year of teaching (primarily UC200: Cultural and Ethnic Diversity).

No big deal. Jill hopped into a Lyft and headed north. Estimated time of arrival: about 2:30.

Compare this to when Hillary Clinton appeared in Columbus on July 31, 2016 at Ft. Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, arrived two hours late, and a dozen people had fainted in the heat in the meantime. Although the Dispatch reported on it, the article did not emphasize her lateness in the headline or lead. Buried in the middle of the article, it read: “Several in the Ft. Hayes crowd had to be treated by paramedics as they waited on the newly-anointed Democratic nominees, who were about two hours late – in part because they stopped for Grandpa’s Cheese Barn along Interstate 71 near Ashland.”

Meanwhile, Harvey told Jill’s crowd of about 100 (many of them his students) that she was on her way and took orders for pizza. Since the local media craves the details, here they are: seven cheese pies, seven with onions, peppers and mushrooms, and one vegan (for Harvey, Suzanne and two other takers) with tofu and no cheese. (Total price: $220, Harvey’s most memorable campaign donation).

We then opened the mic. Among others, long-time Green Party activist Anita Rios spoke. So did Bob, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair, candidate for Franklin County prosecutor, a professor at Columbus State Community College, and Editor of the Columbus Free Press/www.freepress.org. Bob and Harvey have co-authored seven books on election protection, dating back to the 2004 theft of the presidency by George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

At one o’clock we switched over to Harvey’s iPhone. One of Harvey’s students hooked us up to the PA and we played the Jill Stein campaign theme song, followed by a good long session from the Grateful Dead.

It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon on the large lawn at a lovely liberal arts college. People sat, talked and stretched out. Thanks to the modern miracles of the telephone, texting, email and social media, the crowd grew by half.

A klatch of about a dozen libertarians hovered in the background wearing Gary Johnson t-shirts. We asked them if it was true that Johnson, who advocates legalization of pot, had promised not to smoke it while in the White House. We told them that was a mistake.

When Jill arrived she was greeted by Capital’s much-loved President Beth Paul. Back in 2008, the school hosted an appearance from candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin. George H.W. Bush and other presidents, ex-presidents and candidates—-including Barack Obama—-have appeared here.

When Bob finally introduced her, we had a rested, happy crowd of enthusiastic students, locals and Green Party volunteers. Jill spoke of the Green New Deal and her plan to put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work to create a clean energy economy by 2030. She asked the student crowd how many had taken out student loans and more than half raised their hands. The crowd roared approval when she announced she would cancel all student loan debt, which affects 43 million Americans.

What should have been the lead was Stein’s call to cut the U.S. military spending in half. She pointed out that our nation has 900 military bases all over the world. Other than the U.S., all the other nations on the planet combined have only 30 military bases outside their borders.

We took questions after Jill’s speech, then a group photo, and a long selfie line. A good time was had by all.

By the time Jill hopped in Anita’s car to head to Cleveland for her next gig, this time just a half-hour late, the media had filed its story, but obviously missed an excellent rally.

The media are also misrepresenting Stein’s official ballot status:   A Dispatch article Monday, September 5, said:   “Green Party nominee Jill Stein is on track to make it in at least half [of the state ballots].” At the time the Dispatch published this AP report, Stein was already on the ballot in 41 states and likely to end up on at least 45 states, or 95 percent of the states. Only in South Dakota is she not on the ballot by name or as a write-in, and in only three states is she certified as a write-in only – Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia.