CRT Biweekly Newsletter July 25, 2016

  • Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement last week after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Texas’s voter ID law: “I am pleased with today’s decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit holding that Texas’s 2011 photographic voter identification law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  This decision affirms our position that Texas’s highly restrictive voter ID law abridges the right to vote on account of race or color, and orders appropriate relief before yet another election passes.”
  • The Justice Department issued its final report from “Combating Religious Discrimination Today,” the interagency community engagement initiative launched earlier this year to promote religious freedom, challenge religious discrimination and enhance enforcement of religion-based hate crimes.  The White House published a blog post discussing this report as well as a number of efforts Federal agencies are taking to address and combat religious discrimination.  Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta also published a blog post about the report.  In addition, the Justice Department published a report that provides an update on its Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) enforcement.
  • A former deputy with the Bullitt County, Kentucky, Sheriff’s Office was convicted last week by a federal jury of two counts of willfully depriving a Bullitt County resident of his constitutional rights under color of law.
  • The Justice Department announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, alleging that the township violated RLUIPA when it denied zoning approval to allow the Bensalem Masjid to build a mosque on three adjoining parcels of land in the township.
  • Vanita Gupta delivered keynote remarks at the 107th NAACP National Convention and said: “Let’s honor the lives we lost this month – the lives of civilians and officers alike: in Baton Rouge, in Falcon Heights and in Dallas – by pledging that long after the hashtags stop trending on Twitter, long after the cameras leave, we will stand firmly together to end the violence, to advance justice and to ensure equality.”
  • Attorney General Lynch delivered remarks at the League of United Latin American Citizens National Convention and explained the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder on the Justice Department’s election monitoring efforts: “Unfortunately, our use of observers is largely tied to the preclearance coverage formula that the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional in Shelby County and so our ability to deploy them has been severely curtailed.  Rest assured, we will continue to monitor elections to the extent that we can, but because of Shelby County, we will be sending out fewer people with fewer capabilities this November.”  The Justice Department also published a fact sheet explaining the impact of Shelby County on these efforts.
  • A Wisconsin man was convicted by a federal jury of three counts of sex trafficking by force, threats of force or coercion; one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of maintaining a property for drug trafficking; one count of using a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and one count of witness retaliation.  The defendant sold heroin and used violence, threats and coercion to compel three young heroin-addicted women to prostitute for his profit in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • A federal jury convicted the Chief of Police of Stevenson, Alabama, Daniel Winters, 56, of two counts of deprivation of civil rights under color of law: one count for beating an arrestee, identified as D.F., and one count for failing to protect the victim from harm. 
  • The Justice Department reached an agreement with the Omaha Performing Arts Society (OPAS) resolving an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint against the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, Nebraska.  The department alleged that OPAS failed to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the theater provided access to individuals with disabilities as required after the theater underwent a renovation.
  • Christopher Williams, 31, and Laquentin Brown, 34, both of Memphis, Tennessee, were sentenced to 180 months and 99 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a sex trafficking scheme that operated out of the Riviera Motel in New Orleans. 
  • Seven Los Angeles men were charged in a 10-count indictment with participating in the 2014 firebombing of residences of African Americans living in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles.  The defendants were also charged for their roles in a racketeering enterprise that used violence and intimidation to control the perceived territory of the Big Hazard street gang.     

Twitter: @CivilRightsAAG | @CivilRights

Updated December 28, 2016

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