Parents Arrested After Authorities Found Their 13 Children Chained and Malnourished

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PERRIS, California, USA – David and Louise Turpin were arrested on suspicion of torture and child endangerment. They are both being eld in lieu of a $9 million bail. Police were called by the couple’s 17 year old daughter who dialed 911 on a deactivated cell phone. She said she had escaped out a window of her parents house where she and her siblings had been kept. She also had photographs to back up her claims. The authorities were shocked by her size and emaciated appearance. Although she is 17, authorities thought she was only 10 based on her appearance.

David and Louise Turpin have both been arrested after their 13 children were found chained and malnourished in their home. Photo Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Upon there arrival, authorities noted the home appeared dirty and had a foul stench. Three of the children were found in chains. The 13 children in total ranged from ages 2-29. Because of their malnourished appearance and small stature, authorities originally thought all of the children were minors. Authorities said the parents were not currently showing any signs of mental illness that would explain what they did to their children.

Susan Von Zabern said the 911 call received Sunday, which was cross-reported to social workers, was “the first opportunity we had to intervene.” Currently, it is unclear how long the abuse has been occurring but, she said, “their condition indicates it has been a prolonged period of time.” Social workers are trying to place them with family, but will put them through background checks to make sure that they are able and stable.

Local authorities had no prior contact with the Turpin’s. Additionally, the Police Department in Murrietta, where the family lived previously, also had no interactions with them during the four years they lived there.

The Turpin’s had registered their home as a private school as allowed by California law. Many who choose to homeschool their children in California do register their homes as private school. It first appeared in the state registry in 2010 as a private, nonreligious, co-ed institution when the family first moved there. But only six of the thirteen children were enrolled. The information contained in the registration likely gave authorities little insight into the children’s lives or even how many children there were.

“We really knew nothing about them,” said Grant Bennett, superintendent of the Perris Union High School District. “If they were in home school from the beginning, they wouldn’t have even been on our radar.”

The children are recuperating in the hospital, continuing to improve their health and hope for a better future from this point on.

For more information, please see:

L.A. Times – In Perris, a House of Horrors Hidden in Plain Sight – 17 January 2018

CNN – Found Shackled and and Emaciated, Children of Torture Suspects are Freed – 16 January 2018

ABC News – 13 Siblings Age 2-29 Held Captive by Parents, Some Shackled, Officials Say – 15 January 2018

Veterans are Experiencing CTE

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C.,  U.S.A. – Veterans put their lives on the line for America every day during their time in the military. Although we hope they survive their time of duty, many are unaware of the consequences of their services once they return home. One example of this is the traumatic brain injuries experienced by veterans as a result of combat.

According to a new study, U.S. veterans are likely to suffer the same kind of brain disease as concussion victims.  Boston University has been doing a study on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is the disease in question here. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people who have had repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms.

At the Veterans Affairs Center in Bedford Massachusetts, researchers study brains for signs of CTE which can only be done during autopsy. Photo Courtesy of Gretchen Ertl.

The repetitive brain trauma triggers the progressive degeneration of brain tissue, including a build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in a brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active duty or athletic involvement. Common symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicide, Parkinsonism, and ultimately progressive dementia.

Veterans from combat zones often experience different kinds of trauma from exposure to blast waves. At Boston University, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee discovered CTE in veterans, which at this time can only be confirmed through brain autopsies. So far, 65 percent of the brains she has seen of deceased veterans exposed to combat blasts showed CTE.

Dr. McKee stated that a blast wave can damage a brain in the same way as a physical blow. “This blast injury creates a tremendous… ricochet or whiplash injury to the brain inside the skull.” The effects on the brain are not readily seen on images, she says, “This has been what everyone calls an invisible injury.”

Following in Dr. McKee’s footsteps, Dr. Sam Gandy, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, began using newly developed technology to find the markers of CTE in living veterans in order to alert those who may have the disease and help find a way to stop the disease’s deadly progress. These images from new technology will be crucial in his work with drug companies to develop a treatment.  “That’s step one,” he tells Alfonsi, “Just to stop it dead in its tracks. And then we can worry about making people feel better.”

For more information, please see:

CBS News – Combat Veterans Suffering From Same Brain Disease as Concussion Victims – 4 January 2018

CNN – Could Veterans Have Concussion Related CTE? – 6 April 2015

New York Times – Brain Ailments in Veterans Likened to Those in Athlete’s – 16 May 2012

BU Research CTE Center –FAQ 

How the Elderly and Disabled “Disappear”

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

LITCHFIELD PARK, Arizona – The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than two million Americans use wheelchairs in their daily lives and approximately 6.5 million depend on canes, walkers or crutches. Right now, about 15% of the population in America is 65 or older. It is estimated that by 2060, 25% of the population will be 65 or older.  What those numbers do not tell, is how those people are treated by society.

Nancy Root is an 82, child-polio survivor who today calls herself a cripple. Five years ago, after the death of her husband, Nancy’s condition began to change. Her arms got weaker and her legs got wobblier. Nancy recounted when she disappeared. She was in a shopping mall that was rather large so she decided to use a wheelchair because her legs were not as good as they used to be. Nancy says during that shopping trip, she waited longer for service in the mattress store that she and her friend were shopping in.

Nancy Root can recall the occasion where she first disappeared. Photo Courtesy of Conor E. Ralph of the New York Times.

Nancy says after this, she began noticing how much people withdrew from her. When she was in the chair, people did not look at her. Instead, they looked around her, through her, or to whoever was pushing her chair. “They think I’m mentally incapacitated. I’m sure of that. I’d stake my life on it,” she said. She says doctors offices are the worst. The receptionists usually do not address her. Instead, they will address the person pushing the wheelchair with questions like, “Does this lady have an appointment?”

But Nancy still has her mental wit about her. People just assume that because she is in the chair, she is not as aware as someone who is not in a chair.  She said, “They don’t allow this lady to have a brain.” Nancy experiences this everywhere; at the movie theater, on airplanes, in restaurants. Nancy is not the only person to experience this. Many people who have disabilities or who are older experience this kind of treatment regularly. People often edit them out of the frame.

Part of the problem is that people do not want to bring attention to people’s disabilities or they are worried about saying the wrong thing. So, instead of being inclusive, it is easier to just remain in blissful ignorance to avoid a potentially awkward situation. But this phenomenon means people are being isolated and ignored which may negatively impact their lives and social interactions. It has been argued that it is inadvertently cruel to exclude part of the population simply because the interaction might be awkward. The first step toward changing this is bringing the issue to light.

