News Politics

Former San Diego Mayor Pleads Guilty to False Imprisonment and Battery

Martha Kempner

After being accused of sexual harassment by at least 18 women and being forced to resign, former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and battery charges.

The former mayor of San Diego pleaded guilty Tuesday to false imprisonment and battery charges, stemming from allegations of sexual harassment. At least 18 women say that Bob Filner, who served for 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming mayor, sexually harassed them. The charges involve three unnamed women.

Rewire followed the story this summer as Filner was hit with an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations. It began when his former director of communications, Irene McCormack, filed a law suit against him alleging that he tried to kiss her, asked her to marry him, dragged her around the office in a headlock, and suggested that she remove her underpants and work without them. In the weeks that followed, numerous other women—including city employees, contractors, consultants, and donors—stepped forward to tell similar stories of Filner attempting to kiss them, touching their knees or buttocks, making inappropriate remarks, and dragging them around in a headlock.

At first, Filner refused to step down but apologized to the city, saying, “It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong.”

As more allegations emerged, he said he would take a two-week leave of absence to get “intensive help.” The pressure for him to leave office, however, did not let up and toward the end of July, Filner announced his resignation and this time apologized to “all the women I offended.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The politician’s troubles, however, did not end there. According to a court spokesperson, the state attorney general’s office charged Filner “with one felony count for false imprisonment by violence, fraud, menace and deceit (Penal Code Sections 236 and 237) and two misdemeanor counts of battery under Penal Code Sections 242 and 243.”

Under Filner’s plea deal, he will avoid jail time but will spend three months under house arrest and has promised never to run for elected office again.

A special election for San Diego mayor is scheduled for November 19.

News Politics

Trump University ‘Preyed Upon the Elderly and Uneducated,’ Claims Former Trump Staffer

Ally Boguhn

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets.

Recently unsealed court documents from a class action lawsuit against Trump University—a for-profit company founded by presumptive presidential Republican nominee Donald Trump—revealed the tactics employed by the business to aggressively push their classes.

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets, CNN reported. Staff members were told to address buyers’ doubts about going into debt with scripted responses:

I don’t like using my credit cards and going into debt: “[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”

Testimony from former Trump University Sales Manager Ronald Schnackenberg uncovered by the New York Times claims that staff were pushed to exploit those struggling financially. Schnackenberg claimed in written testimony that he was once “reprimanded” for not pushing a couple he felt was in a “precarious financial condition” to buy a $35,000 real estate class using their disability income and a loan.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Schnackenberg said he believed “Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

Some of the released documents were later ordered to be resealed after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is presiding over two of the three lawsuits against Trump University, on grounds that they were “mistakenly” released to the public. Trump University faces a second class action lawsuit as well as a $40 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman on Thursday told Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos that Trump University had engaged in fraud. “We have a law [in New York] against running an illegal, unlicensed university,” Schneiderman said. “This never was a university. The fraud started with the name of the organization, and you can’t just go around saying this is the George Stephanopoulos Law Firm/Hospital/University without actually qualifying and registering, so it was really a fraud from beginning to end.”

Trump’s pending Trump University lawsuits have been under increasing scrutiny. The Republican made headlines again Friday for lobbing “racially tinged” attacks on Curiel.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said at a campaign rally in San Diego, going on to speculate that the judge may be “Mexican.”

Trump nevertheless vowed in a Thursday tweet to reopen Trump University once the pending lawsuits against the business have concluded.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time this week blasting the presumptive GOP nominee for his role in Trump University after the release of the case’s documents. Speaking about the matter during a campaign rally at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Clinton called out Trump’s for-profit school.

“This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he tried to scam all of those people at Trump U,” Clinton said. “Trump and his employees took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures—all while making promises they knew were false from the beginning.”

News Human Rights

Alabama Detention Center Receives Authorization to Force-Feed Hunger Striker, Ending #FreedomGiving Protest

Tina Vasquez

“Force-feeding is a legal form of retaliation and torture and ICE is tormenting these immigrants in detention instead of granting them their freedom,” an advocate, Sasha W., told Rewire.

Detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsen, Alabama, ended a 14-day hunger strike on Wednesday after hearing that last week Chief U.S District Judge Karon O. Bowdre authorized officials to force-feed one of the hunger strikers at Etowah. The detainee was in “deteriorating health” because of dehydration, according to reports.

Advocates said that force-feeding will be used as a form of retaliation.

“It is true that we obtained judicial feeding orders for two individuals,” an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official said to Rewire via email post-publication, “however, those two individuals [in ICE custody] resumed eating on their own and the order was never used.”

