Spain’s government has introduced a new law regarding consent with the goal of removing ambiguity in rape cases.
Under the law, consent would have to be explicit. It states that “yes means yes” and anything else, including silence, means no. Sex without explicit consent would therefore be considered rape.
The move follows outrage over the verdict in the la manada (wolf pack) case. The five men involved were accused of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman in Pamplona during the bull-running festival.
Two of the men filmed the assault, during which the woman is silent, doesn’t move, and has her eyes closed. The judges interpreted this as consent – one judge even commented that she appeared to be enjoying herself – and the charge was dropped from rape to the lesser crime of sexual assault.
Under Spanish law, rape must involve violence and intimidation. The la manada ruling provoked outrage and led to demonstrations across the country. The five men are out on bail pending an appeal against their nine-year sentence. Among them are a soldier and a member of the civil guard, both of whom have been returned to duty.
In her summing up for the prosecution, Elena Sarasate said: “The defendants want us to believe that on that night they met an 18-year-old girl, living a normal life, who after 20 minutes of conversation with people she didn’t know agreed to group sex involving every type of penetration, sometimes simultaneously, without using a condom.”
Proposing the law, Carmen Calvo Poyato, Spain’s deputy prime minister and equality minister, said: “If a woman does not expressly say yes, then everything else is no.”
Patricia Faraldo Cabana, a law professor at the university of A Coruña, who helped draft the law, said the proposal understood consent not just as something verbal but also tacit, as expressed in body language.
“It can still be rape even if the victim doesn’t resist,” she said. “If she is naked, actively taking part and enjoying herself, there is obviously consent. If she’s crying, inert like an inflatable doll and clearly not enjoying herself, then there isn’t.”
In a letter to a Spanish TV station, the la manada victim wrote: “Don’t keep quiet about it because if you do you’re letting them win. No one should have to go through this. No one should have to regret having a drink, talking to people at a fiesta, walking home alone or wearing a miniskirt.”
The law mirrors similar legislation that came into force in Sweden at the beginning of July.
TIJUANA, Mexico — Jade Quintanilla had come to the northernmost edge of Mexico from El Salvador looking for help and safety, but five months had passed since she had arrived in this border town, and she was still too scared to cross into the United States and make her request for asylum.
Violence and persecution in Central America had brought many transgender women such as Ms. Quintanilla to this crossroads, along with countless other L.G.B.T. migrants. They are desperate to escape an unstable region where they are distinct targets.
Friends in San Salvador, Ms. Quintanilla said, were killed outright or humiliated in myriad ways: They were forced to cut their long hair and live as men; they were beaten; they were coerced into sex work; they were threatened into servitude as drug mules and gun traffickers.
Still, just a few miles from the border, Ms. Quintanilla, 22, hesitated. “I’ve gone up to the border many times and turned back,” she said in a bare concrete room at the group home where she was living, holding her thin arms at the elbows. “What if they ask, ‘Why would we accept a person like you in our country?’ I think about that a lot. It would be like putting a bullet to my head, if I arrive and they say no.”
While the Trump administration has tightened regulations on asylum qualifications related to gang violence and domestic abuse, migrants still can request asylum on the basis of persecution for their L.G.B.T. identity. But their chances of success are far from certain, and the journey to even reach the American border is especially risky for L.G.B.T. migrants.
Trans women in particular encounter persistent abuse and harassment in Mexico at the hands of drug traffickers, rogue immigration agents and other migrants, according to lawyers and activists. Once they reach the United States, they regularly face hardship, as well.
There are no numbers available disclosing how many L.G.B.T. migrants seek asylum at the border each year or their success rate, but lawyers and activists say that the number of gay, lesbian and trans people seeking asylum each year is at least in the hundreds.
In weighing whether to risk the journey north, many L.G.B.T. migrants from Central America gamble that the road ahead cannot be worse than what they are leaving behind.
Victor Clark-Alfaro, an immigration expert at San Diego State University who is based in Tijuana, said that he has noticed more openly L.G.B.T. people in recent years making the journey to the border with hopes of seeking asylum. He said they are often the victims of powerful criminal gangs in Central America and Mexico — but also of bigoted neighbors, police officers and strangers.
“The ones who can’t hide their sexuality and gender, there’s a huge aggression toward them. And of them, trans women are the ones who are most heavily targeted,” Mr. Clark-Alfaro said. In Central America and Mexico, “almost everyone is Catholic, and so the machismo and religious sensibilities provoke attacks against people who break gender norms.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, has spoken out against the high rates of violence against L.G.B.T. people in Central American countries and Mexicoand has noted that the crimes against them are often committed with impunity.
Shortly after Ms. Quintanilla and two friends began their journey north to Tijuana from Tapachula, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, in January, they were robbed. With no more money, they walked along the highway for long stretches of time in between rides, about 13 days altogether, Ms. Quintanilla said.
In Veracruz, the group boarded the so-called Beast, a train in Mexico often used by migrants to travel north; there, she said, she was sexually exploited.