For more information, please see:

National Review – Bruni “Gets It” About Disability Bias – Except for Assisted Suicide – 17 December 2017

New York Times – Are You Old? Infirm? Then Kindly Disappear – 16 December 2017

Salvadoran Tribunal Upholds 30-Year Sentence for Woman Jailed for Delivering a Stillborn Child

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — On Wednesday, December 13, San Salvador’s Second Court of Judgment in El Salvador upheld Teodora del Carmen Vasquez’s 30-year sentence for aggravated homicide against her unborn child.

Teodora Vasquez is escorted to her hearing to appeal her 2008 conviction for the death of her stillborn child. Photo Courtesy Oscar Rivera, Getty Images.

On July 13, 2007, Ms. Vasquez nine months pregnant and working when she began bleeding and feeling severe labor pains and called 911 to transport her to the hospital.  She waited for medical personnel for over four hours before fainting from blood loss in a restroom at work. She awoke to police accusing her of having killed the child—unaware that the child had already been born and that it was stillborn.  Ms. Vasquez was arrested and later convicted of aggravated homicide against her stillborn child.  The judge who convicted Ms. Vasquez in 2008 to the 30-year minimum sentence was the same judge who heard and denied her appeal in 2017.

During Ms. Vasquez’s appeal hearing, two medical experts testified to the child being born dead, and Ms. Vasquez not being responsible for the death of her child.  One testified that according to the results of the autopsy conducted by the Institute of Legal Medicine, the newborn had died of asphyxiation prior to birth due to complications from having been born outside of a hospital.  The second expert testified that the newborn was born dead and that the studies conducted during the criminal investigation by the prosecution were inadequate and incomplete.

The judge ruled that the defense’s medical experts did not present sufficient evidence to dispute the investigation carried out by the prosecution and that Ms. Vasquez’s appeal was denied.

Earlier in 2017, a 19-year old rape-survivor was sentenced to 30 years in prison after delivering a stillborn child at her home.  Prosecutors accused Evelyn Hernandez Cruz of not seeking prenatal care and alleged that she had aborted the fetus and thrown its remains into a latrine at her home.  The defense argued that Ms. Hernandez had not even known that she was pregnant, and had confused the labor pains with a stomach ache.  The defense is seeking an appeal following Ms. Hernandez’s conviction.

El Salvador, along with Malta, Andorra, Chile, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua, have criminalized abortion in any and all cases.  This law, enacted in 1998, allows women to be charged with murder and other related charges in cases of abortion or suspected abortion and extends liability to medical practitioners that fail to report suspected abortions.

According to Al Jazeera, 17 women in El Salvador have been convicted of aggravated homicide under this law between 1999-2011 for losing their babies.  “In most cases, these are women without resources who suffer obstetric emergencies or spontaneous abortions [miscarriages] and, when they go to hospitals, they are reported by the medical staff, because they are afraid of prosecution,” Katia Recinos, one of Ms. Velasquez’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera. These women have been sentenced from 12 to 30 years in prison as a result.

In 2016, the left-wing opposition party FLMA introduced a bill that would decriminalize abortion in cases of where the pregnancy would put the life and health of the mother at risk, where the pregnancy would produce an unviable fetus, or when the pregnancy was due to rape, incest, or human trafficking. The right-wing majority party ARENA—with support from the Salvadoran Catholic Church—countered the bill by petitioning Congress to increase the maximum penalty in these cases to 50 years in prison.  Both pieces of legislation are still pending within their respective committees.

Doctors who are suspected of aiding pregnancy terminations are also persecuted under the 1998 anti-abortion law.  Dr. Zulma Mendez, who leads the HIV program at the San Rafael Public Hospital of San Salvador, told the New York Times that she was threatened with criminal prosecution for her work.  “I wanted to help a woman whose emergency contraception didn’t work after she was raped.  Naively, I called the Institute of Legal Medicine and told them what had happened.  I was told not to get involved, as I could be put behind bars.”

Ms. Vasquez has served 10 years of her 30-year sentence and will be 57 years old when she is released.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – El Salvador rejects appeal in baby death case – 14 December 2017

The Guardian – El Salvador court upholds 30-year jail sentence in stillbirth case – 14 December 2017

El Nuevo Herald – Ratifican condena de 30 años de cárcel a mujer que abortó en El Salvador – 13 December 2017

El Salvador: Noticias – Tribunal ratifica sentencia de 30 años a mujer condenada por el homicidio de su bebé – 13 December 2017

Al Jazeera – El Salvador woman jailed after stillbirth seeks freedom – 8 December 2017

The New York Times – In El Salvador, ‘Girls Are a Problem’ – 2 September 2017

CNN – The people fighting the world’s harshest abortion law – 10 July 2017

Al Jazeera – El Salvador rape victim jailed 30 years for stillbirth – 7 July 2017

Independent – El Salvador jails raped teenager for 30 years under murder laws after she said she suffered miscarriage – 6 July 2017

The Guardian – El Salvador’s anti-abortion law makes criminals of mothers who miscarry – 30 November 2015

Miami Herald Publishes Investigation into Abuses of Florida Juvenile Justice System

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MIAMI, Florida — On Tuesday, October 10, the Miami Herald published a series of the results of a 2-year long investigation into the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s history of abuses toward juveniles in their care.

The entrance to the Palm Beach Youth Academy in West Palm Beach, FL. Photo Courtesy of Emily Michot, Miami Herald.

This investigation was launched following the death of 17-year-old Elord Revolte, who was beaten to death by fellow detainees on August 30, 2015, and was at least the twelfth questionable juvenile detainee death since 2000.  The investigation examined a 10-year span of records ranging from incident reports, investigations, court cases, archived surveillance tapes and interviews with former inmates, their families, guards, and other staff members.

Allegations range from fights between the detainees set up by staffers for their entertainment (Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility), to multiple counts of confirmed sexual relationships between staff and detainees, to a severe medical neglect of detainees.

Elord Revolte’s death was an instance of a ‘honey-bun hit’, where a staffer would offer a honey-bun—or some other kind of sweets, fast food, etc.—as a bounty in exchange for beating up the targeted inmate.  This food bounty would allow the staffers to avoid Abuse Hotline charges by turning detainees into enforcers in order to outsource discipline. The DJJ investigation estimates between 12 and 16 other detainees participated in the assault upon Elord.

