An Open Letter to the 2020 Presidential Candidates: It’s Time to Tax Us More

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 The following is an open letter from a group of wealthy Americans who should be affected by a wealth tax. It does not imply an endorsement for any candidate.


JUNE 24, 2019

 Note: The following nonpartisan letter is written in support of a policy solution, and cosigning this letter does not represent an endorsement of any presidential candidate.

TO: 2020 Presidential Candidates:

We are writing to call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans — on us. The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans.

Protesters are rallying across the U.S. to demand funding for education, end to mass incarceration. U.S. has 5 % of world’s population, 25 % of its incarcerated population. Schools, not prisons!

America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more. A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic.

Polls show that a moderate tax on the wealthiest Americans enjoys the support of a majority of Americans — Republicans, Independents, and Democrats.[i] We hope that candidates for President will also recognize the force of the idea and join with most Americans in supporting it. Some ideas are too important for America to be part of only a few candidates’ platforms.

The concept of a wealth tax isn’t new: Millions of middle-income Americans already pay a wealth tax each year in the form of property taxes on their primary form of wealth — their home. The kind of moderate tax on the richest 1/10 of 1% that we support just asks us to pay a small wealth tax on the primary source of our wealth as well.

Several candidates for President, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Representative Beto O’Rourke, are already supportive of the idea. The first specific candidate proposal, introduced by Senator Warren, would provide millions of families with a better shot at the American dream by taxing only 75,000 of the wealthiest families in the country.[ii] The proposal is straightforward: It puts in place a tax of 2 cents on the dollar on assets after a $50 million exemption and an additional tax of 1 cent on the dollar on assets over $1 billion. If you have $49.9 million or less you are not paying the tax. It is estimated to generate nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue over ten years.[iii][iv]

This revenue could substantially fund the cost of smart investments in our future, like clean energy innovation to mitigate climate change, universal child care, student loan debt relief, infrastructure modernization, tax credits for low-income families, public health solutions, and other vital needs.

Residents of Charleston rally at state capital demanding “tax the rich.”

That a moderate tax on a minuscule number of Americans could raise so much revenue simply reflects historic levels of wealth among America’s richest.[v] The top 1/10 of 1% of households now have almost as much wealth as all Americans in the bottom 90%. Those of us signing this letter enjoy uncommon fortunes, but each of us wants to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future.

We are in favor of a wealth tax for at least six key reasons:

A Wealth Tax Is a Powerful Tool for Solving Our Climate Crisis.

In addition to better rules on carbon pollution, more American investment is needed now to tackle climate change.[vi][vii] This could both accelerate innovation and speed implementation of solutions that create a clean energy economy and a low-carbon future. A wealth tax asks those of us who have benefitted most from our economic system to help fix one of its most devastating and fatal flaws.

A Wealth Tax Is an Economic Winner for America.

It would be a powerful instrument for greater economic growth and success. Reinvested both across America and among those less wealthy than ourselves, a wealth tax would extend prosperity. Along with resources for climate crisis investments, America needs a revenue source for other public investments in addition to private investment and philanthropy. 

Greater public investment in America’s aging infrastructure, child care, and education will not only solve important problems but will also increase productivity in the long run and promote sustained and broad-based economic growth.[viii] Easing student debt would boost entrepreneurship and homeownership rates, which have significantly declined as the costs of higher education have skyrocketed.[ix] A wealth tax could help with innovation and job creation — America’s entrepreneurial economy, despite its many successes, needs strengthening.[x] Put simply, a wealth tax would strengthen the American economy in ways that benefit all Americans.

A Wealth Tax Will Make Americans Healthier.

Use public taxes to fund free health care for all!

America’s most experienced public health experts point out that more resources are needed for major public health challenges like cardiovascular disease, the nation’s top killer, and high levels of opioid addiction.[xi] High rates of inequality have been linked to lower life expectancies.[xii] The wealthiest Americans are now estimated to live up to 15 years longer than the poorest Americans, and individuals living in disadvantaged communities are more likely to die before the age of 75, regardless of their income level.[xiii] With a modest tax on the most wealthy families to fund investments creating opportunities for lower-income and middle-income families, we can improve public health outcomes and extend life expectancies.

A Wealth Tax Is Fair.

Warren Buffett

A wealth tax would help close the large gap in effective tax rates between very rich families and everyone else. Warren Buffett has pointed out that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary. The top 1/10 of 1% are projected to pay 3.2% of their wealth in taxes this year, while the bottom 99% of households are projected to pay 7.2%.[xiv] This imbalance creates resentment and makes it harder for working-class Americans to achieve social mobility. Taxing extraordinary wealth should be a greater priority than taxing hard work. The most fortunate should contribute more.

A Wealth Tax Strengthens American Freedom and Democracy.

It would slow the growing concentration of wealth that undermines the stability and integrity of our republic. Countries with high levels of economic inequality are more likely to concentrate political power and become plutocratic.[xv] The founders of America knew this, and feared that an economic elite might become ensconced as leaders and erode the effectiveness of the republic.[xvi] Today, major policies seldom come to pass without the prior support of wealthy elites or other wealthy interests.[xvii] Division and dissatisfaction are exacerbated by inequality, leading to higher levels of distrust in democratic institutions — and worse.[xviii] That’s one reason we don’t view a wealth tax as a sacrifice on our part: We believe instituting a wealth tax would lead to political, social, and economic stability, strengthening and safeguarding America’s democratic freedoms.

A Wealth Tax Is Patriotic.

Historically, the U.S. has taxed the rich at much higher rates.

In our republic, it is the patriotic duty of all Americans to contribute what they can to the success of the country, and the wealthiest are no exception. Others have put far more on the line for America. Those of us in the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% should be proud to pay a bit more of our fortune forward to America’s future. We’ll be fine — taking on this tax is the least we can do to strengthen the country we love.

What about the arguments against a wealth tax? They are mostly technical and often overstated.

Some raise important questions about implementation and enforcement. But as the Warren proposal shows, we can limit potential evasion and reduce tax cheating by building on lessons learned in the United States and other countries. Others question whether assets owned by many ultra-millionaires and billionaires, including private equity and art collections, can be accurately assessed for tax purposes. But such assets are frequently valued — upon resale, donation, bankruptcy, divorce, or death.

Elizabeth Warren leads chants at women’s rally in Washington, D.C.

Some have argued that a federal wealth tax is unconstitutional. But here again, some of the country’s most prominent constitutional scholars — including two former heads of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice — have argued convincingly that a wealth tax is constitutional.[xix]

Far-reaching policy proposals nearly always require considerable effort to iron out complexities — and that effort has always been made when the cause is important enough. The process of instituting a wealth tax would in itself likely improve the measurement tools to facilitate implementation.

Those of us who have signed this letter believe it is our duty to step up and support a wealth tax that taxes us. It is a key to both addressing our climate crisis, and a more competitive, stronger economy that would better serve millions of Americans. It would make America healthier. It is a fair way of creating opportunity. And it strengthens American freedom and democracy. It is not in our interest to advocate for this tax, if our interests are quite narrowly understood. But the wealth tax is in our interest as Americans.

That’s why we’re joining the majority of Americans already supporting a moderate wealth tax. We ask that you recognize its strong merit and popular support, and advance the idea to tax us a little more.

Thank you,

Louise J. Bowditch, Robert S. Bowditch, Abigail Disney, Sean Eldridge, Stephen R. English, Agnes Gund, Catherine Gund, Nick Hanauer, Arnold Hiatt, Chris Hughes, Molly Munger, Regan Pritzker, Justin Rosenstein, Stephen M. Silberstein, Ian T. Simmons, Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Alexander Soros, George Soros, and Anonymous

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Demands closure of historic 140-yr.-0ld Benton Harbor High School, students state funds sent to outlying white districts, or will dissolve BHAS

Cites BH district’s alleged $16-18 million debt, overseen by state school bond loan fund; half of state budget also devoted to debt service 

1,800 students Benton Harbor students are 92% Black, 81% poor; student video calls for state to forgive district debt

Dems including MEA, AFT teachers urge legislature to approve Whitmer’s discriminatory budget in historic betrayal

By Diane Bukowski

June 21, 2019

Students rally outside Benton Harbor High School June 11, 2019 Photo: Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR, MI — “We did not realize Gov. Snyder was going to get a third term under the Whitmer administration,” Rev. David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium said at a press conference in Lansing on June 11, 2019.

“We’ve seen the destruction of public education in Highland Park, Inkster, Detroit, and in Benton Harbor. Something seems to suggest that it’s not just about destroying public education, but also about hindering the forward education and progress of African-American students.”

Despite her campaign promise that she would prioritize funding for education, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer demanded last month that the Benton Harbor School Board either close the city’s venerable 140-year old, ONLY public high school, or face the state’s dissolution of the entire school district, and its conversion into charter schools.

If the high school is closed, Whitmer said BHHS students would be bused to largely white outlying school districts miles away, if those school districts agree to accept them.

Those districts include  St. Joseph, Lakeshore, Berrien Springs, Niles, Au Claire, Colomba, Bridgman, Watervliet, and one charter school as shown in the map below.

Distances BHHS students would be forced to travel to other districts/Map ABC57

Whitmer cited the district’s alleged $18.2 million debt, involving loans from the state school loan fund. She claimed the district was failing and cited figures regarding rates of graduation and student scores on state tests. Benton Harbor officials have challenged her figures, and a recent report on problems with the state’s computer monitoring of such scores supports their position.

Gov. Whitmer meets with skeptical Benton Harbor residents and students June 12. Bridge photo

After the school board voted resoundingly not to close the high school, Whitmer responded June 18, “I think we all know that doing nothing is not an option for the children of Benton Harbor. As we move forward, we must focus our efforts on finding a solution that is attainable and puts students and families first.

“Given substantial efforts by the Board to begin crafting a plan, I look forward to working in partnership towards a solution that includes clear benchmarks, accountability, and more serious measures if these benchmarks are not satisfied.” See

Whitmer is thus demanding the board create a deficit elimination plan that will in essence eliminate education for Benton Harbor’s students, as such plans have done for cities and school districts across Michigan under the administrations of Govs. Snyder, Jennifer Granholm, and John Engler. In fact, it was under Granholm’s administration that Detroit experienced its highest rate of school closings.

But as happened in Detroit’s phony bankruptcy, the state has estimated debt figures for Benton Harbor Area Schools that are based on a total amount over coming decades. Detroit EM Orr said Detroit was $18 billion in debt, when in fact its cash deficit from the previous year, 2013, was only $138,000,000 and was expected to be paid from future incoming revenues.

Sheila A. Alles, Interim State Superintendent, issued a quarterly report on district deficits across the state May 1, 2019, which includes the charts above.  Benton Harbor is shown with a reduction in its last cash fund balance of $4.6 million, not $18.2 million. The same is true of other cities listed. The cardinal sin committed by these cities is that the state paid them per pupil funds out of its General Fund that exceeded their revenues.

The question this chart raises is: why has Whitmer targeted Benton Harbor schools, when Macomb Academy, a charter school for students with disabilities in Clinton Township, has the highest deficit?  Why not any of the other school districts in the pink rows, which have largely white student populations?

Is Michigan bleeding cities, school districts dry to pay off ITS outrageous debt to the banks?

