Former NYPD Commissioner: ‘Crime Virus’ Will Get Out of Control

Former New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday that America is suffering from a “crime virus” that will get worse as the summer continues.

“The crime virus is potentially going out of control,” Bratton told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

“My expectation is that this summer is only beginning. The crime situation, particularly violent crime, is going to get worse, not only in those four cities but many other major American cities,” he continued. “Why? Because so much of what we depended on to deal with the crime virus has been taken away.”

Bratton said the rise in violent crime is the result of demoralized police forces that are losing resources amid the movement to “defund” cops, in addition to other misguided reform efforts. It is dangerous to reinvent law enforcement by abandoning what has worked, he argued.

“A lot of reforms are necessary, but we’re in an etch-a-sketch moment,” he said. “The last 30 years of crime reduction, things that worked, we’re getting rid of them. And now we’re going to try to reinvent many of the things we know already worked while we try to correct those we know that did not work.”

American cities are seeing spikes in violent crime as calls to defund police departments have grown in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Milwaukee and Chicago are both on pace to experience their deadliest years in decades.

The Minneapolis Police Department has drastically pulled back on stopping and searching city residents. This has coincided with a jump in gun violence in the city.

New York City saw five people shot in Brooklyn Monday night, including a one-year-old baby who was shot and killed in a stroller. The most recent NYPD crime statistics report showed a 130 percent increase in shooting incidents in the month of June 2020 compared with June 2019 and a 23 percent increase in murders over the first six months of 2020. Burglaries have also increased in the city.

Bratton served two separate terms as New York City’s police commissioner and oversaw a significant drop in crime. He was also the chief of police for the Los Angeles and Boston Police departments.

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Iran Confirms Execution of Alleged CIA Spy

Iran flag

Iranian leaders on Tuesday confirmed the execution of an alleged CIA spy who the country accused of informing the United States about Iran’s military and nuclear endeavors, according to the country’s state-controlled press.

Iran accused Reza Asgari, a onetime member of the country’s defense ministry, of providing the CIA with key details about the Islamic Republic’s military activities. Gholam Hossein Esmaeili, Iran’s judiciary spokesman, confirmed Asgari was executed last week after being found guilty of spying by the country’s courts.

Iran also claimed to have sentenced a second accused spy to death.

“Recently an individual named Seyyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, who had been connected with Mossad and CIA services and had collected and transmitted intelligence on the location of Martyr General Soleimani, has been given a death sentence by the Islamic Revolution Court,” Esmaeili was quoted as telling Iranian reporters on Tuesday.

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Prominent Blacks Call for NYPD to Bring Back Anti-Crime Unit

Prominent African Americans are calling for the NYPD to bring back the department’s anti-crime unit after a one-year-old was shot and killed this weekend.

Holding up a pair of baby shoes, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams said that “babies are not supposed to be wearing these in a coffin” and that the decision to eliminate the anti-crime unit should be rethought.

“I think that a total elimination [of the anti-crime unit] is something we need to reevaluate,” Adams said. “Right now, bad guys are saying, if you don’t see a blue and white, you can do whatever you want.”

NYPD’s anti-crime unit—a plain clothes unit tasked with curbing violent crimes and uncovering illegal guns—was disbanded in June as protesters called for reforming and defunding the police following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Community activist Tony Herbert blamed New York mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) and state lawmakers for the child’s death.

“The blood [of the one-year-old] is on the hands of the mayor and the state legislature,” Herbert told CBS New York.

Though Adams supports the police, he also supports Black Lives Matter and de Blasio’s $1 billion funding cut to NYPD, which he announced in June as a response to anti-cop protests.

The movement to defund the police comes as year-to-date shooting incidents in the city are up 53.5 percent, and the number of shooting victims is up 63 percent, according to the most recent NYPD crime statistics data.

