Today: Jun 02 , 2020
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Peppers

Arresting and counseling people in the county jail is big business.

In late March, two Oregon men with legally certified hemp were arrested near Ash Fork, AZ by a Yavapai County sheriff’s deputy and charged with possession with intent to sell marijuana.

The problem for Yavapai County Attorney Polk and Sheriff Mascher was that the deputy falsely described high grade marijuana, and an amount that was not true.

Christopher Tinsley and Gordon Peppers were transporting a load of legal CBD-rich hemp from Oregon to Texas, on behalf of Sacred Flower Farms. They were delivery men, who were hired to transport the hemp by a buyer in Texas. The plan was simple… make the trip, deliver the hemp and return to Oregon. They had secured certification indicating that an Oregon laboratory certified what it was – hemp, with lots of CBD in it.

Deputy Trevor Hearl claims he pulled them over for some sort of unsafe lane change and that gave him probable cause to peek inside their van, determine it was pot and make an arrest. One newspaper report from Oregon said Hearl even boasted of his expertise in knowing about high grade marijuana. And Hearl’s report also said they fit the profile of drug traffickers because they were driving a car with out-of-state plates on a known drug corridor.

"I kept waiting for him to say it was because we were black," Tinsley told an Oregon publication.

Hearl and the sheriffs threw the two men in the county jail for eight days - during the height of Covid-19 fears, not to mention a time in history when wrongful arrests or even killings by police of African Americans were making news.

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is an active ingredient in cannabis that many Yavapai County residents are buying because some claim it helps treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety. To have been illegal, Peppers and Tinsley would have had to be in possession of hemp or pot with THC in it. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol - the psychoactive compound in marijuana and hemp that gives the high sensation.

The two African Americans - Peppers and Tinsley - hired Phoenix attorney Tyler Schwenke who is investigating whether to file civil charges against Yavapai County. Schwenke told me, “The sheriffs didn’t bother to call Oregon folks to determine what the product was.”

He also confirmed the deputy weighed the hemp wrong. Peppers and Tinsley admit they had 285 pounds of legal hemp, but Deputy Hearl weighed it out at 417 pounds and declared it marijuana.

“Under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, a federal law, you can’t be prosecuted for transporting legal hemp under a state law,” Schwenke told me.

In one of his reports Hearl says he’s with PANT, the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking group. I’m not sure why Hearl would put that in a report except that PANT has become Sheila Polk’s mechanism for using confiscated money and goods to fund anti-drug projects she would otherwise have no money for, and perhaps Hearl was thinking he had made such a huge score that the proceeds could go to PANT.

Dwight Develyn, spokesperson in the sheriff’s department won’t comment – he won’t even give me investigative reports that I requested under the Arizona Open Records Statute. Sheila Polk’s staff was asked for a comment and legal documents in the case. She and her staff have failed to respond.

One additional investigation I am pursuing is whether deputy David Rhodes (who is running for sheriff) is married to April Rhodes who owns Spectrum Health – a company which is getting lucrative contracts from the county sheriff to offer psychology counseling to jail inmates. Dwight Develyn, Sheriff Mascher, Sheila Polk and Spectrum Health have refused to answer any questions on that issue or supply any documents with which to corroborate or deny. Develyn did email me a brochure that the county is boasting about, describing the Yavapai Mental Health Coalition in which Spectrum gets to carve up part of a $225,000 pie.

But that’s just one program and Spectrum now has a partnership with West Yavapai Guidance Clinic and has morphed into another company known as Complete Care Partners. Wow, is mental health care that big a business in the Yavapai County government system, and where is all the money going? Two sources within AHCCCS - Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System - tell me that agency has provided $43,000, combined, to West Yavapai Guidance and Spectrum.

Spectrum’s leadership, including April Rhodes, is listed on the Arizona Corporation Commission website, along with Board of Director names our readers might find interesting.

Did Peppers and Tinsley get psychological counseling during their eight days in jail, eight days of trauma over something they didn’t do and the possibility of getting Covid-19 in close quarters? Peppers said they did – three minutes worth. I wonder what they billed for three minutes.

One of Polk’s public relations problems has been her over-zealous obsession with ridding Arizona of all things marijuana, or hemp that might smell like marijuana. She dislikes medicinal marijuana, approved by Arizonans, and is opposed to the ballot issue that would legalize recreational marijuana. Often her zeal gets her into trouble. For instance, in 2015 the Arizona Republic newspaper let her publish an op-ed piece on the dangers of marijuana. In the op-ed she claims “marijuana use was associated with the tragic and needless deaths of 62 children in Arizona.”

