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Mistrial Granted in Vanderbilt Football Players’ Rape Case

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Brandon Vandenburg, right, is seen in court on Jan. 27, 2015. Cory Batey, left, testifies in this Jan. 26, 2015 file photo. (Larry McCormack/AP Photo)

Brandon Vandenburg, right, is seen in court on Jan. 27, 2015. Cory Batey, left, testifies in this Jan. 26, 2015 file photo. (Larry McCormack/AP Photo)

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A judge has granted a mistrial in the case of two former Vanderbilt football players convicted in the dorm-room rape of a student, saying “bias has been clearly shown.”

Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins on Tuesday ruled in favor of defense attorneys who said a juror, 31-year-old Todd Easter, intentionally withheld information that he was a rape victim during the jury selection process.

Easter testified at a hearing last week that he didn’t withhold information because he doesn’t consider himself a victim.

In his ruling, Watkins said “actual bias has been clearly shown.”

“Our system of justice cannot tolerate a trial with a tainted juror regardless of the strength of the evidence against the defendant,” Watkins said.

“The court finds that the proof and arguments presented at the hearing provides enough evidence that granting a new trial is necessary and appropriate in order to promote a fair determination of the defendants’ guilt or innocence.”

A Sumner County man was convicted of raping Easter when he was 16. However, Easter testified that his relationship with the man was consensual and that his parents were the ones who pressed charges.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual crimes, but Easter, who was the jury foreman, agreed to have his name included in news stories.

Defense attorneys described Easter as “deceitful and manipulative,” and that he had an agenda.

They said that during the jury selection process Easter had a chance to discuss the rape case he was involved in but when asked whether he had been sexually assaulted, defense attorneys said Easter’s response was, “no one super close to me.”

They also noted comments Easter made to the media after the players were convicted, that part of his motivation for wanting to be foreman was so he could look the defendants in their eyes as the verdict was read.

Easter testified that wasn’t his motivation, but that he was simply trying to “give them the respect of a human being.”

Easter acknowledged that he had a sometimes abusive relationship with the man who was convicted of raping him. He said the two engaged in sexual activity more than 100 times, and that the man — who was seven years older than Easter — threatened to harm him when he broke off the four-month relationship.

Authorities said Easter went to his mother out of concern and she and her husband contacted authorities.

Easter testified that he was against his parents pressing charges and that he even met with the man again after he was charged.

Attorneys for the defendants did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

However, according to the Criminal Court Clerk’s office, the defendants and their attorneys are scheduled to be in court on Wednesday to request their bonds be reinstated.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the Nashville District Attorney General’s office will request a new trial date be set soon.

“This ruling does not, in any way, affect the evidence that exists; nor does it affect the state’s resolve to vigorously pursue justice in this matter,” prosecutors said. “Justice may be delayed but it will not be denied.”

Ed Yarbrough, an attorney who represents the victim, declined to comment on the judge’s decision or his client’s reaction to the possibility of facing another trial.

Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the judge’s ruling was devastating.

The Vanderbilt case had seemed to her something of a bright spot amid a national uproar over universities’ careless handling of sexual assault cases.

“It was an example of how the system can work,” Walsh said. “And then to have a mistrial. It’s very disappointing.”

She worried that the decision will cause others to shy away from the process of going to trial and testifying.

“It’s very emotional for a victim to have to relive this traumatic event in an extremely public way,” Walsh said. “It’s traumatizing.”

___

Associated Press writer Claire Galofaro contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Commentary

ILWU Profile: Marcus McDade, Working on Oakland’s Waterfront

Oakland’s longshore and dock workers are the frontline essential workers for economic pandemic relief and supply-chain restoration.

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ILWU member Marcus McDade

“I was born and grew up in North Oakland and attended Washington Elementary and Claremont Jr. High School, then Oakland Tech and graduated from Berkley High. I work for ILWU, Local 10 and have been a longshoreman for 22 years.  