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NBA Retracts Store Jersey Policy, Will Allow ‘Free Hong Kong’

The National Basketball Association quietly backtracked its policy that forbade the text “FreeHongKong” on custom jerseys on its online store after severe blowback.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported Monday, the NBA did not allow the phrase on custom jersey orders but permitted a variety of other phrases, including anti-Semitic messages. As of Tuesday morning, however, “FreeHongKong” is allowed on jerseys.

Public perception of the NBA has taken a hit in the past week, as ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski emailed a profane message to Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) after the senator sent an open letter expressing concern about the NBA’s ties with China. NBA superstar LeBron James voiced support for Wojnarowski after ESPN suspended the reporter over the email.

“The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor—much like the censorship decisions of the CCP—are themselves statements about your association’s values,” Hawley’s statement reads. “If I am right—if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation—your fans deserve to know that is your view.”

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Venezuelan Economy in Shambles as U.S. Cuts off Oil Exports

The United States has tightened restrictions on the Venezuelan oil trade, increasing economic pressure on the communist regime, according to a Monday Reuters report.

Thanks to new sanctions on Venezuelan oil shipments, the country’s exports have plummeted to their lowest level in 80 years. Oil comprises about 99 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings. Newly fortified laws taking aim at licensing and registration for commercial vessels will make it difficult for shipping companies to justify doing business with the communist state.

“What you will see is most shipowners and insurance and captains are simply going to turn away from Venezuela,” said U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams. “It’s just not worth the hassle or the risk for them.”

Facing an escalating campaign of American sanctions, the Maduro regime must manage a country in which 65 percent of households live in poverty. Most Venezuelans make less than 73 cents a day—a dire economic situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Washington has refused to recognize the authoritarian governing coalition. Instead, the White House looks to Juan Guaidó—who was constitutionally declared president by the country’s National Assembly—to replace Nicolás Maduro as leader of the ailing country. “Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken,” President Donald Trump said in February.

Trump reaffirmed his support for a democratic regime earlier this month in remarks honoring Venezuelan Independence Day. “The Venezuelan people are suffering under an illegitimate and tyrannical regime intent on destroying democratic institutions, abusing human rights, engaging in rampant corruption, and exploiting the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in recent history,” the statement reads. “My Administration will always stand against socialism.”

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Federal Government Puts Child Murderer to Death, First Execution in 17 Years

Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana

White nationalist and child murderer Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death Tuesday morning, following a late-night wave of legal disputes that has come to typify the push to restart the federal death penalty.

Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. by Vigo county coroner Dr. Susan S. Amos in the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana, more than 16 hours after he was originally slated to be executed, and almost a day after a federal district judge stayed his execution in a move that death-penalty expert Kent Scheidegger characterized to the Washington Free Beacon as “deliberate stalling.” That stay was summarily overturned by the Supreme Court in a five to four decision around two in the morning. Another last-minute stay request was rejected by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, clearing the way for Lee’s execution.

Lee’s death makes him the first federal prisoner executed since 2003, when Louis Jones was put to death for the kidnap, rape and murder of fellow soldier Tracie MacBride. Two more convicted child murderers are slated to follow him over the course of the coming week, although at least one of those cases remains tied up in litigation.

The last-minute rulings by the Supreme Court, overturning yet another of an endless series of appeals, is typical of contemporary death penalty litigation. Lee’s death may add fuel to ongoing debates over criminal justice in the United States, pitting advocates of death penalty abolition—a minority position—against those who would see a triple-murderer and white supremacist as an obvious candidate for capital punishment.

Lee’s death came only after last-minute action by the Supreme Court permitted it to go ahead. The Court’s five conservative justices joined to issue a per curiam opinion dismissing the lower court’s claim that the method of execution, an injection of pentobarbital, would cause unconstitutional levels of pain.

Both Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer—the Court’s most outspoken critics of the death penalty—authored dissenting opinions, joined respectively by Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Court also dismissed two other appeals to halt Lee’s death without comment, including the coronavirus-driven protest of several family members’ of one of Lee’s victims.