But as Republic columnist E.J. Montini wrote in the paper the next day: “Wow. That's a pretty startling figure. I mean, if marijuana killed 62 kids don't you think that might have made, you know, the news?” He indicated Polk was twisting information from a report by the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program to suit Polk’s narrative.

We’re all for cracking down on serious drug crimes, and Prescott Enews supports our police officers, and law and order, if the prosecutor and sheriff get the facts straight.

Peppers and Tinsley were let out of jail after eight days and Mr. Peppers told me the Oregon farm eventually got its hemp back. But both men could sue the county for civil rights violations such as an illegal arrest, illegal detention for eight days and other claims. Stay tuned.

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U.S. officials are seeking to determine whether extremist groups had infiltrated police brutality protests across the country and deliberately tipped largely peaceful demonstrations toward violence — and if foreign adversaries were behind a burgeoning disinformation campaign on social media.

As demonstrations spread from Minneapolis to the White House, New York City and overseas Sunday, federal law enforcement officials insisted far-left groups were stoking violence. Meanwhile, experts who track extremist groups also reported seeing evidence of the far-right at work.

Investigators were also tracking online interference and looking into whether foreign agents were behind the effort. Officials have seen a surge of social media accounts with fewer than 200 followers created in the last month, a textbook sign of a disinformation effort.

The accounts have posted graphic images of the protests, material on police brutality and material on the coronavirus pandemic that appeared designed to inflame tensions across the political divide, according to three administration officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss investigations.

The investigations are an attempt to identify the network of forces behind some of the most widespread outbreaks of civil unrest in the U.S. in decades. Protests erupted in dozens of cities in recent days, triggered by the death of George Floyd, who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee.

Pandemic-weary Americans were already angry — about COVID-19 deaths, lockdown orders and tens of millions of people out of work. The pandemic has hit African Americans harder than whites in the U.S., and the killings of black people by police have continued over the years even as the topic faded from the national stage.

But there are signs of people with other disparate motives, including anarchist graffiti, arrests of some out-of-state protesters, and images circulating in extremist groups that suggest the involvement of outside groups.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Sunday that state authorities were hit with a cyber attack as law enforcement prepared to diffuse protests in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the epicenter of the unrest. He described it as a “very sophisticated denial of service attack on all computers.”

President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Bar and others have said the left-wing extremist group antifa is to blame. Short for anti-fascists, antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.

Barr on Sunday said the FBI would use its regional joint terrorism task forces to “identify criminal organizers,” and Trump threatened again to name antifa a terrorist group.

The Justice Department is also deploying members of the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration on Sunday to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, a senior department official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The addition of the federal agents, who will have armored vehicles, came as Barr warned that prosecutors could seek to use terrorism statutes against “violent radical agitators” who attempt to hijack protests to cause destruction.

An antifa activist group disseminated a message in a Telegram channel on Saturday that encouraged people to consider Minnesota National Guard troops “easy targets,” two Defense Department officials said. The message encouraged activists to steal “kit,” meaning the weapons and body armor used by the soldiers. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

As a result, soldiers with the Minnesota National Guard were armed during their mission at protests across the state Sunday, the officials said. The soldiers are sometimes armed but had not been since they moved into parts of the state that had been besieged by riots in the last few days. The troops do not have the authority to make arrests, and are there to act mostly as extra security for police.

Others have seen evidence of right-wing extremists. J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, has been monitoring chatter about the protests among anti-government extremists on social media platforms. She has access to dozens of private Facebook groups for followers of the loosely organized “Boogaloo” movement, which uses an ’80s movie sequel as a code word for a second civil war.

She also has been poring over images from the weekend protests and spotted some “boogaloo bois” in the crowds, carrying high-powered rifles and wearing tactical gear.

“They want to co-opt them in order to start their war. They see themselves as being on the side of protesters and that the protesters themselves are useful in causing anarchy,” MacNab said.

She also sees signs that the Three Percenters militia movement appears to be taking an interest.

Megan Squire, an Elon University computer science professor who tracks online extremism, saw images of at least four members of the far-right Proud Boys group on the periphery of a protest Saturday night in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Trump was expected in the coming days to draw distinctions between the legitimate anger of peaceful protesters and the unacceptable actions of violent agitators, said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration has largely remained silent on local reports that far-right protesters were also involved. Meanwhile, Democratic mayors said Trump’s handling of the crisis was reminiscent of one of the darkest moments of his presidency — when he said there were “good people on both sides” of protests in 2017 over white supremacists demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia.

