Many state constitutions include provisions granting legislators immunity from arrest. Although 43 states currently have some version of legislative immunity written into their constitutions, the interpretation of these laws can be extremely vague.
In Minnesota, several groups are fighting against the state's legislative immunity provision, which grants lawmakers “privilege from arrest” except for treason, felony and breach of the peace throughout an entire legislative session, Think Progress reports.
The Minnesota House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would remove this legislative immunity, passing after a 115-13 vote. The bill is currently stagnating in the Senate, which is reviewing the potential new law.
A major concern regarding the current law is the way in which it treats the issue of drunk driving. It was brought up for consideration by a group of Concordia University political science students as well as members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
These groups have historical precedence to back their concerns, as Rep. Laura Bradford invoked legislative immunity in Colorado after being pulled over on suspicion of DWI in 2012.
“I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen,” Bradford said after the incident occurred, according to the Denver Post.
Minnesota Senator Scott Newman (R) believes the new Minnesota bill to be unnecessary.
“As we’ve heard from the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you fail an impaired driving test you will be arrested. I have faith in our law enforcement to handle these situations properly. If there is evidence of abuse of power that would be curbed by passing this bill, I will gladly move to reconsider,” Newman said.
Newman has moved to table the bill, effectively halting its progress through the legislative body.
A Minnesota woman claims her 3-year-old was watching the cartoon “Caillou” when it suddenly cut to graphic adult content.
Samantha Green says her daughter was watching the show via Comcast On Demand when Green got up to grab some water from the kitchen. When she returned, there was pornography on the TV.
"I saw that instead of Caillou, my daughter was watching full-blown porn," Green told KARE 11. "I froze up for about a second and thought 'Oh my gosh, what is my daughter watching?' I paused the episode, got my daughter out of the room and when I turned it back on, it was the Caillou episode I had ordered."
She says when she called Comcast about the issue,a r epresentative implied she was to blame.
"They suggested that maybe my box was old and that I need to reset my cable box at least once a week in order to prevent it from happening again," she said. "I even asked the customer service rep if there was a manual on steps I needed to do. In my opinion, I should not have to refresh my box at least once a week in order for porn not to show up when I order a show for my 3-year-old daughter."
Green went to Comcast’s Facebook page to make sure other parents knew about this strange procedure so that they could make sure their cable boxes don’t start airing porn.
A representative apologized on Facebook and posted, "I have been unable to duplicate this issue. I have played the episode of that show multiple times pausing it and stopping it and was unable to see any issues with any other feed or another program cutting into it. I am sorry this happened to you and I would hate to lose you as a customer, but I do understand the need to do what's best for your family."
Comcast is apparently uncertain about what caused the glitch.
"Clearly this isn't the type of experience we want our customers to have, and we have apologized to Ms. Green for any inconvenience this may have caused," Comcast said in a statement. "Our engineers are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what may have happened."
Green says her daughter is now curious about the images she saw.
“I don’t know if I can say on TV the answers to the questions that she’s asking me,” she told WDAZ. "I’m hoping it’s something that she’ll get over."
"Even if she only watched 10 seconds, it is 10 seconds more than she has ever received in her whole life," she said. "Maybe I'm only passionate about this because it happened to my kid, and I am hearing firsthand her thoughts on what she saw, but I worry if this happened to my kid and Comcast doesn't know why, what's to stop it from happening to another kid?"
Green plans to cancel her Comcast service and subscribe to something else.
A World War II reenactment group recently ate dinner at the Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit, a German-themed restaurant in Minneapolis, dressed as Nazis.
An unidentified source sent CityPages.com a photo (above) from the dinner, which was held by the WWII Historical Re-Enactment Society.
One member of the bizarre dinner defended the Nazi-theme, which included swastikas, noted Gawker.com.
"All of the German [re-enactment] groups in Minnesota have a Christmas party because we don't typically have events going on in the winter," Jon Boorom told CityPages.com. "It's just like any club that has a party. Because they dress up like Germans from World War II, it's cool to go to a German restaurant, eat German food, and drink German beer."
"If you wear a German uniform or a Nazi uniform, it’s not like you’re saying, ‘I think Hitler was super cool’ or ‘I hate Jews’ or ‘I hate gays’ or ‘I hate democrats,’” added Boroom. “You’re not there because you believe in what Hitler stood for, you’re there to educate people about history, and a lot of that is so people don’t forget. It’s the same as wanting to be the bad guy when you’re playing cowboys and Indians. There’s an attraction to the bad side.”