This last-minute legal despute was necessitated by a ruling, earlier in the day, by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkin, who had again enjoined Lee’s execution over concerns about the federal government’s proposed execution protocol. Chutkin—who first blocked the administration’s efforts to reinstate the death penalty in November on similar grounds—argued that Lee and his codefendants, also scheduled for execution, would risk intolerable pain from the pentobarbital injection.

Such an argument, the Court noted, ran afoul of their finding in Bucklew v. Precythe last April, in which Justice Neil Gorsuch found that the plaintiff, Russell Bucklew, could be constitutionally executed with pentobarbital in spite of a rare medical condition he argued could complicate the procedure.

The execution marks a major victory for the Trump administration, and particularly for Attorney General William Barr, who first announced the restarting of the machinery of death almost a year ago. In June, after the Supreme Court initially cleared the way for the resumption of executions, Barr cited “the victims of these horrific crimes,” “the families left behind,” and the “sentence[s] imposed by our justice system” as the heart of his motivation.

“Today, Lee finally faced the justice he deserved,” Barr said in a statement Tuesday morning. “The American people have made the considered choice to permit capital punishment for the most egregious federal crimes, and justice was done today in implementing the sentence for Lee’s horrific offenses.”

Lee’s death was in the works for nearly a quarter of a century, following his 1998 conviction for the 1996 murder of William and Nancy Mueller, as well as their eight-year-old daughter Sarah. Lee, along with Chevie Kehoe—currently serving three life sentences for the crime—tortured the Muellers before duct-taping their plastic bags over their heads and dumping their bodies into a bayou in Arkansas. Their goal in carrying out the murders was to collect cash and firearms to support their project of erecting a whites-only state in the Pacific northwest.

Despite the horrific and racially charged nature of Lee’s crimes, his execution is still likely to draw condemnation from death penalty opponents. That includes Democratic nominee Joe Biden, whose 2020 platform calls for the abolition of the death penalty, and whose victory in November would likely lead to a reinstatement of the federal moratorium operant under President Barack Obama.

Update 11:11 a.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from the attorney general and further information from the Department of Justice on Lee’s last-minute stay request.

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China Sanctions Cruz, Rubio for Criticism of Human Rights Abuses

Beijing issued new sanctions on three Republican lawmakers and a Trump administration official Monday, according to the Associated Press.

In response to U.S. sanctions on party officials over the country’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, China unleashed sanctions of its own on Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), as well as Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

PRC Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the recent U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations” and that China is determined to protect itself from foreign interference. She said the sanctions would parallel the American sanctions, which ban the entry of certain Chinese officials to the United States.

At least 1 million Chinese Uyghurs are currently detained in “de-radicalization and retraining centers,” where they are forced to work in brutal conditions and disavow their faith. One report alleged Uyghur women are coerced to use birth control and are subjected to compulsory sterilization.

Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and helped pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in May. “The Chinese Government and Communist Party’s systematic, ongoing efforts to wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is horrific and will be a stain on humanity should we refuse to act,” Rubio said at the time.

The Florida senator also serves as co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors rule of law and human rights abuses in the country.

Cruz also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and assisted in drafting the human rights legislation. He tweeted about the sanctions Monday morning.

Smith has also sponsored legislation condemning human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. “This is now one of the world’s most pressing human rights challenges,” he said in January 2019. “The Chinese government is engaged in an appalling campaign to forcibly assimilate and destroy the religion and culture of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims—we cannot be silent when such atrocities occur.”

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NBA Store Allows ‘Defund Police,’ ‘Beware of Jews’ on Custom Jerseys, But Not ‘Free Hong Kong’

In keeping with league policy on political statements, the official online store of the NBA does not permit fans to order a custom jersey with the phrase “Free Hong Kong” printed on the back.

“Free Hong Kong” is one of the many phrases banned under the NBA’s new jersey policy, which allows players to display certain political messages such as “Black Lives Matter,” but prohibits messages critical of the Chinese regime.

Typing “Free Hong Kong” into the text box on the NBA store’s custom jersey page returns the following message: “We are unable to customize this item with the text you have entered. Please try a different entry.”