America’s racial fault lines are a perfect opportunity for foreign adversaries looking to sow discord and portray the U.S. in a negative light, according to James Ludes, director of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.

“This is a real issue and Americans are legitimately upset about it,” said Ludes, who studies foreign disinformation tactics. “That’s one of the hallmarks of these campaigns. You don’t create new issues, you exploit existing issues.”

There’s a history of this. In 2016, another black man, Philando Castile, was killed by police in a Minneapolis suburb, his death livestreamed on Facebook. Russians used a fake Black Lives Matter page to confuse and stoke anger among the protesters. There were nearly 700,000 followers, but it’s not clear how many were real.

One debunked example from this week: That Atlanta had deployed a “child militia.”

Floyd was accused of trying to pass a bad bill at a grocery store after he was laid off in the pandemic. Disturbing video showed him prone on the street, while a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck even as he cried he couldn’t breathe. He later died. The officers have been fired; Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd in the video, was charged with murder.

At first there were peaceful demonstrations, but violence soon erupted. A Minneapolis police station was torched and protests took off around the country, growing increasingly tense. Video showed a police vehicle ramming into demonstrators in New York. Meanwhile, a van with four New York Police Department officers inside was hit with a Molotov cocktail and torched.

Hundreds have been arrested nationwide and cities braced for more protests. But booking information from the county jail in Minneapolis, for example, showed that out of 59 protest-related arrests, 47 people had a home address in Minnesota, with the majority coming from the Twin Cities.

Before protests began in New York City, organizers of anarchist groups began raising money for bail, recruited medical teams to deploy for violent interactions with police and planned how to target high-end stores, said John Miller, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.

Scouts on bicycles would also move ahead of the groups to report where the police would be and then direct small breakaway groups to areas where they could torch police cars or throw Molotov cocktails, Miller said.

The NYPD has arrested 786 people related to protests since May 28 and 1 in 7 of them were not from New York City, he said.

In Washington, where protesters raged outside the White House, most of the 17 people arrested were from the area. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the groups seemed, at the least, organized to destroy with tools to break windows and distribute materials.


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Associated Press writers Kathleen Hennessey in Minneapolis; Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Md.; Michael R. Sisak in New York; Michael Biesecker in Reston, Va.; David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island; and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

Another conspiracy theory is debunked.

police car burns riot

Americans watched in horror as protests over George Floyd’s death devolved into riots and looting from New York to Los Angeles this weekend, but perhaps just as surprising were media reports of the dark conspiracy behind it:

White supremacists.

Within 24 hours, social media and cable news networks were spreading an unfounded conspiracy theory that “white nationalists” were behind the violence plaguing largely African-American protests seeking racial justice.

How did such an unlikely theory spread so fast?

On Saturday morning, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a progressive Democrat, claimed his city was “confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) claimed about 80 percent of those arrested for looting and vandalism were outside agitators, while his Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan claimed: “There are white supremacists there. There are anarchists. There are people who are burning down institutions that are core to our identity.”

This message was immediately amplified by members of the media.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid posted multiple tweets about the “white nationalists involved in the protests” and reporting as fact that the rioting was “already documented as coming from white nationalist groups.” During an interview with Reid, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison shared the tale of a shadowy figure with an umbrella who, he said, might be evidence of white supremacist plotting.

Headlines appeared in mainstream media outlets featuring “reports of white nationalists” involved in the violence spreading across the country.

And when Attorney General William Barr made a statement blaming the violence on the notorious Antifa organization — with a long history of rioting and conflict — the Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart complained:

“The Attorney General failed to acknowledge the white nationalists involved in the protests, as warned by every Minnesota official who has spoken today.”

Less than 24 hours later, those “Minnesota officials” had walked back their claims about large numbers of outsiders spreading chaos in their cities after records revealed the vast majority of those charged were in fact Minnesota residents. NBC News reported that “little evidence of these claims [of outside agitators] has been put forward.”

“NBC News reached out to police departments in several major cities that were the scene of protests, but thus far none have said whether outside groups had been found to be operating during the protests,” they reported.