Boroom did not mention who was the "bad guy" or "good guy" while playing "cowboys and Indians."
He also failed to say what historical education people are lacking in Minneapolis regarding Nazis eating dinner.
Rachel Downer, 22, has been arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter and felony neglect of a child in connection with her six-year-old cousin’s death by freezing.
Mercedes Mayfield, 6, was pronounced dead on the morning of February 27 in front of the entrance to an apartment building in Bemidjii, Minnesota.
She was discovered by her mother and a neighbor, who both called 911 immediately.
It was too late. Mercedes was pronounced deceased at the scene, reports the Daily Mail.
"The child had signs of being exposed to the frigid elements,” a police press release said.
Temperatures the night of February 26 were reported as being nearly 30 degrees-below-zero with windchill of -40.
When found, Mercedes was wearing a coat, boots, hat, and mittens; it is unclear how she got outside but it is believed that she was there overnight.
Mercedes died of hypothermia, reports NY Daily News.
Downer has been arrested in connection with the child’s death, but investigators have not revealed the details around the charges.
On the day of Mercedes’ death, Downer posted multiple photo collages on Facebook featuring Mercedes. The accompanying status update read, “R.I.P Gone but never forgotten.”
A Duluth, Minnesota police officer caught on surveillance camera beating a man in a wheelchair has been found not guilty on all charges.
After the jury deliberated for three hours, Officer Richard Jouppi was not convicted of fifth degree assault and disorderly conduct.
The incident happened in September 2012 when Officer Jouppi wheeled 50-year-old Anthony Jackson into a detox clinic. A staff member in the room told wheelchair-bound Jackson to hand her his jacket, and Jackson sarcastically asked, “Do you want me to throw it at you?”
“Do it and see what happens,” joked the staff member before instructing the man to place it on the chair.
Just as the man was trying to take off his jacket, Officer Jouppi randomly grabbed the man’s arm and twisted it back behind him. When Jackson told the officer to stop and lightly swatted at him, Jouppi proceeded to punch the man in the face five times before he fell out of his wheelchair onto the ground. Even as Jackson lay limp on the ground, Jouppi decided to knee him in the gut.
Following the incident, Officer Jouppi defended his actions in the police report.
“I controlled his right arm at the elbow in order to prevent Jackson from following through with his threat to strike a staff member,” Jouppi wrote in the report.
Now, after a trial to determine if Jouppi’s actions were justified, a jury determined that the officer did what he had to do. Still, despite the ruling, Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay took to Facebook to publicly condemn the officer’s actions.
"While I respect the judicial process I am very disappointed by the verdict in the Richard Jouppi case,” said Chief Ramsay in the post. “His actions on September 21, 2012 were not consistent with department training or policy, bringing discredit to our department and detracting from the excellent work our women and men do on a daily basis. As I said previously, we will do everything we can legally to ensure he never works for our department again."
Anthony Jackson did not testify during the trial because, according to reports, he could not be located.
State Rep. Pat Garofalo, Republican, created a stir on Twitter Sunday after he sent out a tweet about NBA basketball players that some considered racist.
“Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow,” he wrote. “Nobody would notice a difference w/possible exception of increase in street crime.”
When asked to comment on the tweet, Garofalo said he was talking about the NBA’s high arrest rate. He also noted that the major pro league is the only one in which testing positive for marijuana is not a substance abuse violation.
Garofalo added that he had no intention beyond that, except to note that many athletes are above the law.
Within two hours of the tweet, it was retweeted more than 600 times. Many took jabs at Garofalo’s own profession.
“There’s more criminals in your profession than the NBA buddy,” one tweet read.
A St. Paul, Minnesota bouncer is being called a hero today after he bravely fought off a gunman that was attempting to enter the bar he was working at.
Eric Wasson, a security guard at Johnny Baby’s, is shown on surveillance video sitting at the entrance of the bar when a man holding a gun is about to walk through the doorway. As the gunman starts to enter, another security guard notices him coming with the gun in his hand and immediately runs in the opposite direction. Wasson notices his colleague run and looks down the hall to see the gunman walking in that direction. Just as the man starts to enter, Wasson springs into action.
While everyone around him ran for cover, Wasson acted quickly and pushed the man back, trying to stop him from shooting the gun. During the struggle, two shots were fired, but thankfully, nobody was injured. The gunman was arrested and convicted in court, and now, St. Paul police have given Wasson an award for his bravery.