According to the DJJ’s Investigation Report into the matter, Elord was placed on medical confinement for a “24-hour concussion precaution” following the August 30 assault. On the morning of August 31, he complained of a “crackling” chest pain and told a nurse that he needed to go to the hospital.  Around 4:45 p.m., Elord was taken by a nurse to the hospital in a state vehicle.  He was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s emergency room at 5:17 p.m. Elord Revolte died at 11:05 p.m., 30 hours after the assault as a result of a heart attack caused by his extensive internal bleeding.

Five juvenile justice officers were fired by the DJJ as a result of the investigation for poor performance, negligence, and failure to perform duties as assigned.

Following the publication of the Miami Herald series ‘Fight Club’, the Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice Christina Daly, issued a press release stating:

“DJJ has not, does not and will not ever tolerate or condone mistreatment of children in our care. Staff who are not well intentioned to help transform the lives of our children have no place within this agency. Anyone who is found to have encouraged, enticed, or ordered youth to engage in fights or assault other youth is, and will be, held accountable to the full extent of the law, including criminal prosecution. We consistently work to identify, investigate and hold fully accountable any staff member who does not meet our high standards – both within DJJ facilities and with our contracted providers.”

According to the DJJ, one of their biggest problems is a 60% turnover rate for entry-level officers due to low pay.  Other issues include inadequate background checks that result in the hiring of personnel with a history of violent and sexual abuses, as well as a tolerance for cover-ups.   However, in a presentation to the Senate Criminal Justice committee, Secretary Daly stated that the “crime rate among Florida youth has dropped by 37 percent since 2010, and the state has also seen a sharp drop in the number of children arrested or placed in DJJ custody,” and that the arrest rate for girls dropped by more than half.

The Miami Herald reports that over the past 10 years, “DJJ has investigated 1,455 allegations of youth officers or other staffers failing to report abusive treatment of detainees— or, if they did report an incident, lying about the circumstances. That’s nearly three times a week.”

For more information, please see:

Miami Herald – Despite challenges, Florida’s juvenile justice system continues to improve – 10 November 2017

Florida Politics – Juvenile Justice Secretary talks ‘Fight Club’ during Senate presentation – 23 October 2017

Miami Herald – Juvenile justice chief defends agency, calling abuses ‘isolated events’ – 23 October 2017

Tampa Bay Times – Fight Club: Dark secrets of Florida juvenile justice – 11 October 2017

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice – Setting the Record Straight: Miami Herald Omits Facts, Ignores Reforms in Series Targeting DJJ – 10 October 2017

Miami Herald – Dark secrets of Florida’s juvenile justice system: A Miami Herald investigation – 10 October 2017

Miami New Times – After Herald Catches Prison Guards Running Child “Fight Clubs,” State Attacks Reporters – 10 October 2017

Miami Herald – 5 fired at Miami-Dade lockup where teen died in beat-down – 30 September 2015

Former Trump Aide Accused of Conspiracy to Kidnap a US-Resident

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C. — On Friday, November 10, the Wall Street Journal published an article stating that Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn was allegedly involved in a plan to kidnap a US-resident Turkish dissident on behalf of the Turkish government in exchange for approximately $15 million dollars.

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn served as national security advisor to the Trump administration for only 24 days before he was asked to resign. Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press.

Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has resided in Pennsylvania since 1999, has been blamed by Turkish government officials for the failed coup against Turkish President Erdogan’s administration in summer of 2016.  Turkey has requested Gulen’s extradition under the US-Turkey extradition treaty for Mr. Gulen’s alleged role in the coup, but the Department of Justice has so far denied the requests.

Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel Group, was hired in August 2016 by a firm with ties to Turkish government officials to investigate Mr. Gulen and to present the results of the investigation in a short film.  While the film project was never completed, Flynn’s company received $530,000 in November, and Flynn himself wrote an opinion piece about Fethullah Gulen published on November 8, 2016, in The Hill.

In a mid-December meeting at the “21” Club in New York, Turkish officials allegedly offered Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr. approximately $15 million dollars to assist in the forcible removal and “extra-legal” extradition of Gulen to Turkey.  The alleged plan included discussions of transporting Gulen by private jet to Imrali, a Turkish prison island.  This meeting occurred after the Trump administration had named Flynn the next national security advisor.

President Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation as his national security advisor in mid-February 2017, twenty-four days after Flynn’s appointment.  Flynn also served for two months in 2014 as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency before being dismissed by President Obama for insubordination after “failing to follow guidance from superiors.”

Flynn registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) on March 7, 2017, several weeks after his resignation as national security advisor.  Lawfare posits that at the time of his dealings with Turkish officials, Michael Flynn was no longer simply a private citizen lobbying in favor of a foreign government, and whose disclosure of dealings to the Department of Justice would comply with FARA.  Since Flynn had already been tapped to serve as national security advisor in the Trump administration, he was a public official “in transition,” and public officials are prohibited from acting as foreign agents under 18 U.S.C. § 219.

Not only was General Flynn an unregistered foreign agent during his dealings with Turkish officials, he received well over the $5,000 maximum for lobbyists, and if the allegations in the Wall Street Journal article are true, Flynn may be charged with conspiracy to kidnap.  Even if Flynn intended to instead use his position as national security advisor to return Mr. Gulen to Turkey by legal means, the fact that he was possibly offered $15 million dollars to do so may still constitute egregious felonious conduct.  Lawfare states the matter plainly: “It’s no more legal to take $15 million to use your influence as national security adviser to bring about an outcome than it is to kidnap someone.”

The New York Times notes that President Trump’s firing in March 2017 of Former FBI Director James Comey after Comey’s refusal to halt the investigations into Flynn led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller has, in turn, led the investigation as to whether associates of President Trump colluded with Russian agents in their efforts to manipulate the 2016 US presidential election.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Flynn’s lawyers earlier had entered into a joint defense agreement with President Trump’s legal team that allowed them to share information surrounding Mr. Mueller’s investigation that would otherwise be subject to attorney-client privilege.  As of November 24, Michael Flynn’s lawyers stopped cooperating with White House attorneys defending the President in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Flynn’s decision to end cooperation with the White House attorneys may signify that Flynn has entered into plea deal discussions with Mr. Muller’s team, which recently indicted Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos—all three former campaign aides of President Trump.