The suggestion that the violence Americans saw on their TV screens was being perpetrated by a network of white nationalists is suspect on its face. It’s also an unnecessary stretch in logic. Far too often in the recent past, peaceful protests have been overwhelmed by people with violent agendas, and without any nefarious plotting.

According to University of Miami political scientist and conspiracy theory expert Joseph Uscinski, we shouldn’t be surprised. Looking for conspiracies is part of America’s political character.

“For example, we have a lot of conspiracy theories involving George Soros funding the protests through Black Lives Matter, and theories about Russia funding them through white nationalists,” Uscinski told InsideSources. “It’s something everybody does to one extent or another.”

And, he says, it’s largely driven by pre-existing political beliefs.

“What Joy Ann Reid was saying was probably in line with both her and her network’s ideology and world view, as well as their audience’s,” Uscinski added.

And according to Uscinski’s research, while cultural stereotypes put dubious conspiracy theories on the political right, they are in fact a bipartisan phenomenon based on who is in power.

And so when President Obama and Democrats controlled Washington, the “birther” conspiracy questioning Obama’s birth certificate was en vogue. But during the George W. Bush administration, the most active conspiracies were on the left: 9/11 truthers, and a GWB plot to cancel the 2008 election and round up his enemies in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) camps.

People who are winning the political fight are less likely to see conspiracies afoot undermining the will of the American people and foiling the legitimate outcomes of our elections.

Or as Uscinski puts it, “Conspiracy theories are for losers.”

Don’t tell former Obama adviser Susan Rice. “I’m not reading the intelligence today, or these days — but based on my experience, this is right out of the Russian playbook,” Rice said on CNN Sunday. “But we cannot allow the extremists, the foreign actors, to distract from the real problems we have in this country.”

Riots at Black Lives Matter protests are a Russian operation? That’s one theory.

 

Michael Graham is political editor at InsideSources. You can reach him at michael@insidesources.com.

A letter from the Prescott Mayor.

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As we continue to approach the start of the gorgeous summer season here in Prescott, it continues to impress me watching our citizens and local businesses navigate through the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been many frustrating days, but overall, we are seeing days with promise and hope. Governor Ducey continues to phase the re-opening of Arizona’s economy and Prescott is following suit. So many restaurants and small businesses have taken the negative aspects of their circumstances and turned them into positives and inventive new ways to do business. Our local governing bodies also continue their teamwork in helping guide the quad city areas and all of Yavapai County through this difficult season.

While our trails, lakes and parks remained open throughout the stay-home orders, we’ve now also been able to re-open playgrounds and public restrooms for the convenience of Prescott families. So many parents have reveled in the opportunity to have more quality time with their children despite the sometimes stressful moments of schools being closed, and seeing our parks and playgrounds full showcases this. In light of the distancing restrictions that have been associated with COVID-19, time in the great outdoors has made such a positive impact on everyone that has been able to take the time to enjoy what Prescott has to offer. In addition to reopening playgrounds and bathrooms, city staff has worked diligently to reopen city hall and satellite offices to the public once again. As you come to visit the community development department or utility billing you’ll see evidence of this with safety barriers and floor markings to help encourage the safety of city employees and the public. I am truly proud of the level of service that has continued through all of the uncertainty and the dedication of city staff in serving our community in new and unique ways.

As re-opening continues, it has been inspiring to once again see citizens enjoying an afternoon patio lunch or drink at our local restaurants and supporting our local economy. Restaurant owners are working hard to ensure social distancing and CDC cleaning requirements are maintained while welcoming their customers back. They are continuing to offer curbside pickup and delivery services, specialized menus for “family to-go meals”. While not all of our restaurants have yet been able to reopen it is my hope that by the end of summer everyone will have been able to navigate this pandemic and begin serving their loyal customers once again. In addition to restaurants reopening their doors, so many of our locally owned shops, salons, barbershops and gyms have also been able to welcome their customers back. Prescott is such a unique and vibrant community and the value its citizens hold for our small business owners is heartwarming and has never been more evident.

The Prescott community has a long history of coming together to get through times of crisis and stress, and that has been highlighted extensively during the last few months. We’ve remained strong, positive and showed grace to each other as everyone has navigated this unique and trying time. That perseverance has allowed us to come back step-by-step and continue to support each other as we look to the future. There are many good things to come. It is important to continue to be diligent, safe and respectful as reopening continues so that the positive progress continues. I have been and continue to be deeply proud of our beautiful hometown.

Sincerely,

Mayor Greg Mengarelli

The Prescott City Council is holding a study session with public comment.