“They say you can ride on top of the train,” Ms. Quintanilla said. “But the reality is different. We had to give our services so that they’d let us on. They were abusing us the whole way through. And if we refused, they’d threaten to push us off.”
She reached Tijuana in February and was taken in by Jardin de las Mariposas, an L.G.B.T.-focused drug rehabilitation home that has hosted dozens of Central American migrants in recent months. The director of the Mariposas, Yolanda Rocha, with whom Ms. Quintanilla has spoken about the journey, vouched for the account Ms. Quintanilla shared with The New York Times. She said that Ms. Quintanilla had appeared traumatized and exhausted when she arrived at Mariposas.
Warnings about trans migrants being neglected and abused in United States custody have amplified fears for Ms. Quintanilla and other trans migrants. A 2016 report by Human Rights Watch detailed pervasive sexual harassment and assault at detention facilities, based on interviews with dozens of transgender women.
In May, a transgender woman named Roxana Hernandez died in New Mexico, while held in custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after experiencing cardiac arrest and H.I.V.-related complications.
In interviews with The Times, several trans women described humiliation by guards and said they had been sexually assaulted by other detainees.
Seventy-two migrants who identify as transgender were being held in custody by ICE as of June 30, according to data provided by the agency. The vast majority are from Central America and Mexico. It is difficult to pinpoint how many L.G.B.T. people might be in detention because they often choose not to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, for fear of discrimination, even though it could help their asylum case.
“A lot of the queer men experience threats and physical assault and sometimes sexual assault. The trans women who are put into men’s facilities experience sexual assault at remarkably high numbers,” said Aaron Morris, a lawyer and the executive director of Immigration Equality, which provides legal assistance related to immigration and asylum to L.G.B.T. people.
ICE operates a housing unit specifically for transgender detainees at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. Activists say that the center is far better than others, where trans women are held alongside men. But many trans women are reluctant to relocate to the Cibola center, Mr. Morris said, if it is far away from their lawyers or networks of family members.
Reports of abuse at detention centers range from guards making fun of natural facial hair that grows in between grooming to other inmates threatening violence. Of 237 allegations of sexual abuse or assault filed by ICE detainees in 2017, the agency’s records show that 11 were filed by transgender people.
In some cases, migrants say they are not taken seriously when they report attacks.
One trans woman from Honduras said she had been harassed and sexually assaulted several times by men while in custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, which is operated by CoreCivic. The woman requested anonymity because her asylum request is currently under review.
Speaking in an interview with her lawyer present in Los Angeles, she described several safety issues that stem from the center grouping trans women with men and having them share bathrooms. At one point, she said, she awoke to a man forcing himself onto her and shoving his tongue into her mouth; she said she was told to ignore it by the guards, even though she was afraid that she would get in trouble because of rules against physical contact.
In other instances, she said, men would pull back the curtains in the shower to masturbate in front of her and other trans women.
“They say we have support and protection in there, but the reality is different,” the woman said. “I’m not the only one. Ask any trans woman, they will each have a bad story about something that happened to them in detention.”
In a statement, ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said that the agency has “zero tolerance for all forms of sexual abuse or assault” and that it investigates every allegation reported.
Activists have demanded that the government avoid holding trans women and other L.G.B.T. migrants in detention altogether. Just over half of trans people are held at the specialized unit at the Cibola center, the ICE spokeswoman said, whereas the dozens spread across other facilities are “housed in units at the facility based on their physical gender.”
The Honduran woman said she was disappointed to find the guards at the center where she was held to be so dismissive. In her hometown, she said, she had been viciously attacked by a man who struck her with a machete. She never reported the crime, though he had targeted her several times before, she said. “In Honduras, it’s better not to go to the police, because that just makes it worse. If they don’t kill me, they’ll kill one of my family members.”
Raiza Daniela Aparicio Hernandez, 33, a transgender human-rights activist from El Salvador, said she was physically assaulted in 2016 by four police officers in her home in San Salvador, which she shared with her boyfriend. The officers had harassed and threatened her before, arriving at their home without a warrant and demanding to be let in, before barging in and assaulting them. “They beat me. They beat me a long time,” she said.
Ms. Aparicio Hernandez and her partner tried to file a formal complaint about the abuse in El Salvador she said, but they ran into obstacles along the way. She left El Salvador in June 2017 and arrived at the San Ysidro point of entry, on the border between Tijuana and San Diego, to request asylum.
Before speaking to The Times, Ms. Aparacio Hernandez shared her account with her lawyer. She won asylum through the courts on the merits of her case.
“Leaving my country was such a hard decision,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of friends die in this fight, at the hands of the government, and people being beat and tortured. And this is happening at the hands of police officers. It’s sad, and it’s difficult, but you have to fight.”
Marcos Williamson, the detention relief coordinator for Transcend Arizona, a Phoenix-based nonprofit group that helps L.G.B.T. migrants, said asylum seekers who are released from detention on bond often struggle to make ends meet because they are given neither benefits nor work permits. L.G.B.T. people, who often do not have the support of family members, are particularly alone.
For now, Ms. Quintanilla feels safe at Mariposas, though she has been accosted on the streets of Tijuana and harassed, she said. She is grateful to the center for taking her in. And she is not yet ready for what comes next in her long journey.
“I decided to leave because I didn’t want to die. It would just be too much for them to reject me,” she said. “What good would it have been to flee my country?”
The four Ohio teens who pleaded guilty to dropping a sandbag off a freeway overpass that killed a 22-year-old man were given a suspended sentence and ordered to a treatment center on Friday.
Marquis Byrd was the passenger in a vehicle that was hit by the sandbag dropped onto Interstate 75 in Toledo last December. Byrd was left in critical condition and died three days later in the hospital.
And The Wine Is Getting Active On TEE SPRING
Click Image for shopping page.
We don’t know why 2 T’s are showing up in the image.
In late June, members and supporters of Desiree Alliance, a sex work advocacy organization, gathered in the Los Angeles office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to begin organizing for the legalization of sex work. The event featured nearly a dozen sex workers, including adult actress and Los Angeles-based sex work activist, Siouxsie Q.
Attendees at the meeting drafted a manifesto called the National Sex Worker Anti-Criminalization Principles, which author and escort Maggie McNeill described as a document designed to “provide a working template for a national platform” for sex-worker rights.
London Pride was led by TERF group; They call to take the L out of LGBTQ+. Calling CIS LESBIAN's CREATE + SHARE A 5 SEC VIDEO 'I am a cis female lesbian, I support trans rights – trans women do not erase me. Keep the L with the T’ #LwiththeT#notadebatepic.twitter.com/m2PpHQ4OyB
On June 5, Nikki Yovino went to jail. She had maintained for the previous 20 months that she was raped by two Sacred Heart University students in the bathroom at a house party. The men she accused said it was consensual, and that’s what prosecutors and police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, believed too.
The state charged Yovino with filing a false report to law enforcement and evidence tampering, based on their allegation that she’d had a rape kit performed while lying about having been raped. Yovino, 19, faced up to six years in prison. She had pleaded not guilty, but on the morning jury selection was to begin, Yovino took a plea deal to spend a year behind bars. She was taken away in handcuffs while her mom dabbed tears from her eyes in the courtroom.
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, SC – A transgender woman was found shot dead inside a car on a rural South Carolina road Easter morning, and authorities do not know if gender identification was the reason for the brutal killing.
The victim, identified as Sasha Wall was found slumped over the steering wheel of the car in rural Chesterfield County on Sunday morning, according to the Associated Press. Wall, who owned the car, had been shot multiple times in the neck and shoulder.
“Whoever it was, was angry,” Sheriff Jay Brooks said of the killer, according to FOX 46. “You could tell by the number of shots.”
Brooks told media outlets that investigators are still working the case and believe Wall knew the killer.
“ShQe was dressed (in women’s clothing) and had makeup on and that kind of stuff,” Brooks told WCNC. “But whether that has anything to do with this case or not, we have no idea.”
Investigators have no evidence Wall’s killing was a hate crime and believe it was more likely domestic violence-related, WSOC reports.
The Anson County Sheriff’s Office and State Law Enforcement Division are assisting in the investigation, according to WBTV.
The Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that advocates for LGBTQ people, documented the deaths of at least 28 transgender people who were fatally shot or killed by other violent means in the U.S. in 2017, up from 23 in 2016.
Investigators say Wall, 29, lived in a mobile home outside Pageland and was known to family and friends as “Sasha Wall,” according to WSOC-TV.
Makon, who was born in Cameroon and is also known as Elton Prince, was referring to a Saturday assault in Madridthat left him bruised and bloodied.
According to a Facebook post by Makon, the actor and his friends had stepped up to order coffee early Saturday when a couple approached him.
“I don’t want black people in this place or in front of me,” the woman, 33, reportedly said. Makon wrote that he tried to de-escalate the situation, telling her, “I will only be here for a moment and then I’m leaving. I don’t have any interest in staying near you for long.”
The woman then reportedly called him a “black piece of s—.” When he asked her to calm down, he wrote, she began attacking him with a glass bottle. She hit him twice on the head, Makon said, causing a cut and other injuries that required seven stitches.
“I’m white,” she allegedly said. “I can kill you and nothing will happen.”
The owners of the restaurant intervened and called police. When authorities arrived, they briefly detained the woman but released her after she gave a statement. The Spanish Immigration and Refugee Support Network has urged Madrid prosecutors to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
A 54-year-old woman who authorities say repeatedly shouted the n-word at some neighborhood children faces a possible jail sentence — but not for her hateful words.
In Oregon, it’s not a crime in and of itself to call someone the n-word. In this case, the racial slur was directed at two African-American boys ages 4 and 11 playing in the courtyard of the Southeast Portland apartment complex they shared with defendant Brenda Mae Glenn, prosecutors said.
