Verdict Reached In Derek Chauvin Trial

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (screen capture)

The jury in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with manslaughter and murder charges for the death of George Floyd, has reached a verdict in less than a day.

The verdict will be read at 4:30 pm ET.

From NBC News:

The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating Monday after three weeks of witness testimony.

Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The third-degree murder charge had initially been dismissed, but it was reinstated after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it days before jury selection started.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. Third-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years.

Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, who was Black, was handcuffed and lying on the ground.

During the trial, prosecutors called 38 witnesses. The defense called seven witnesses, two of whom were experts.

Gay Meteorologist Sues Former Station Claiming LGBTQ Discrimination

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard
Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard
Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard (screen cap via Instagram)

A Minnesota meteorologist has filed a lawsuit against his former TV station and its parent company saying he was fired last year for being gay.

Sven Sundgaard was dismissed from his position at TV station KARE 11 in Minneapolis last May after he reposted a comment on social media from a rabbi regarding ongoing protests in the city at the time.

Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Adam Latz had written on Facebook calling some gun-toting protestors “white nationalist Nazi sympathizer gun fetishist miscreants.”

Sundgaard deleted his repost later that evening after receiving homophobic comments and threats. He also expressed his regret to the station’s executives promising to stick to the weather.

But the next day, the station announced it had decided to ‘part ways’ with the weatherman “due to continued violations of KARE 11’s news ethics and other policies,” reports the Star Tribune.

In the new lawsuit filed on Thursday, attorneys for Sundgaard say the station’s human resources department ignored the meteorologist’s reports of harassment and discrimination during his time with KARE11.

Specific instances include Sundgaard claiming a station manager criticized him for appearing on the cover of the local LGBTQ publication Lavender; being reprimanded for making a ‘size really does matter’ remark on-air during a report on Minnesota’s many lakes; and attempting to stop him from speaking at a convention of LGBTQ journalists.

He also says he felt his religious beliefs came under scrutiny when a colleague asked probing questions like whether he believed Jesus was the Messiah after he converted to Judaism in 2010.

The lawsuit claims Sundgaard “suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering.” He is suing for back pay as well as punitive damages.

Following the filing of the lawsuit last week, Sundgaard issued a statement which read, “I’ve been overwhelmed and forever grateful for the outpouring of support I have received over the last year.”

“I hope to continue to receive your support as I embark upon this difficult journey that will highlight the unfair treatment to which I was subjected,” he continued. “While a lawsuit is not ideal for anyone, I believe it is important to take action to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. I do this also, for the countless young people who have thanked me for being an openly gay man, making it easier for them to be true to themselves.”

He closed his statement saying, “My late mom always taught me to stick up for myself.”

KARE 11, and its parent company TENGA, denied the allegations in a statement issued via email.

“One of our core values as a station is inclusion,” wrote a KARE spokesperson on Friday afternoon. “We are committed to maintaining a respectful workplace free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

Since his dismissal, Sundgaard has been reporting the weather at Bring Me The News.

Derek Chauvin Invokes 5th Amendment Declining To Testify

Former police officer Derek Chauvin invoked his 5th Amendment right to not testify in his own defense
Former police officer Derek Chauvin invoked his 5th Amendment right to not testify in his own defense
Former police officer Derek Chauvin (screen capture)

Unsurprisingly, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin invoked his 5th Amendment right to not testify

From the New York Times:

Nearing the end of the defense’s case, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, asked Mr. Chauvin whether he would like to testify in his own defense.

Mr. Nelson said he and Mr. Chauvin have had repeated conversations on the matter, including a “lengthy meeting” Wednesday night. Mr. Chauvin, who removed his mask to answer Mr. Nelson’s questions, chose to waive his right to testify.

The judge questioned Chauvin to make sure that he made his decision not to testify on his own in order to prevent any later claim that he was ill-advised by his defense.

Testimony in the case has now concluded and closing arguments will be presented on Monday.

Video: Police Slashed Tires Of Vehicles Parked Near Protests

Video footage discovered by Mother Jones shows what appears to be police officers slashing the tires of several cars parked in Minneapolis over the weekend.

From Mother Jones:

After long nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis last weekend found themselves stranded: The tires of their cars had been slashed.

In a city upended by protests about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police.

In the videos, officers puncture tires in a K-Mart parking lot on May 30 and a highway overpass on May 31. Both areas briefly turned into police staging grounds near protest hot spots.

The officers appear to be state troopers or county police, though it’s not clear from the videos. Neither the Minnesota State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests from Mother Jones. The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota National Guard denied involvement.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported after the Mother Jones story that a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety acknowledged State Patrol troopers “strategically deflated tires in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”

The spokesman, Bruce Gordon, added vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete, and sticks were targeted.

“While not a typical tactic, vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring,” said Gordon.

Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Knotz also confirmed deputies from Anoka County followed state orders and joined the patrol and also cut the tires on vehicles.

Knotz said the deputies got their directions from the state-led Multiagency Command Center [MACC], which has been coordinating law enforcement during the numerous protests since the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Wife Of Charged Minneapolis Officer Files For Divorce

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (screen capture)

Kellie Chauvin, the wife of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, has issued a statement through her attorney that she sends her condolences to the family of George Floyd and she has filed for divorce.

“This evening, I spoke with Kellie Chauvin and her family. She is devastated by Mr. Floyd’s death and her utmost sympathy lies with his family, with his loved ones and with everyone who is grieving this tragedy. She has filed for dissolution of her marriage to Derek Chauvin,” the Sekula Law Offices said in a released statement.

“While Ms. Chauvin has no children from her current marriage, she respectfully requests that her children, her elder parents, and her extended family be given safety and privacy during this difficult time,” the statement continued.