The detainee at Etowah was one of more than 100 asylum-seeking men at three facilities in two states who participated in #FreedomGiving, a hunger strike that launched the day before Thanksgiving. The men are being held at the Theo Lacy Facility (Orange County, California), the Otay Detention Facility (San Diego, California), and Etowah, where advocates say more than 40 detainees participated in the strike at its peak. The strike has since spread to to the Aurora Detention Facility (in Colorado), the South Texas Detention Facility (in Pearsall, Texas), and the Krome Service Processing Center (in Miami, Florida).

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The bulk of the initial #FreedomGiving participants are from Bangladesh. All of the initial 100 hunger strikers have been detained for at least two years and are demanding immediate release. The hunger strikers are also demanding that ICE end its detention bed quotas and practices of indefinite detention, as well as calling for improved conditions in its facilities and for the release, parole, or supervision of all asylum seekers held for more than six months.

Sasha W., organizing director at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, a member of the #FreedomGiving Hunger Strike Support Committee, told Rewire the authorization of force-feeding is just another tactic being utilized by ICE to break the hunger strikers, put a stop to discussions demanding their release, and stifle conversations about the well-being of the detainees and about the conditions in its federally sponsored facilities.

Lisa Moyer, an organizer with the group Shut Down Etowah, said detainees in Etowah reported to organizers that they were woken up every 15 minutes by guards asking if they were hungry. “It was clearly to keep them from sleeping,” Moyer said. The organizer also told Rewire that a hunger striker was catheterized without explanation and hunger strikers reported that solitary confinement was often used as a retaliation tactic.

“These are the same conditions and abuse that these detainees and strikers fled their countries to avoid,” Sasha said.

In a letter obtained by #Not1More, a collaboration between individuals, organizations, artists, and allies to expose, confront, and overcome unjust immigration laws, Mahbubur, an asylum seeker held in Etowah, wrote that some detainees have attempted suicide because of their treatment in custody:

Not only in Alabama, many Bangladeshis are also passing miserable days in other detention centers across America. They came to the United States with a hope to get asylum, but as their asylum applications have been denied and they are under order of deportation, in that case if they are deported to Bangladesh the present government will persecute them accusing them of creating unrest or vandalism by bringing false charges against them. Many of us even attempted to commit suicide for fearing of the government retribution if deported.

Sasha claimed that the authorization to force-feed the Etowah detainee had nothing to do with their health and well-being, and it also has bigger implications given the current political climate.

“We know that, especially in this particular moment, ICE is using hate-filled rhetoric in this Islamophobic climate we’re in to be able to justify some of their practices. If ICE cared about the well-being of these detainees, their response would be freedom, not force-feeding. ICE is also threatening the Bangladeshi detainees with deportation and that’s ICE operating as judge, jury, and executioner, because if these Bangladeshi detainees are sent back, they will be disappeared, tortured, and killed,” Sasha told Rewire.

Referred to as “among the worst” immigration detention centers in the country, with numerous complaints of human rights abuses, Etowah is, according to Moyer, “like a warehouse for ICE” because it has one of the cheapest per diem rates for housing detainees in the country: just $35 a day per person. According to Detention Watch Network’s report, Expose & Close: Etowah County Jail, immigrants held at Etowah experience among the worst detention center conditions in the country and detainees “suffer terribly” due to the remote location of the facility, poor phone and visitation access, lack of any outdoor recreation or access to fresh air or sunlight, inadequate medical and mental health care, meager and barely edible food, and minimal programming.

All of this is intentional, Moyer said.

“Detainees are purposefully sent to Etowah to be held long-term, break their resolve, and isolate them from social support services, family or community support, or legal counsel,” the organizer said. “It’s a detention center tucked away inside of a jail and people don’t even know it’s there. I talk to people all the time who live in Etowah County who have no idea there’s a detention center there. The isolation is purposeful.”

Advocates said the force-feeding authorization in Alabama has the ability to set a precedent at detention centers across the country, and it is a demeaning and degrading way to take over someone’s bodily autonomy.

“People in detention don’t have a lot of control. When they choose to hunger strike, they are using their bodies to assert they want freedom. The strikers have said that they are willing to put their lives and their bodies on the line, risking death, for their freedom,” Sasha said. “A hunger strike is a way of asserting power, demanding release, and expressing that the conditions in detention are intolerable. Force-feeding is about torture, intimidation, and retaliation. Bottom line.”

UPDATE: This piece has been updated to include remarks from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative.