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U.S. Attorneys say Project Safe Neighborhoods is making Alabama safer

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Alabama’s three U.S. Attorneys released a statement detailing their efforts over the last year to combat Alabama’s violent crime problem.

One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Federal authorities have partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.

“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “We know that the most effective strategy to reduce violent crime is based on sound policing policies that have proven effective over many years, which includes being targeted and responsive to community needs. I have empowered our United States Attorneys to focus enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals in their districts, and directed that they work together with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to develop tailored solutions to the unique violent crime problems they face. Each United States Attorney has prioritized the PSN program, and I am confident that it will continue to reduce crime, save lives, and restore safety to our communities.”

“In late 2017, Montgomery needed help,” U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Louis V. Franklin Sr said. “Too many people were illegally carrying guns, too many people were being shot, too many people were living in fear. PSN was the perfect program to help Montgomery. So, we joined with our federal, state and local partners and focused on the worst of the worst violent criminals in Montgomery. We had a goal to reduce violent crime in Montgomery, and we saw results. By May of 2018, we saw an almost 16 percent decline in violent crime in Montgomery. This PSN partnership will continue to see Montgomery through this violent crime crisis. We have an obligation to our community and we will fulfill that obligation.”

“Because of PSN and the leadership of our Attorney General, never before have our law enforcement partnerships been so robust,” stated U.S. for the Northern District of Alabama Jay E. Town. “Never before have we prosecuted so many defendants, especially violent criminals, in federal court, where sentences do not suffer the sanctuary of parole. Never before has there been the commitment to resources by the Department of Justice at every level of law enforcement to aggressively address violent crime. Federal prison beds are being filled by our worst offenders, and our neighborhoods are safer than ever before.”

“Most Alabamians are benefiting from a much safer Alabama as a direct result of the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Richard W. Moore. “Law enforcement officers have been empowered to do what they do best and the violent crime rate in many of our communities is going down. Aggressive efforts to take the “trigger pullers” who terrorize neighborhoods off the street makes sense and makes Alabama a safer place to live. Violent crime rates, however, are still too high and we are not resting on the good results that we have seen over the past two years. The American people have been clear about their desire to have a safer country. We are starting to deliver on the promise that President Trump made to make that a reality.”

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The Justice Department said in their statement that as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:

Federal, state, and local agencies tackled the violent crime problem in Montgomery by vigorously pursuing illegal firearm prosecutions. From January to April of 2018, the USAO concentrated on indicting Montgomery firearm cases.

Additionally, Operation Triple Beam Operation Triple Beam was led by the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force and focused on street level crime, gang-related crime, undercover narcotics operations, traffic stop enforcement, and a warrant service in identified high-crime districts. kicked off and saturated law enforcement in those areas in Montgomery with the largest number of shootings. As a result of these partnerships and the re-invigorated PSN program, in May of this year the violent crime rate dropped in Montgomery by almost 16 percent.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District has formed an array of task forces and partnerships that have seen impressive results. The Northern District office has formed Public Safety Task Forces in Huntsville and Birmingham, both designed to target the worst offenders and repeat offenders who have besieged those cities. The office also formed the Prosecutor-to-Prosecutor Program, or “P3”, where District Attorneys from around the Northern District are given training and direct lines of communication to federal prosecutors so that state charges can be removed to federal court where the sentence does not suffer the sanction of parole. We have dramatically increased our federal presence in every community, every county, and every corner of the Northern District.

This summer, a three-month operation focused on reducing violent crime in Selma and the Gulf Coast region resulted in federal charges against 24 defendants, with about 50 guns seized. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama joined with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to interrupt the pattern of federal firearms violations.

Focused enforcement efforts throughout the Southern District are bringing armed criminals to justice in federal court, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 192 cases with 205 defendants with federal gun crimes in the past 12 months.

In order to increase illegal firearm prosecutions in Montgomery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined with the Montgomery Police Department to organize training for each Montgomery Police officer, starting with patrol. The PSN coordinator and the Law Enforcement Coordinator met officers at rollcall at 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. until all officers were trained. The USAO has now expanded that project to other Middle District counties.

AG Sessions designated Birmingham as one of the nations’ few Public Safety Partnership communities where the Department of Justice infuses resources to the city and creates a platform for all levels of law enforcement to join forces to reduce violent criminal activity in the metropolitan area. Never before has there been the level of inter-agency cooperation that now exists in Birmingham. The Northern District office has taken that formula and expanded it around the Northern District, especially to include Anniston and Tuscaloosa. Not only are traditional members of law enforcement at the table, but also community leaders, City Hall, non-profits, and other groups with the sole interest of making neighborhoods safe again.