Here are some of the phrases that don’t receive such a warning:

  • NINE 11 HOAX

A number of NBA players, including superstar LeBron James, have rallied around ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, who was recently suspended from the network after writing “F—k you” in response to a press release from Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.). The press release was regarding a letter Hawley had written to NBA commissioner Adam Silver questioning the league’s new jersey policy and its censorship of messages critical of China.

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First Federal Execution in Decades Stalled by Last-Minute Legal Wrangling

A convicted child-killer and white supremacist enjoyed a temporary reprieve on Monday, as legal headwinds in two separate appeals forestalled the first federal execution in 17 years.

Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted in 1998 for the murder of a family of three including an eight-year-old girl, was set to be executed at four o’clock Monday evening, the first of three federal executions slated for the week. But U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama appointee, stayed Lee and the others’ executions with just hours to go, arguing in her opinion that the federal government had not adequately addressed a bevy of objections raised previously by Lee and his co-defendants.

The Chutkan ruling—issued by the same judge who in November originally blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to reactivate the federal death penalty—follows a Sunday evening win for the Department of Justice, as an appeals court overturned a lower court’s stay on Lee’s execution sought by several of his victims’ family members.

The family, who says the coronavirus crisis has made it unsafe for them to travel to attend Lee’s execution (which they oppose), has appealed to the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice has likewise appealed Chutkan’s ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This tangled web of last-minute rulings and counter rulings exemplifies the legal struggle the Trump administration has faced over the past year in its effort to carry out decades-old death sentences. Such last-minute reversals, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation Kent Scheidegger told the Washington Free Beacon, are “far too common”—explaining how a convicted killer like Lee could languish on death row for nearly a quarter century.

Chutkan’s 11th-hour ruling on Monday supported Lee and co-plaintiffs’ claim that the proposed execution protocol—adopted by the Department of Justice in 2019 as part of its project of restarting federal capital punishment—ran afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The use of the drug pentobarbital ran an unacceptable risk of inducing pain, Chutkan wrote, while the plaintiffs’ request to supplement with fentanyl or use the firing squad met the requirement, set out by the Supreme Court, that they propose an alternative.

Such challenges to individual methods of execution—down to the level of which chemical is used—have been popular among capital defense attorneys in recent years. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch raised concerns with this approach in a recent ruling, writing that “Courts should police carefully against attempts to use [method] challenges as tools to interpose unjustified delay.”

Chutkan previously blocked the executions of Lee and several other federal death-row inmates on the grounds that the Justice Department’s protocol ran afoul of a different federal law, the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act. That ruling was reversed on appeal, but the federal capital offenders returned to Chutkan’s court to introduce another objection—beginning the whole appeals process over again.

Chutkan wrote that her last-minute decision was “no fault of the Plaintiffs,” instead pinning blame on the Justice Department for scheduling an execution before all possible challenges had been sequentially exhausted. In Scheidegger’s view, such a stance amounts to delaying tactics by the judge.

“It’s her fault. She ruled on one claim and didn’t rule on the others, so the one claim goes up on appeal, the D.C. circuit decides it, and then she proceeds to rule on one more claim,” he said. “This is deliberate stalling by the district judge.”

Similar tactics appeared to be on display in the stay issued Friday evening on behalf of the mother, sister, and niece of Lee victim Nancy Mueller. The three women, who have publicly objected that Lee received a death sentence while co-defendant Chevie Kehoe did not, argued that they were being denied their right to attend the execution safely thanks to the pandemic.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district judge’s support for that argument on Sunday, finding that the women had no legally guaranteed rights to attend. The Supreme Court has yet to issue a response to the family’s appeal, filed Monday morning.

All of this back and forth—both rulings for and against Lee’s executions are in appeals—will continue to forestall the execution of both Lee and two other convicted child-murderers originally scheduled to be executed this week. Lee continues a 23-year career on death row—nearly three times the length of his youngest victim’s life.

These routine delays in capital cases, Scheidegger said, “reflect an attitude on the part of many federal judges that staying an execution is no big deal.”

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