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The City of Prescott will hold a Study Session to discuss the Letter of Intent (LOI) with Arizona Eco Development (AED) on Tuesday, June 9 at 1p.m. There will be a brief overview presentation, followed by public comment. The meeting will conclude prior to the 3 p.m. Voting Meeting. Attendance will be limited, due to social distancing measures, but alternate locations have been arranged for, as well as phone-in public comment, for both the 1 p.m. Study Session and the 3 p.m. Voting Meeting. Here are some ways that the public will be able to participate.

1. Public may attend as an in-person audience in the following locations where staff will be present to collect comment cards.

a. Council Chambers (50 people maximum capacity)

b. City Hall Basement Conference Room (25 people max)

c. Centennial Center (50 people max)

 

2. Public may view the meeting remotely via the City Website, City Facebook Page, public access channel Channel 64, or Prescott Media Center website.

a. Should public viewing remotely wish to comment they may call: (346) 248-7799 and use Meeting ID # 894 5329 1176

b. The public is reminded to only call the above referenced number if they wish to comment or ask a question regarding the LOI. Upon calling they will be placed in a “waiting room” and admitted on a first come first served basis one at a time by the City Clerk.

c. Following staff’s presentation and the floor being opened and public comment taken in the following order (in the order received by staff):

i. Comments from the Centennial Center

ii. Comments from the Basement Conference Room

iii. Comments from Council Chambers

iv. Comments from public calling in

 

3. The Mayor will limit comments to a maximum of 2 minutes. The meeting will not go beyond 3 pm.

4. The Voting Meeting will begin at 3 p.m. The LOI will be on the Regular Agenda, to be voted on by Council at that time. If there are members of the public who did not have an opportunity to speak during the Study Session they may do so at this time. Additionally, staff and Council will address questions stemming from comments during the Study Session during the brief presentation at the Voting Meeting.

5. Should people wish to comment at any time before or after the scheduled meetings they may submit a comment via the City’s Website form 

If this LOI is approved by the City Council, then it is expected that AED would submit an amended proposal. Once submitted, there will be an extensive staff review, and a series of public hearings, followed by a 60 day public comment period. The entire process is expected to take 4-5 months following the AED formal submission.

Previous AED submissions and documents can be found on the City of Prescott website at Prescott-az.gov, click on AED Annexation from the home page. Proposition 400 can be found within the City Charter, Article 1 Section 4.

Face masks will be required in all courts in Yavapai County.

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In early May, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel issued Administrative Order 2020-75, updated and replaced by Administrative Order 2020-79, providing Arizona’s courts and the public with direction on returning to in-court operations after limited operations in response to COVID-19. The Order includes direction for in-person proceedings, empaneling juries, limiting access to courthouses and courtrooms, implementing social distancing, and using technology to continue court operations. Similar restrictions are in place in ALL courts in Yavapai County including the Superior Courts, Justice Courts and Municipal Courts.

The Honorable David L. Mackey, Presiding Judge of Yavapai County Superior Court stated, “The safety of the public as well as all our court staff in our court buildings is extremely important to all of our Judges; therefore, we ask for everyone’s cooperation as we work toward returning to full court operations.”

Beginning June 1, 2020, the public, staff, and all who enter Yavapai County Superior Courthouses, Yavapai Justice Courts and Municipal Courts buildings will need to bring and wear a protective face covering. All Judges, Justices of the Peace and Municipal Court Judges are authorized to take the steps needed locally, and consistent with health department guidelines, to ensure access to justice while reducing exposure to the spread of COVID-19. The Yavapai County Courts do not have funds to provide masks for all who enter the courts. As a result, customers may be turned away and parties who are denied entry may need to appear remotely at a court proceeding or have to make other arrangements.

As the courts in Yavapai County expand in-person business, staff and the public will be required to wear personal protective equipment in certain situations and the court will require screening for illness with some courts conducting temperature screening. As a matter of public safety, particularly for those with fragile medical conditions, Arizona’s courts are authorized to prohibit entry to courthouses by those who do not meet the screening requirements. When the public is not permitted to attend a public court proceeding, the court will provide a contact phone number for the Division or court conducting the proceedings for further information on how to access the proceedings, unless the proceedings are closed, meaning not open to the public.

For more information, including how to contact the Superior Court and Justice Courts in Yavapai County, please visit our website. If you have questions about a case pending in a Municipal Court, please contact that court directly using the information provided from the court.See Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-79.

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