JustSecurity has compiled a timeline of the Trump administration’s knowledge of the federal investigations into the relationship of Michael Flynn and Turkey.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – A Split From Trump Indicates that Flynn is Moving to Cooperate With Mueller – 23 November 2017

Just Security – Turkey on Valentine’s Day: Did Trump Obstruct Investigation of Flynn as a Foreign Agent? – 17 November 2017

CNN Politics – WSJ: Muller probes Flynn role in plot to deliver cleric to Turkey – 11 November 2017

The Guardian – Ex-Trump aide Flynn investigated over plot to kidnap Turkish dissident – report – 10 November 2017

Lawfare Blog – What to Make of the Latest Story About Flynn and Gulen? – 10 November 2017

The Wall Street Journal – Mueller Probes Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Cleric to Turkey – 10 November 2017

The Wall Street Journal – Accused Turkish Cleric Assails President on Anniversary of Coup Attempt – 14 July 2017

NY Daily News – Michael Flynn, Turkish officials secretly discussed removing exiled Muslim cleric from U.S. – 24 March 2017

The New York Times – Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign – 10 March 2017

Associated Press – Flynn, fired once by a president, now removed by another – 14 February 2017

You Might Be Able To Get Away With Murder In Part Of Yellowstone National Park

By: Sarah Louise Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

YELLOWSTONE PARK, U.S. – There is a little known fact about Yellowstone National Park that has captured the interest of many people around the country. Michigan State University law Professor, Brian Kalt, published a paper called “The Perfect Crime” which details how you can potentially get away with murder in a 50 square mile section of Yellowstone National Park in Idaho. Kalt writes that he has always wondered how there was a “forgotten constitutional provision, combined with an obscure statute, that together make it possible for people in the known to commit crimes with impunity.”

Kalt calls it the “zone of death.” It is created by a legal loophole. Before Montana, Wyoming and Idaho became states, Yellowstone National Park was founded in 1872. Although the majority of the park sits in Montana, there are portions that lie in both Idaho and Wyoming. As a national park, Yellowstone falls under federal jurisdiction. Kalt points out that the District Court which hears the issues in Yellowstone National Park sits in Wyoming. This is true despite the fact that Yellowstone also has land in those two other states. Thus, unlike any other District Court in the United States, the District of Wyoming includes land of other states. The zone of death is the 50 square miles of Yellowstone National Park that sits in Idaho.

Yellowstone National Park’s Idaho territory has been given the title “Zone of Death.” Photo Courtesy of the National Park Foundation.

If someone commits a murder in that section, they are automatically tried in Wyoming. However, the Constitution states that trials should be held in the state where the crime was committed. So, someone may demand the trial be held Idaho. Once there, a local jury would be called to serve on the case. But there is no one who lives in that 50 square mile section of Yellowstone in Idaho. Because that section is federal land, no one is allowed to live there. Unless the murder approves of the trial being held in Wyoming, the trial cannot be held at all.

“The courts may or may not agree that my loophole exists, and in any case this Essay is not intended to inspire anyone to go out and commit crimes,” Kalt concludes. “Crime is bad, after all – but so is violating the Constitution. If the loophole described in this Essay does exist it should be closed, not ignored. In sum, when Congress set up this park and admitted these three states, it made a mistake,” Kalt writes.

“Congress can be forgiven on the park side because Yellowstone was the world’s first national park, and there was no precedent.” He then adds that “But Congress should have known how to set up states, having done it forty times before.”

Kalt argues that there is a solid chance they could get away with murder using your Constitutional rights, but there are still other ways you could be punished.

“If the government could not prosecute you, your victims and their families could sue you. Of course, if they get wind of your Constitutional argument before you leave the scene of the crime, they could just give you a dose of your own medicine, administering vigilante justice with similar impunity.”

Currently, no changes have been made regarding this “loophole” for murder in Yellowstone National Park.

For more information, please see:

Forbes – ICYMI: You Can Get Away With Murder In Part Of Yellowstone National Park – 26 November 2017

Fox News – The Best Place to Commit a Crime in America? Yellowstone National Park – 22 November 2016

Vox – Yellowstone has a 50 Square Mile “Zone of Death” Where You Can Get Away With Murder – 29 October 2016

Vice – There’s a Section of Yellowstone Where You Can Get Away With Murder – 4 August 2016

Mexico’s Attorney General Resigns to make way for Judicial Reforms

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

CIUDAD DE MEXICO, Mexico — On Monday, October 16, Mexico’s Attorney General Raúl Cervantes announced his resignation before members of the Senate, stating that he wanted to facilitate the transition to a new institutional framework to combat crime and abandon impunity.

Mexican Attorney General Raúl Cervantes giving his resignation before members of the Senate. Photo Courtesy Gob.Mx.

Mr. Cervantes is the third Attorney General appointed within the last five years and was appointed Attorney General on October 25, 2016.

In 2014, Congress approved a constitutional reform—to be enacted at the latest in 2018—that would replace the office of the Attorney General with an independent chief prosecutor who would be appointed to a nine-year term.  This extended tenure is designed to distance the prosecutor from the president, who serves a single six-year term.  According to El País, Mr. Cervantes would have assumed the position of chief prosecutor automatically.

Mr. Cervantes’ appointment as Attorney General caused widespread consternation since he has close ties to the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and is a member of the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).  Many opposition politicians and non-governmental groups have expressed a lack of faith in Cervantes’ willingness to investigate the Peña Nieto and his administration after the 2018 elections, which is why the new office of the chief prosecutor has not yet been established.

During his tenure, the Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC) reported a significant increase in violent homicides in Mexico since the beginning of 2017 to August, with a steady monthly average of 2,300 homicides reported per month.  According to Huffpost, this means that “every 18 minutes and 47 seconds, a victim of violent homicide was reported in the first eight months of 2017 on a national level.”

One of the major controversies Mr. Cervantes and his predecessors faced was the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping, where 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared and were allegedly delivered to a local criminal syndicate for execution.  The official account given by Mexican authorities has been marred by inconsistent testimony, accusations of obstruction of justice by various state officials, and has resulted in the arrest of over 100 individuals.  Mr. Cervantes and his predecessors’ failure to advance the investigation of the Iguala mass kidnapping has arguably been the proverbial “final nail in the coffin” in their tenures as Attorney General.