Why ANY AT ALL, when the state allocates per-pupil funding at its highest levels to well-to-do districts that pay the highest property taxes? Is this apartheid education based both on race and economic prosperity?

Bridge Magazine reported, “Nationally, school district debt has grown substantially, from nearly $323 billion in 2006 to $443 billion in 2016, according to U.S. Census data. In Michigan, school districts’ long-term debt is just over $13 billion, according to the state’s Treasury Department.

“And unlike an individual — who can default if their finances change — once a district has taken out a school bond, it must pay it back, even if the community falls on hard times.

“Districts can’t default, and declaring bankruptcy is rarely an option; nationally, only six have done so in the last 60 years. Instead, school officials have to find the dollars somewhere, either by extracting it from local taxpayers or taking away resources from kids.”

Graph showing educational levels of Benton Harbor population.

A recent study identifying a serious computer miscalculation by the Power School system of Michigan’s students grades also challenges Whitmer’s allegations that Benton Harbor schools are failing.

An audit allegedly finding that only one-third of Benton Harbor students were on track to graduate was found to be seriously flawed due to a Power Schools glitch that has caused problems nationwide. But while investigating this glitch, the state claimed that it found Benton Harbor had overcounted its student population and therefore CUT BACK state per-pupil funding to the district.

In fact, census figures on education in Benton Harbor paint a much brighter picture of academic accomplishment in the district. (See graph at right). Video on Power Schools program flaw below.

Senior De;Aundre Henderson told ABC 57 that students do  not want to see their high school close.

Benton Harbor High School Senior De’Aundre Henderson

“I joined the band at the high school and I became the drum major, learned how to play the piano, tuba, all the wind instruments, drums; there’s something about what music does to me that just clicks,” Henderson said.

“Most of the students live in this area; we don’t have another school in this area to go to. Many don’t have transportation, this is like our landmark. There should be some other solution. People want to carry on the legacy.”

In a recent video rap video, Benton Harbor students, who are playing a leading role in the battle to save their schools,  raised a logical solution: forgive the district debt to the banks, which is governed by the state’s school loan board.

MISSION MUSIC – GET UP (featuring De’Asha Spencer-Kyle, 2Tru, Cam G & QueenBarzz)

With a poverty rate of 48 percent, Benton Harbor is one of the poorest cities in the U.S. It is situated across the river from St. Joseph, a mostly white, prosperous enclave.

Whirlpool, previously its major employer, moved all its plants out of the city. Then it took advantage of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment of an emergency manager to seize most of the city’s public land, including its beautiful lakefront properties. Now corporate forces who funded Whitmer’s campaign want its schools.

March against EM takeover of Benton Harbor May 7, 2011: Tax the rich!

Gov. Snyder targeted Benton Harbor first for the EM appointments under Public Act 436. Most of the other cities were also a majority Black. EM’s everywhere gutted public assets, institutions, services, jobs, and pensions, allegedly to pay back debts to the banks, but in fact to provide megaprofits for Wall Street. 

Using a technicality, that Act violated a state-wide public referendum in which 82 out of 84 counties in the State voted “NO” to EM laws. (The two which voted YES where Oakland and Macomb Counties.)

Band from Benton Harbor High School marched proudly  in city’s annual Flower Day Parade May 7, 2011.

Benton Harbor leaders, students and residents say they have finally had enough. They are warning the rest of the state that, just as they were the first city targeted by Snyder, an attack on other public school districts and cities will follow.


Teachers’ unions including MEA and the AFT march in Lansing June 18 to support Whitmer’s budget, which proposes to eliminate Benton Harbor’s public schools.

However, the state’s union leadership and other forces associated with the Democratic Party are hailing Whitmer, a strategy that failed with two referendums in 2016. Proposal 1 demanded the dissolution of Public Act 4 and was supported financially by only one union, which represented public workers, AFSCME Council 25. The movement against PA 4 was fueled by Gov. Snyder’s attack on the state’s majority-Black cities.

Proposal 1 passed resoundingly, underlining the need for the labor movement to line up with the oppressed Black population of this state and country.

Proposal 2, which would have written the right to organize unions into the State constitution, was broadly funded by virtually every other union in the state, who withheld funding from Proposal 1. It failed resoundingly, turning Michigan, into a “Right-to-Work” state.

On June 18, the Detroit News reported,  “Thousands of Michigan educators rallied Tuesday outside the state Capitol, wearing “red for ed” as they called on the Republican-led Legislature to ‘fund our schools’ and adopt Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan.

“[Whitmer] was hailed by union leaders as a key ally in the battle against charter schools and privatization pushed by national GOP leaders like Betsy DeVos.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights supporters including UAW Pres. Walter Reuther (l) march in Detroit in 1963.

“It’s a new day in Lansing, and we have a fighter on our side who understands that we have to stop short-changing students and we have to invest in our future,” said David Hecker, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.”

When will they ever learn? The leadership of the UAW, Teamsters and other unions marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s in support of the Black-led civil rights movement.

‘As Angela Davis said, “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night!” It is clearly time that the people of Michigan and of the U.S. begin to organize their own broad, militant grass roots movements against attacks like those from Whitmer, and from President Donald Trump, as opposed to depending on the Democratic Party.

Various related stories from VOD (many more on school closings, Benton Harbor and Public Act 4–put these terms in search engine)



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(L to r) Marcie Griffin, attorney Todd Flood, attorney Suzanne Kostovski, George Rider, and Eric Griffin during trial. Photo: Macomb Daily

Flawed MSP forensic evidence casts doubt on identity of true killer; lab focus of controversy for decades

In separate federal case, Johnson’s boyfriend Lattner pled guilty to possession of Ruger also examined in murder case, lab originally ID’d Gibson’s DNA on it

Jury mostly white; current census figures show large increases in Black population in Eastpointe (nearly 50%), Warren, other Macomb Cty. cities

 Role of federal government agents in pointing prosecution towards Rider, et. al. questioned

By Diane Bukowski

June 12, 2019  Updated June 14, 2019

Add for benefit held for Julii Johnson family after her murder. She had 2 children.


VOD spoke with defendant George Rider today, who called from the Macomb County Jail after his June 7 conviction of first-degree murder in the slaying of Julii Johnson.

Mr. Rider disputed information that has been published in the mainstream media as well as the Voice of Detroit regarding several matters. 

“Neither I nor Eric Gibson ever knew [co-defendant] Marcie Griffin,” Rider said emphatically, referring to published reports that he and Griffin were lovers. Those reports claimed  that Griffin hired Gibson through Rider to kill Johnson, the girlfriend of J. Terrell Lattner. Lattner is the father of two of Griffin’s children.

The mainstream media has sensationalized the case, portraying it as a lover’s triangle with Rider doing the bidding of a scorned Griffin. She is portrayed unflatteringly in published photos.  VOD was able to cover the trial in person one day, and noted that Griffin is actually an attractive, well-groomed and composed woman.

One website called Lipstick Alley headlined a YouTube video from Channel 7 News:

Boyfriend’s Baby Momma executed a hit on his NEW GIRLFRIEND

This WXYZ news coverage is typical of many mainstream media stories, using unsubstantiated police comments, such as the one regarding an unidentified person leaving a vehicle (Warren police SAID he was George Rider), rumors and innuendo, to convict the defendants TWO YEARS before they were actually tried. Also typical are statements from relatives of victims who say they are “so happy” the murderers have been caught, without any proof yet presented.

“Judge [Joseph] Toia should never have allowed text messages from an unknown person sent to Griffin into testimony,” Rider said. “When they seized Marcie Griffin’s phone, the phone number I had was in her phone, but I did not have possession of that phone at the time of those messages. Police seized that phone from me later when they arrested me Feb. 4 in Roseville.”

Mainstream media reports also claimed that Rider was an owner of the cell phone company involved, without naming it.  However, Rider said that one Charles Luckett is the resident agent of Midtown Entertainment, LLC, the company in question, which is confirmed by State of Michigan records. He said the mother of one of his children IS associated with the company, and that Eric Gibson at times ran errands for her.

VOD has contacted Suzanna Kostovski, Rider’s lawyer, for further comment. Rider said an appeal of the convictions is definitely in the works.


(Includes excerpts and information from stories by Jameson Cook of the Macomb Daily, Scott Burnstein of the Gangster Report, and VOD reporter Ricardo Ferrell. VOD was not able to be present for most of this trial.)

Mostly white jury; generic, not jury in this case.

DETROIT – A majority-white Macomb County jury on June 7 convicted George Rider, 61, of Huntington Woods, Marcie Griffin, 48, of Eastpointe, and Eric Gibson, 26, of Detroit, of first-degree murder in the Jan. 13, 2017 slaying of Julii Larrie Johnson, 34.

The defendants, all of whom are Black as was the victim, will be sentenced to mandatory life-without-parole terms in front of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia, also white, on July 31. Gibson was also convicted of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

“Sadly, the system is rigged in a way that common everyday citizens can be swept up, arrested, and thrown in jail for two years and four months with numerous delays and postponements before having their day in court, only to be railroaded through a process replete with constitutional violations and obvious injustices,” noted Ricardo Ferrell, a VOD reporter who has been following the story.

VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell

*Currently there is a probe by authorities looking into illegal activities by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith,” Ferrell added. “The level of corruption that exists in this racist county leads me to conclude that justice will never prevail for these three defendants unless a fair and impartial judge is assigned to preside over a new trial, in a different county.”

Reporter Scott Burnstein of the Gangster Report wrote, “The only evidence connecting the 60-year old Rider and the 26-year old Gibson [the alleged shooter] are ‘pings’ from cell phone towers in the Metro Detroit area placing them in the same vicinity on the day Johnson was murdered. Nonetheless, Rider, Griffin and Gibson were indicted together on February 24, 2017 and have been held without bail ever since.”

Warren and Roseville police first arrested Rider Feb. 4, 2017 in Roseville, and subjected him to a warrant-less search and seizure of his vehicle and two cell phones. 

Rider is well-known in Detroit as a long-time property owner and entrepreneur in the former Paradise Valley/Cass Corridor/Brush Park district. That area is now called “Midtown” and largely owned by whites, including billionaire Dan Gilbert and the Illitch family. It features the Red Wings, Comerica Park, and Ford Field sports arenas, along with “gentrified” shops, restaurants, and retail stores.

Rider has also been in the sights of the federal government for years, having served two stints for narcotics trafficking. He was last released in 2003. Mainstream media reports continually say he is “suspected” in other murders. But they give no specifics, other than the unsolved murders of three former owners of the Fine Arts Theater on Woodward, which community activists have long attributed to white corporate gentrifiers.

Boyfriend Lattner pleads guilty in federal court to possession of one of two guns examined in murder; MSP crime lab mixed up DNA tests on both

J. Terrell Lattner with atty. John Royal appears before USDC Judge Mark Goldsmith June 3, 2019

Johnson was found shot seven times in the head and torso to death outside a Warren condo owned by her boyfriend Jim T. Lattner Jr., 44, early on the morning of Jan. 13, 2017.

Allegedly, the bullets found in her body at the morgue were “unidentifiable.” 

Lattner, who was home at the time, was the first suspect police identified in Johnson’s murder. They seized large amounts of drugs and guns from Lattner’s condo and his vehicle, which was outfitted with hidden compartments commonly used by drug dealers.      