But it’s what Glenn did next that earned her convictions during a one-day trial last month:
When the children’s mother told Glenn that her hurtful speech needed to stop, Glenn struck her on the head with a beer bottle. The mother, Tierra Dizer, suffered a goose-egg-sized bump to her forehead, according to police who arrived on the scene.
Racist Long Beach Woman Cowers Away When Asian Couple Starts Filming
But while the school indicated that one of its faculty members did make questionable comments via a Facebook post, it did not reference her by name.
“It has recently come to our attention that there was a video posted on Facebook of a GWC faculty member making comments that the College does not condone or support. Golden West College believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students,” the post read.
Netizens who soon flooded the comments section have found the post somewhat lacking:
Others were there to call for her dismissal from the school:
Some people have even accused the college of deleting comments.
As of now, Olson’s Linkedin account is also inactive.
I went to Wisconsin’s Bad River Reservation to find out why 14-year-old Jason Pero was shot dead by a sheriff’s deputy. But tribal members didn’t only want to talk about the shooting: “You’ve heard about the women, right?”
ODANAH, Wisconsin — Hours after seeing her 14-year-old grandson, Jason, lying in the street just feet from her home, with police and EMS hovering over his motionless body, Cheryl Pero found herself in the cavernous gymnasium of the Bad River Reservation community center.
Cheryl and her husband, Al, couldn’t go home — where they’d raised Jason since infancy — because it was a crime scene.
So the family awaited word in the local gym about why an Ashland County Sheriff’s deputy had just fired two shots into the chest of Jason, who friends and family say was a relatively normal, happy child. With news of the shooting spreading rapidly via text message and Facebook, members of their tight-knit tribal community soon joined them.
Tracy Bigboy, a neighbor and victim services coordinator for the tribal government, was dispatched to take care of the Peros’ needs. She stood in the cold air outside of the community center, quietly smoking a cigarette, until Ashland County Sheriff Mick Brennan pulled off Highway 2 and into the parking lot.
With his squared-off shoulders, neatly cropped silver hair, and mustache, the 62-year-old Brennan has a carefully crafted by-the-book reputation and looks every inch the small-town sheriff. As he and one of his investigators approached, Bigboy stopped them, warning the sheriff that emotions were running high inside the gym and urging him to talk to the family privately.
As the Peros huddled in private with Brennan, it seemed to the family that the sheriff hadn’t come with answers, or even condolences. His main message, as the grieving Peros remember it: Let him control the public narrative of Jason’s death.
“Don’t talk to the media,” Bigboy and the Peros remember Brennan telling them. “Let us go first so we can tell you what to say.” And they say he had a warning for the community: Settle down and don’t riot.
Now, two months after Jason took two bullets to the chest on Nov. 8, his family still doesn’t know exactly what happened the morning that Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich shot him dead. Jason’s family says the sheriff has told them nothing, and Brennan did not respond to multiple requests to speak to BuzzFeed News about the shooting and about local law enforcement’s relationship with the Bad River community. Michael Nieskes, the St. Croix County District Attorney who has been appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate the case, declined to comment.
The feeling of sadness and loss is palpable among members of the Bad River Band. But there’s also a deep sense of numbness and fatalism here that manifests in the nonchalant ways people talk about other violent encounters involving law enforcement and Native Americans. Jason’s death was at least the second time in as many months that a member of the Bad River Reservation had been killed by uniformed officers: On Oct. 28, a Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 27-year-old Lucas DeFord in nearby Black River Falls.
“This has been going on for generations and generations, and it’s not going to stop.”
Locals have long complained about being pulled over for what they consider no good reason. “Driving while Indian,” they call it. And then there’s “the women,” a sort of shorthand that refers to allegations detailed in federal lawsuits that Sheriff Brennan did nothing as one of his jailers repeatedly raped and assaulted Native American women. “You’ve heard about the women, right?” locals say almost between thoughts.
The lack of information since Jason’s shooting has only compounded tensions here, laying bare the deep-rooted, systemic racial divisions between the Bad River tribe and the white community of Ashland.
“This has been going on for generations and generations, and it’s not going to stop,” Bigboy said.
In April 2013, a Native American woman with the initials J.L. arrived in the Ashland County Jail.
It didn’t take long for J.L., then in her early twenties, to catch the eye of Ashland County correctional officer Christopher J. Bond. The women’s showers, with their waist-high walls and central location in the jail, gave Bond — and anybody else who happened to walk by — a perfect view to ogle female inmates as they bathed.
According to a federal lawsuit filed in March by J.L., Bond would leeringly comment on her “pretty mouth” and simulate ejaculating into it when she ate jail-issued meals of hot dogs or kielbasa. He’d regularly corner her in areas of the county jail without cameras, forcing her to open her jumpsuit so he could grope her, said the lawsuit, one of five filed since January 2017 against the county and sheriff’s department alleging violation of the women’s civil rights. On nights he was on watch, Bond would direct J.L. to lie naked on her bed and masturbate while he watched on the jail’s surveillance cameras, the 25-year-old woman alleges.