President Peña Nieto announced that the next Attorney General would be appointed after the 2018 presidential elections since the position cannot be taken short term and appointing anyone else would further complicate the process of naming the new chief prosecutor.

For more information, please see:

InSight Crime – Mexico AG Resigns Amid Growing Pressure to Tackle Widespread Graft – 18 October 2017

El País – Raúl Cervantes renuncia al cargo de procurador general de México – 17 October 2017

Animal Político – Peña Nieto anuncia que el fiscal general será nombrado después de las elecciones de 2018 – 17 October 2017

AP News – Mexico’s attorney general resigns a year into job – 16 October 2017

BBC Mundo – Renuncia de Raúl Cervantes, procurador general de México, tras la controversia por su potencial nominación para la primera fiscalía autónoma del país – 16 October 2017

CNN Español – Renuncia el procurador general de México, Raúl Cervantes – 16 October 2017

Gob.mx – “Servir a la República en esta capacidad ha sido el honor más grande que se me ha conferido” – 16 October 2017

The New York Times – Mexico’s Attorney General Resigns Under Pressure – 16 October 2017

Reuters – Mexico attrney general resigns amid debate on new top prosecutor – 16 October 2017

Huffpost – México, en el camino directo a tener el año más violento en la historia – 10 October 2017

Senate Commerce Committee Unanimously Passes Bill on Online Sex Trafficking

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – On Wednesday, November 8th, the Senate progressed legislation that makes online sex trafficking more difficult. The legislation makes it easier to penalize operators of websites that allow for and facilitate sex trafficking.  This piece of legislation is the most detailed form of action this year that will toughen regulation of internet companies. Major U.S. internet companies stopped opposing the legislation and so now it is moving forward. The legislation will amend a law that has been on the books for decades and has been considered a shield for internet companies.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously to pass the measure which gives states and sex-trafficking victims the ability to sue social media networks, advertisers and other companies online that do not keep such explicit content off their platforms.  The measure amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  As it stands now, the act typically protects companies from liability for the activity of its users. Currently, the bill has bipartisanship support. Although, it needs to be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by President Trump before it officially becomes a law.

Rob Portman supports the change to Section 230 that was unanimously passed by a Senate Committee. Photo Courtesy of J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press.

Republican Senator Rob Portman, who co-authored the bill, known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act said, “This is a momentous day in our fight to hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.” Many feel these changes are needed after concerns from how these platforms were used by Russia in the 2016 election.

Right now, more than 40 Senators co-sponsored the bill and Ivanka Trump has endorsed it.  However, internet companies have long argued that the way the law stands now has allowed for innovation in Silicone Valley to thrive.

Surprisingly, the Internet Association announced their support for the bill last week following changes that were made to it. The Internet Association includes companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. The changes that were made stated that criminal charges would be based on violations of federal human trafficking laws and that the standard for liability would require a website to have “knowingly” assisted in facilitating human trafficking.

The opposition to the bill comes from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden who placed a hold on the bill. The Senator claims that  if the bill is set before the Senate for a vote, as it stands, it favors large companies at the expense of smaller startups and “stifles innovation.”“After 25 years of fighting these battles, I’ve learned that just because a big technology company says something is good, doesn’t mean it’s good for the internet or innovation,” Wyden said in a statement. “Most innovation in the digital economy comes from the startups and small firms, the same innovators who will be harmed or locked out of the market by this bill.”

Additionally, dozens of civil liberties organizations said the bill places a threat on free speech online and harms small companies who do not have as many resources available to them to police their platforms for such use.

For more information, please see:

Blaze – Facebook and Other Tech Companies Reverse Course, Decide to Back Senate Bill to Stop Sex Trafficking – 8 November 2017

CNET – Senate Committee Passes Bill to Stop Online Sex Trafficking – 8 November 2017

The Hill – Senate Panel Approves Online Sex Trafficking Bill – 8 November 2017

Reuters – U.S. Senate Panel Advances Crackdown on Online Sex Trafficking – 8 November 2017

Children Trafficked from Uganda “Adopted” in U.S.

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – The Davis family wanted to add to their family by adopting a child. After being in contact with Debra Parris of The European Adoption Consultants (EAC), Jessica and Adam Davis were told about a little girl named Mata. EAC said that Mata’s father was deceased and that her mother was severely neglecting her. The EAC informed the Davis family they had to decide quickly if they wanted to adopted Mata and so they quickly adopted her.

Mata and the Davises after they “adopted” her. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Davis.

As Mata’s English improved, the Davis’s learned more about Mata’s mother. The way Mata spoke of her mother did not reflect what the Davis’s were told. Jessica Davis then became suspicious. After a skype call between Mata and her mother, Jessica’s suspicions were confirmed. During the skype conversation, Mata’s mother revealed it was not her intention to give up Mata for good.

Instead, Mata’s mother explained how she was tricked into giving Mata up. Mata’s mother had been told that Mata would be given a great educational opportunity if she was sent away. Her mother was also told that Mata would one day return and that her mother would always be a part of her life. Mata’s mother unknowingly signed away her parental rights when she thought her daughter was being given a once in a life time experience.

When Jessica and Adam realized the information they had been told by the EAC was not true, they realized they had to reunite Mata with her mother. Jessica Davis contacted the U.S. State Department for guidance on how to proceed with the situation. The State Department told Jessica, “you can just keep her if you want.” She responded with, “I didn’t purchase her at Walmart.” Jessica was fearful that if the government notified EAC, something would happen to Mata’s mother. After a three-year journey, and $65,000, Mata was returned to her mother.

Mata reuniting with her mother and siblings after the Davis family brought her back to Uganda. Photo Courtesy of Keren Riley.

The Davis’s were crushed by this experience. They wanted to adopt a child as it was in line with their religious beliefs. Adam said, “We unwittingly placed an order for a child. The only trauma this poor kid ever experienced was because we essentially placed an order for a child.” The Davis’s had filed paperwork to vacate Mata’s adoption and the Ugandan government gave Mata’s mother her parental rights back. Jessica and Adam both believe that other Ugandan children like Mata are being trafficked without the American families who were “adopting” them being aware.

