Tag Archives: Dick Durbin

‘Senselessly Unjust’: Ex-Chicago Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald Released From Prison

The Justice Department is facing pressure to bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke, who served less than half of his 81-month sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder.

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 2-3-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: C. Presutti/VOA

Critics of police violence toward Black Americans expressed outrage as Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, was released Thursday after serving just over three years in prison for a state murder charge.

“A white officer who murdered a 17-year-old Black child by firing 16 shots into his body is walking free today after just three years behind bars. Think about that. Just three years for a violent, vicious attack that killed a child,” tweeted Kina Collins, a Democratic candidate running to represent Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, which includes part of Chicago.

A Cook County, Illinois jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in October 2018. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison the following January. The judge’s decision to merge all charges for sentencing was significant because the 16 battery counts each had a mandatory minimum of a six-year prison term.

“An 81-month sentence for the gruesome murder of a child was inadequate in the first place,” said Collins. “For Van Dyke to walk free in less than half that time is senselessly unjust.”

WGN TV reports that Chicago activists “plan on holding a ‘large demonstration’ in Federal Plaza Thursday around 4:00 pm to express their displeasure, with at least 15 social and civil rights groups pledging their attendance.”

Leading up to Van Dyke’s release this week, activists, the NAACP, and political figures have urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to update the public on an investigation that was announced in April 2015 and to pursue federal charges against the convicted murderer.

“We’ve been crying aloud for federal charges on Jason Van Dyke for the past three years,” community organizer William Calloway told WGN TV. “It shouldn’t take this to happen, to be on the cusp of his release, to get federal charges pressed on him.”

Tracie Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, said of Van Dyke that “this man doesn’t need to get out. We are seeking federal charges. The time he did wasn’t enough.”

Collins, in her Thursday morning Twitter thread, said that “I’m calling on U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene and bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke to ensure that he is held accountable.”

The congressional candidate also blasted former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Japan. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Wednesday similarly slammed Emanuel’s new post and called for federal charges against Van Dyke.

Bush also shared a letter that NAACP leaders sent to Garland Tuesday which said the “lack of resolution” in the investigation coupled with the release of the “disgraced” ex-cop is “clearly alarming” and “has given rise to very vocal concerns and unrest” in Chicago.

“We trust that you find the matters alarming as well,” wrote NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Illinois State Conference president Teresa Haley, urging Garland to close the investigation and “move forward with appropriate and applicable federal charges based on the federal grand jury findings and other relevant evidence.”

A DOJ spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the department received the NAACP letter as well as one from Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. senators, who wrote to Garland that “the facts of this case remain shocking and upsetting,” and demanded an update on the federal investigation.

As Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary chair, detailed:

In April 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a joint federal and state investigation into the shooting; however, there was never an announcement that the federal investigation had closed after Van Dyke was convicted of state charges. In October 2019, when activists called for federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke and other officers involved in the cover up of the murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to state whether the federal investigation was still ongoing or closed. Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office again declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Van Dyke’s state conviction and sentencing do not preempt or negate the interest of the federal government, if the evidence supports charging Van Dyke with violating McDonald’s civil rights under Section 242 of Title 18. The recent federal civil rights case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin demonstrates this; after Chauvin was found guilty by a state jury and sentenced to 22 years for murdering George Floyd, Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges under Section 242. Chauvin admitted that his willful use of unreasonable force resulted in Floyd’s death. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Chauvin faces a sentence of over 20 years in prison.

“We urge the Justice Department to carefully and expeditiously complete its investigation,” the senators wrote, telling Garland that they “look forward to your prompt report” on the probe.

Collins, in a statement Tuesday, said that “this is a step in the right direction” for the senators, “but let’s be clear: we don’t just need an update, we need charges filed.”

“This is an open and shut case,” she said. “This murder was a clear-cut violation of Laquan McDonald’s civil rights. Just like in Chauvin’s case, the federal charges against Van Dyke should be straightforward. It’s past time for the federal charges to be filed.”

U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, who represents Illinois’ 4th Congressional District, said Thursday that “there can never be justice for Laquan McDonald, but Jason Van Dyke’s early release negates even the small measure of accountability that his conviction provided.”

“Van Dyke’s early release is a slap in the face to our communities, and today I join the call for the Department of Justice to consider bringing civil rights charges against Van Dyke,” García added. “Laquan’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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‘Anti-Democratic and Cowardly’: US Building New Secret Courtroom at Guantánamo

“The entire enterprise,” said one critic of the tribunal process, “makes a mockery out of what the U.S. pretends to stand for.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 12-30-2021 by Common Dreams

Witness Against Torture demonstrates for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay offshore prison. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

Human rights advocates and attorneys representing Guantánamo Bay detainees on Thursday decried a secret new courtroom reportedly being built by the Pentagon at the notorious offshore U.S. prison.

The New York Times reports Gitmo’s new second courtroom—which will cost $4 million—will not allow members of the public to witness proceedings against detainees to be tried for alleged terrorism-related offenses. People wishing to view those trials will have the option of watching delayed video footage in a separate building. Continue reading

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‘Our Moment to Win Citizenship’: Budget Package Provides Hope to Millions of Undocumented People

“We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-9-2021

About 3000 people gathered at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis to stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees in February 2017. Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/CC

The $3.5 trillion budget resolution introduced Monday by Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders includes billions of dollars for Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, giving progressives a reason to cheer.