On Nov. 2, 2013, Bond was designated by prison officials to drive J.L. 70 miles west to St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, for an emergency medical procedure to remove an abscess from one of her breasts.
J.L. was loaded into the back of a sheriff’s cruiser outside the jail, the lawsuit alleges, but once outside the county line, Bond pulled the car over, unshackled the prisoner, and ordered her to sit in the front seat beside him and unbutton her jumpsuit. Then, as he drove down the highway, Bond groped and fondled J.L., according to the lawsuit. Thirty minutes later, he pulled into a rest stop and ordered J.L. to follow him into the men’s bathroom, where he allegedly raped her. Afterward, J.L. said, he used water and paper towels to erase evidence and avoid arousing suspicion from medical staff at St. Luke’s.
According to court filings, at least four other women — all of whom are Native American — were also repeatedly assaulted or raped.
Even after she was released, J.L. said, Bond continued to torment her. In September 2015, while she was still on parole and seven months pregnant, Bond forced her to have sex with him in his pickup truck, her lawsuit says. J.L. said she had no choice but to go along — Bond, after all, was a correctional officer and worked for the sheriff. Plus, her parole officer was Bond’s girlfriend at the time, the lawsuit says, and J.L. worried she’d be sent back to jail.
J.L. wasn’t Bond’s only alleged victim. According to court filings, at least four other women — all of whom are Native American — were also repeatedly assaulted or raped by Bond between 2013 and August of last year.
Bond’s alleged reign of terror over women in the Ashland County Jail would only come to an end on Aug. 24, 2016, when another correctional officer caught him and a prisoner leaving a closet where he’d allegedly forced the woman to perform oral sex. Later that day, Bond killed himself. According to a source familiar with the case, Bond shot himself in the head.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native Americans are more likely to be killed during an interaction with law enforcement than any other racial group. In 2017 at least 31 indigenous people died as a result of an encounter with law enforcement. In 2016, the number was 29.
On a per-capita basis, Native Americans are 12% more likely to be killed by law enforcement officers than black Americans — and three times more likely than white Americans.
If you live on one of the dozens of reservations across the country in which local, white police forces from nearby border towns have jurisdiction, the chances that you’ll end up in jail are high. In Ashland County, for instance, Native Americans make up 11% of the population but account for 44% of the inmates in the county jail, according to data collected by the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit criminal justice research and reform group.
For tribal leaders here and across the country, that leads to one conclusion. “That becomes a disproportionality that speaks to some sort of institutionalized injustice going on,” says Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins.
To understand the complex relationship between indigenous Americans and border town police means understanding that in these communities, history is in the present tense.
For most Americans, Native Americans are little more than a footnote in the history books, bit players in the founding and expansion of the United States. But in hundreds of communities like Ashland, 235 years of colonization, forced relocation and assimilation, and racism is very much a reality.
Established as part of an 1854 treaty with the broader Ojibwe nation, the Bad River Band’s sprawling reservation is home to more than 1,300 members, according to US Census data. Like many reservations, Bad River is relatively poor: Census data shows more than 9% of the population is unemployed, and 20.1% of families live below the poverty line.
You don’t have to look far back for examples of racial tensions boiling over here. During the Wisconsin Walleye War between 1988 and 1991, white protesters hurled racial epithets and sometimes eggs and rocks at Ojibwe tribal members spear fishing for walleye, a tradition protected under treaties between the US government and the tribe. Although the violence eventually ended after a federal judge upheld the Ojibwe right to spear fish, distrust and bitterness between the two communities remained.
“As much as you do as a parent bringing in a new generation to try and break those cycles, it’s never going to be broken.”
Native Americans say the discrimination they face is not only systemic, but largely accepted, and it’s gotten worse under President Donald Trump. Trump has derisively referred to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas because of Warren’s claim to have Native American heritage. In November, Trump hosted Native American Code Talkers at a White House event that prominently featured a portrait of President Andrew Jackson — who committed acts of genocide against Native Americans. Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, modifications to the Bears Ear National Monument in Utah, and other projects impacting Indian Country have also angered many Native Americans. “The sad thing about it is that the majority of our country thinks just like that,” Bigboy said, a few hours after the Code Talkers event at the White House. “As much as you do as a parent bringing in a new generation to try and break those cycles, it’s never going to be broken. Because this is a white predominant area that we live in.”
For all the distance between the two sides, however, they are inextricably linked, and in places like Ashland County, white residents and Native Americans coexist in an uneasy truce of convenience and routine. The reservation’s small casino is a significant economic driver, particularly during the summer tourism season. Each day, hundreds of tribal members commute into Ashland for work, and their children attend Ashland’s public schools.
Under federal law, the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department is one of dozens of local law enforcement agencies across the country with authority over neighboring reservations. Known as Public Law 280, in practice, the 1953 law has resulted in largely white forces with little understanding of Native American communities policing them.