CNN investigated these claims and found that children were being taken from their homes in Uganda. Their mothers were being promised the same thing Mata’s mother was being promised, an educational opportunity for their children. The children were then placed in orphanages and sold for as much as $15,000. CNN also discovered that multiple families had been tricked by EAC. EAC was an adoption agency started by Margaret Cole. Cole started the adoption agency after she lost her child to SIDS.

EAC has been responsible for placing more than 2,000 children from overseas in homes across America since 1991. The agency continued to grow and handled adoptions from countries around the globe. CNN states, “tax records from 2000 to 2015 show that EAC reported more than $76.1 million in revenue and more than $76.3 million in expenses over that period.” In 2004, several families raised questions about their adoptions through EAC in story for Cleveland Magazine. Cole claimed back then that she had a “radar” for the shady businesses involved in adoptions but now stories like the Davis’s shows that this clearly is not the case. CNN has also been unable to locate Cole to receive commentary on CNN’s investigation.

EAC has been shut down by the State Department for 3 years. Since the shut down, the FBI has raided the building and taken away materials. The Ohio attorney general’s office filed suit in June to have the adoption agency ended for good. The EAC “failed to adequately supervise its providers in foreign countries to ensure” that they didn’t engage in the “sale, abduction, exploitation or trafficking of children,” according to the State Department. The Ugandan government shut down the orphanage that Mata had been placed in. In a letter to CNN, they said the orphanage had been closed for “trafficking of children,” “operating the children’s home illegally” and “processing guardianship orders fraudulently.”

The EAC building in Ohio has been abandoned since the agency has been debarred. Photo Courtesy of CNN.

A study done by the Ugandan government and sponsored by UNICEF in 2015 revealed that Ugandan parents were being deceived and bribed with financial incentives and orphanages were often complicit. The orphanages did not always verify information about children’s histories before putting them in the orphanage.

Mata’s story is similar to that of Violah. At 7-years-old, she was adopted by Stacey and Shawn Wells. Like the Davis’s, the Wells were coerced into making a decision quickly on whether or not they would adopt Violah. They paid EAC about $15,000 for the adoption. Violah lived with the Wells family for a year and during that time, they too saw inconsistencies with the adoption agencies story. They were told that Violah had been abandoned. But the longer Violah was with them, the more they learned how her mother took her to church and cooked dinner with her.

Violah also spoke about the day that she and her sister were taken away from their mother. After hearing Violah’s story, Shawn went on a Facebook page for the group Reunite. The page shared a post about a mother whose children were taken away from her against her will. Stacey knew that the woman in the post was Violah’s mother. The Wells thought they were adopting an orphan, but instead, Stacey says, “she was made an orphan.”

The Wells wanted to reunite Violah with her mother like the Davis’s reunited Mata with her mother. Stacey and Shawn reached out to Reunite’s Riley who told the Wells that Violah’s mother was lied to. She had been told Violah would get an education in America. It’s the same lie the traffickers told Mata’s mother. Violah’s mother had four children taken from her and she has only been reunited with two of them.

Violah and her mother are reunited in Uganda and embrace with each other and Stacey Wells. Photo Courtesy of Stacey Wells.

Violah and Mata are from the same village in Uganda. They have become friends since their return home. Mata’s mother said she was “very, very, very happy” that Mata has been returned to her. Violah’s mother also said she was “very happy and very grateful.” Now that the girls have been reunited with their mothers, they have kept in touch with the Davis and Wells families. The girls have blossomed since returning home.

Violah and Mata have become fast friends since returning to their mothers in Uganda. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Davis.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Kids For Sale: ‘My Mom Was Tricked’ – 13 October 2017

Ugandan Government – Information About God’s Mercy Children’s Home – 28 July 2017

Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County, Ohio – EAC Lawsuit – 1 June 2017

Cleveland Magazine – Families In Crisis: When Foreign Adoption Goes Wrong – 2 March 2004

America’s Senior Citizens Sicker Than 10 Other Wealthy Counterpart Counties

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – According to a new report published by Health Affairs, United States senior citizens are sicker than the elderly in 10 other wealthy countries. The study found this despite the fact that American senior citizens have near universal health coverage through Medicare.  The Analysis also stated that America’s senior citizens are more likely to face financial barriers than the senior citizens of those 10 other countries.

Based on the results of the study, one conclusion is that creating universal health care in the United States through a “Medicare-for-all” program would not necessarily lead to Americans of all ages to be on par with their international counterparts when it comes to health outcomes and costs.

The Health Affairs report is based on the 1017 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. The survey questioned over 23,000 people. It included individuals from the United States, Germany, France, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. Of those that participated in the survey, one in eight older adults reported having three or more chronic health conditions. But the United States had the highest of these numbers with 36% of those reporting having three or more chronic conditions. This is almost half of what Australia, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland reported. They had only 17%  of those surveyed reporting three or more chronic conditions. New Zealand’s results were even lower at 13%.

America’s Seniors Citizens are happy with Medicare despite being sicker than their counterpart countries. Photo Courtesy of David Paul Morris.

Despite having Medicare, adults over the age of 65 frequently have trouble affording the care they need when they need it. The report stated that 23% of American senior citizens did not see a doctor when they were ill, skipped recommended treatment or tests and left prescriptions unfulfilled due to costs. Countries like France, Norway, Sweden and the U.K. only had 5% reporting the same because of costs.

Even still, Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said “Medicare is the most popular [health coverage] program in the United States in terms of satisfaction of the population that is covered by it.” He added that the level of satisfaction was high. He further stated that a significant share of the American senior citizens covered by Medicare are “underinsured” and/or do not have sufficient financial coverage for there medical needs.  The issue with Medicare is that while it does cover a large amount of beneficiaries’ health services, senior citizens are responsible for some out of pocket expenses.  The study suggests a lot of outcomes similar to this issue of Medicare.

For more information, please see:

CNBC – Older Americans Are Sicker, More Cash Strapped For Health Than Elderly In Other Countries Despite Medicare – 15 November 2017

Commonwealth Fund – Older Americans Were Sicker And Faced More Financial Barriers to Heath Care Than Counterparts in Other Countries – 15 November 2017

Health Affairs – Older Americans Were Sicker and Faced More Financial Barriers To Health Care Than Counterparts in Other Countries – 15 November 2017

Bernie Sanders – Medicare for All – 2016

Handicapped Parking Abuse Causes Problems for Those Who Need It

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

Almost all parking lots in the United States have handicapped parking spots. These spots are designated for people who have disabilities, whether they are visible or not. However, there are many people who are parking in these spots without needing them. Often times, people use the handicapped placard for someone who is not in the car or they have altered/ forged the handicapped placard.

