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EXCLUSIVE: New Appellate Lawyer for Bill Cosby Ready for Battle

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Look, I sue police officers for a living,” said attorney Jennifer Bonjean. “What makes Mr. Cosby’s conviction so egregious is that the judge allowed these other witnesses from decades ago. I knew the fix was in when the trial judge allowed that testimony.”

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During an exclusive two-hour on-the-record interview with Bonjean for the Black Press of America led by National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., she spoke openly about Bill Cosby’s legal appeal. (Photo: John Michael Reefer for NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

This is the first of a two-part exclusive with Bill Cosby’s appellate lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean

While Bill Cosby is being held inside a small, 9-feet-by-5-feet steel prison cell in Collegeville, Penn., where he awaits a decision from the state Superior Court on the appeal of  a sexual assault conviction, Attorney Jennifer Bonjean is experienced and ready to fight to help overturn Cosby’s unjust conviction and 3- to 10-year prison sentence.

During an exclusive two-hour on-the-record interview with Bonjean for the Black Press of America led by National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., she spoke openly about Bill Cosby’s legal appeal.

This marks the first time that any of Cosby’s current appellate lawyers have spoken to the news media.

“I can’t be put in a box. The same principles have driven my entire life: I fight to win. That’s what I do. I’m fearless, and nobody scares me. What’s right is right, and those principles, and those values, are dying in this day and age where people seem to value grifters and the dishonest,” Attorney Bonjean stated.

“I’m not looking to make friends with prosecutors. I’m not looking to make friends with judges. I’m not trying to offend, but what I have to do is protect my client’s rights without worrying about any ramifications,” Bonjean continued.

“In this country and our Constitution, we try cases based on the charges, and if you look at the charges against Mr. Cosby and look at those brought because of Andrea Constand. Her story doesn’t hold up,” Bonjean candidly stated.

“The prosecution knew her story couldn’t hold up, so they went and brought in these other women from 15 or more years ago, and no one has ever tested their stories,” Bonjean forthrightly observed.

“You can bring in accusers from [decades ago] and accuse him or anyone of something. There’s no way to defend that. That should have been a red flag to let people know that the prosecution had no case.”

Attorney Bonjean continued, “Look, I sue police officers for a living. What makes Mr. Cosby’s conviction so egregious is that the judge allowed these other witnesses from decades ago. I knew the fix was in when the trial judge allowed that testimony.”

Bonjean’s law office is in a four-story converted factory building in a fast-gentrifying section of Brooklyn, NY, where she is now helping to plot Cosby’s appeal and eventual freedom.

Bonjean is sort of a renegade activist, legal strategist, and advocate – her social media pages include photos of her standing with her arms-folded and bearing tattoos; while others show her making a fist at the steps of a courthouse.

Still, another depicts Bonjean and two associates standing imposingly under the Brooklyn Bridge with a leashed pit bull keeping watch.

Though opponents would probably agree that she’s tough as nails in the courtroom, Bonjean cautions not to read too much into her social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. “I’m a big contradiction,” Bonjean told NNPA Newswire.

Sitting next to Andrew Wyatt, Bonjean confidently holds court from her informed perspective on the challenges of Bill Cosby’s case inside the recently renovated 150,000-square-foot building in the heart of Brooklyn, NY.

Bonjean and Wyatt, Cosby’s longtime crisis manager, make the perfect team – she is working the legal issues, while Wyatt works the public relations.

Sitting next to Andrew Wyatt, Bonjean confidently holds court from her informed perspective on the challenges of Bill Cosby’s case inside the recently renovated 150,000-square-foot building in the heart of Brooklyn, NY. (Pictured left to right: Stacy Brown, Andrew Wyatt, Jennifer Bonjean, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. / Photo by John Michael Reefer for NNPA)

Sitting next to Andrew Wyatt, Bonjean confidently holds court from her informed perspective on the challenges of Bill Cosby’s case inside the recently renovated 150,000-square-foot building in the heart of Brooklyn, NY. (Pictured left to right: Stacy Brown, Andrew Wyatt, Jennifer Bonjean, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. / Photo by John Michael Reefer for NNPA)

“Jennifer Bonjean should have been the lead lawyer at the appeals,” Wyatt said.

Bonjean agreed.

She scratches her head – in bewilderment – when discussing the trial that led to Cosby’s 2018 conviction on charges of aggravated indecent assault.

Despite the outcry of the #MeToo movement and the mantra of believing the victim that has overtaken social media and the consciousness of America, Bonjean said she never bought Constand’s story.

“People say it’s normal not to go to the police; not to have an immediate outcry,” Bonjean stated. “This was a 30-year-old woman. She was not a teenager, but someone accomplished, and for her not to have told someone; her best friend; her mother.

“Then she’s calling Mr. Cosby on the phone [more than 70 times, according to Constand’s testimony], and you’re coming to his shows with your parents, and bringing him gifts? You say you’re so into homeopathic stuff, and you watch everything you put in your body, and he gives you something, and you don’t ask what it is?”

Although Cosby’s deposition and his continued position throughout the trial were that the two were involved in a romantic relationship, Constand maintained that she viewed Cosby as just a mentor.

“Andrea Constand doesn’t have the right to re-define or re-characterize their relationship,” Bonjean noted.

The owner and founder of Bonjean Law Group, PLLC, Bonjean is a seasoned attorney with extensive experience in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She specializes in appellate, post-conviction, and habeas corpus litigation.

Bonjean said her passion and tenacity drives her to aggressively fight for individuals who have been wronged by the criminal justice system.

She and her staff have worked tirelessly to reverse the convictions of innocent people wrongly incarcerated.

Bonjean said she remains committed to exposing the rampant police and prosecutorial misconduct that often leads to wrongful convictions.

In 2014 the Chicago Innocence Project awarded Bonjean, the Humanitarian of the year Award. She stated that she initially wanted to be a prosecutor and an advocate for sexual assault victims.

But that changed when she began volunteering for the women’s services division of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

At the YWCA, Bonjean was a rape crisis counselor and victim’s rights advocate for under-served and marginalized women who were victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“These were poor women of color,” Bonjean stated.

In her role as crisis advocate, Bonjean frequently interacted with prosecutors who interviewed victims and made decisions about whether to charge their offenders.

“The prosecutors were supposed to protect them, but they didn’t,” Bonjean stated.

“I was advocating for poor women of color, and I watched these prosecutors come in and treat them like crap. I thought I wanted to be a prosecutor to represent these marginalized women, but I say the way they treated these women and I was like, ‘Hell No, I can’t be a prosecutor because I can sympathize with these victims, but the system is designed to hurt poor people of color, and I just can’t be a part of that. I can’t put black women away. I immediately identified with the other side.”

Bonjean has remained successful defending the voiceless, particularly people of color.

Things could have been far different; instead of practicing law, Bonjean could well have been plying her trade at The Met.

She attended the Manhattan School of Music, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Music in Opera Performance.

“Yes, I did that,” Bonjean said, with a laugh.

Clearly, she’s chomping at the bit to help Cosby.

“I watched both trials like most people. When the first trial ended with a mistrial, I immediately knew the prosecutors didn’t have the goods,” Bonjean stated.

“Then I heard they were bringing in all of these women for the second trial, and I didn’t need to hear no more.”

“At the end of the day, the only person that I care about is my client,” Bonjean concluded.

PART 2: The appeal and where does Cosby’s legal team go from here?

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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