Things are better than they used to be, said Wiggins. “In the ’70s and early ’80s, that was light years worse than it is today,” he said, adding that back in the ’80s, during hunting season, one sheriff’s deputy was notorious for using routine traffic stops to confiscate Native Americans’ rifles — which he used to stock his black market rifle business.
“It’s indoctrinated into us … that you don’t want to call the police, because they’re not to be trusted.”
The problems with law enforcement extend to those parts of Indian Country where the Bureau of Indian Affairs — the federal agency responsible for overseeing much of Indian territory — remains the primary law enforcement agency. Ruth Hopkins, a Lakota Indian and former tribal judge for the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota, said she was repeatedly frustrated by the bureau’s responses to crimes reported on the reservation. Hopkins recalled a 2016 case in which a Spirit Lake woman reported being raped by a nontribal member. The case was referred to the BIA for prosecution, but when tribal leaders tried to determine if a criminal case was being pursued, Hopkins said they were stonewalled.
The result is that few Native Americans trust law enforcement.
“As somebody born and raised on the reservation, it’s indoctrinated into us … that you don’t want to call the police, because they’re not to be trusted,” Hopkins said.
To a large degree, law enforcement attitudes toward Native Americans are simply a reflection of how the broader white community sees them. Particularly in border towns like Ashland, pressed uncomfortably close to reservations, stereotypes of the “drunken, lazy Indian” have calcified into truths for many whites. In many ways, the racial divide in border towns is as much muscle memory as anything else. “For the people who grew up in these border towns, it’s what they were taught,” said John Dossett, general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians.
“That’s what border towns do,” said Ashland City Councilman Richard Ketring. “You get this cancerous atmosphere that is really hard to eradicate.”
In the local gym that November day, after their meeting with Sheriff Brennan, the Pero family was stunned.
Jason’s parents pressed the sheriff for answers but were met with curt replies, they said. The angrier and more frustrated the family got, they say the shorter Brennan became with them. At one point, the Peros said, Jason’s mother, Holly, confronted Brennan, demanding he answer for his deputy’s actions.
Brennan, clearly annoyed, interrupted the grieving mother.
“Wait until the evidence comes out,” Jason’s grandparents recall the sheriff saying.
That came in the form of a press release from the state’s Department of Justice three days later. The release implied Jason may have intentionally provoked the officer into shooting him, citing unspecified evidence seized from Jason’s bedroom and “initial reports” indicating he had been despondent and that he’d called 911 to describe a man with a knife — a description the sheriff’s office said fit Jason himself. The release said Jason lunged at the deputy with a knife and ignored multiple commands to drop the weapon.
“Bullshit,” Jason’s grandmother Cheryl Pero said flatly.
The release described Jason as 5 feet 9 inches and 300 pounds; his family and friends say he was 5 feet 3 inches and weighed significantly less than 300 pounds. No other information has been provided. The Ashland Sheriff’s Department has repeatedly refused to comment and hasn’t released any official documents related to the case, including the transcript or audio of the 911 call, the official police report, or the autopsy report.
The press release came as the family was burying the 14-year-old, and by nightfall, the narrative the family says Brennan had crafted had taken hold. While, initially, local media outlets had emphasized Jason’s age and his family’s demand for justice, a new storyline had appeared, one that painted Jason as the aggressor who’d brought the shooting on himself.
“Our children represent the survival of our tribe, of our nation moving forward.”
“What hurts us the most is lots of people saying things about Jason that wasn’t true. That he was this monster, he was this 5-foot-9 man. He was a kid!” his friend Vinnie Bender said.
Despite his youth, Jason held a prominent place in his community, in part because of his interest in traditional Ojibwe culture. He played in a tribal drum group, studied the Ojibwe language, and was part of a group of young tribal members committed to preserving the tribe’s culture. “Our children represent the survival of our tribe, of our nation moving forward. Jason was one of many that we consider a national treasure here in Bad River. His loss is devastating,” said Chairman Wiggins.
Vinnie and Lilly Wiggins, Jason’s two best friends, insist that he was a stabilizing force in many of his peers’ lives, not the despondent young man the sheriff’s department described.
“I struggle a lot with depression. And he helped me with that a lot. Just like the way he’d talk to me, and he’d call me in the middle of the night to make sure I was OK. He was that type of person,” Lilly said.
Vinnie dismissed questions about Jason’s Facebook page, where he would occasionally post dark memes, like one with a boy holding a gun to his head saying “I make everything weird, I hate myself,” that could suggest an unhappy side. “They’re memes, little jokes that adults don’t get. Just kid jokes,” Vinnie said.
And even if Jason was depressed, one of the nagging questions for Bad River residents is what happened in the eight minutes between the 911 call, at 11:40 a.m., and the moment Mrdjenovich shot Jason at 11:48 a.m. If Mrdjenovich had tried to de-escalate the situation, for instance by calling for backup or trying to reason with Jason, Wiggins said far more time should have elapsed before the deputy opened fire. But the press release gave no details of what occurred once Mrdjenovich got the call.