Burnstein wrote, “Lattner, 44, has two drug dealing convictions on his rap sheet from when he was the leader of the World Domination Gang in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He did six years in prison and got out in 2010.” 

According to sources, agents from the federal government ATF, FBI and Violent Crime Task Forces intervened to point the prosecution in the direction of Rider. They allegedly met June 23 at Warren Police headquarters with Warren police and other entities.

The Johnson murder trial jury never heard that Lattner had pled guilty on June 3 in a separate federal court case to felon-in-possession of the .44 caliber Ruger found by Warren police in his truck parked outside the condo the morning of Johnson’s death. He earlier took the Fifth Amendment at the murder trial, refusing to answer any questions at all, or acknowledge his relationship with Johnson. He is facing up to 10 years in prison on the federal weapons charge.

Smith and Wesson handgun shown at trial as murder weapon. Original photo by Warren Police.

Two days after Johnson’s death. a separate team of Warren police found a Smith & Wesson handgun in fields near the condo, on a path ending at a nearby L.A. Fitness Center on Mound Rd. They turned it over to the state police for testing to see if it was the murder weapon.

The team of police first on scene the day of the murder conducted a canine search of the area for an entire day, according to a Fox 2 news report Jan. 13, 2017. Fox 2 reported that they were unsuccessful in producing any gun, or any other physical evidence.

A police team later found “work” gloves on the same path that allegedly had Gibson’s DNA on them. Police also reported they examined a video of a white Nissan Pathfinder parking in the LA Fitness lot and reported that an individual inside emerged on the day of Johnson’s murder. They did not conclusively identify that individual, though they claimed it was George Rider. 

“A possible mix-up of DNA samples by Michigan State Police forensic scientists took center stage Wednesday at the trial of three defendants accused of murdering an Oak Park woman in Warren.” Jameson Cook of the Macomb Daily reported May 30.

He went on, “Initial analysis of DNA collected from the Smith & Wesson handgun show[ed] Lattner’s DNA on the trigger/slide and no DNA from Gibson, while the same gun’s grip showed Gibson’s DNA and none from Lattner.”

Ruger pistol found in Lattner’s truck the day of Johnson’s murder. He pled guilty June 3 to felon in possession of this firearm in separate federal case.

He added later, “The initial analysis of the Ruger showed Gibson’s DNA on “grip” or handle, and none of Lattner’s DNA . . . .The possible switch of DNA samples taken from the two guns prompted MSP Crime Lab officials to recollect and re-examine samples. The DNA analysis of the second set of samples provided different results that are more in line with law enforcement’s theory of the case.”

According to Cook, defense attorneys were in an uproar after three employees of the crime lab at various locations testified about the alleged mix-up.

“The potential mistake at either the MSP Sterling Heights or Northville lab has prompted incredulity from defense attorneys who contend that perhaps a mistake was not made because the initial test results point to Lattner as having a role in the incident, shifting blame from their clients,” Cook wrote. “They say it also throws into question all of the DNA testing in the case.

Cook continued, “MSP Forensic Scientist [Jennifer Jones] said that didn’t make sense because the results were “inconsistent with the case facts as described by the agent (Warren police),” Jones wrote in her report. The results didn’t jive because because Warren police were “trying to place the suspect on this weapon (the Ruger),” a superior to Jones wrote in an email received by Jones.

Jennifer Jones, MSP forensic biologist

Jones also noted that the gun was owned by Lattner and was in his vehicle, so more likely to have his DNA on it.

The Michigan State Police Crime Lab has been the focus of controversy over falsified tests for decades, resulting in part from its employment of State Troopers instead of qualified forensic scientists. A coalition of defense attorneys filed suit against the Lab in 2015. See

Michael Harris, co-founder of People’s Crime Lab Task Force

In 2011, a coalition of prisoners and their families formed The People’s Crime Lab Task Force to fight results from both the Detroit Police Crime Lab, closed in 2009, and the MSP lab. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy hijacked what was supposed to have been an independent investigation of 147 cases from the Detroit lab. Only four defendants’ cases were examined, and all were re-tried and found guilty again.

One of the founding members of the Crime Lab Task Force, Michael Harris, remains in prison convicted of the rape-murders of three women in the Lansing area during the 1980’s. The MSP lab originally handled the forensics including fingerprinting.

Harris’ lawyer suggested the lab had planted the print. Updated DNA testing of a sample from one of the murders, done by the MSP lab, subsequently identified another man as the perpetrator. Since then, Harris has not been exonerated of that murder, and the other man has not been charged. See:

Racial composition of jury challenged by defense: only 3 Blacks in county where cities like Eastpointe are approaching majority Black populations

Judge Toia maintained an outwardly patient and respectful demeanor as defense attorneys brought forward various motions, during the trial, but denied all of them.

MCCC Judge Joseph Toia

In particular, attorneys for Rider and Gibson disputed the racial make-up of the jury in a special session. They pointed out that the percentage of jury questionnaires returned from predominantly white areas of Macomb County was 70 percent, while cities with larger populations of color returned only 50 percent of their questionnaires.

Prosecutors at this murder trial claimed Toia had no authority to deal with the jury selection problem. However, two judges in the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Wayne County did deal with it.

The Michigan legislature had abolished Detroit’s Recorder’s Court, with jurors and judges drawn only from Detroit, in reaction to the conviction of white police officers Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn for murdering a Black Detroiter, Malice Green. 

They replaced it with the Third Judicial Circuit Court, covering all of Wayne County, which was not a majority Black, although most defendants in that court to this day are Black.

Sapala ordered additional questionnaires sent to zip codes in Wayne County with predominantly Black populations to balance the matter. However, the problem re-emerged later when most Black potential jurors were assigned to 36th District Court, shorting the venire of Black jurors for the Third Judicial Court. Judge Deborah Thomas waged a determined years-long campaign in an attempt to correct that situation

Graph showing 2019 population of Eastpointe/

The omission of Black jurors was especially glaring for Marcie Griffin, a resident of Eastpointe, where residents of color now exceed the number of white residents. 

“The jury, comprised of nine whites and three blacks had the appearance of a deck already stacked against the defendants,” Ferrell noted.

“During the voir dire the prosecution utilized his preemptory challenges to exclude potential Black jurors. Assistant Prosecutor Jurij Fedorak during an impromptu hearing in the middle of trial claimed that the jury pool in Macomb County doesn’t have enough Blacks in it . . . but that is a blatant untruth because in the City of Eastpointe alone there [are nearly 50 percent] of  African-Americans residing there, so why not choose from that demographic?”

Toia excused two jurors, whose race was not noted in the Macomb Daily coverage, one for “scheduling reasons” and the other for allegedly having “non-verbal contact” with witnesses, leaving only 12 on the jury panel.

Defendants alleged violations of U.S. Constitution governing right to speedy trial, fair jury, due process

Early on, both Rider and Gibson unsuccessfully filed motions for dismissal of the charges based on state and federal constitutional violations, particularly of the U.S. Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, relating to illegal search and seizure, and denial of a speedy trial, a fair jury, and due process.

MCCC Judge Jennifer Faunce (l) was finally removed from Rider’s case due to conflicts of interest including the involvement of her sister 37th DC Judge Suzanne Faunce (r) in Rider’s bindover.

Rider’s first Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Faunce repeatedly postponed hearings on his motions for dismissal, until she was finally recused by the Chief Judge due to her ties with Rider’s District Court Judge Suzanne Faunce, her sister, who belatedly signed warrants after Warren police seized Rider’s vehicle and cell phones.

This writer, VOD’s editor, has noted a similar pattern in other cases in Macomb County’s courts. In one case, a Black teen defendant was arraigned on June 6, 2017. The arraignment was sensationalized by mainstream media the next day, clearly showing the defendant’s image. No subsequent public hearings were held in court until his date of sentencing two years later.  He pled guilty on the advice of counsel despite the existence of alibi witnesses who never testified, and the fact that other witnesses who claimed to have identified him said his head was covered with a hood.

Related stories:



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Plaintiff Mimi Wahab Brun with her mother Virginia “Jean” Wahab. Mrs. Wahab passed away in April, 2019 after a two-year ordeal in the Lourdes Nursing Home, which held her against her will. Visits with her daughter were barred.

“Mom was a fearless, independent woman before Lourdes took control of her.” — Daughter Mimi Brun

After time in Lourdes, “She couldn’t stand up. She was terrified of being locked in a room and of someone coming to take her back to Lourdes.”

“We want to be paid. You cannot expect to show up to see your mother when you have not paid for the privilege.” –Lourdes attorney on illegal denial of visitation rights to Brun

Experts say seizure of seniors, their homes and assets, by Probate Court judges, guardians, trustees, nursing homes, is rampant national trend.

By Gretchen Rachel Hammond

May 30, 2019

Mimi Brun (l) during her youth with mother Virginia Jean Wahab (r).

In nationwide research studies, the greatest fear expressed by seniors is not death but the  eradication of their independence if forced to live in a nursing facility.

According to a lawsuit filed May 8, 2019 in Oakland County Circuit Court, such fears were realized for a vital and healthy Oak Park woman, Virginia “Jean” Wahab, who spent two years falsely imprisoned in a Waterford nursing home, Lourdes, Inc, held for a $25,000 ransom.

 “Mom was a fearless, independent woman before Lourdes took control of her,” Mimi Brun, her oldest daughter and caregiver, said. “When I finally got her out of there. it took me a long time to wean her off all the unnecessary anti-psychotic and anti-depressive drugs they had been giving her.”

Wahab had been living alone before her ordeal began in 2016. But Brun says by the time she was able to secure her mother’s release after a protracted legal battle, “She couldn’t stand up. She was terrified of being locked in a room and of someone coming to take her back to Lourdes. She would wake up from dreams with just paralyzing fear. She told me that she had been hit a lot. She had bed sores, broken teeth from all the falls, scars and blisters.”

Injury to Mrs. Wahab’s elbow allegedly sustained at Lourdes

Before Wahab passed away at the end of April, mother and daughter were finally able to spend a precious few months together after being kept apart by a court order obtained by Lourdes severing Brun’s visitation rights.

See Plaintiff Brun’s lawsuit at

In 1968, a Waco, Texas army veteran filed and won a lawsuit after a local nursing facility held him against his will. Since then, such actions have sporadically been brought nationwide.

Brun’s lawsuit claims false imprisonment, negligence, breach of contract, malicious prosecution, abuse of court process and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is a first for Michigan.

It comes on the heels of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s creation of an Elder Abuse Taskforce and the arrest of two Mount Clemens nursing home employees who were each charged with Vulnerable Adult Abuse. 

According to Brun’s complaint, the family’s problems began in February 2016, when Wahab was admitted to Lourdes, a $21 million nonprofit housing 250 residents at four facilities, for short-term rehabilitation following a recommendation from her doctor.

By April 2016, Wahab’s insurance company, Health Alliance Plan, terminated Wahab’s Medicare benefits at Lourdes stating that she needed no further services or medication and was “medically stable for discharge.”

Lourdes Dementia Care Unit. Courtesy

However, the complaint asserts that “Even through Virginia did not need to be in a nursing home, Lourdes kept her in a section reserved for terminally ill and dementia patients for over-two years [and] would not release Virginia without the payment of a bill in the amount of $25,000.”