Officers in Los Angeles are currently on the lookout for vehicles violating these traffic rules and ticketing them. In Los Angeles, police officer have the option of writing a parking ticket or a misdemeanor citations. Officer Yasnyi in particular, chooses to write parking tickets instead of misdemeanor citations because the parking ticket does not appear on the driver’s record. Regardless, the penalty for invalidly parking in handicapped parking is high. Typically, two tickets are written that can be about $363 a piece. One ticket is given for invalid use of a handicapped placard and another is for illegally occupying the space.

Officers in L.A. are on the lookout for the misuse of handicapped placards. Photo courtesy of Francine Orr of the L.A. Times.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in Los Angeles also writes citations for misdemeanors. At the L.A. County Fairgrounds in September 2017, the DMV wrote 477 citations for handicapped placard abuse.  The misdemeanor citations can cost the driver anywhere from $250 to $1000. Those that abuse the handicapped parking placard take away spots from those who truly need the handicapped parking spot. Officer Yasnyi says he would estimate that 30% of the time the placard is altered, stolen or issued to someone else (including the dead).

But L.A. is not the only city seeking to bust handicapped parking spot abusers. In Omaha, Nebraska, police are training civilians to be a part of the city’s handicapped enforcement. The civilians have volunteered to help keep enforce the traffic laws. Sgt. Erin Payne with the Omaha Police Department said, “this is really a win-win for us. For our community to be able to give back to our community, and then for them to be able to assist the police.” The volunteers are all certified to cite drivers. The Omaha Police Department said the handicap parking enforcement volunteers issue more than 1,000 citations each year. Like in L.A., the fines are heavy. First time offenders pay a $150 fine, second time offenders pay $300, and third time offenders pay $500 and risk jail time.

However, there are also people who need indeed possess a valid handicapped placard who are accused of abusing them. Lexi Baskin, a student at Kentucky University, is a cancer survivor who currently has to undergo radiation and chemotherapy that leaves her weak, tired and dizzy. She gets her treatments during her lunch break and heads back to school. Her handicap is not necessarily visible at all times, and someone who has been watching her decided to let her know their thoughts on the matter.

These signs were taped onto Lexi Baskin car after she parked in a handicapped spot. Photos courtesy of Lexi Baskin.

This person did not believe that Baskin was sufficiently disabled to deserve the parking spot. The person left signs taped all over Baskin’s car windshield and windows. Some of the signs called her “lazy” and said “shame on you.” One note in particular read, “There are legit handicapped people who need this parking space. We have seen you and your friend come and go and there is nothing handicapped about either of you. Your tag must be borrowed or fake. We will make every effort to see you fined or towed for being such a selfish, terrible person.”

The vandalism is under investigation by University police. Baskin says, “I want to get this out there to make people aware that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean people aren’t going through it.” The misuse of handicapped placards creates a multitude of issues including taking handicapped spots from people who do need the spots to those who actually need the spots being accused of being lazy just because their handicapped is not necessarily visible.

For more information, please see:

Blaze – A Cancer Survivor Had Her Car Defaced For Using Disability Parking, But She Responded With Grace – 9 November 2017

KETV Omaha – Omaha Police Seek Volunteers for Handicapped Parking – 8 November 2017

L.A. Times – It takes a special arrogance to steal a parking place from a disabled person. And this cop is out to bust you – 8 November 2017

2 Detectives of NYPD Indicted for Rape

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

NEW YORK CITY, New York – On September 15, two New York City detectives stopped a car in Brooklyn under the pretense of searching its occupants for drugs. In particular, the drug at issue was marijuana. The detectives were dressed in plain street clothes and were driving an unmarked vehicle. Inside the car they stopped was an 18-year-old woman and two men.

The detectives searched the vehicle for drugs and asked the woman to lift her skirt “to make sure there is nothing under there.” The woman’s lawyer, Michael David, says “She was petrified, so she showed it. She said, ‘See, I’m not hiding anything.” Immediately after lifting her skirt, the detectives ordered the woman to get out of the car. She was then placed in handcuffs, put in the backseat of the detectives’ car and was told she would be driven to the 60th precinct. The precinct was about a mile and a half from where the woman was pulled over.

According to the woman, the detectives never drove to the precinct. Instead, they drove to a parking lot of a Chipotle that was nearby. It was at that point, the woman said the detectives raped her. She alleges that 45 minutes after, she was shoved out of the detective’s vehicle, not that far from the 60th precinct. The woman called her mother, who took her to Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park Brooklyn. Her attorney has called the incident a kidnapping. “I don’t think a gang rape has ever been reported in the history of the N.Y.P.D,” Mr. David said.

Two NYPD Detectives have been indicted on the rape of an 18-year-old woman. Photo Courtesy of Spencer Platt. 

The woman has become weary from waiting for weeks for some kind of action by prosecutors. “She was getting more frustrated by the day, this has been going on for six weeks already, and it just seemed she was crying for help,” Mr. David said. He adds that she has been crying and is depressed and that this alleged crime has placed a strain on the relationship she has with her parents.

Both the detectives, Edward Martins and Richard Hall, have been suspended without pay during the investigation. These actions are usually reserved for officers who have been charged with crimes. At this point, both of the officers has been indicted by a grand jury for the alleged rape as well as for bribery. The charge for bribery stems from telling the woman they would let her go if she did what they wanted. The detectives had been stripped of their guns and put on “modified duty” after the allegations emerged.

So far, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has declined to comment. Mark A. Bederow, the attorney for Detective Martins said, “We are going to vigorously contest these charges in a court of law, rather than the court of public opinion.” “We look forward to defending any charges in a court of law rather than in the court of public opinion,” Bederow, said. The detectives’ supervisor has also been placed on modified duty after the woman’s allegations emerged. The detectives were also demoted to police officers last week.

Hall and Martin are said to be turning themselves in early next week, says sources of New York Daily News. The sources say this surrender is likely part of an agreement between the prosecution and detectives because they are not considered a flight risk.