“Before becoming a longshoreman, I worked small, part-time jobs including as a coach for after-school youth program football, basketball and baseball for Oakland Parks and Recreation. 

“A buddy called me one morning and said that the longshoremen were hiring and to get down to Jack London Square, fill out a postcard and send it in before 5 p.m. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what a longshoreman did, but I knew it was a good-paying job with benefits. 

“When I arrived at Jack London, there was a line wrapped around the corner. My buddy kept saying it was a good job, so I put in for it.  It was 1999, and my name was picked from the lottery. The rest is history. 

“This is a great job. It takes care of my family, my kids and me. I started off as a dock man, unidentified with no benefits, then identified and went straight to B-man and then A-man where I still am today.” 

“I like the fact that you can start at the bottom (unidentified) and be promoted to the top as A-Man. I’ve completed numerous skill trainings that allow me to work various waterfront jobs for good pay, including but not limited to operating top picks, calamars, cranes, and transtainers. 

“Not only are the pay and benefits great, I also love the flexibility. I pick up my jobs from the Hall and if a job is available and in alignment with my number, I can choose it because I’m trained in so many skilled jobs on the waterfront.

“Currently, I have a nephew who works on the Oakland waterfront.  I’m proud I was able to help my nephew have an opportunity as a longshoreman. He is a B-man and loves his job. Working on the waterfront as a longshoreman can involve strenuous physical labor, so it is not for everyone.

“Howard Terminal is on designated port land, and it provides more work for our industry and helps the whole port run more efficiently while keeping idling and parked cargo trucks off West Oakland streets. 

“The Oakland A’s should not have a ballpark there. The A’s move to Howard Terminal with thousands of fans will affect the future of the longshore workers, truckers, residents, and businesses. It’ll be far too congested down here and unsafe for the thousands of fans and residents who would be crossing rail lines and 24/7 cargo truck traffic.

“Make no mistake: I want the A’s to stay in Oakland. I’m a huge fan. I grew up in Oakland and in the same neighborhood as Ricky Henderson and his family. However, it would be best if the A’s found a way to continue playing at the Coliseum. 

“Longshoremen are essential American workers that keep America supplied with goods.”

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Business

A’s Owner John Fisher Port Proposal No Good for Oakland

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

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Howard Terminal on Port of Oakland Map

OPINION

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

It is such a bad idea and the costs to the public are so ridiculous that logically it shouldn’t happen.  But this right-wing, Trump-supporting Republican has a boatload of money and a few corporation-oriented politicians to help him push it through.  

So, Oaklanders need to be active, or he might get it. Here are two of the things we need to act on: 

  1. Fisher won’t spend his own money.  So, he wants Alameda County to give up spending on things like the COVID-19 pandemic, so we residents can pay for his project with taxpayer money.  The vote on this will come up to the Board of Supervisors on October 26.  If you’d prefer that the County fund health care, housing and other resident necessities, ask them to vote “No.” Call your supervisor at 510-208-4949 and/or attend the meeting.
  2. The Oakland City Council will make the ultimate decision about Fisher’s project and there are a zillion reasons they should say “No.”  Among them: a) Fisher’s project requires that thousands of people run across the tracks of a busy railroad, which killed a number of people even before there were big crowds needing to get to their condos or a stadium.   b) And  Fisher’s project would wreck Oakland’s Port.  The “Seaport Compatibility Measures” necessary to keep the Port alive would cost hundreds of millions of dollars which would not be needed if it were not for Fisher’s project.  So, Fisher, not taxpayers, should pay for them. c)  And then there are all the other ways it will hurt the waterfront, the environment, and Port workers.

You can get contact information to reach your Council member here – https://www.oaklandca.gov/officials

Personally, any public official who votes for Fisher’s project will never get my vote again.   Call me hard-headed, but the harm to  Oakland as a working-class, multi-racial city, the harm to the ILWU (the union of Port workers, perhaps the most progressive union in America)  and the opposition of the people of East Oakland are enough to make my hard head think that’s what solidarity requires.

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