“We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” said Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee and key architect of what he called “the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s. Continue reading

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Progressives Demand Probe After Revelations About FBI Investigation of Kavanaugh

“Survivors deserve justice, and the country deserves to know the full truth of this situation, as well as the lengths the Trump administration was willing to go to cover up the truth.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-22-2021

Protesters rally against Brett Kavanaugh outside the Supreme Court (Photo Phiend/flickr)

Rights groups and other progressives are demanding a probe of the FBI’s rushed and limited 2018 background investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after seven Democratic senators on Thursday revealed new details about the bureau’s actions.

Kavanaugh was nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump and narrowly confirmed by GOP senators in October 2018, despite allegations of sexual assault, which Kavanaugh has denied. A newly released letter to lawmakers from the FBI sheds light on—but also raises more questions about—how the bureau handled its investigation of those allegations. Continue reading

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‘Enough Is Enough’: 8 Senate Dems Slammed for Going ‘Hand-in-Hand With GOP’ to Oppose Covid Relief for Undocumented Workers

“Let us be clear on this. Not only do undocumented community members pay taxes, they are also suffering as much as anyone else because of this pandemic.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-5-2021

John Hickenlooper speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

As the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 456,000 and U.S. senators participated in a 15-hour overnight voting session, eight Democrats elicited outrage and condemnation from rights advocates and progressives for backing a GOP amendment to explicitly exclude undocumented immigrants—including essential frontline workers—from receiving direct Covid-19 relief.”We expected this vote from Republicans, but seeing Democrats vote this way is a betrayal to the values they say they stand for.”

The “vote-a-rama” on a series of nonbinding Republican amendments culminated in the Senate approving along party lines a budget resolution that could eventually enable congressional Democrats to implement President Joe Biden’s $1.9 American Rescue Plan—which does not include relief checks for undocumented immigrants. Continue reading

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Mitch ‘Nuclear Option’ McConnell Poised to Turn Steady Stream of Trump’s Right-Wing Judges Into a Flood

Critics warn that even if Democrats regain control of White House and Senate, the flood of judges could mean there will be no more vacancies to fill post-2020

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-6-2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly planning to change the chamber’s rules to make it easier to confirm right-wing judicial nominees to lifetime appointments. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/cc/flickr)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly pursuing a “nuclear option” rule change to make it easier to push through a flood of President Donald Trump’s right-wing judges.

Under the new rules, nominees for lifetime appointments on lower courts would only require a simple majority of votes rather than the current 67. Critics condemned the move as “hijacking” the federal judiciary and pointed out that even if Democrats regain control of the Senate and White House in the next election, they may not have any more spots to fill post-2020. Continue reading

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‘The Guy Who Defended Company That Caused Worst Oil Spill in US History’ Just Confirmed to Head DOJ’s Environmental Division

“Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-11-2018

U.S. Coast Guard crews work to put out a fire during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) joined with Senate Republicans on Thursday to confirm Jeffrey Bossert Clark—a climate-denying former attorney for the fossil fuel industry—to lead the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” warned Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.” Continue reading

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US Mail Is #NotForSale: Postal Workers Nationwide Stand Together Against Trump’s Privatization Plan

“Our postal system has never belonged to any president, any political party, or any company. It’s belonged to the people of this country.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-9-2018

Postal workers and critics of the Trump administration’s plans to privatize the United States Postal Service (USPS) carried signs at a Los Angeles protest on Oct. 8, 2018. (Photo: Chloe Osmer/Twitter)

As the United States Postal Service (USPS) closed on Monday for a national holiday celebrated by many municipalities as Indigenous Peoples Day, workers across the country held a day of action to protest President Donald Trump’s proposal to privatize the postal service.


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Demanding End to ‘Unprecedented’ Secrecy, Senators Say Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself About Role in Post-9/11 Torture Program

“Release documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House in the same manner as was done for all previous Supreme Court nominees. The truth should not be hidden from the Senate or the American people.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-17-2018

Then-President George W. Bush looks on as Justice Anthony Kennedy swears in Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on June 1, 2006. (Photo: Eric Draper/White House)

Three Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee claimed Thursday that documents suggest “wildly unpopular” U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied to lawmakers about his role in the George W. Bush administration’s torture program during his 2006 confirmation hearing to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org—one of the groups leading the #StopKavanaugh effort that has grown out of concerns about Kavanaugh’s record on reproductive rights, the environmenthuman rightslabor, healthcare, and net neutrality—tweeted: Continue reading

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Fill the Swamp: Trump to Put Military Industrial Complex Lobbyist in Charge of the Army

By James Holbrooks. Published 7-24-2017 by The Anti-Media

Last Wednesday, it was reported that Donald Trump was moving to nominate Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper for secretary of the Army. Raytheon is one of the “big five” defense contractors, and the president’s decision comes at a time when concerns are being raised over the idea of defense industry executives being placed in senior positions at the Pentagon.

Esper, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard and a doctorate from George Washington University, has been Raytheon’s vice president of government relations since 2010. Before that, he held a slew of positions in both the public and private sectors. His resume is extensive, but The Hill managed to succinctly package the high points: Continue reading

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