“There was too much that was missing,” said Wiggins, who before entering politics worked as a firearms instructor for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Among other things, he trained conservation officers in the use of deadly force, de-escalation, and other tactics.
Wiggins has written to the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to request a formal investigation into Jason’s death, charging that Mrdjenovich “inflicted injury without knowing the circumstances of the situation.”
The DOJ has not yet responded to Wiggins’ request. A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.
For Jake Deragon, a father of five and neighbor of the Peros, Brennan’s handling of the case hits particularly hard. “He was my first sergeant when I was in the military, so I actually trained with him. We trained under the NATO rules of war, ya know? We don’t shoot civilians, we don’t shoot women and children, we don’t target them,” Deragon said. “He’s not the man I once knew. I’m ashamed that I once shed blood, sweat, and tears with that man. Because I was willing to lay down my life for him.”
“Poor Jason was gunned down like cattle,” he said acidly.
Nobody knows when the sexual assaults in the Ashland County Jail started. After all, female tribal members told me this sort of behavior is so common, so normal, it’s become hardly worth mentioning.
“We’re Indian women. We don’t have a voice,” said Sandy Gokee, a cousin of Jason’s. “Who’s going to believe us?”
In the months following Bond’s death, J.L. and the four other women filed federal lawsuits against the county, Sheriff Brennan, and Ashland County Jail Administrator Anthony Jones.
In their complaints, a disturbing picture emerged of Bond targeting Native American women in their twenties and early thirties, often while other correctional officers were aware of his actions. All five complained of being forced to shower in plain sight of male and female guards and inmates, and of Bond making lewd comments and of using blind spots in the jail’s surveillance system to assault them. For instance, the complaints say that Bond would routinely take the women into the jail’s booking area ostensibly to arrange for bail. In the booking area, out of sight of jail cameras, he’d assault them, the suits allege.
“We’re Indian women. We don’t have a voice.”
According to the complaints, while Bond tried to hide his behavior, there is video evidence of assaults, including footage of Bond leading the women into parts of the jail not covered by cameras on multiple occasions. In at least one case, court documents say, video shows Bond reaching through the bars of one woman’s cell and fondling her — video allegedly viewed by Brennan after he became aware of Bond’s suspicious activity.
In addition, the complaints allege at least one other correctional officer witnessed Bond leading a woman out of the library closet, where the woman says in her lawsuit that she was forced to perform oral sex on Bond. That woman’s cellmate also heard Bond ordering her to expose her breasts to him, the suits say.
Two of the women — J.L. and a woman identified in court documents as B.L.W. — allege that when Brennan became aware of Bond’s behavior, rather than suspend or investigate him, he pressed the city’s police department to investigate the women for prostitution. Police Chief James Gregoire told the Ashland Daily Press the investigations had been asked for by the county district attorney “to make sure that the inmates were not providing sexual favors for something, like extra meals or in and out early, or talk to a defense attorney, or whatever.”
Neither Brennan nor Jones responded to requests for comment on the lawsuits. Both remain on the job. The state’s Department of Corrections is looking into the allegations, but it’s unclear if the sheriff’s department has launched its own internal investigation.
According to one source familiar with the jail, a blanket now partially obscures the view of the women’s shower from a jailer observation station.
The sheriff’s department has hired one of the state’s top law firms, Axley, to represent it in the case. Although the trial isn’t expected to begin for several months, defense attorney Lori Lubinsky has filed court documents that include statements from the women acknowledging they did not report Bond to Brennan or other jail officials, potentially setting up a defense based on the argument that the department had no way of knowing about Bond’s behavior.
Lubinsky declined to comment.
In the wake of Jason’s death, the tribal council is beginning a review of its relationship with the sheriff’s office. The situation is made particularly difficult because, like much of the country, Bad River has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Without the money to pay for its own police force, the tribe relies on the county.
“It’s gotta be a part of the norm, and part of the way the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department approaches our tribe.”
One solution could be a shift to a community policing model by the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department. In the 1990s, there were several officers who worked on the reservation who, by becoming an active part of the community, built trust and respect among the residents. But those officers have since retired, and efforts by law enforcement to build trust since then have been few and far between, reservation residents said.
“It’s gotta be a part of the norm, and part of the way the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department approaches our tribe. It’s getting out of the car and walking into the gym at night and talking to kids, and stuff like that,” Wiggins said.
Of course, that will require communication between the tribe and the sheriff’s office. So far, neither the state nor Brennan’s office have provided any further information on the shooting. During a community meeting on the reservation in late December, it was announced that Mrdjenovich had returned to work after a month of paid suspension.
At the request of the tribe, Brennan did not attend the meeting.
The impact of Jason Pero’s death has rippled throughout both the Bad River and Ashland communities.
Some of the effects have been relatively mundane. Wiggins says, for instance, that while white hunters normally flock to the reservation during deer season, this year they were notably absent. Wiggins speculated the drop may be because some whites worry about reprisals for Jason’s death.
