FORT WORTH, Texas AP — North Texas prosecutors say a man who’s admitted to sexually abusing more than 30 boys and acts of bestiality involving animals has been sentenced to life in prison.Todd William Mitchell was found guilty by a Tarrant County jury of violating court orders he was told to follow as part of a sex offender treatment program. Prosecutors say the jury deliberated for 15 minutes Wednesday before issuing the maximum penalty.The 55-year-old Mitchell had six prior felony convictions for abusing children and had served at least 15 years in prison. Upon his most recent release in 2011, he was ordered to live at a facility in Fort Worth and undergo counseling. Authorities say he repeatedly violated the order, including by being a voyeur. The violations prompted the trial held this week.
FRANKLIN TWP. — A 50-year-old Franklin Township woman has been accused of attacking two police officers while she was being arrested last week for hindering the apprehension of her son, according to court papers.
But an activist group is claiming Deborah A. Thomas is the victim of police brutality and excessive force, alleging a police officer body-slammed her and repeatedly punched her in the face and body.
Authorities said they visited Thomas’ Park Street home at about 8:20 p.m. on April 23 after being told Thomas’ son had committed a sexual assault.
Thomas told authorities her teenage son wasn’t home and demanded they produce a search warrant before checking her residence, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.
While a search warrant was being obtained, officers saw the son exit a second-floor window and climb onto a roof above the first floor, the prosecutor’s office said. Officers entered the home and brought the teen back inside through the window, according to the prosecutor’s office.
When officers were escorting the son down a staircase, Thomas removed a cell phone from her son’s pocket, according to an affidavit filed today in Superior Court. An officer grabbed her arm and told her to hand it over, according to the affidavit.
While authorities were later executing the search warrant, they told Thomas she was under arrest for hindering apprehension, the affidavit states. But, the prosecutor’s office said, she “refused to comply with officers’ orders.”
As they attempted to handcuff her, Thomas kicked Franklin Police Officer Brian Quigley and punched Jeffrey VanderGoot, a detective with the prosecutor’s office, the affidavit states. Thomas also tried to bite VanderGoot, the affidavit states. She was ultimately subdued and placed under arrest, authorities said.
Thomas was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and hindering apprehension. She was released after posting bail.
But a different version was presented in a statement released Monday by the “Creating Our Own Leaders” organization, or C.O.O.L. The statement identifies Thomas as a “cancer patient” and a member of the non-profit organization, which is based in the Franklin and New Brunswick areas.
The C.O.O.L. statement claims Thomas’ son asked a police officer if his mother could have the cell phone and the officer gestured for her to take it. But as Thomas attempted to do so, another officer tackled her, “dragging her across the floor onto the couch,” the statement reads.
Soon after, police officers rushed into her home and began searching, according to the group’s statement. Thomas repeatedly asked to see a warrant, but no officer could produce one, the statement reads.
When Thomas questioned why an officer was going to her bedroom, “the officer then picked Mrs. Thomas up and body slammed her down, repeatedly punching her in the face and body as Mrs. Thomas screamed for him to stop and repeatedly telling the officer she was a cancer patient and he was hurting her,” according to the C.O.O.L. statement.
According to its website, C.O.O.L. was “created as a response to an outcry for help from local communities that has been devastated by violence and lack of leadership.”
Capt. Jack Bennett, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to comment on the C.O.O.L. statement.
Editor’s note: A caution to readers: Parents at the meeting spoke frankly and bluntly on the topic, using language some might find objectionable. Patch is quoting the parents verbatim.
The Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education on Monday has nixed a recommendation to keep a controversial novel in eighth-grade classrooms at Hadley Junior High School at after two parents requested to have it removed because of its mature content.
The book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has been available to eighth graders in literacy classrooms for independent reading. Per the school’s literacy curriculum, students could choose to read a book and put it down at any time.
Hadley parents Jen and Brian Bradfield submitted their request after their daughter stopped reading the book because of its disturbing content, including references to bestiality and coupons for free oral sex.
Upon reviewing the request, researching reviews of the book and hearing from the Bradfields and the teacher who recommended the book, a committee comprised of Hadley teachers and administrators, one parent and a district administrator recommended the district keep the book at Hadley. The recommendation also included an increase in communication with parents to remind them of the importance of parental awareness of students’ book choices.
“We can’t even describe to you how hurt we are that this was allowed, or recommended to her,” Jen Bradfield told board members Monday.
“There are specifics of a boy making a fake coupon advertising a free blowjob—this is what our daughter read,” she said. She read from the book, “‘There was a guy Carl Burns and everyone called him C.B. and one day he got so drunk at a party, he tried to (have sex with) the host’s dog.’
“…I don’t see a place for this for 13-year-olds,” she said.
Brian Bradfield said the book’s content—bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, oral sex for money—raised questions an eighth grader shouldn’t have to ask.
