Muslim group blasted for planning mass demonstration on Sept. 11
Critics say a Muslim group picked the wrong day – Sept. 11 - to march on Washington to complain about religious profiling and President Obama's handling of an investigation into the terror attacks that rocked America 12 years ago.
The mass demonstration, called the "Million Muslim March," was changed to a more mainstream-sounding event, "Million American March Against Fear," but the name did not seem to gain much traction and has apparently reverted back to its original title.
American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC), which is organizing the march, claims Muslims nationwide have been the victims of anti-Islamic bigotry in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on American soil.
"On 9.11.01 our country was forever changed by the horrific events in New York. The entire country was victimized by the acts done on that day," the group said in a statement. "Muslim and Non Muslim alike were traumatized but we as Muslims continue 12 years later to be victimized by being made the villains. To this day every media outlet and anti Islamic organization has committed slanderous and libel statements against us as Muslims and our religion of Islam."
"Yet our Government either sits idly by and does nothing to protect our freedoms or it exacerbates the problem with its constant war on terrorism in Islamic countries, congressional hearings on Islam in America, and its changes to the NDAA law," the statement says.
In an interview Thursday with Fox News' Sean Hannity, M.D. Rabbi Alam, one of the march's main organizers, defended the movement, claiming demonstrators will stand on that day to "show America that we Muslims denounce terrorism."
"We Muslims have become villainized and victimized" following the attacks, Alam said. He added that 12 years after 9/11, he feels that he "is looked at" as one of the 19 Al Qaeda hijackers who committed the attacks.
But critics say the U.S. has gone to great lengths to differentiate between Islam and Islamic extremists since the 2001 attacks -- and that claims Muslims have been victimized by the government are unfounded. Critics also say the date chosen for the march on the nation's capitol -- Sept. 11 -- is insensitive to the victims and their family members.
"They're basically a bunch of 'truthers' who think that America's to blame for everything," Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Fox News on Friday. The Anti-Defamation League, Jasser said, has identified some of the leaders of the march as "being virulent, anti-Semites who think 9/11 was a conspiracy theory."
"These guys are problematic and they're trying to exploit 9/11," Jasser said. "If they were truly patriotic Americans and moderates, they'd be marching on the courthouse steps of the Fort Hood trial that's happening this week to tell Americans that we want the death penalty for Nidal Hissan rather than this circus that they're doing in exploiting the murders and horrific acts of 9/11."
"America has gone on to liberate Muslims," he continued. "They gave our families freedom that we could not have in any so-called Muslim countries."
Bill gives Calif. youthful offenders second chance
by DON THOMPSON
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Criminals serving long prison sentences for offenses they committed as teenagers would have an earlier chance for freedom under a bill working its way through the Legislature.
The bill by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, expands on legislation signed into law last year that gives a second chance to inmates who committed murder before they turned 18 and were sentenced to life without parole.
Hancock's bill covers other offenders and requires the Board of Parole Hearings to give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles” and to signs that they have matured in prison. Parole commissioners also would have to individually counsel offenders about the steps they should take to earn their freedom.
Under the bill, SB260, inmates who committed such crimes as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as teenagers would be presumed eligible for parole after 15 years unless officials believe they present a threat to public safety. Inmates also could ask for release after serving 25 years for first-degree murder if the sentence included the possibility of parole.
“If you're a 15-year-old when you're convicted of even a very serious crime, by the time you're 35 you're going to be a different person,” Hancock said in an interview. “Those who don't significantly change in prison are not going to be eligible for this program or this opportunity.”
The bill has the backing of Scott Budnick, executive producer of “The Hangover” comedy movies, who has gained national attention for mentoring juvenile offenders through his nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
“You need a tangible reason as to why to leave the gang life, why to leave violence, why to leave that lifestyle and go toward something more positive,” Budnick said in a telephone interview. “They know that they must — if they ever want to hug their mother again not in a prison visiting room — then they must change their life immediately.”
About 5,700 of California's 133,000 adult inmates are currently in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles. Of those, nearly 1,500 will have served at least 15 years behind bars by Jan. 1, when the bill would take effect if it is signed into law. More than 700 will have served at least 20 years, and more than 300 will have served at least 25 years in prison.
Hancock's bill responds to recent court rulings addressing non-homicide crimes committed by juveniles who were tried as adults. But the California District Attorneys Association opposes the legislation because it goes further than those decisions by also including murder and manslaughter.
In August 2012, the California Supreme Court overturned a juvenile offender's 110-year prison sentence for attempted murder, ruling that the sentence amounted to an unconstitutional life sentence for a 16-year-old. Rodrigo Caballero would have had to wait 100 years before he could even apply for parole for trying to kill three rival gang members in Los Angeles County.
The state's high court was, in turn, responding to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that life sentences without a chance for parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes were unconstitutional because they amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Supporters of the Hancock bill argue that young criminals are more likely to be rehabilitated than older criminals. That was the same argument made last year in favor of SB9, which eventually was signed into law and gave those convicted of murder as juveniles a chance at parole. Many of the same groups are backing Hancock's bill.