The announcement spurs several questions. Is Ms. Chauvin leaving her husband because she has an opinion about his actions? Were there previous domestic issues at home?

Many commenters on Twitter believe the divorce would be a way to protect the couple’s assets in case he were to be sued in a civil case, which I hadn’t thought of.

Things that make you go ‘hmm…’

Fired Police Officer Who Knelt On George Floyd’s Neck Arrested

George Floyd, handcuffed on the ground as former Officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck

From NBC News:

The Minneapolis police officer shown on video putting his knee on the neck of George Floyd has been arrested, according to Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.

Derek Chauvin, who was fired on Monday along with three other officers involved in the detainment of Floyd, was taken into custody Friday.

Video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes on Monday night. The police department initially said Floyd “physically resisted” the officers and that he died after “suffering medical distress.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are both investigating Floyd’s death.

Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday afternoon.

In related news, the local ABC News affiliate KSTP reports Chauvin and Floyd both worked as security guards at the El Nuevo Rodeo club on Lake Street, according to Maya Santamaria. Santamaria owned the building for nearly two decades, but sold the venue within the last few months.

“Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open,” Santamaria said. “They were working together at the same time, it’s just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside.”

So, it’s difficult to imagine the two men didn’t know each other. And then to find themselves in this odd situation?

Something doesn’t add up here…

CNN Reporter & Crew Arrested During Live Broadcast In Minneapolis

Minnesota police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew live on-air early Friday morning after they had clearly identified themselves as press and repeatedly offered to move ‘wherever you want us.’

As you can see in the video below, the officers have Jimenez and his crew surrounded and seem to say nothing for some time until they step in and arrest the reporter.

CNN anchors said Jimenez and his crew were arrested for not moving after being told to by police, though the live footage prior to their arrests clearly shows Jimenez talking calmly with police and offering to move wherever necessary.

CNN president Jeff Zucker spoke with the governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz on Friday morning, following the arrest of CNN’s team in Minneapolis,

Walz said he “deeply apologizes” for what happened and is working to have the CNN team released immediately.

The Minneapolis State Patrol said this about the incident: “In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”

CNN disputed the state police characterization in a statement on Twitter.

“This is not accurate — our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists. We thank Minnesota @GovTimWalz for his swift action this morning to aid in the release of our crew.”

Four Minneapolis Police Officers Fired Following Death Of Black Man

Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd

The Minneapolis Police Department has fired four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being arrested on Monday. He was reportedly being detained as a possible suspect in a bad check-writing case.

The incident, showing one officer kneeling on the neck of handcuffed Gregory Floyd as he lay face down on the ground, was recorded and shared across social media on Monday night.

In the video, Floyd can be heard saying he could not breathe many times. As the video continues, he seems to lose consciousness.

Floyd was later pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

You can see portions of the video footage below. Warning: extremely disturbing.

“The man looked already dead before the ambulance even got there. He was clearly trying to tell them he couldn’t breathe and they ignored him,” Darnella Frazier, one of the people who filmed the incident, told NBC News.

The police department has told reporters that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been contacted to independently investigate. Additionally, the department announced the FBI would also be investigating.

The names of the four officers have not been released by the Minneapolis Police Department.

The news of the firing of the officers was shared by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Twitter where he called the decision “the right call.”

“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” Frey wrote. “This is the right call.”

Minneapolis City Council Bans So-Called ‘Conversion Therapy’

(stock photo via Depositphotos)

Minneapolis will become the first city in the state of Minnesota to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ which claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The new ordinance, authored by Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, was passed unanimously by the Minneapolis City Council.

According to the Star Tribune, the only step left is for Mayor Jacob Frey to sign the ordinance into law.

The ban will prohibit any licensed mental health professional from providing or attempting conversion therapy on minors. Violations will be subject to fines of up to $1,000.

Members of the clergy who are “acting in their roles as clergy or pastoral counselors” will be exempt from the regulation.

Cunningham, the first transgender man of color to be elected to public office in the U.S., called the harmful practice “tantamount to torture.”

And he speaks from personal experience having been subjected to conversion therapy as a child in his church.

Speaking to the local NBC News affiliate, Cunningham said succinctly, “It tries to convince people that they are not who they are.”

Conversion therapy, also known as ‘ex-gay therapy,’ has been widely denounced as discredited pseudoscience by leading professional medical associations including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

Studies have shown that the controversial practice can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 18 states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this harmful practice.

This week the American Medical Association announced its support for a federal ban on the dangerous practice.

Minneapolis: Rabbi Pleads Guilty To Sexting With Underage Teen

Aryeh Leiv Cohen (mug shot)

A former Rabbi in Minnesota pleaded guilty last Friday to engaging in electronic communication describing sexual conduct with a child.

Aryeh Leiv Cohen thought he was exchanging messages with a 16-year-old boy on Grindr back in January, but in reality, he was chatting with an undercover cop.

According to court documents, the undercover agent told Cohen several times he wouldn’t turn 16-years-old until August, to which Cohen responded, “It’s a little illegal…” but would then go on to describe the sex acts he was hoping to engage in.

On February 1, a meeting was setup between the former rabbi and the ’16-year-old’ at an apartment building in North St. Paul.

Upon his arrest, the 44-year-old reportedly told the police, “I sort of deserve it.”

He also allegedly told the officers that he didn’t “think much would happen” when he arrived at the apartment because the person he believed he was meeting was ‘sexually inexperienced.’

The arrest was part of a sting operation aimed at combating the online solicitation of sex with minors. Several others were also arrested in conjunction with the undercover operation.

Cohen had been working as a rabbi and director of youth outreach for the Minneapolis Community Kollel, a Jewish learning center.

The center immediately issued a statement upon learning of his arrest that he’d been relieved of his duties.

Local ABC News affiliate KSTP reports that Cohen is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on January 16.