“I didn’t want to have this conversation with my daughter in eighth grade,” he said. “It’s hard not to get emotional and upset because we’re here talking about things we never thought we’d talk about… Our innocent child has already been tainted.”
According to a publisher’s description on Amazon, the book is a “haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion… the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating.”
Hadley literacy teacher Lynn Bruno said while many Hadley students have supportive and caring parents like the Bradfields, there are students facing issues similar to those depicted in the book and don’t have supportive parents to look to for guidance.
“Like it or not, your daughters and sons in eighth grade heard the word ‘blowjob,’” Bruno said. “I’ve been at this for 30 years… What they are exposed to in terms of dialogue, in terms of media… I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s (out) there.”
She added books like Perks of Being a Wallflower are valuable because of the lessons students can learn from characters’ decisions in difficult situations.
“I have children in my classroom who need this knowledge now because they’re facing those issues… You cannot take away from children who need to have those conversations… just because it upsets some other children.”
Board member Sam Black said while he’s reluctant to censor material, he agreed the issues addressed in the book have no place in a middle school.
Board member Terra Costa Howard said her two daughters, in eighth and ninth grade, have both read the book and that she couldn’t support removing the book from classrooms.
“The book was a suggestion (to my child) and she brought it home and we looked at it and talked about it, and she read it. …As a parent, that is my responsibility,” she said.
“We, as parents and as board members who have been around, cannot in today’s day in age put our heads under the sand and think our children don’t know, and are not exposed to, (these) things… We live in an age where these kids are exposed to things much sooner than we want them to be.”
Board president Erica Nelson, who also voted in favor of the recommendation to keep the book, said the issue is subjective.
“This book might not even be appropriate for someone in ninth or tenth depending on their maturity level, but it might be appropriate for somebody at the end of eighth grade (with a different maturity level),” she said.
The board voted 4-2 against the recommendation. Board member John Kenwood was not present for the vote.
Following the vote, District 41 parent Betsy Pringle suggested Hadley staff implement a rating system for books, so parents could be made aware of potentially controversial books available to students.
It was hailed as a giant step forward for racial integration in a country that has long been ill at ease with its growing immigrant classes. But Cecile Kyenge’s appointment as Italy’s first black Cabinet minister has instead exposed the nation’s ugly race problem, a blight that flares regularly on the soccer pitch with racist taunts and in the diatribes of xenophobic politicians – but has now raised its head at the center of political life.
One politician from a party that not long ago ruled in a coalition derided what he called Italy’s new “bonga bonga government.” Today, amid increasing revulsion over the reaction, the government authorised an investigation into neo-fascist websites whose members called Kyenge “Congolese monkey” and other epithets.
Kyenge, 48, was born in Congo and moved to Italy three decades ago to study medicine. An eye surgeon, she lives in Modena with her Italian husband and two children. She was active in local center-left politics before winning a seat in the lower Chamber of Deputies in February elections.
Premier Enrico Letta tapped Kyenge to be minister of integration in his hybrid center-left and center-right government that won its second vote of confidence Tuesday (local time). In his introductory speech to Parliament, Letta touted Kyenge’s appointment as a “new concept about the confines of barriers giving way to hope, of unsurpassable limits giving way to a bridge between diverse communities.”
His praise and that of others has been almost drowned out by the racist slurs directed at Kyenge by politicians of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, an on-again, off-again ally of long-serving ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, and members of neo-fascist Internet groups.
In addition to his “bonga bonga” slur, Mario Borghezio, a European parliamentarian for the League, warned in an interview with Radio 24 that Kyenge would try to “impose tribal traditions” from her native Congo on Italy.
Kyenge on Tuesday responded to the insults, thanking those who had come to her defense and taking a veiled jab at the vulgarity of her critics. “I believe even criticism can inform if it’s done with respect,” she tweeted.
Unlike France, Germany or Britain, where second and third generations of immigrants have settled albeit uneasily, Italy is a relative newcomer to the phenomenon. France has several high-ranking government ministers with immigrant roots, and few French had a problem with the appointments: Former President Nicolas Sarkozy named a justice minister and urban policy minister, both born in France to North African parents, to his cabinet, while his minister for human rights was born in Senegal. Francois Hollande’s government spokeswoman was born in Morocco and raised in France, and his interior minister was born in Spain. He also has two black ministers from French overseas territories – one from Guyana and one from Guadeloupe.
Italy is another story. Once a country of emigration to North and South America at the turn of the last century, Italy saw the first waves of migrants from Eastern Europe and Africa coming to its shores only in the 1980s. In the last decade or two, their numbers have increased exponentially, and with them anti-immigrant sentiment: Surveys show Italians blame immigrants for crime and overtaxing the already burdened public health system. Foreigners made up about 2 percent of Italy’s population in 1990; currently the figure stands at 7.5 percent, according to official statistics bureau Istat.