“People under 18 are different from adults, and we need to treat them different,” said Elizabeth Calvin, an advocate with the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch, which is among reform groups supporting the measure. Although Hancock's bill goes beyond current court decisions, Calvin argued that the courts are clearly trending toward giving young offenders an eventual way out of prison for any crime.
Legislative analysts project it would cost the state more than $3 million to consider parole for offenders who would immediately qualify if the bill becomes law, and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for addition hearings as more inmates become eligible. But that would be offset by lower incarceration costs as offenders are released.
The measure eventually would mean fewer inmates as the state struggles to comply with federal court orders requiring a reduction in prison crowding. Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that the state release 10,000 inmates by the end of the year in addition to the thousands who already being sentenced to county jails instead of state prison under a two-year-old state law.
Hancock's bill is edging out similar legislation by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. Bloom's AB1276 stalled in the Senate Public Safety Committee, where Hancock is chairwoman. Bloom is now a co-author of Hancock's bill.
Both lawmakers say their legislation is better than the alternative if nothing happens. With no new law, the courts would be clogged with petitions from offenders who argue that they face what amounts to an improper life sentence after their convictions as juveniles.
Both measures passed their initial chambers with bipartisan support. Three Republican senators backed Hancock's bill, while two Democrats voted against it.
Opponents said the bills could lead to the early release of some criminals who committed heinous crimes as teenagers.
“We think of them as all sweet innocence, but they are not,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who once headed the state parole board. He called Hancock's bill “an easy ticket out for the most violent juvenile offenders.”
361 arrested during nationwide gang operation
WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 361 individuals in July and August during a nationwide gang operation targeting members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) transnational street gang.
The 361 arrests included 263 gang members and associates from 43 different gangs in 71 U.S. cities and 98 others encountered during the operation: 84 non-gang members wanted on criminal charges and 14 for immigration violations.
This national anti-gang enforcement operation, "Project Razor's Edge," was conducted July 15 to Aug. 9. The operation was led by HSI's National Gang Unit (NGU) under the auspices of Operation Barbed Wire to combat the national security and public safety threats posed by MS-13 gang members and associates and to ultimately identify, target, arrest, and prosecute MS-13 gang members and associates as well as their rival gangs.
Twenty-five HSI field offices worked with local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies in the areas they cover to conduct threat assessments regarding MS-13 members and associates with prior criminal convictions as well as foreign-born gang members and those on federal or state parole.
"Operations like these are especially rewarding for the men and women of HSI as they know firsthand that they're playing a critical role in community safety," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins.
According to HSI, transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cybercrimes; export violations and other crimes with a nexus to the border.
Of the 361 arrested:
158 were MS-13 members and associates,
297 were charged with criminal offenses,
64 were arrested for being in violation of U.S. immigration laws,
130 had violent criminal histories,
4 were gang leaders, and
202 were foreign nationals.
Of the 297 arrested for federal and state criminal violations, charges included first degree murder, aggravated assault, assault, firearms possession, aggravated robbery, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, obstruction of criminal investigations, interference with commerce by threats or violence, illegal re-entry of a removed alien, sexual assault, indecent contact with a minor and kidnapping. In addition to the arrests, during the operation, HSI special agents seized 28 firearms, 9.94 kilograms of marijuana, 122.8 grams of cocaine, 771.50 grams of heroin and $22,390.85 in U.S. currency.
Arrests during Razor's Edge included the following:
Luis Ventura Guzman, 19, a citizen of El Salvador and member of MS-13, was arrested in Petersburg, Va., on first degree murder charges and illegal re-entry of a removed alien.
Erik Alan Hernandez-Aragan, 21, a member of MS-13, was arrested in Charlotte County, N.C., for assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a weapon into an occupied dwelling (vehicle), possession of cocaine and heroin, trafficking heroin and resisting arrest. HSI Charlotte special agents and the Mecklenburg Police Department also seized a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic 9 mm handgun, 11.5 grams of heroin and 1.2 grams of cocaine.
John C. Pohl, 23, a member of MS-13, was arrested along with his associates AC Casaus, 21, and Johnathan Parker, 20, in New Mexico, on possession of a stolen firearm and possession with intent to distribute heroin. HSI Albuquerque special agents also seized five stolen handguns and 1/2 oz. of heroin.
Ronald Salgado, 20, a member of MS-13, was arrested in Charleston, S.C., on criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Those arrested came from 15 countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. Of the total number arrested, 323 were males and 38 were females.
This enforcement operation is part of HSI's Operation Community Shield initiative. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members. HSI's National Gang Unit deters, disrupts and dismantles gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation have arrested more than 30,672 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs. At least 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 394 of those arrested were gang leaders, and more than 4,265 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative, HSI has seized more than 4,597 firearms nationally.
ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) assisted in this enforcement action.