Court documents show that Lourdes filed a petition for guardianship of Wahab at the Oakland County Probate Court.

During a June 29, 2016 hearing on the petition, Lourdes social worker Sara Van Acker stated that the organization was seeking guardianship of Wahab because of “A concern about the nursing home being paid.” To view full deposition, see

Van Acker added that Wahab was suffering from a number of mental and physical ailments, including dementia. The lawsuit argues that, at the time, “Lourdes knew she was suffering from none of those conditions.”

Oakland Co. Probate Court Presiding Judge Linda Hallmark

But without any medical evidence presented at the hearing, presiding Oakland County Probate Court Judge Linda S. Hallmark granted the request. She appointed former Oakland County Public Administrator Jon B. Munger as Wahab’s guardian, discarding a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) in which Wahab had named  Brun as her patient advocate.

Guardianship is a system which has come under nationwide scrutiny given that an individual, deemed legally incompetent by a probate or family court judge, must cede their personal rights, freedoms, financial and medical decisions, often to a total stranger.

Cases in which court-appointed, professional guardians have used their power to exploit and abuse their elderly or vulnerable wards have been uncovered in  Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania. Ohio , Texas and California to name a few.

On May 30, WXYZ aired a two-part story concerning a husband and wife imprisoned in their own home by a Macomb County Probate Judge and guardianship company.

A 2015 Hunter College/New York Times study  determined that the use of guardianship as a collection agency by nursing facilities has “become routine.”

Appointed Wahab Guardian Jon Munger

A statute in Michigan’s Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) gives Brun priority over a professional guardian in the care of her mother. But, during the hearing, Hallmark stated that she was appointing Munger “to make sure we have the Medicaid application on track [and] get this bill taken care of.”

According to Brun’s lawsuit, Wahab was “kept in Lourdes against her will in exchange for the Medicaid payments and as collateral for payments it claimed were owed to it by Ms. Brun.” It adds that Lourdes violated federal law in attempting to force Brun to guarantee her mother’s bill.

An FOIA request to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) revealed that, between 2016 and 2018, Lourdes received a total of $24,557,557.10 in Medicaid disbursements. See

During the two-year fight Brun launched to have Wahab released from both the guardianship and Lourdes, the complaint alleges that Lourdes denied her visitation rights to her mother and barred her from the premises, chemically restrained Wahab while denying her personal liberty and freedom of movement, and obtained an illegal injunction from Hallmark and bench warrant for Brun’s arrest unless she paid them $25,000.

The complaint notes a February 2, 2017 email from Lourdes attorney Mary Lyneis in which she told Brun, “We want to be paid. You cannot expect to show up to see your mother when you have not paid for the privilege.”

A disturbing June 27, 2018 video (above) shows a brief union between mother and daughter outside the Oakland County Probate Court before Munger’s attorney Joseph Ehrlich pulls Wahab’s wheelchair away with such force that Wahab is jolted back in her seat.

Brun said her reaction was visceral and born out of exhaustion, frustration and helplessness.

Joseph Ehrlich, Esq.

“I hadn’t seen my mother for two years,” she recalled. “They had no right to separate us. What Ehrlich did was aggressive and illegal. If it was your mom, what would you do?”

Ultimately, Brun decided that the answer was in taking legal action against Lourdes, something she stated is not only an attempt to seek justice in memory of her mother but for other Michigan nursing home residents who have been held against their will, isolated from their families, and/or have been subject to an unnecessary guardianship.

 “The irreparable suffering in my mom’s case, the inhumanity she was subjected to, the illegalities and the breaches of her legal and human rights cannot happen again to anyone else anywhere,” she said.

Brun asserted that her mother was more than aware she was being held against her will at Lourdes.

“She said, many times, that they should not have been allowed to do what they were doing, that she should be free and that she didn’t like it one bit that she was locked up,” Brun recalled. “She had always been family-oriented. She was very lonely there and, when she complained to Lourdes staff about how isolated she was, they just told her she was demented.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Mark Hafeli

Sylvan Lake trial attorney Mark W. Hafeli, who has practiced law for more than four decades, is representing Brun in the action. It  seeks a jury trial and redress from Lourdes for extreme emotional distress, pain and suffering, medical expenses and punitive damages.

“It’s a fear of many elderly people that they may be confined in a nursing home against their will,” Hafeli stated. “To be locked in a nursing home when you don’t want to be there is a serious wrong.”

The federal Nursing Home Reform Act passed in 1987, requires facilities to adhere to the rights and protection of residents including freedom from chemical restraints,  respect of advance directives, access to a resident by immediate family or relatives and the freedom to be discharged.

“All federal regulations and resident rights say that a resident of a nursing home has a right to visits,” Hafeli noted. “You can’t condition a mother’s right to see her daughter based upon the daughter’s payment of $25,000.”

The act notes that, in cases where a resident has been deemed incompetent by a state judge, their rights are transferred to a guardian. But Hafeli does not believe that it lets Lourdes off the hook for filing an unwarranted petition in the first place and their holding, isolation and treatment of Wahab.

“According to an expert I have consulted, regardless of what the guardian may or may not do, the nursing home has a duty to discharge a person when they don’t need skilled nursing care,” he said. “Especially when there’s a family member willing to take care of them.”

Diane Medio, Exec. Director CARIE

Diane Menio is the Executive Director of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) which, for 42 years, has promoted “The wellbeing, rights and autonomy of older adults.”

 “There are national trends such as nursing homes going for a guardianship when they can’t get payment or an approved application for Medicaid,” she said. “But you can’t keep someone hostage until money is paid. A family member being told ‘you can’t visit because you owe us money’ is something new to me.”

Menio noted that her organization has seen nursing facilities applying for guardianship of their residents “in batches.”

Such activity raises the question whether the significant reason for the increase in guardianship and nursing home abuse is due to an exponentially increasing senior demographic.

“Society doesn’t see elderly people,” Menio said. “The abuse of them is underreported. People take advantage of them. Making sure we have protections in place for the elderly population is extremely challenging.”

Brun said that her lawsuit is part of a greater elder abuse awareness campaign she calls #justiceforjean.

“People need to wake up about the potential for destructive forces in the lives of people they love,” she said. “Justice yields peace and I’m looking for it for Mom, for me and for all the people to come.”

“Any time you bring a case like this you hope that it benefits other people,” Hafeli asserted. “If this case causes some good for the public, I’d be thrilled.”


Journalist Gretchen Rachel Hammond

Gretchen Rachel Hammond is an award-winning, now free-lance journalist presently wrapping up a nine-month investigation into an alleged elder abuse and exploitation ring operating out of the Oakland County Probate Courts. She previously worked on staff for numerous publications. VOD is grateful for this excellent expose of crimes rampant in probate courts across the U.S. and even the world.

VOD previously published a series of stories on the similar, harrowing experience of Westland senior Gayle Robinson and other seniors and children. (Put names of those involved in search engine to bring up numerous stories.)

Other VOD stories on state terrorism against elders,  families and children included world-renowned hero the late Maryanne Godboldo, who fought off a SWAT-team attack on her Detroit home in 2011 aimed at having CPS kidnap and forcibly medicate her 13-year-old daughter.

Maryanne Godboldo speaks at rally shortly after her release from jail, preparing to fight to release her daughter from state control

Godboldo died of a massive brain aneurysm the night before Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy scheduled a THIRD criminal trial against Godboldo after Judges Ronald Giles and Gregory Bill twice threw out the same charges. Ms. Godboldo and her family carried out a years-long battles in juvenile and criminal courts, winning the release of Godboldo’s daughter to her family. They continue Maryanne’s battle on behalf of other state victims to this day.  See  

Others VOD has covered who have battled state attacks on seniors, their families, and children include, among others:

  • Lennette Williams and her daughter Mailauni Williams, who have conducted a battle to remain united for over 30 years;
  • Luis and Cecilia Espinoza, who won their juvenile court battle to keep their 5 children;
  • Parents Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons, who finally defeated CPS’ battle to take their 6 children;
  • Wanda Worley and her daughter Sharmian Sowards,
  • Kristina Brockington and her mother Regina Gargus



Rights of an individual with a guardian:

Powers and duties of a guardian:

Michigan Mental Health Code re: placement of wards with developmental disabilities

Guardianship petitions: Summary under Michigan Law



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Gabriela Hernandez, executive director of the nonprofit New Mexico Dream Team, holds up an image Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Albuquerque, N.M, of a Honduran transgender woman who died while in U.S. custody. Immigrant and LGBT advocates gathered outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Albuquerque to protest migrant Roxsana Hernandez’s death, which authorities say came after she developed symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV. (AP Photo/Mary Hudetz).

Rick Jervis

June 4, 2019

Two more migrants, a Salvadoran man and a woman from Honduras, died recently while in federal immigration custody, marking at least seven migrant deaths since October and raising concerns of how federal agents care for those in their custody.

U.S. authorities announced the death of the 40-year-old Honduran woman who crossed into the U.S. without documentation early Monday in Eagle Pass, Texas. The woman collapsed at a Border Patrol station and later died at a local hospital, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol. CBP has not released her name, pending notification of her family.

In another case, a 33-year-old Salvadoran man died on Sunday near Roma, Texas, after suffering a seizure while in CBP custody. The agency is also withholding his name pending notification of his family.

These deaths come on the heels of the death of Johana Medina Leon, 25, a transgender asylum-seeker from El Salvador, whose passing Saturday at an El Paso hospital rekindled fears that transgender migrants are being mistreated at federal holding facilities. 

Medina Leon had asked for asylum at a border crossing in April and was detained at a detention facility in Chaparral, New Mexico. She was taken to an El Paso hospital after complaining of chest pains and later died at the facility. She had been released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Last week, Medina Leon had requested an HIV test, which came back positive, according to ICE. 

“This is yet another unfortunate example of an individual who illegally enters the United States with an untreated, unscreened medical condition,” Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, said in a statement.

“There is a crisis at our southern border with a mass influx of aliens lured by the lies of human smugglers who profit without regard for human life or well-being. Many of these aliens attempt to enter the United States with untreated or unknown diseases, which are not diagnosed until they are examined while in detention.”

Roxsana Rodriquez Hernandez

Medina Leon’s death comes days after the one-year anniversary of the death of Roxsana Hernandez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras who died on May 25, 2018, while in ICE custody. Her death was attributed to a rare disorder that developed quickly due to AIDS and sparked protests and calls for an investigation.

The New York Times reported additionally, “Other detainees cited in the autopsy report recall that Ms. Hernandez experienced the symptoms of severe dehydration “over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill,” the report says.

The Transgender Law Center, an Oakland-based advocacy group, filed suit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security alleging mistreatment and that the agencies withheld information about Hernandez’s death, allegations ICE denies.

“A few days after marking the anniversary of Roxsana Hernandez’s death, we are devastated and outraged by reports that Johana Medina, a transgender woman and refugee from El Salvador, has died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody,” Kris Hayashi, the center’s executive director, said in a statement.

ICE has faced scrutiny for its detainee health care for years. The agency has reported five in-custody deaths since October.

But ICE officials say the agency is committed to providing medical care to everyone in its custody. It says it spends $250 million each year on health care for detainees, including medical, dental and mental health intake screenings within 12 hours of arrival and round-the-clock emergency care.

Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N. M. Allegations of rampant abuse here continue.

Still, migrant advocates say federal agencies are not doing enough to treat and protect at-risk immigrants in their custody. 

In March, the ACLU of New Mexico issued a letter calling for an investigation into allegations that transgender women and gay men fleeing persecution were met with abuse and degrading treatment at the same New Mexico facility where Medina Leon had been held.

The letter complained about rampant sexual harassment, medical neglect and retaliation from guards and medical staff.

Contributing: Associated Press and Daniel Borunda, El Paso Times.

Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Two more migrants die in US custody after crossing Mexico border 

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Overall, U.S. military spending has already increased from $586 billion in 2015 to $716 billion in 2019

U.S. military spending dwarfs the budget of the #2 country – China. For every dollar China spends on its military, the U.S. spends $2.77 



When it comes to military spending, the United States’ defense budget is astronomical. The U.S. spends as much as the next seven countries combined on the military. The staggering amount of money available has resulted in wasteful military spending. Military spending should be reduced by at least $200 billion annually, freeing up $2 trillion or more over the next decade for domestic and human needs priorities. With those spending cuts, the Pentagon’s budget would remain more than enough to keep America safe at a level well above our nation’s post-World War II historical average. Sign the petition: Congress must address the plain truth about Pentagon excesses and waste.


It’s time to stop misdirecting hundreds of billions of dollars away from domestic and human needs to pad unnecessary budget lines for endless wars, failed weapons and the Pentagon’s corporate handouts.

Hundreds of billions of dollars annually should be shifted away from the Pentagon and towards pressing needs like education, health care, and averting catastrophic climate change.

Doing so will make our country safer and more just.

Sign the petition: Demand Congress cut the military budget and put domestic needs ahead of wasteful spending.



Thanks for all you do, Erin Tulley, Daily Kos

Daily Kos, PO Box 70036, Oakland, CA, 94612.

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OPINION By Pyotr Kortunov and Abdolrasool Divsallar

May 28, 2019

VOD: This story from the Moscow Times sheds an entirely different perspective on what passes for “news” from the U.S. corporate-controlled media. We would be well-advised to see how the rest of the world views our country. The map at left shows the miniscule size of the U.S. when compared to the former Soviet Union, China, India, Africa, Latin America, and others.

Russia’s Middle East policy is marked with balancing acts that secure the country’s role as an agile and effective balancing power. The fall of the Islamic Republic could undermine Moscow’s capacity for balancing in the Middle Eastern region. It has the potential to cripple Russia’s policy in Syria by giving more freedom of action to U.S.-allied groups, further weakening the recovering Assad government.

At the same time, Russia and Iran have created a major security convergence for responding to shared threats and adapting strategies to gain required international recognitions by revising the U.S.-led order. Issues that Russia rarely shares with other Middle Eastern powers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei /U.S Pres. Donald Trump

And most significantly, a U.S.-led attack on Iran would pave the way for U.S.-led security architecture in the Middle East, providing Washington with major leverage. All these developments provide ground for speculation about the degree of Moscow’s involvement in a possible military confrontation between Iran and the United States.

Although Moscow could financially gain from a politically isolated and less economically competitive Iran, the geopolitical fallout from a regime change in Teheran will significantly outweigh the potential economic benefits.

Particularly, a direct confrontation between Tehran and Washington that could bring back major U.S. military build-up is a geopolitical challenge that threatens Russia’s interests in the Middle East. Moscow has already blamed the U.S. for provoking Iran and has shown its opposition to the U.S. tightening pressure on Tehran’s defense program by recognizing Iran’s legitimate defense interests.

U.S. Sanctions Russian Arms Makers Over Alleged Iran, N. Korea and Syria Dealings

Read more

Moreover, Russia’s active involvement in the global politics that has been demonstrated in recent years is a far cry from the relative passivism that marked Moscow’s reaction to the Yugoslav War or the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Therefore, it will not come as a surprise if Russia decides to make a step beyond mere diplomatic support to protect her interests in the Middle East, including militarily assisting Iran.

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin meeting with China’s leader Xi Jinping last year.

Over the past years, Moscow and Tehran have institutionalized their military coordination through an unprecedented amount of regular high-level military and intelligence contacts. This could also contribute to Moscow’s willingness to expand her assistance to Iran beyond diplomatic measures.

Furthermore, the global ambition Russia is acting on today demands that Moscow makes an appropriate response to any radical U.S. policy towards Iran. One of Putin’s key aspirations in regard to foreign policy is asserting Russia as a globally recognized superpower.

In order to achieve that Moscow has to demonstrate the amount of influence she possesses globally, especially when a major international security crisis is in question.

Failure to show significant degree of involvement in the unfolding crisis will seriously hurt Russia’s prestige and undermine her status as a superpower, which Russia claims to be.

Putin has made a clear message that Iran should keep its own expectations of potential Russian help soberly modest. However, it could be speculated that Putin’s reaction in the wake of a full-scale conflict between Iran and the U.S. might be different.

Russia’s direct involvement in the U.S.-Iran conflict, should such a confrontation take place, is highly improbable.

However, Moscow may take certain cautious steps in order to strengthen Iran’s deterrence capacities. It is doubtful that Moscow will make any radical changes to her policy of not supplying Tehran with offensive weapons, but that doesn’t mean Russia cannot enhance Iran’s defense capabilities.

(See video below: Remember that Iran is an ally of Russia and numerous other countries. Russia has a vested interest in protecting Iran from an attack by the U.S.)


Syria and Now Iran: How the U.S. Is Driving Russia South

Read more

Recent years’ military-to-military ties between Tehran and Moscow could provide a picture of what pragmatic steps Moscow may take to assist Tehran. Since 2011 Russian-Iranian cooperation evolved around three main categories. Arms sales, highlighted by the delivery of S-300PMU2 systems; intelligence sharing focused on IS and Syrian battles; and operational cooperation mainly in the form of battle coordination and joint military operations in Syria. These unique pillars of the interplay between the two countries, accompanied by joint commissions to facilitate them have institutionalized the military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran far beyond Syria.

Russian made S 300 long range air defense missiles at site in Iran.

Russian involvement in the U.S.-Iran conflict is likely to be broadly based on this threefold pattern.

Moscow’s first option of responding to the escalation between Iran and the U.S. could be the fortification of Iran’s air defense system capacities to suppress U.S. air superiority. Russian involvement in Syria has demonstrated that Kremlin is confident about using advanced air defense systems to change the balance of forces amid ongoing battles.


Moscow’s decision to provide the Syrian Army with S-300 units in Syria in response to a Russian reconnaissance plane being mistakenly shot down by the Syrian military is a clear example of that. It showed Russian willingness to readjust the military balance through the swift supply of arms.

Part of Russia’s extensive electronic air defense warfare system, which surpasses U.S. capabilities.

Thus Russia may reserve the option to improve Iran’s defensive capabilities via the supply of more advanced units, should such a necessity arise. Providing S-400 batteries or the ground-based Electronic Warfare systems including Borisoglebsk-2 and Krasukha-4S which have the potential to hamper US air superiority could constitute a part of Russia’s response.

One of the other forms of Russian response can potentially take is a deployment of Russian military assets to Iran. Russia has recently demonstrated that it is ready to deploy limited military units to contested countries in order to combat threats to her interests.

Russian Air Force personnel in front of supersonic bomber aircraft outside of Caracas 12 10 18

The case of Tu-160 and limited force deployment in Venezuela to deter US threat in support of Maduro’s government is the latest example, putting forward strategic military deployments as a possible option. Tehran is also likely to support Russian troops being stationed on Iranian territories.


Iran Says It Is Planning Naval Drills With Russia in Caspian Sea

Read more

During the peak of the Syrian war in 2016, news broke out that Russian Tu-22M3 bombers have used an Iranian airbase in Hamadan to conduct attacks on targets in Syria. Despite the revolutionary “No East, No West” slogan, the incident revealed that the Islamic Republic has become pragmatic enough to shift her policy when national security issues are at stake.

These developments raise the possibility that Russia may be willing to apply the same model to support the Iranian government. The move will have limited operational value, though it sends a strong signal of political support to Washington.

Russian military engineers in Syria. The Syrian government has just defeated ISIS and U.S.-supported rebels with strategic Russian assistance.

However, this policy could work only as a prevention tool, discouraging a potential opponent from engagement in a military conflict. The moment violence escalates, stationing troops will no longer be an option for Russia.

Finally, Russia may provide Iran with operational intelligence prior to or during the break-out of the war with the U.S.

It will not be the first time that Russia provides her allies with this kind of assistance. In 2003, Pentagon report claimed Russia funneled intelligence on American troop movements in Iraq to Saddam Hussein during the early days of the war. When it comes to Iran and Russia, the two countries’ experience in sharing sensitive counterterrorism intelligence on the Islamic State in Afghanistan and the setup of a joint intelligence center in 2015 have facilitated systematic intelligence sharing.

Protesters in U.S. after stand-off against U.S. pipeline through Native American land. The U.S. was founded on the genocide of Native and African people.

Although the extent of this cooperation is not yet clear, frequent visits of the countries’ security officials imply that they have established reliable channels to sustain it. It is hard to assume that Russia will provide extensive surveillance and reconnaissance (SR) data to Iran. However, even limited access to information about U.S. troop deployments, equipment and locations could play an important role in improving Iran’s defensive capabilities.

Moscow clearly isn’t intending to get caught up in a military conflict between Iran and the U.S. and thus will employ every measure possible to minimize the risks of a direct confrontation between the two powers.

However, this does not mean that Russia has no other options but to remain inactive or limit her support to mere diplomatic assistance. On the contrary, Moscow has no desire for a major power shift in the Middle East in favor of the U.S. Thus, opposite to what American administration wishes, it is not likely that Moscow takes a completely neutral stance on the looming crisis.

Russia still maintains quite a number of options in her sleeve to influence the balance of military capabilities between Iran and the United States. They are far from being a game-changer, or necessarily capable of turning the tides of war, but they can certainly create sizable obstacles to Washington’s war efforts.

These options make U.S. adventure in Iran far more complicated.

This article was originally published by RIAC.

The views expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

Pyotr Kortunov

Pyotr Kortunov is a Program Assistant at the Russian International Affairs Council

Abdolrasool Divsallar

Dr. Divsallar holds Ph.D. of Iranian Studies from the University of Tehran. He is a Senior research fellow at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran where he works on Security-Development Nexus and defense policies. Divsallar has been a former research fellow at Center for Strategic Studies (2006-2012).

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Detroit Police Gang Squad — the biggest gang in town. Residents of Hubbard’s east side neighborhood knew them well. One witness says he has been stopped over 100 times by Detroit police/Photo: National Geographic

Judge Lawrence Talon to ‘review’ motion for relief from judgment during hearing Wed. May 29

One witness swears he saw another man commit the murder, never interviewed by police; another reported victim arguing with a woman just prior to his death, she was arrested but freed

 Curtiss Collins swears he was threatened by police to testify falsely that he saw Hubbard running away from the murder scene

 Polygraph exam, affidavits from attorney Ronald Giles and others, police report that Collins was arrested for perjury for retracting  false testimony, confirm Collins’ statement 

Justice Department earlier investigated DPD  for soliciting false confessions, arresting and threatening witnesses

By Diane Bukowski

May 28, 2019 (to be updated with links to pertinent documents, etc.)

