NEW YORK — Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are not on trial, but their names will likely feature prominently in Manhattan Federal Court as their former associate Lev Parnas faces a jury of his peers beginning Tuesday. Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman and onetime Republican fundraiser, is charged with orchestrating two complex campaign finance schemes, one of which overlapped with Trump and Giuliani’s 2019 quest to find political dirt on then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in Ukraine. The Parnas trial is expected to include so many references to Trump and Giuliani that Judge Paul Oetken said ...
During a traffic stop, late last month, Dayton police officers pulled Clifford Owensby from his car by the hair. Owensby, who is paraplegic, repeatedly told the officers he could not get out of the car, that he wanted them to call a supervisor, that they could hurt him by pulling him from the vehicle. They pulled him out anyway, handcuffed him, and dragged him away.
“It actually feels unreal, it feels like waking up to a bad dream over and over again," Owensby said of the incident in an interview Monday.
It comes as Dayton, like many cities around the country, works to reform its police department. In June of last year volunteers began developing recommendations, and city officials say they've completed more than 50 of the 142 proposals put forward. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley was quick to note those changes were instrumental in bringing to light what happened to Owensby.
“Without the police reform process there would never have been the body cameras in place, and the commitment from the city to show the video, right?" Whaley said. “So all of that process — the body camera policy, how we were going to have accountability and transparency in the process — that all came from police reform."
Local organizers like Daj'za Demmings recognize that point but can't help but be frustrated.
“They had body cameras, right? They were still bold enough to do everything they did knowing that those body cameras were on," she said. “That tells you the type of person it is. We can keep trying to fire the officer and do all this, but it's like cutting the leaves off. We have to get to the root of the issue."
To Demmings, the problem is one of mindset. She argued many officers come from outside the city and don't know how to operate in settings where people of color make up the majority of residents.
It's a point echoed by David Fox, a former police chief with forty years of law enforcement experience. He currently serves as criminal justice chair for the Dayton NAACP executive committee.
“This is about attitude," Fox said. “It's the attitude of the chief on down to the officers in terms of how do you respect and how do you give dignity to people? That's where it starts. And when you come into the community, the question is are you going to be a warrior or are you going to be a guardian?"
State efforts stalled
While Dayton pursues reform locally, a statewide proposal backed by the governor appears dead on arrival. Gov. Mike DeWine first announced his plans in June of 2020 alongside Attorney General Dave Yost. The package included banning chokeholds, providing oversight and independent investigations for use of force incidents, and state dollars for body cameras and training.
Legislation never materialized. Then in April, shortly after Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, DeWine went on “Face the Nation," and argued there's a “clear pathway" for police reform. But so far, the closest DeWine's legislative partners have gotten is a measure expressing the intent to “study and implement" the governor's ideas.
That proposal never got a hearing.
One of the sponsors, Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, is the former sheriff for Montgomery County which includes Dayton. He called the Owensby video “disturbing."
“It doesn't look good for anybody," Plummer said. “It's difficult, but as long as the investigation is done and if there's wrongdoing they're held accountable and people are properly trained I think we can move forward."
Plummer spoke after a committee hearing aimed at setting up a vote for HB 435, the vaccine mandate measure favored by GOP leadership. The attempt to line up support for that bill ahead of a floor vote eventually fizzled, but the party's single-minded focus on vaccine politics is keeping initiatives like police reform on the back burner.
“It's kind of been put on hold for obvious reasons," Plummer said of the proposal. “We have this bill (HB 435), we have several other things pending, so we have to revisit that bill. It's not finished yet by any means."
Plummer's cosponsor, meanwhile, appears ready to move on to different, narrower approaches. Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, is a former Cincinnati police officer who now serves as assistant majority whip. Like Plummer, she pointed to other legislative demands like the budget or redistricting pulling attention away from police reform. As a former officer, she said her focus is on training.
“The more training you have, the better person you have in fill in the blank industry," Abrams explained.
She described securing a 50% match in funding for training in the last budget and said that going forward she wants to double that.
