Before all the right-wing sturm und drang arose around her confirmation, I'd like to backtrack to the time of the announcement of her selection by President Obama. The NY Times reported she was praised for "substance not flash" and not surprisingly, opened the piece detailing her most high-profile case, the trial of police officers who had sodomized and nearly killed Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997.
As a New Yorker from Brooklyn, I was aware of Lynch during her prosecutions of crooked politicians from both parties. For me personally, her shining moment was the Louima case. For those of you who may not remember here are some of the details (trigger warning—extreme violence):
On August 9, 1997, Louima visited Club Rendez-Vous, a popular nightclub in East Flatbush. Late in the night, he and several other men interceded in a fight between two women. The police were called and several officers from the 70th Precinct were dispatched to the scene. There was a confrontation between the police, patrons and bystanders involved in the scuffle outside the club. The responding patrol officers included Justin Volpe, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder, and Thomas Wiese, among others. In the ensuing scuffle, Volpe was struck by a "sucker-punch" and identified Louima as his assailant. Volpe arrested Louima on charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration, and resisting arrest. Volpe later admitted he was mistaken about Louima being his assailant.
The arresting officers beat Louima with their fists, nightsticks, and hand-held police radios on the ride to the station. On arriving at the station house, he was strip-searched and put in a holding cell. The beating continued later, culminating with Louima being sexually assaulted in a bathroom at the 70th Precinct station house in Brooklyn. Volpe kicked Louima in the testicles, then, while Louima's hands were cuffed behind his back, he first grabbed onto and squeezed his testicles and then sodomized him with a broom handle. According to trial testimony, Volpe then walked through the precinct holding the bloody, excrement-stained instrument in his hand, bragging to a police sergeant that he "took a man down tonight." Louima's teeth were also badly damaged in the attack by having the broom handle jammed into his mouth
The day after the incident, Louima was taken to the emergency room at Coney Island Hospital. Escorting officers explained away his serious injuries being a result of "abnormal homosexual activities". An emergency room nurse, Magalie Laurent, suspecting the nature of Louima's extreme injuries were not the result of gay sex, notified Louima's family and the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau of the likelihood of sexual assault and battery. The attack left Louima with severe internal damage to his colon and bladder that required three major operations to repair. He was hospitalized for two months after the incident.
Communities in New York, already angered by police brutality, and the chokehold death of Anthony Baez
exploded with outrage. Scenes of the massive protests are shown in Steven Said's
folk anthem "The Ballad of Abner Louima."
Rare in the cases of police abuse of us does the perpetrating officer do any jail time. We know too well how many walk with even an indictment. Not so for Justin Volpe who is doing a 30-year prison sentence.
NYPD officer Justin Volpe initially pleaded not guilty to several counts of violating Louima's civil rights, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to police. Midway through the trial, Volpe changed his plea to guilty, confessing to having sodomized Louima. Despite the fact that Louima had several broken teeth, Volpe denied that he ever struck Louima in the mouth with the stick and claimed that he only put it very close to Louima's mouth. Volpe also admitted that he had threatened Louima's life. On December 13, 1999, Volpe was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole, a $525 fine and restitution in the amount of $277,495.
Since that time, which has faded from the memories of many, we have witnessed the continuation of violence by police, and others against people of color. Frankly, I want an attorney general who will not hesitate to see justice served. I think her own awareness of who she is, standing on the shoulders of her ancestors, will ensure that. The NY Times
piece gives us a rare glimpse into her background
On the few occasions Ms. Lynch, who was born in Greensboro, N.C., has publicly discussed her background, the tales have been moving. In a 2012 speech, she discussed her great-great-grandfather, a free black man in North Carolina, who fell in love with her great-great-grandmother, a slave. “Unable to purchase her, in order to marry her he had to stay on and re-enter bondage,” she said.
Her grandfather was a sharecropper and a pastor who helped black people who had been falsely accused escape the Jim Crow South. And her father, also a pastor, held civil-rights meetings in his church. She remembered quizzing her mother about why she had picked cotton in high school. “And she looked at me and said, ‘So that you never have to,' ” Ms. Lynch said.
Those of us who followed her career in NYC watched her go after corrupt politicians, Democrats and Republicans. The Albany Times Union
reported at the time of the WH announcement, "Lynch, scourge of corrupt NY lawmakers, could be headed to D.C.
" The Alliance for Justice, which represents a broad-based group
of over 100 liberal and progressive organizations, has strongly supported her confirmation, and issued this report
You can make your voice heard at #confirmlynch, and sign this MoveOn petition: I support Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee for attorney general.
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