Editor’s note: VOD has withheld some witness names in this story from publication, but they are included in the original affidavits and they have sworn they will testify. In recent weeks, Detroit police and prosecutors have been contacting witnesses in this case with unknown intentions. These witnesses have said they feel threatened. 

DETROIT—Detroiter Carl Hubbard (nicknamed “Ghost” in his east side neighborhood), has been incarcerated since Sept. 23, 1992 for the murder of Rodnell Penn, but has always maintained that he is innocent.

On Wed. May 29, his motion for relief from judgment, with dozens of sworn affidavits attached, some alleging police coercion and subornation of perjury, is scheduled for review by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon.

“I was on my way to the store on the corner of Gray and Mack on Jan. 17, 1992 . . . . when I saw [name withheld from publication] arguing with somebody in front of Uncle Peter’s house,” says a sworn affidavit from the only eyewitness to the actual murder to  step forward so far. “Then I saw the other guy turn his back and start to walk away from —-. Then I heard some gunshots fired and the guy arguing with — fell to the ground. Then —-stepped over him and started shooting the guy again.”

The witness says he ran back to his house in fear for his life, and did not come forward until 2011 “because I have to live in that neighborhood.” He says definitely the killer was NOT Carl Hubbard.

Another sworn witness who lived nearby says, “After Carl Hubbard got convicted for the murder in front of ‘Uncle Peter’s’ house, everyone was saying that – – – -was the one who really killed the guy. This was due to – – – -believing that the victim had something to do with his brother —-‘s murder on Gray Street.”

In addition, there is an arrest report in Hubbard’s homicide file regarding a female suspect in Penn’s murder, who was seen arguing with him just prior to the event. Her name is redacted from the report.

Keith Bush after exoneration; cops and prosecutors never revealed the existence of another likely suspect, also coerced witnesses.

It is questionable whether Detroit police provided the names of the other suspects to the defense. They do not appear to have interviewed witnesses who saw the first suspect, or others in the neighborhood who allegedly identified him as the killer.

If so, Hubbard has an actual innocence claim, and a possible Brady violation, like that which recently helped lead to the exoneration of New Yorker Keith Bush, because police concealed the existence of another suspect.

(Brady violation: “The suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment. … “Brady requires disclosure of the material exculpatory evidence early enough so that the defense can make use of the information.”)

Then Judge Richard P. Hathaway conducted bench trial in Hubbard’s case, didn’t question why witness recanted statement to police.

Hubbard’s childhood friend Curtiss Collins, the chief  prosecution witness at his bench trial, has also provided an affidavit and polygraph exam, stating that police forced him to lie about witnessing Hubbard run away from the scene of the crime, using threats to his freedom.

He did testify on cross-examination at the trial, that his testimony earlier was false, but he was arrested on perjury charges according to a police report and Hubbard’s attorney, and reversed his testimony again the next day. Collins was only 19 at the time.

Collins told VOD in an interview May 25 that his friends and his mother encouraged him to come forward and tell the truth to help free Carl Hubbard.  The interview below is backed up by a police arrest report by Sgt. Gales stating that he arrested Collins for perjury in the courtroom at the direction of AP James Gonzalez on Aug. 22, 1992, and by Atty. Giles in his statement.

“. . .I did not witness Carl Hubbard fleeing from where Mr. Rodnell Penn was found dead,
Collins says in his affidavit. “Sergeant [Joann] Kinney forced me to falsely testify at the preliminary examination that Carl Hubbard was running from the scene. . .I was threatened by Homicide Officers Sergeant Kinney and Sergeant [Ronald] Gale with being charged with the murder of Mr. Penn if I didn’t say that I saw Carl Hubbard at the murder scene of Mr. Penn.”

James Gonzalez (r) was formerly a top prosecutor in Kym Worthy’s office. Hubbard says he helped railroad him.

His statement is backed up a polygraph exam, by attorney Ronald Giles, an arrest report from Sgt. Gale which states he arrested Hubbard for perjury at the direction of Asst. Prosecutor James Gonzales, and numerous others who claim that they saw him “crying” in the Wayne County Jail about the police threats, and that he admitted to giving false testimony.

A polygraph report by Michael Anthony, of Forensic Polygraph and Accounting Services, date Feb. 1, 2018, sets forth the test questions:

  1. Did you see Carl Hubbard shoot that man? Ans. No
  2. Did you see Carl Hubbard shoot anyone at Gray and Mack in January of 1992? Ans. No.
  3. Were you present when Carl Hubbard shot that man? Ans. No

Anthony, who is a former police officer, concludes, “It is the opinion of the undersigned examiner based upon the examination given that this subject is being truthful regarding this issue.”

Ronald Giles, now a 36th District Court Judge in Detrot.

Giles says, “I represented Mr. Carl Hubbard in his Bench Trial in Recorders Court. . .In my representation of Mr. Hubbard, there came a time during the testimony when the Prosecution called one Curtis Collins to the witness stand. . .on cross-examination, he drastically changed his testimony and according to my recollection, testified contrary to his testimony at the preliminary examination. . .Mr. Collins was arrested and detained following his trial testimony. To the best of my information and belief, Mr. Collins was released and not charged when his he changed his testimony the following day. . . Mr. Collins’ testimony was especially critical to the Judge’s verdict of guilty against Mr. Hubbard.”

An arrest report signed by Sgt. Ronald D. Gale dated Aug. 31, 1992, states, “Writer responded to Recorders Court. Courtroom #202 and talked with APA James Gonzalez. Writer was directed by APA Gonzalez to arrest the above subject (Collins) for perjury. The above subject was a witness in a homicide case and testified at an exam held in 36th District Court and testified at a trial being held in Recorders Court this date. After being sworn the above subject in direct oppsite (sic) to his testimony at 36th District Court.”

Collins goes on to say that Asst. Prosecutor James Gonzalez , Sergeant Joann Kinney and Sergeant Ronald D. Gale continued to threaten him afterwards.

Before her retirement in 2006, Kinney was exposed as a corrupt cop in at least two cases.

In an article titled, “Detroit Police Inquiry Expands,” which cites Kinney, Detroit Free Press reporters Norman Sinclair and Ronald Hansen wrote, “In another murder case in which the city ultimately paid a five-figure settlement in 1995, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge harshly criticized Detroit police for locking up a mother of two children as a witness and illegally holding her until her 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son implicated her in the death.

“Judge Kathleen McDonald said she was outraged that police charged Thoanchelle Taylor with murder without ‘scintilla of evidence,’ as the judge put it. “If I have ever seen a case where the police have manufactured the facts, this is one. I have never had facts as egregious as this case.

“Veteran Homicide Sgt. Joann Kinney testified that she had Taylor locked up as a witness for days without charges against her and said there was no standard procedure as to how long witnesses could be held without being arrested. Kinney also admitted threatening to take Taylor’s children away if she did not cooperate. . .”

Earlier, in 1992, (above) Kinney interrogated a 12-year-0ld girl charged with the murder of an infant she was baby-sitting for. The child’s attorney said the infant had epilepsy, which likely caused him to drown in the tub when the girl went to the kitchen to get food ready. Juvenile Court Judge James Lacey threw the confession out, citing the fact that the child had neither her mother nor an attorney present during Kinney’s interrogation.

The girl testified that she left the boy in the tub while she made him something to eat.” the Detroit Free Press reported. “When she returned to the bathroom, Matthew was lying face up with his head beneath the water, she said. “I never pushed him in the water,” the girl said, clutching her hands and slowly rocking back and forth. “I thought that he fell asleep in the tub.”

She also testified that she spoke openly to Sgt. Jo Ann Kinney on April 1 because she was told she could go home if she told the truth and helped resolve how Matthew died. Police questioned her for almost four hours. ‘She said when I told the truth, I could go home,’ the girl said. “She said if I signed it, I could go home.” The girl’s mother said she sat in a nearby room while her daughter was being questioned. She said she did not know what was happening to her daughter. “I didn’t know she was being interrogated,” she said. “Everything was hush-hush.” 

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Marcie Griffin, George Rider and Eric Gibson during one of early court hearings after arrest. Photo: Macomb Daily

VOD EDITOR: Marcie Griffin, George Rider,  and Eric Gibson (left) are currently on trial in Macomb County Circuit Court in front of Judge Joseph Toia, facing first-degree murder charges in the death of Julii Johnson.

VOD unearthed the first coverage of Julii Johnson’s killing on Jan. 13, 2017, outside her boyfriend M. Terrell Lattner’s home (see video above). The Channel 4 report says Lattner was the first suspect and contradicts later reports that police immediately found the track the killer escaped down, leaving a glove and a gun behind.

Scott Burnstein, editor of The Gangster Report, has published a telling article on the case, backed up by Gus Burns’ article on MLive, and an editorial by Ricardo Ferrell, all  featured below. VOD hopes to have more up-to-date coverage on the trial next week.


By Scott Burnstein

The Gangster Report

Julii Johnson with boyfriend M. Terrell Lattner. She was found dead outside his condominium in Warren in Jan, 2017.

Police in suburban Detroit first had convicted drug dealer Jimmy [Terrell]Lattner as the prime suspect in the 2017 murder of his girlfriend, Julii Johnson, before eventually charging Lattner’s ex-girlfriend and two others, per sources . . .

Lattner is out on bail awaiting a trial of his own on a weapon-possession case stemming from the investigation into Johnson’s slaying.

The Johnson case is rife with compelling, often vexing and intricate subplots, regarding the crime itself, the alleged players involved and the way it’s been adjudicated through the court system. The case is on its second judge and the start of the trial has been postponed four times in the last 16 months.

Johnson, 34, was gunned down on the morning of January 13, 2017 outside Lattner’s condominium in Warren, Michigan. Marcie Griffin, Lattner’s ex-girlfriend, George (G.G.) Rider and Eric Gibson are facing first-degree homicide charges in the case. Griffin was [allegedly] feuding with Lattner and Johnson over Johnson’s treatment of Griffin and Lattner’s child.

Gibson’s DNA is [allegedly] on the murder weapon and prosecutors allege Rider acted as a middleman for Griffin in hiring Gibson to kill Johnson. Rider, a folk hero of sorts on the streets of Detroit’s Eastside who served a prison stint for federal narcotic trafficking in the 1990s, has been in the government’s crosshairs for years.

After his release from prison in 2003, Rider built a robust real estate portfolio while the FBI hounded his every move trying to build cases against him. In 2015, he sold the historic Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Detroit for 1.3 million dollars. The feds have long tried linking him to a murder that occurred at the theatre in 2007 to no avail.

George Rider and Marcie Muhammad Griffin in 2010.

The 44-year old Lattner once led what was known as the World Domination Gang, a drug crew operating out of Detroit’s near Westside in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He did six years in prison for peddling cocaine and heroin and got out in 2010. His behavior in the aftermath of Johnson’s murder brought scrutiny. An eye-witness account of Johnson’s killer and results of a police-dog scent test drove detectives further towards pegging him as a suspect.

By February, however, they had moved their attention away from Lattner, eliminating him as a suspect and focused the investigation on the current set of co-defendants. There is video of Griffin screaming at and threatening Lattner at Lattner’s car wash in the months before Johnson was slain and texts between Griffin and a cell phone registered to a company owned by Rider expressing her anger towards Lattner and Johnson.