"Mr. Wasson, you were indeed a hero that evening," said St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith as he presented Wasson with the Chief’s Award for Valor. "We don't know what that suspect may have done if he was allowed inside of the bar. You displayed a great amount of courage when you chose to disarm the suspect and protect the customers in the bar."
At the time of the incident, there were 150 people inside the bar, and thanks to Wasson’s courageous actions, all made it out of the harrowing situation alive.
A six-year-old Minnesota girl was found dead on Thursday after she fell asleep outside in temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero.
The unidentified girl was found on the steps of her apartment building’s front entrance at 6:23 a.m.
When her mother and neighbor found her, they immediately called 911.
Investigators arrived at the scene, and noting the girl’s exposure to the weather she was pronounced dead. While police do not believe foul play was involved, they are trying to connect a timeline from the time the child went missing to when she was discovered.
Temperatures in the area recently reached 27 below zero with wind chills dropping to minus-40 degrees.
Bemidji is just south of International Falls, the Canadian border known as the “icebox of the nation” because of its regularly freezing temperatures.
A Pakistani exchange student, who has been in a coma in a Duluth, Minn. hospital, will not be deported, reports the Associated Press.
According to Pioneer Press, Shahzaib Bajwa has been hospitalized since a November car accident. He had been a student at University of Wisconsin-Superior and in the country on a student visa. That visa expires on Feb. 28.
Until Wednesday, Bajwa’s family was concerned that difficulty getting his visa renewed, coupled with his mounting hospital bills, would lead officials to have him deported back to Pakistan.
Bajwa’s bills amount to $350,000 so far and continue to grow every day. Bajwa’s brother, Shahraiz Bajwa, told NBC News that the hospital will not help convert the patient’s student visa to a medical one because they don’t believe the family can pay the bills.
“There is one doctor at this hospital who has put a lot of effort in sending my brother back, and he must be very heartbroken that we are still here. He is doing it because my brother is costing them money,” Shahraiz Bajwa said. “When we asked the hospital to convert his student visa into a medical visa, first they said they would help us. Then they took that offer from the table.”
“We are working collaboratively with Mr. Bajwa’s family and caregivers along with the U.S. and Pakistani governments to reach the best possible outcome for the patient and for his family,” hospital spokeswoman Maureen Talarico said in the same news story, adding she could not directly address Bajwa’s claims because of patient privacy laws.
The issue has shed new light on growing concerns of “medical repatriations.” Such maneuvers allow for de-facto deportations when a hospital is concerned an immigrant cannot pay medical bills. According to NBC, a 2012 study released by two advocacy groups tracked 800 such cases. In one case, a patient was removed through a hospital’s garbage-disposal doors. In another, a patient was flown to a foreign airport and abandoned on the tarmac.
Such a grim fate does not await Shahzaib Bajwa, it seems. His brother has said the family has been contacted by Pakistan’s consul general in Chicago. The office there told him that the expiring visa will no longer be problem. The consul general also informed the family that the exchange program’s insurance company will pay to move Bajwa to a long-term care facility and pay for his care for a short time. The family will have to pay expenses after that.
An online fundraising campaign the family launched last week has raised about $131,000.
A secular group sent a letter to the Robbinsdale school district in Minnesota demanding it stop taking students to a church to pack meals for needy families in Haiti.
The American Humanist Association says a parent complained last year after the School of Engineering and Arts took students to Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, where they participated in a world hunger effort run by Feed My Starving Children.
The group says the field trip is unconstitutional. The same parent allegedly complained to school administrators about the trip as well.
“School administrators refused a previous request from the family to stop the practice after their complaint was made last year,” AHA said in a statement.
Legal representation for AHA, in a letter to school officials dated Feb. 3, said the field trip is “such an obvious violation that a parental complaint should not be necessary.”
“Very importantly, we fully understand that at least one purpose of this field trip was to have the children participate in charity work intended to assist poverty-stricken people,” the letter said. “Such good intentions, however, can be pursued in innumerable other ways that do not involve immersing the unsuspecting children into a theologically-charged environment.”
District spokeswoman Latisha Gray said school officials didn’t feel the field trip violated the law.
"There was absolutely no proselytizing," Gray told the Star Tribune.
“For public school administrators to send students to a religious environment to work on a religious mission with a religious organization is unconstitutional,” Monica Miller, an attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a statement. “This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.”
The school district has two weeks to reply to the AHA letter.