In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.
These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.
To fix the constitutional violations, Judge Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan said she intended to designate an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.You might remember that it was Attorney General Eric Holder who filed a DOJ brief calling for the federal monitor. In a kinda sorta related development, Holder also just announced that the government would be backing off harsh sentences for minor drug convictions, such as those illegally obtained as a result of the NYPD street pat-downs. No word yet about whether the thousands and thousands of young people currently rotting in jail on weed convictions would be set free, however.
No word either about the hit prison series Orange is the New Black being another catalyst that changed Holder's mind on drugs. This wildly popular Netflix saga, set in a low security federal prison, actually humanizes inmates, most of whom are young, minority and serving years for the crime of using/selling/buying drugs while poor.
But more likely, Holder was listening to the Most Trusted Doctor in News, Sanjay Gupta, come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. Gupta only recently discovered that nobody has ever died from a cannabis overdose. He has been "terribly misled" all these years, he now insists. Gupta, you may remember, was Barack Obama's first choice to be Surgeon General.
And most likely of all, Eric Holder is desperately trying to deflect attention from yet another newly-revealed Obama Administration lie, perpetrated to cover up the Giant Leap Backward for ordinary people: the DOJ's monstrously inflated count of its prosecutions of the culprits of the financial meltdown and fraudclosure scam. As Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg (yeah, ironically enough, owned by that Bloomberg) notes:
In an updated press release Friday, which corrected its initial release of last October, the Justice Department said a review of the cases found that the inflated figures included defendants who had been sentenced or convicted in fiscal year 2012 -- not just people who had been criminally charged, as originally reported. Its original, lofty tally also included cases in which the victims weren't distressed homeowners.
"As a result, the announcement overstated the number of defendants that should have been included as part of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative, as well as the corresponding estimated loss amount and number of victims," the Justice Department said.
When Holder first trotted out these figures last October, he bragged during a press conference about the results of the government's "Distressed Homeowner Initiative," which he called “a groundbreaking, yearlong mortgage-fraud enforcement effort” and “the first ever to focus exclusively on crimes targeting homeowners.” Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan joined him at the press conference.
What a charade. No wonder the government found it so difficult to bring a meaningful number of accounting-fraud cases against bank executives after the financial crisis. Its own books were cooked.Weil suggested that Holder owes the American people an apology. And since black and brown people were disproportionately victimized both in the subprime mortgage and foreclosure frauds perpetrated by the unpunished bankster class, perhaps the attorney general still retains a vestigial -- albeit ass-covering -- moral compass within his corporate brain. Perhaps his ballyhooed announcement of less draconian sentences for drug offenders is to atone for his own negligence in protecting poor people from financial predators. Perhaps even he is realizing that when they turn to drugs for relief, punishing them a second or third time is being unduly harsh.