The only evidence connecting the 60-year old Rider and the 26-year old Gibson are “pings” from cell phone towers in the Metro Detroit area placing them in the same vicinity on the day Johnson was murdered. Nonetheless, Rider, Griffin and Gibson were indicted together on February 24, 2017 and have been held without bail ever since.

Lattner’s defiant posture towards investigators had them eying him with suspicion from the morning Johnson was found lying clinging to life outside his condo. When Warren Police arrived on the scene, Lattner was emotionally distraught, screaming at someone on his cell phone and cursing at the responding officers. He refused to answer any questions, a pattern that has continued to this very day, even in the face of time behind bars.

A neighbor’s description of how the shooter was dressed matched Lattner’s appearance that morning (gray-colored jacket over a hooded sweatshirt). The neighbor would later say she thought the assailant was younger than Lattner, but admitted that the shooter “could have looked like him (Lattner) from the back.” A police dog from the K-9 unit traced the shooter’s scent on a “back track” motion that went away from property and then returned in the direction of Lattner’s condo.

Police search Lattner condo in Feb. 2017.

The police got search warrants for the condo and the Ford F-150 pickup truck in the driveway. Inside the condo, police found $533,000 in cash. Inside the vehicle, they uncovered a gun (9 millimeter Ruger) with the serial number filed off, a bag of marijuana and another $12,000 in cash. The truck was equipped with custom-designed hidden compartments, normally a common accessory for people in the drug game to travel with concealed contraband. The money and the truck were seized.

Lattner pleaded the Fifth Amendment when called to answer questions about Johnson’s murder at a pretrial evidentiary hearing and was jailed for contempt. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. He’s been on “lifetime probation” since 1997.

Authorities were at first hot on the idea that either Lattner had something to do with Johnson’s killing or an enemy of his in the drug world was, sources claim.

Upon a possible tie-in to Rider emerging, federal prosecutors, per sources, pressed police in Macomb County to refocus the investigation towards the “Marcie Griffin angle.”



Oct 21, 2017

By Gus Burns |

The federal government says drug money was everywhere.

J. Terrell Lattner’s home in Stoneridge Apartments, Warren, MI

Investigators found thick stacks of $100 bills held together by rubber bands, totaling $533,252, according to forfeiture documents filed in federal court Monday, Oct. 16.

Most of it was found in a Warren home leased by Jim T. Lattner after his girlfriend, Julii Larrie Johnson, 34, of Oak Park, who sometimes stayed in the house, was shot and killed outside the home on Jan. 13, 2017.

Lattner, according to the court filing, “was uncooperative, cursed at the detectives, and refused to accompany officers to the Warren Police Department” when they arrived.

He has prior cocaine and heroin possession with intent to deliver convictions from 1997 and 2003. He served nearly six years in prison for the 2003 conviction, and was on lifetime probation, according to online Michigan Department of Corrections records.

Warren police detectives served a search warrant following Johnson’s homicide on Jan. 13. They found a total of more than $500,000 in cash in a pair of pants lying on the floor in the master bedroom; in a dresser drawer, a nightstand; plastic bags stashed inside a “disguised box” and a duffel bag in the garage, the court filing says.

And there was more.

J. Terrell Lattner with atty. John Royal at preliminary hearing in which Lattner took the Fifth. Photo: Macomb Daily

Investigators returned on Jan. 14 to search Lattner’s white 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck registered to Lattner’s mother, who lives in Detroit, according to federal investigators.

Warren police found hidden compartments installed in the dashboard, where airbags are usually installed.

There was an “actuator that raised the hidden compartment through the passenger dashboard … a power source connected to the actuator, and a small electronic receiver, and wire antenna allowing the actuator to be triggered remotely … ” the complaint says.

Police found over $12,000 in cash, a bag of marijuana, two cell phones, a 9-millimeter Ruger with an “obliterated” serial number.

The federal government in March charged Lattner with illegal transporting of a firearm. He’s out on bond and his case is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 22.

Police searched the seized cellphones and found text messages indicating Lattner was involved in drug dealing. He hasn’t been charged with any drug-related crimes.

Some of the text messages police say they read

  • I swear on my daddy them people bettr not NEVAAA ask me nuthg bout yo selling dope ass. I’m gone let thm know u FENTANYL KING …
  • I hope he not in that stash house
  • If I brng police … it gone get real ugly 4 all of yal up there. I will tell them it’s dope man caemr wash, yal wash same cars evryday …
  • I hope they up therw takn pictures of all yal DUMB DRUG DEALERS …

Police often seize assets and cash they believe is the product of illegal activity, including drug dealing.

According to the forfeiture filing, trained K9’s “indicated” a narcotics odor coming from the cash during a “money sniff” performed following the search.

Between 2013 and 2015, Lattner filed income taxes once. He claimed to have $6,440, of which $656 was income earned in 2013, according to the government.

It’s not clear whether Lattner plans to fight the forfeiture actions.

His Detroit-based attorney, John F. Royal, told MLive he was unaware of the forfeiture filing on Thursday.

“Sorry, I can’t help you out,” he said.



Despite the lack of sufficient audio, the video below, from the Macomb Daily, shows a heavy police presence during one hearing in the case, and a packed courtroom.  One article from the Macomb Daily said guards earlier harassed Rider and Gibson for briefly speaking with each other. The article noted that the two “calmly” disputed the guards’ versions.

George Rider at later hearing in case. Photo: Macomb Daily

Both Macomb County Deputy Sheriffs and Warren police came out again May 20, as VOD covered a motion hearing on a jury selection complaint by defense attorneys. 

Attorneys argued May 20 that the County’s jury selection process is systemically biased, resulting in the presence of only three Blacks on the jury hearing this case.

Suzanna Kostovski, attorney for Rider, displayed charts showing that only about 50 percent of jury summons from cities with significant numbers of Blacks, e.g. Eastpointe and Warren, got back to the court, while rates from almost exclusively white cities ranged about 70 percent. 

Studies have shown this can result from economic disparities, which cause Black residents to move more often, as well as a state law which bars ex-felons from serving on juries. A much higher percentage of African-Americans have felony records, due to higher arrest and conviction rates that have been challenged by racial justice advocates.

Eric Gibson talks with guards explaining that he and Rider had done nothing wrong in their brief communication. Macomb Daily photo

The prosecution argued that the ratio on the current jury is commensurate based on 2010 U.S. census records for those cities. However, due to steady migration patterns, both Warren and Eastpointe currently have up to 30 percent Black populations according to annually updated Census figures. Judge Toia denied the jury disparity motion.

Earlier, he denied a motion filed pro se by Eric Gibson claiming that his U.S. and state constitutional rights have been violated throughout over two years of incarceration.

He said preliminary exams were held far past the 21-day deadline, and that the trial finally getting under way exceeds a 180-day deadline set by the state. The young man argued his motions eloquently and at length while Judge Toia listened, but Toia denied the motions. Gibson’s attorney Randy Rodnick said he would file a memorandum of law in support of the issues Gibson raised. 

According to Ricardo Ferrell’s article below, Rider also has repeatedly disputed the unconstitutional length of his detainment without proper exams and trial.


Ricardo Ferrell

By Ricardo Ferrell

Guest Editorial

 May 24, 2019

The long anticipated murder trial of George G. Rider, 60, a Huntington Woods resident, is [Ed.: currently proceeding after trial judge Joseph Toia denied defense motions May 20 alleging that the system of selecting jurors in Macomb County is racially biased—out of 106 in the original jury venire, only five were Black.)

There have been numerous postponements and delays in the high profile case, and Rider has remained in the Macomb County Jail ever since his unlawful arrest without bail since February 2017. He is on trial for the murder of a Warren woman, Julii Johnson, who was shot outside of her boyfriend’s condominium in Warren on Friday, January 13, 2017. Then on February 4, 2017, both Roseville and Warren police tracking a ping from a cellphone believed to connect the user of the cellphone and suspect Marcie Griffin stopped Rider outside a Roseville car wash on Gratiot near 12 Mile Rd. They converged on Rider and blocked the Ford Explorer and ordered him to exit the vehicle

Police placed him in handcuffs then searched and confiscated the SUV and 3 cellphones without a search warrant. They (police) had no probable cause to virtually arrest Rider. Police claim they were conducting a traffic stop, but no such record exists by way of any citations relating to the illegal stop, search & seizure. After police confiscated the Ford Explorer with Pennsylvania license plates along with the cellphones, and after Rider complained that despite the police claiming he wasn’t under arrest, that being handcuffed and placed in the seat of a police cruiser and not allowed to leave, constituted an arrest – they eventually uncuffed him and left him stranded on Gratiot Avenue with no means of transportation. An eyewitness who works at the carwash mirrored Rider’s contention by stating, “It sure looks like you’re under arrest to me.”

On February 23, 2017, police arrested Rider, and charged him in the Johnson murder. However, federal authorities immediately became involved with the murder case after learning it involved George Rider, who local police were trying to connect with the homicide.

On that very afternoon a meeting took place between agents from the ATF and FBI, Asst. Macomb County Prosecutor Jurij Fedorak, and Warren Police at the Warren Police station. The meeting itself posed an unusual situation. It had the distinct appearance of an overzealous AUSA (federal agent) Karen Reynolds influencing local police to charge Rider with murder, so she could then pursue him on a RICO indictment.

Macomb County APA Jurij Fedorak

Reynolds has been after Rider for the past two decades trying to link him with dozens of unsolved murders. Her vindictive pursuit of Rider really intensified after the murder mystery of Valerie Atikian, who was found shot to death in a restroom at the Fine Arts Theatre in September 2007.

Atikian, a well known businesswoman from Southfield, owned Via Bugotti Boutique in Southfield, once managed professional boxers, and also was co-owner of the Fine Arts. AUSA Reynolds was furious over the murder of Atikian, because she was Atikian’s handler.

Reynolds had relentlessly tried to get evidence to charge Rider by using Atikian as a pawn. AUSA Karen Reynolds and Special Agent Andrea Rossman will stop at nothing to get Rider. The Federal government has even interfered with another state murder case by offering Rider a 20 year plea on an unindicted arson charge.  AUSA Reynolds allegedly met with Rider’s attorney during a closed door session in the court’s bullpen on December 20th, 2018, and vicariously offered Rider the unsolicited plea, if he was to cooperate against his co-defendant, Marcie Griffin [his current girl friend].

Rider was perturbed over the notion that the federal government would even be involved and emphatically declined the offer.

The government has no right to run interference in a murder case being prosecuted by the Macomb County Prosecutors Office. Calls to the Office of Prosecutor Eric Smith were made for comment, but this writer was unsuccessful in receiving a response about this matter.  

Valerie Atikian/obituary photo

This writer believes Rider’s attorney was compromised by this meeting. Rider has repeatedly asked his attorney to file motions challenging the illegally obtained evidence, 4th amendment violation (illegal search and seizure), lack of probable cause, and motion for an interlocutory appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals to challenge the findings in the evidentiary hearings held before Judge Joseph Toia

His previous trial Judge Jennifer Faunce was removed on order of Chief Judge James Biernat due to a blatant Conflict of Interest. Her sister, District Court Judge Suzanna Faunce is the same magistrate who signed belated search warrants in the Rider case that mysteriously ended up in her sister’s courtroom.