“We are working toward 100% state funded, mandatory training and it's going to be top notch for our law enforcement, and we will lead the nation in again, top notch, state funded law enforcement," Abrams said.
But so far as the governor's broader range of proposals, Abrams' focus right now is elsewhere.
“We'll take a look at it," Abrams said, “like I said, I'm focused on training right now, so that's not even a focus of mine at this moment,"
How Dayton moves forward
Without significant movement in the Statehouse, Dayton and other cities are on their own to figure out how to improve the relationship between police and the community.
“Oh, I'm shocked that the GOP Legislature hasn't moved at all on something important," Whaley said dripping with sarcasm.
Whaley, who is running for governor, criticized DeWine's approach as top-down while local efforts have been more inclusive.
“It's like we're going to do these things to communities, is the way Plummer and DeWine look at it, instead of how do we do things with communities," Whaley argued.
Operating alone, the city can't establish programs like a database of problem officers, but Whaley believes the city is taking meaningful steps to improve relations. She identified efforts to increase diversity in recruiting, expand training in de-escalation, and build alternative response systems to divert calls away from the police. Still, she acknowledged those changes won't yield results overnight.
“I don't think anybody in Dayton, and certainly not the city commission, and certainly not myself, and I don't believe the community, thought, 'Oh we did police reform so we've got this all figured out.' That is not the expectation, and I don't think anybody has that expectation down here in Dayton."
Whaley contended it will be up to the city to prove it is serious about reform in how it responds to use of force cases.
On the block where Owensby was pulled from his car, neighbors are shaken. One woman who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation said incidents like Owensby's happen all the time, but rarely get reported. She argued whether he was involved in criminal activity or not, police should've treated him like a human being.
Another neighbor, who also didn't want to share his name, called the police response “wholly unacceptable." He was particularly concerned about officers using Owensby's criminal history as a pretext for searching the car and to discredit him after the fact.
“If he was wrong at any point," he asked, “does that give them the right to pull him out by his hair?"
For her part, Daj'za Demmings is frustrated with the state of local reform. She said the way police treated Owensby feels like a betrayal for some of those who participated in city's efforts. She also criticized city leaders for waiting almost two weeks to acknowledge the incident publicly.
“How can we vote for you?" she asked.
Demmings continues to demand accountability in the Ownesby case, and local officials are investigating. But the incident has also forced her to zero-in on one primary concern.
“I'm just trying to make sure that my community knows how to navigate the spaces that they're in," she said. “And like, who wants to have to have that conversation with a 12 year old boy? When a police says something to you, make sure your hands are visible, make sure you're looking them in the eye, no sudden movements, like who wants to say that to a child? But that's what we have to do, so that's where our focus is."
Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.
Bill Maher: Trump and his allies are building a structure to count the votes the way they want the votes counted
(Editor's Note: Comedian Bill Maher, host of the long-running HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher," spoke with The Capital-Star's Frank Pizzoli Maher performs Nov. 19 at the Hershey Theater in Dauphin County.)
Pennsylvania Capital-Star: In our last interview (Oct. 19, 2019) you said “Pennsylvania may be the most important state in 2020." The Keystone State put President Biden over the top with his eventually carrying our 20 Electoral College votes.
Bill Maher: Well that certainly turned out to be quite true, although I'm sure he had no trouble carrying Scranton. And Pennsylvania has always been an iffy state on the Red versus Blue continuum.
Q: Now the 2022 U.S. Senate race puts Pennsylvania front and center again. With Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey not running for re-election, there are 14 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and one Liberal Party candidate running for the open seat. Any thoughts on Democrat candidates John Fetterman? Openly gay state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta? U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb? Anyone GOP candidates catch your eye?
A. I have not yet followed that race but U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb [D-17th District] – a moderate Democrat – has the right idea. Nothing extreme in any direction regarding legislation and regulations, or policy. I think that's the way to go.
Q: Why do you think that 'moderate' is the way to go for Democrats?
A: Here's why. I was in Pittsburgh last Saturday performing for what felt like an audience drawn from both sides of the political aisle. And I was performing in Nashville before that. Again, I had a strong sense that both sides of the political aisle were in the audience. I used to be the (classically) Liberal guy and now I'm drawing from a broader political audience. People want nothing too extreme on either side. They want what's do-able.