In the Southern District, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued its Bridging the Gap program, a successful partnership with the FBI, the Mobile Police Department, community leaders, and school systems to reach out to ninth-grade students about demonstrating the proper conduct youth and law enforcement should expect from one another during a law enforcement encounter. This program, developed in Mobile, was implemented nationwide by all 56 FBI field offices.

U.S. Attorney Richard Moore and his staff have been actively involved in the Selma area, coordinating with community organizations, community leaders, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, and the public to develop prevention and enforcement priorities, and to establish a long-term presence in the community.

The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline. The nationwide violent crime rate decreased by approximately one percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half percent.

The attorneys said that the preliminary information for 2018 gives reason for optimism that their efforts are continuing to pay off. Public data from 60 major cities show that violent crime was down by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.

Due to the enhanced partnerships created by the re-invigorated PSN program, the violent crime rate in Montgomery decreased in May by almost 16 percent.

The Northern District of Alabama has prosecuted more defendants in the past two years than in any two-year period in over a decade. Now, more than ever, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are working together to target the worst offenders in the highest crime areas so that those neighborhoods can be returned to their rightful owners…the law-abiding citizens who live there. Recognizing that incarceration alone will not solve all problems with crime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to work with community leaders from around the Northern District to provide opportunities and prevention programs that will not only prevent future criminal behavior, but make such behavior unnecessary in the first place.

Statistics from the Mobile Police Department show that focused enforcement efforts are paying off. From January 1 through the end of September, violent crime decreased by 1.7 percent, and includes a 34.4 percent reduction in criminal homicides and a 9.4 percent reduction in robberies.

These enforcement actions and partnerships are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Alabama has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country and has the fourth highest murder rate. Efforts to fight crime are being hindered by a lack of sufficient prison capacity in the Alabama Department of Corrections to keep offenders locked up longer. Prosecutors are moving more cases to the federal system in order to combat the shortage of beds in the state system.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Congress

Negotiations on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill appear to have broken down

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Capitol Building (STOCK PHOTO)

Both parties in Congress and the White House had hoped to have agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill; but those hopes appear to have been dashed after a later Thursday night meeting at the White House.

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House and Democrats failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on the fifth virus relief bill. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/white-house-democrats-fail-to-reach-agreement-on-virus-relief-bill-and-next-steps-are-uncertain/ar-BB17E3po?ocid=msedgntp

White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation on Thursday with no agreement with both sides far apart on even basic issues.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) insists on a $3.4 trillion package. The White House wants a $1 trillion relief package.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. President Trump was called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues.

Pelosi said that the meeting was “consequential,” but blamed Republicans for the breakdown in negotiations. “They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time; and that’s why it’s hard to come to terms.”

Mnuchin said that if the administration decides today that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid.

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Schumer said that that Democrats were “very disappointed” in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court.

Pelosi claimed that Meadows pounded the table at one point. Meadows denies the allegation.

“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”

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Over 30 million unemployed Americans will see their unemployment checks dramatically cut next week without an extension of benefits. Pres. Trump has suggested that he could increase the benefits by executive action. Critics suggest that would be unconstitutional.

Democrats want about $1 trillion in aid for cities and states. Pres. Trump has dismissed that demand as a “bailout” for mismanaged states and has agreed to just $150 billion in aid for states.

Meadows said that the White House has agreed to go above $1 trillion; but that Democrats still have refused to go below $3.4 trillion. Democrats are also pushing for more money for food stamps, child care, and a U.S. Postal System bailout as part of the plan.

All of this would be paid with more deficit spending.

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Corruption

Arrest warrant issued for Rep. Will Dismukes for felony theft

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been accused of theft of property, a Class B felony. (WSFA)

An arrest warrant has been issued for Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for felony theft from a business where he worked, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Thursday.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018, Bailey said during a press conference.

Bailey said the charge is a Class B felony and levied when a person steals in excess of $2,500 and that “I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that.” 

“The warrant has just been signed, his attorney has been notified and we are giving him until late this afternoon to turn himself in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the employer contacted the district attorney’s office with a complaint about the theft on May 20, and after reviewing bank records and interviewing witnesses, the decision was made to charge Dismukes with the theft. 

WSFA reported Thursday that the theft occurred at Dismukes’ former employer, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc. in East Montgomery. Bailey did not provide any more specifics on the charge but said the employer signed the arrest warrant after countless hours of investigation on the part of the DA’s office.

While the charge stems from a complaint filed months ago, Dismukes been in the headlines recently and faced a torrent of calls for his resignation in recent weeks after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

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The event was hosted by an individual with close ties to the League of the South, a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, Dismukes stepped down from his post as a pastor at an Autauga County Baptist church but defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature.

If convicted of the felony, Dismukes would be immediately removed from his seat in the Alabama House, to which he was elected in 2018.

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In June, the Alabama Democratic Party called for his resignation over previous social media posts glorifying the Confederacy.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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