For more information, please see:

Fox News – 2 NYPD Detectives Suspended Amid Probe of Rape Allegations – 28 October 2017

New York Daily News – Two NYPD Detectives Indicted In Rape of 18-Year-Old Woman They Busted For Pot – 27 October 2017

New York Times – Indictment Issued in Case of 18-Year-Old Who Said 2 Officers Raped Her – 27 October 2017

New York Times – Brooklyn Prosecutors Investigating Rape Charge Against Detectives – 1 October 2017

DHS to Decide on Continuation of TPS Program for Haitians in US

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — On November 6, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to make a decision as to the continuation of the Temporary Protected Status program that affects over 300,000 foreign nationals currently residing in the United States.

Men visiting a mass-grave of victims from the 2010 earthquake outside of Port-au-Prince. Photo Courtesy of Shannon Stapleton.

According to a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a provision within the Immigration and Nationality Act to protect foreign nationals currently in the United States.  The program grants a temporary legal status—typically for a period of six to eighteen months—to migrants who do may not qualify as refugees, but whose home countries are in some sort of crisis, such as civil unrest, wide-spread violence, or a natural disaster.  This allows them to apply for a work permit and a driver’s license and prevents their deportation.  There are currently over 300,000 people from 13 countries under Temporary Protected Status, including individuals from Syria, El Salvador, and Haiti.  According to The Washington Post, TPS beneficiaries are the parents of around 190,000 US-citizen children.

Haitians were granted TPS in the US by the Obama administration in January 2010 following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed around 200,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.  Haiti has suffered several crises since then, including an outbreak of cholera in late 2010 that infected close to 800,000 and killed over 9,000 people, sexual abuse of hundreds of people at the hands of UN peacekeepers dating back to 2004, as well as a 1,000-people killed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  The recent hurricanes have also destroyed infrastructure and caused food shortages across the country.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended Haiti’s TPS several times, the last time being on May 24, 2017.  After a bipartisan effort from several Florida politicians, DHS Secretary General John Kelly approved a six-month extension of the July 22, 2017, deadline, but expressed that Haitians should begin preparations to return to Haiti come January 22, 2018.  According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website, “At least 60 days before Jan. 22, 2018, Secretary Kelly will re-evaluate the designation for Haiti and will determine whether another extension, a re-designation, or a termination is warranted, in full compliance of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

There are 59,000 Haitians living in the US under TPS, 80% of which are employed; $1.3 billion in remittances from US-based Haitians accounted for 15% of Haiti’s economy in 2015.

In contrast, Haiti is currently the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with 6 million people—approximately 59% of the population—living below the national poverty line.

For more information, please see:

NBC News – Will Central Americans, Haitians ‘Protected’ by U.S. Be Sent Home? – 23 October 2017

NACLA – Temporary Protected Status in Limbo – 20 October 2017

The Washington Post – Tens of thousands of Haitian, Central American immigrants could lose protected status – 20 October 2017

Al Jazeera – UN peacekeepers leave Haiti: What is their legacy? – 6 October 2017

USCIS – Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Haiti – 3 October 2017

Sun Sentinel – Hurricane Irma effects are one more reason to extend TPS for Haitians, lawmakers argue – 18 September 2017

The Intercept – The Trump Administration is Playing with the Lives of 59,000 Haitians – 26 September 2017

The New Yorker – A Harrowing Turning Point for Haitian Immigrants – 12 May 2017

Congressional Research Service – Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues – 17 January 2017

Former HIV-Positive School Aide Accused of Sexually Assaulting 42 Boys

By: Sarah Louise Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

MARYLAND, U.S. – Carlos Bell, a former school aide and track coach has been accused of sexually assaulting 42 juvenile boys. Bell was a teaching aid at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School and a track coach at La Plata High School. Bell told police he was HIV positive and that he was HIV positive when he assaulted the boys and evidence corroborated the claim.

Maryland’s State Attorney’s Office has indicted Bell on 206 counts. This is the third time the indictment has been updated to reflect charges from additional alleged victims as more are discovered.

The boys are between the ages of 11 and 17. 28 of the alleged victim are identified while the remaining 14 alleged victims are unidentified according to the State Attorney’s Office for Charles County.  In December of 2016, police say an investigation was started on Bell after a tip that Bell was involved in inappropriate behavior with a student while coaching track.

Sheriff Troy Berry said, “A parent observed suspicious text messages on a child’s phone that were sexual in nature.”  The parent checked her child’s phone and found inappropriate text messages involving Bell. However, Bell was not arrested until July. At that time, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said as many as 10 boys were assaulted, 7 of which were identified by video found in Bell’s home. During the search of Bell’s home, police also found computers and other electronics that linked him to the production of child porn. Among that evidence were graphic images of Bell sexually assaulting victims.

Carlos Bell has been indicted on 206 counts in relation to his sexual assault of students while working at a middle school in Maryland. Photo Courtesy of Charles Co. Police Dept.

Bell allegedly assaulted the boys without protection. So far, the State Attorney’s Office for Charles County stated that they are not aware of any of the alleged victims testing positive for HIV. The abuse is believed to have been committed from May 2015 through June 2017. Bell is accused of abusing the alleged victims at the Middle School, his home and possibly, other locations.

At this time, the State Attorney’s Office said charges against Bell include: 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, 19 counts of second-degree sex offense, 19 counts of second-degree sex offenses, 7 counts of third-degree sex offense, 97 counts of child pornography and other offenses. If convicted of these crimes, the State Attorney’s Office will seek life in prison. Currently, Bell is being held without bail and his next court date is January 8, 2018.

The Superintendent of Schools for Charles County, Kimberly A. Hill, said they have been cooperating with authorities in a letter dated July 3, 2017.  The letter also stated that Bell has not worked in any of the school buildings since December 22, 2016. Lastly, the note also stated “To our parents and our community, who put their faith and trust in us to safeguard their children, I apologize on behalf of Charles County Public Schools.”

For more information, please see:

Fox News – HIV-infected School Aide Accused of Sexually Victimizing 42 Children in Maryland – 24 October 2017

NY Daily News – Former Maryland School Aide Who Is HIV Positive Sexually Assaulted 42 Boys, Police Say – 23 October 2017

WJLA – HIV Positive Former Md. Coach Indicted on 206 Counts; 42 Alleged Victims Reported – 23 October 2017

WJLA – Former Md. School Coach Charged with Child Porn, Assault on Male Students, Has HIV – 28 July 2017