Some of the most blatant manifestations of racism occur in the realm of Italy’s favorite sport, soccer – which for Italians and others has shown itself to be a perfect venue for displays of pent-up emotions. In the case of a handful of Italian teams, soccer is a way for right-wing fan clubs to vent.
Mario Balotelli, the AC Milan striker born in Palermo to Ghanaian immigrants and raised by an Italian adoptive family, knows all about it. Perhaps Italy’s best player today, he has long been the subject of racist taunts on and off the field: Rival fans once hung a banner during a match saying “Black Italians don’t exist” while the vice-president of his own club once called him the household’s “little black boy.”
Balotelli called Kyenge’s nomination “another great step forward for an Italian society that is more civil, responsible and understanding of the need for better, definitive integration.”
The race situation is almost schizophrenic in Italy. In the same week Kyenge was made a government minister and Balotelli was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, AC Milan’s rival Juventus was fined 30,000 euro for fans’ racist taunts during a game against Milan in which Balotelli wasn’t even playing.
“There was no racism 40 years ago because there were no non-white Italians,” said James Walston, a political science professor at American University of Rome. “You need the other in order to hate the other.”
“It will take a long time – probably there will never be a completely racism-free society – but it will take a long time for Italy to reach the sort of acceptance, multi-cultural acceptance that the rest of Europe has and North America has,” he said in an interview.
Kyenge got off to a rocky start with the Northern League when, on the day she was named minister, she said one of her top priorities would be to make it easier for children of immigrants born in Italy to obtain Italian citizenship. Currently, such children can only apply once they turn 18.
The issue has vexed Italy for years and previous center-left governments have failed to change the law even though most Italians – 72 percent according to a 2012 Istat-aided study – favor it. It’s not just a matter of a passport but has real impact on the ability of an immigrant family to integrate into Italian society: Children of non-EU immigrants born in Italy, for example, can’t take advantage of the EU citizen discounts at the Colosseum and other cultural treasures, having to pay full admission prices to get in to learn the heritage of the nation where they were born. If they were Italian citizens, they’d get in free until they were 18.
But raising an issue that so riles the Northern League – during an already tense political transition – was enough to set off Roberto Maroni, the interior minister in Berlusconi’s last center-right government and a top League official. Maroni immediately demanded that his successor as interior minister make clear his position on the law.
Other members of Maroni’s party were more blunt: Italian newspapers quoted the head of the League in Italy’s northern Lombardy region Matteo Salvini as saying that Kyenge was a “symbol of a hypocritical and do-gooding left that wants to cancel out the crime of illegal immigration and thinks only about immigrants’ rights and not their duties.”
La Repubblica newspaper on Tuesday, meanwhile, cited the vile insults directed at her on fascist Internet groups such as http://www.ilduce.net . Repubblica said the antagonism was born from the League’s basic opposition to a minister who tends to favor immigrant rights. “But the racist origins had to explode. And here they are. True, they’re consigned to the stupid transience of the Web, but they’re a sign of the widespread climate of hatred” in the country, the paper wrote.
Coming to Kyenge’s defense was Laura Boldrini, the president of parliament’s lower chamber, who for years was the chief spokeswoman in Italy for the U.N. refugee agency. In that role she frequently defended the rights of immigrants – and squared off with Northern League leaders after they pushed through a controversial 2009 policy to send back would-be Libyan migrants without screening them first for asylum.
“It is indecent that in a civil society there can be a series of insults – on websites but not only there – that are being hurled against the neo-minister Cecile Kyenge,” Boldrini said. “Like many people, watching her take her oath of office I felt that Italy was taking an important step forward, and not just for ‘new Italians.’”
Also defending Kyenge was the other foreign-born minister in Letta’s government, Josefa Idem, a German-born Italian who won five Olympic kayaking medals before retiring after the London Games. Idem is Italy’s new equal opportunities minister – one of seven women in Letta’s government – and in that role authorized an investigation by Italy’s national anti-discrimination office into the racist online slurs directed against Kyenge.
Italian news reports quoted Idem as saying she was doing so in her capacity as minister “but also as a woman.”
Sociologist Michele Sorice at Rome’s Luiss University said Italians have long harbored racist attitudes, stemming from the nation’s colonial past in north Africa, but that they stayed hidden until the Northern League “legitimised” xenophobic political rhetoric after entering the government in the 1990s. The League denies it’s xenophobic and says it is merely protecting the interests of Italians.
Italy has since become more sensitised to the issue, Sorice said, but it still lags behind its European and North American partners. Changing the law on citizenship, as Kyenge wants, “wouldn’t do anything more than to bring Italy into line with the great European traditions,” he said.
But he was doubtful that this particular government, made up of longtime political rivals, could pull it off when even previous center-left governments had failed to do so.
“It remains to be seen how this can be done on a practical level with a coalition government,” he said.