Rider’s repeated requests to his attorney to file the motions to properly challenge the evidence have been to no avail. The question in need of an answer as it relates to the U.S. Government’s blatantly obvious interference in the murder case at bar is, how can an AUSA (Karen Reynolds) waltz into a state courtroom and offer a defendant in an unrelated murder case a plea of 20 years to an arson that hasn’t even yielded an actual charge against him?

Long question, but the short answer is, by law they cannot run this type of interference via an attorney representing a defendant in a state murder case that has nothing to do with an arson fraud investigation. AUSA Karen Reynolds strategically influenced Warren Police and Asst. Macomb County Prosecutor Fedorak.

How can the government’s interference and influence be allowed in this case? Allowing something of this magnitude to happen could bring a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, as a result of government interference with attorney-client privilege and relationship, specifically, if it precludes effective representation.

The Fine Arts Theater in a recent photo.

The government’s interference with the initial murder investigation, by influencing them (Warren police) to bring the bogus charges, amounts to a violation of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. AUSA Karen Reynolds, AUSA Louis Crisastomo, AUSA Chris Graveline, AUSA Daniel Lemisch, SA ATF Andrea Rossman, AMCP Jurij Fedorak, and SA in Charge Andrew Arena all have vindictively pursued George Rider over the years by trying to find anything to get him for. This vindictive pursuit dates back decades, with the most notable being 1997, when Joseph ‘Doe Doe’ Foster was killed in an execution-style slaying.

It has long been believed that Foster was murdered as part of a plan by wealthy white businessmen and corrupt city officials to acquire key commercial properties owned by Foster in the former Paradise Valley between the Fisher Fwy., and Adams and John R., and I-75, to clear the way for the constructions of Comerica Park and Ford Field. Foster also owned key properties in the Cass Corridor, where he was known as the Pope. He also was a previous owner of the Historic Fine Arts Theater, the same theater that Rider is believed to have once owned.

The Fine Arts Theater has been around over 105 years, sitting on Woodward just south of Mack Ave. When Joseph Foster was executed by an unknown assailant, his girlfriend assumed ownership of the theater, and not even three months later she was gunned down in an execution-style murder.

The Paradise Theater in the heyday of Paradise Valley.

Rider, who was in federal prison from 1992-2003, believes he might have met the same fate had he not been in prison, because they were either killing or locking up key Black business owners who held crucial properties in the downtown targeted areas. Rider also owned key property on John R., directly across the street from a lounge owned by Foster. Rider and Foster both had similar visions to open up sports bars, classy restaurants, and parking garages to be in line with the coming constructions. It’s no secret that powerful influential people wanted George Rider and Joseph Foster out of the way, in order to fulfill their plans of monopolizing Paradise Valley, a once thriving area with a majority of black business owners during the 1930’s up through the 1990’s.

It is likely the vindictive pursuit of George Rider continues today, by wealthy business investors looking to acquire other key property believed owned by Rider.

Marcie Griffin consults with her attorneys at one hearing.

AUSA Karen Reynolds is involved in the illegal pursuit of Rider. Soon after he was arrested on the bogus murder charge, AUSA Reynolds led a raid team of a multi-jurisdictional task force and stormed the home of his girlfriend and 12 year-old son, right when they were about to leave for work and school. The search warrant was only an application to obtain a search warrant, but Reynolds used it anyway to raid the St. Clair Shores residence.

The whole purpose of AUSA Reynolds’ involvement during the February 23rd, 2017 meeting at the Warren Police station was to influence local authorities to charge Rider on bogus murder charges without probably cause.  It afforded Reynolds and other federal authorities the opportunity to build a case against Rider, whether that meant illegally searching the home of his girlfriend and son, intervening in a local matter to get leverage in her pursuit of Rider, or Special Agent (ATF) Andrea Rossman’s continuous attempts to find someone to concoct a story that he burned their property for a fraudulent purpose.

These authorities aren’t interested in the pursuit of justice, they (AUSA Reynolds) and others are obviously motivated by a vendetta against Mr. Rider. This writer believes the only reason why he was charged in this crime, is because his name so happens to be George G. Rider Jr.

And, is it highly likely that many of those mentioned in this article either intentionally, or inadvertently colluded in a corrupt, concerted, and conspiratorial fashion in bringing the murder charge against Rider, in an effort to get him off the streets, no matter what it takes. 

Even if it means violating his constitutionally protected rights, purposely allowing three Macomb County judges to participate in conflicts of interest, federal prosecutors interfering and influencing a county prosecutor and local police, using a bogus search warrant to raid a home, and approaching a defense attorney trying to persuade her to partake in a 6th amendment violation.

AUSA Karen Reynolds personally acted in a manner which goes against the codes and ethics of an officer of the court. Her duty as an Assistant United States Attorney is to seek justice, not to vindictively pursue someone out of convenience to obtain a conviction, or based on the prestige of her office. The entire legal process has been tainted as it relates to how authorities first converged on Rider with guns drawn outside the Roseville carwash and illegally searched and seized his vehicle and cellphones, then weeks later arrested and charged him with murder without probable cause. 

Related stories:

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By Thomas Maier

Updated May 23, 2019 9:52 AM


(l) Charles Lewis at 17 in prison; (r) Charles Lewis, 58, two yrs. ago.

VOD Editor: Like Detroit’s Charles Lewis, Bush was 17 when he was convicted of a 1976 murder. Unlike Lewis, Bush had a prosecutor who did his job: investigated and found the TRUTH about Bush’s innocence.

Neither Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy nor HER Conviction Integrity Unit have investigated Lewis’ case, despite his innocence claim filed in court. But there is abundant evidence of his innocence, including “witnesses intimidated by police.” The case has been publicized nationally and in local mainstream media, as well as dozens of  stories in the Voice of Detroit. Stories are linked in the following most recent story:


Keith Bush embraces his fiancée Dora Moore after exoneration.

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK–After 44 years, Keith Bush’s 1976 murder conviction was vacated by a judge after a district attorney’s report concluded he had been wrongfully convicted of the sex-related murder of teenager Sherese Watson.

A report filed with the court Wednesday by the Suffolk District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Bureau detailed how several former Suffolk authorities kept secret evidence of another potential murder suspect who may be the real killer.

The newly discovered evidence shows that “Bush is actually innocent of the crimes with which he was convicted,” concluded Howard Master, who heads the bureau for Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini. Bush, now 62, spent 33 years behind bars and had since been paroled as a sex offender.

Mugshot: Keith Bush at 17

The nearly 100-page report said Bush was wrongfully convicted during a 1976 trial because of several dubious pieces of evidence, including faulty forensic evidence, witnesses who felt intimidated by police and a false signed confession that Bush says he had beaten out of him by homicide detectives.

Police denied any wrongdoing at the time but the report said one of the former detectives, when questioned recently by Master’s investigators, “alluded to use of coercive tactics” in putting together Bush’s signed confession. Before his January 1975 murder arrest, Bush, then 17, had no criminal history.

Perhaps most significantly in throwing out the conviction, the report said then-Suffolk authorities violated legal rules by failing to disclose the existence of “alternative suspect” John W. Jones Jr. — who admitted in 1975 to tripping over Watson’s body at the murder scene and leaving behind a plastic comb that he identified as his own. Although Jones was twice given a lie-detector test, Suffolk never mentioned anything about Jones at Bush’s trial, as required by legal precedent.

Howard Master, head of Suffolk County Conviction Integrity Bureau.

“The alternative suspect [Jones] may well have committed the offenses of which Bush was wrongfully convicted,” said the report, which points out Jones’ history of violent and sex-related offenses both before and after Watson’s 1975 murder. The report labeled Jones, who died in 2006, as “perhaps the most viable suspect in Watson’s murder.”

The report painted a disturbing picture about how Suffolk authorities, particularly trial prosecutor Gerard Sullivan along with then-Suffolk homicide detectives, hid vital information in the Bush case.

The evidence about Jones “was suppressed before trial and was highly material to Bush’s defense because it could have helped Bush establish that someone else had committed the murder, ” the report concluded.

Former detective August Stahl called Bush ‘n….r”, belonged to pro-Nazi group

Recently, Conviction Integrity Bureau investigators questioned two former homicide former detectives, Dennis Rafferty and August Stahl, who interrogated Bush in January 1975 and put together his signed confession. Through his attorney, Rafferty answered only a limited number of questions posed to him and denied any wrongdoing. But the report said that Stahl, now 90, displayed a “racial animus” and raised former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s name in the matter.

“Why is this thing being opened up again, I thought Tommy Spota took care of this?” Stahl told the investigators, according to the court papers filed Wednesday.

Spota was a longtime Suffolk district attorney and a former law partner of Sullivan, the prosecutor in the 1976 Bush trial. Spota currently faces federal corruption charges and is expected to go on trial later this year. Spota told Newsday in a story published Monday that he doesn’t remember the Bush case.


Judge Joseph Maher

Judge Thomas Poindexter

VOD: Below is a video about Spota’s indictment on federal corruption charges. Similarities to the  arrest and trial of Charles Lewis are striking. Lewis’ trial took place in front of a known racist judge, Joseph Maher. Lewis was represented by a court-appointed attorney, M. Arthur Arduin, who was the campaign manager for Judge Thomas Poindexter, head of the Greater Detroit Homeowners Council, which campaigned to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods. Lewis’ family had just moved into a white neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, becoming one of only two Black families on the block. Lewis said of his trial, “It felt like I was sitting through my own lynching. When I stepped into the courtroom racism was the order of the day. White Power was in full effect.”


In addition, when questioned recently by investigators, Stahl used a racial epithet when first asked about Bush and said he believed he was guilty.

The report said that Stahl currently resides in a small enclave in Yaphank owned by the German American Settlement League and that he is a former GASL board member. In 2015, The New York Times identified Stahl’s league as an offshoot of 1930s pro-Nazi sympathizers group who built bungalows there as part of a pro-Nazi summer camp. The DA’s report notes that the bylaws of this community required homeowners to be primarily of “German extraction” until a 2016 settlement of a federal discrimination lawsuit and a follow-up settlement with the state attorney general.

Defense attorney Adele Bernhard

When called for comment, Stahl denied any bias and said he had not talked with Spota about the case. He said his comment to investigators was a general reaction to the ongoing efforts by Bush to prove his innocence.

The report confirmed evidence developed over the past decade by Bush’s defense lawyer, Adele Bernhard, a professor at New York Law School. She argued that male DNA evidence taken from Watson’s body didn’t match Bush’s and that a recanting witness, Maxine Bell, and other witnesses for Bush should be believed.

The report also found fault with 1976 trial prosecution testimony that claimed a metal comb discovered at Bush’s home was used him in the attack on Watson, who died from strangulation. Wounds on the dead girl’s body showed that it didn’t match the spacing on the comb’s tines. The report also said that testimony offered about fibers found at the murder scene is considered unreliable by today’s forensic standards.

A triumphant Keith Bush with his family and supporters leaves court an exonerated man.

Some of Charles ‘K.K.’ Lewis supporters rally outside courthouse in 2016, at beginning of 3 years of juvenile lifer re-sentencing hearings.




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