Newsbriefs 7/23/99

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Jane Tseng, [email protected]

  • On Saturday (7/17), Alton Fitzgerald White, star of the Broadway musical "Ragtime," announced that he is considering filing suit against the New York City police. White was wrongfully arrested outside of his Harlem apartment building, strip-searched, and detained for five hours on Friday after the police got a report of drug dealing in the building. White said he suspects that he and the three men he was walking with were picked out because they are black. White's detention caused him to miss that evening's performance of "Ragtime", in which he plays a black man who is accosted by a racist fireman in turn-of-the-century New York.

  • On Friday (7/16), a Dutch court convicted the former Surinam President Desi Bouterse of heading a cocaine smuggling ring in South America. The court sentenced Bouterse to 16 years in jail and a $2.3 million fine. Bouterse was convicted in absentia and remains at large and politically powerful in the former Dutch colony. Authorities claim that Bouterse headed the shipment of around $24 million worth of drugs from South America to the Netherlands.

  • A Calgary father expressed outrage after Tac-Team officers raided a city home next to a daycare center where his two year old daughter was playing outside. Tim Florence said that all the children at Jan-Pat Dayhomes were visibly shaken and that the police should have notified the center of the raid so that the children could have been taken inside. The police said that it was not possible to notify the public of such situations. One officer suggested that some members of the team could go to the center and talk to the children to explain what they had seen. All of the children are under 5 years old.

  • A man in California, sentenced under the "three strikes" law to 25 years to life in prison for breaking into a church to steal food lost his appeal this week. Gregory Taylor is currently being held in the same prison that housed mass murderers such as Charles Mason. The one dissenting judge on the three judge panel that heard Taylor's appeal compared the case to that of the character Jean Valjean in the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables who was imprisoned for stealing bread.

    Taylor's previous convictions consisted of a purse-snatching in 1984 and an attempted street robbery in 1985. He served less than two years in jail for both offenses combined. Seven years after his second felony, Taylor was convicted of cocaine possession and violated the terms of his parole when he failed to show up for a drug test.

    In July 1997, Taylor was caught breaking into the back door of a church in July 1997. He was convicted of attempted robbery and sentenced under the "three strikes" law. Taylor appealed the conviction but it was upheld. The California Supreme court has not decided whether it will consider his case. Without the "three strikes" law, Taylor would be sentenced to no more than three years in prison. "The law was designed for repeat felons, not repeat nuisances. The punishment doesn't fit the crime," said Los Angeles County deputy public defender Alex Ricciardulli. Taylor, now 37 years old, will not be eligible for parole until he is 60.


  • Voters in California approved the "three strikes" law in 1994 after the highly publicized kidnapping and murder of 12-year old Polly Klaas by a paroled felon. "Three strikes" was intended to reduce crime by keeping repeat felons off the streets. The law requires a 25 years to life sentence for individuals convicted of a third felony after committing two "serious or violent" felonies. The mandatory sentence does not allow the judges to exercise their own discretion and evaluate each case on a personal basis. Aware that the law would produce just this type of injustice, Polly Klaas' family campaigned vigorously against the law prior to its passage.
  • -- END --
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    Issue #100, 7/23/99 100 Issues Later | DC Appropriations Bill Moves Forward -- Medical Marijuana Vote May Be Counted, Syringe Exchange May Be Re-funded | Senate Holds First Hearing on Civil Forfeiture Reform | Fuel to the Fire: Drug Czar Proposes Billion More for Andean Drug War, Mostly Colombia | Florida Drug Czar Killer Fungus Plan Worries Experts | Speaker Lashes Out at Drug War at Mormon Symposium | Newsbriefs | Editorial: And The Winner Is
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