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According to the Phoenix New Times, Arizona officials are refusing to give clemency for Trent Bouhdida, a man who was convicted in 2015 for selling an ounce of cannabis — and got 16 years in prison.
"Bouhdida was the subject of a Phoenix New Times story on August 4 that investigated how a young Black man from South Phoenix ended up serving such a lengthy sentence for pot," reported Katya Schwenk. "At a clemency hearing on Tuesday, board members weren't moved by the details of the case and decided the sentence was fair. 'When I first glanced at this file, I was a little bit torn, because I do think selling an ounce of marijuana is not, on its face, deserving of such a lengthy prison sentence,' board chair Mina Méndez said."
Bouhdida was arrested after he tried to sell cannabis to an undercover officer at a 7-11 in a sting operation. He was charged with four counts of sale for each of the sales he made — totaling just one ounce — for 11 years, and another five because he was on probation for his involvement in an armed robbery case, even though he hadn't actually committed the robberies himself.
"Members of the board are appointed by the governor. On Tuesday, three were present: Méndez, Louis Quiñonez, and Michael Johnson. Another board member, Salvatore Freni, was absent, and a fifth board seat has been vacant for several months," said the report. "Méndez is a former prosecutor, while Quiñonez is a former agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Johnson is a former detective with a 21-year tenure at the Phoenix Police Department. Freni spent 30 years working for the Phoenix Police Department."
According to the report, even in cases where the board has recommended clemency, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey still has the final decision in granting it — and he almost never does.
Extreme sentences for drug dealing and possession are still being served all around the country, thanks in part to zero-tolerance laws passed throughout the 80s and 90s during national panic over elevated crime rates and drug-related gang violence. In another recent case, a court in Mississippi upheld a life sentence without the possibility of parole against Allen Russell for nonviolent pot possession.
HBO's "Real Time" host Bill Maher on Friday responded to the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie.
Rushdie was transported to a local hospital by helicopter and underwent several hours of surgery, his agent, Andrew Wylie told The New York Times.
“The news is not good," Wylie told the newspaper. "Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged."
Maher said, "a friend of mine, a dear friend of mine, good friend of this show, got stabbed today."
He noted that "Sal did have some enemies in the past" in reference to the 1989 fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, against Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses.
"Sal was in Chautaugua, he was giving a lecture -- how's this for irony -- about how the U.S. is a safe haven for writers and other artists under threat of persecution," Maher said.
"And making that speech itself is unthinkable in most Muslim countries," he continued. "Salman Rushdie living in most Muslim countries, without getting stabbed every day, is unthinkable."
"So don't come at me with Islamophobic," Maher said. "Phobic means fear, right? Well, Sal had a good reason to be fearful. And when you say phobic, it's just a way to shut off debate. You know, they use transphobic, Islamophobic, and we should have a debate about this."
"These things don't go away," the host said. "Islam is still a much more fundamentalist religion than any of the other religions in the world and that means they take what is in the holy book seriously and that has been dangerous for a long time. It's still dangerous."
On Friday, The Dallas Morning News reported that a gate agent for Spirit Airlines at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been suspended after a viral video showed him in a violent altercation with a passenger.
The confrontation happened Thursday, Spirit confirmed, despite the video’s caption dating it to July 11. An airport police report identifies the agent as Emmanuel Sullivan of Grapevine and the woman as Ayriana Davis of Fort Worth," reported Matthew Griffin. "'Our vendor at DFW has suspended the agent. Spirit Airlines does not tolerate violence of any kind, and we are working with local law enforcement to investigate this matter,' the airline wrote in a statement."
The altercation reportedly began when Davis exited from the jetway and screamed at Sullivan that the plane had no seat for her, after which "he told her to get in line to speak to an agent, then took her boarding pass after she cut in line and became uncooperative." The physical fight began when Davis tried to snatch back the boarding pass.
"The video posted to Twitter shows Sullivan yelling at Davis in the airport, telling her not to touch him," said the report. "'You touched me first and then you got in my face,' Sullivan said in the video. 'Don’t ever invade my personal space.' 'Get out of my face!' Davis screamed in response. She later said cameras saw the altercation and that the agent touched her. Davis shoved Sullivan and called him homophobic and racial slurs, then reached out to hit him. Sullivan responded by running at her and hitting her as bystanders intervened."
"Davis said she went to the hospital after the incident with a fractured left leg, abrasions on her right leg and other minor injuries. Photographs in the police report show a large abrasion on her right leg and swelling on her left leg," said the report. "Davis denied using a racial slur, noting that she is Black. She said her language was because she was in 'defense mode' after Sullivan hit her."
This is not the first time an incident on the budget airline has attracted national attention. In 2019, a Black woman on a Spirit flight was forced to relocate because a white passenger refused to be seated next to her.