Others have been more pronounced. “I don’t see no kids playing outside like they used to. There were always kids playing outside. All over Odanah. Since the shootings you don’t see kids playing outside,” said Jason’s grandfather, Al.
“This has been going on for 300 years, and this is where we say ‘Enough’s enough.’”
“It scares me. My son’s 6’2”, 350 pounds, and he’s 13 years old. He’s a big man for being 13 years old,” said Deragon. “What scares me is what were the motives behind this cop? What was he looking for, a large Indian person? That fits the bill for a lot of our youth.”
Gokee, who teaches at Ashland’s middle school, was suspended over an angry Facebook post in which she accused Deputy Mrdjenovich of murdering Jason. Ashland School Superintendent Keith Hilts, in his letter notifying Gokee of her suspension with pay, accused her of creating racial tension in the school and making the children of white police officers feel unsafe. Gokee returned to work at the beginning of January.
Gokee said her post was provocative but didn’t threaten Mrdjenovich or other police officers. Instead, she said, it was an expression of her anger and frustration, not just about Jason’s death but about broader systemic problems facing Native Americans. “This is not a new thing. This has been going on for 300 years, and this is where we say ‘Enough’s enough, we can’t take it anymore,’” Gokee said.
Some white students began taunting Jason’s friends, they and teachers familiar with the situation said. “They’d say, ‘Oh, he deserved it. He had a knife,’” said Jason’s friend Vinnie.
Early on the morning of Dec. 2, Jason’s grandparents, Cheryl and Al Pero, once again found themselves in the reservation’s community center. The couple sat quietly by the door to the gym, greeting arriving friends and family with sad smiles.
It would be a difficult day. Ojibwe believe that when someone dies, relatives must not speak their name or look at their picture. To do so can interfere with the journey to the afterlife, keeping their souls connected to this world.
Still, the family understood the importance of the gathering. Jason’s friends had organized a “healing walk” from the reservation to downtown Ashland to honor their friend and, they hoped, to plant the seeds of a new movement, which they’re calling Jason’s Message, to address the conflicts between the two communities.
As volunteers handed out T-shirts and tote bags emblazoned with the Jason’s Message logo — a turtle with two roses atop its shell — that his friends had designed, the gym slowly began to fill with friends and family. Many carried signs with pictures of Jason on them.
Representatives from other Ojibwe bands, the Lakota nation, and other tribes across the country came for the walk, as did Ketring, the city councilman, and a number of other white residents from Ashland. Clyde Bellecourt, an 81-year-old Native American civil rights pioneer, also came, along with a group of volunteers from the American Indian Movement to provide security for the walk. The only condition Jason’s friends had set for the walk was that no Ashland County sheriffs be there.
All told, more than 500 people participated in the 12-mile trek from the Pero home.
Shortly after sunset, the marchers reached downtown Ashland, huddling close to the town’s band shell in the cold December wind.
Jason’s friends took turns reading from a statement the group had written in which the Bad River youth called on their community and the white community of Ashland to come together “in unity and love because that is the message our friend and brother would want us to share … this is not an Indian issue. It is not a white issue. This is a community issue.”
As the students read aloud, much of white Ashland stood just one block over, their backs to the march as they watched the annual Christmas parade go by in the other direction.
LAKE WORTH, Fla. — Deputies say a Florida man attempted to shoot and kill his ex-girlfriend and her friend the day after she rejected his marriage proposal. The victim told police she and suspect Gordon Kovie had broken up about five years ago.
The woman told investigators that on Nov. 30, Kovie had proposed to her, and when she refused, Kovie, 48, forced a ring onto her finger, according to an arrest report. She said she later took off the ring and left it in Kovie’s car as he drove her to her parents’ home.
The next day she received a series of threatening text messages from Kovie, according to the report.
“You don’t deserve to be (expletive) love (sic) and don’t ever threaten me with the police don’t ever threaten me with the cops I will do something (expletive) crazy go ahead and try me,” one text message said, according to the report.
The victim told police that Kovie repeatedly demanded she return the ring, a dress he said he bought her and $60 to him. She said she told him the ring could be found in his car.
Police say Kovie tried to kill the woman late on the night of Dec. 1. She was in a friend’s mobile home when she and the friend say Kovie and another person approached and banged on the door.
A deputy said surveillance video from a nearby business showed Kovie returning to his car when no one answered the door. From the vehicle, Kovie could be seen on the video reaching out the driver’s side window holding a gun. The deputy said muzzle flashes could be seen as Kovie repeatedly fired at the mobile home.
Eleven spent shell casings were found outside the home. Several hit the structure and at least one bullet made it inside, hitting a refrigerator.
Kovie and a 16-year-old suspect were later arrested when Kovie’s car was found at the scene of an unrelated drug overdose.
Kovie was charged with first degree attempted murder first degree, aggravated stalking, shooting into an occupied dwelling and felon in possession of a firearm. A plea has not yet been entered in the case.