CRT Biweekly Newsletter December 2, 2016

  • Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at a University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights conference, explaining that “Whether it’s in North Carolina or in countless other places across America – from rural towns to large states – this fight is centered around the cause of hope.  To me, civil rights work has always been built upon a foundation of hope.  It’s the hope that despite the zigs and the zags of our nation’s history, we have been marching forward, imperfectly yet inexorably.  The long struggle for equal justice and equal opportunity in this country has always required a deep and abiding reservoir of hope.”
     
  • Daniel George Fisher, 57, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for writing and mailing a threatening letter to an Islamic Center.  Fisher was charged with obstructing, by threat of force, the free exercise of religious beliefs.  According to his guilty plea, in September 2015, Fisher wrote and mailed an anonymous letter to the Tawfiq Islamic Center (TIC), located in Minneapolis.  In the letter, the defendant threatened to “blow up your building with all you immigrants in it.”  The letter also included statements demonstrating strong anti-Muslim animus.  Fisher subsequently admitted to the FBI that he wrote the letter to scare and intimidate the TIC’s Muslim members.
     
  • Armando Sotelo, 24, pleaded guilty to a hate crime offense for his role in a June 19, 2015, assault of a black Somali man in Dodge City, Kansas.  Omar Cantero Martinez, 32, also pleaded guilty to providing perjured testimony during a hate crimes prosecution arising from the same assault.
     
  • The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the case of Kenny et al. v. Wilson et al. articulating the United States’ position that laws invoked to charge juveniles must include clear standards to ensure that they are enforced consistently and free from discrimination.  In the filing, the department explains that vague statues enforced arbitrarily contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” the cycle of harsh school discipline that brings young people into the justice system and disproportionately affects, among others, students of color and students with disabilities.
     
  • The Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against the village of Tinley Park, Illinois, alleging that the suburb of Chicago violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to approve a low-income housing development in response to race-based community opposition.
     
  • Robert Paschalis, 25, of Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for beating an African-American stranger he saw on the street.  Paschalis’s co-defendant, Charles Butler, pleaded guilty to the same crime on Nov. 9.
     
  • Paul Carter, 46, of Milwaukee, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Wisconsin to eight counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and one count of conspiracy to commit forced labor and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.
     
  • The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Bernards Township, New Jersey, alleging that the township violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied zoning approval to allow the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to build a mosque on land it owns.  The land is located in a zone that, at the time of the Islamic Society’s zoning request, permitted the construction of places of worship as a matter of right.
     
  • The Justice Department announced that it reached a settlement with the Aldine, Texas, Independent School District resolving allegations that the district discriminated against work-authorized non-citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).   The district is the ninth largest school district in the state with an enrollment of almost 70,000 students. 
     
  • The Justice Department announced an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III regulation to further clarify a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities.  The final rule provides that public accommodations that own, operate or lease movie theaters are required to provide closed movie captioning and audio description whenever showing a digital movie that is produced, distributed or otherwise made available with these features.
     
  • The Justice Department announced that Randel Branscum, 56, formerly the chief sheriff’s deputy and jail administrator for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office in Mountain View, Arkansas, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for instructing a group of prisoners to beat another inmate and then arranging for the assault to occur.
     

Twitter: @CivilRightsAAG | @CivilRights

Updated December 28, 2016

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