Q: What do make of your shifting audience? A signal of anything?
A: I think essentially people are yearning for a little ray of hope that we can all come together. There are so many outstanding issues pressuring the country right now. People are clamoring for us to just begin solving problems already.
Q: You closed one of your recent HBO shows saying: “I hope I scared the sh*t out of you," having described what you've been calling all along a slow-moving coup by Trump and his associates.
A: For next time around in 2024, even for the 2022 midterm election, Trump and his allies are actively building a structure to count the votes the way they want the votes counted – Trump or who he supports as the winner. Believe me, the next time he calls a Secretary of State or any election official to find votes for him they will find them.
Q: And meanwhile the political narrative is often somewhere between Make America Great Again and Woke sentiments…
A: That's right. One side chanting Make American Great Again, Again! The other side chanting Defund the Police. By the way, I couldn't write that as comedy – the Make America Great Again, Again thing. Regular people are exhausted with the extremes of our political dialogue. That's why I think my audience is changing. We're all trying to find some middle ground and get stuff done.
People want nothing too extreme on either side. They want what's do-able.
Q. Our last interview you said you love newspapers, legacy media in all its forms. That you're old-fashioned in that way. Still true?
A: I no longer feel that way. I feel now I have to sample everything because all sides now present a jaundiced view. It's not just Fox News. It's MSNBC as well. Neither are honest brokers. Each news operation omits what is inconvenient. Fox News lies by commission or distorts events by their omissions. There are few honest news sources left. I feel like even The New York Times is adrift and I can't rely on it as I once did.
Q: Are you an honest broker?
A: (Laughing) Yes, I am because I, as we all should, look at every side of an issue before deciding where I stand. Lots of voters wonder who and what to trust anymore. Voters tell me they don't have any real choices. So, what's the difference?
Q: Lots of cranky voters out there. Are they upset because they don't know how our institutions work? Or because they don't like the institutions?
I'm not certain that many voters know about our institutions in depth or how they are intended to work. Because they're not grounded in their understanding, they conclude they don't like them.
Q: Do we need to teach history and civics again in schools?
A: Absolutely! I've seen saying that forever. Teach civics, as in three equal branches of government meant to balance each other. No one person, branch of government, regulatory agency or court at any level rules the roost. Our teaching of history is currently full of thorns causing hemorrhages in our understanding of our past. We should teach our history honestly, with facts, but not with an angle.
A: Sure. The current notion of 'white fragility' says If you're white, you're racist. If you think you're not, you're mistaken. You just don't know you are. That's no way to build bridges. What's hopeful about that message? Who wants to go to that meeting? Never should we deny any aspect of our racial history. But let's begin speaking to one another in a way we can learn and grow and change together.
Q: Hoping to create change you donated $1 million to Barack Obama when he ran for a second term. Have any big donations in mind for 2022 or 2024?
A: They're not getting another dime out of me. I felt very strongly that Barack Obama should have a second term. I didn't want his success to be seen as a fluke. Remember too that my donation came around the same time the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision was made. When the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. Money everywhere. Then later Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., hit me up for a second $1 million for his super PAC that focuses on electing Democrats to the Senate. I'm done. Donations of that size are hard for me to do.
Correspondent Frank Pizzoli covers LGBTQ issues for the Capital-Star.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.
Former President Donald Trump heard from angry New Yorkers on Tuesday after he returned to the city to take part in a deposition.
According to CNN, Trump testified for over four hours in a lawsuit brought by protesters who alleged that they were assaulted by his security guard in 2015.
Bloomberg caught the former president on video as he was leaving the deposition. Both cheers and expletives could be heard.
'F--k you!" multiple people shouted.
Watch the video below from Bloomberg.
LOOK: Trump leaves Trump Tower after testifying under oath for over 4 hours in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by protesters who say his security roughed them up in 2015 https://t.co/18KdBo06ta pic.twitter.com/5kGTQ3GU97
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) October 19, 2021
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