Four Journalists Sue St. Louis County Police Over Arrests, Injuries During Ferguson

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Danny Wicentowski
The night of the arrests in Ferguson.

Four journalists are suing the St. Louis County Police Department in federal court over their August 2014 arrests in Ferguson, claiming that their First Amendment right to freedom of the press was violated.

The plaintiffs are Ryan Devereaux, a staff writer at the Intercept; Lukas Hermsmeier, a freelancer reporting for Germany's BILD newspaper; Frank Herrmann, a U.S. correspondent for a group of German newspapers; and Ansgar Graw, senior political U.S. correspondent for Die Welt and Welt am Sonntag. All four were arrested in the early hours of August 19, 2014, ten days after the shooting of Michael Brown. At the time, tensions were still high as protesters came out nightly to West Florissant Avenue, and police were using tear gas and rubber bullets.

"I was really taken aback by the way that protesters and the media were handled from the moment I got there, by the police," recalls Devereaux, who is based in New York City. "I felt that in many circumstances the police were behaving irresponsibly, and at times dangerously, toward media and protesters alike."

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Woman Sues Florissant Police in Federal Court for Excessive Force, Civil Rights Violations

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Joy Arnold and Officer Kyle Feldman just moments before the altercation at the center of a lawsuit.

Joy Arnold and the Florissant Police Department agree on one thing: She should never have been arrested on March 29, 2014.

Weeks before then, Arnold was pulled over in the north-county municipality and charged with an infraction for a "defective muffler." She was fined and entered into a payment plan with the city, but found herself short on funds for her February 2014 installment. She was able to pay only a portion at the beginning of the month, and a Florissant court clerk called to tell her she needed to get up to date or risk a warrant being issued for her arrest. Arnold did manage to make the payment before the end of February, and pay for March as well.

It didn't matter. Owing to a clerical error, Arnold's account was never brought up to date and a warrant for her arrest still went out. That's what led to a physical altercation in the Florissant jail that is now the center of a federal civil-rights lawsuit between Arnold and the city's cops.

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Grand Juror's View on Ferguson Investigation Could Inform Public Policy: ACLU of MO

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UPI/Bill Greenblatt
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.
When the Missouri Legislature convenes Wednesday, lawmakers will consider a host of bills aimed at issues spotlighted during Ferguson protests: wearable and dash cameras for cops, municipal traffic ticket revenue, police use of deadly force, special prosecutors for officer-involved shooting deaths.

But if legislators want to ask questions about the Ferguson grand jury, either to better understand the aftermath of Michael Brown's death or while considering changes to grand-jury protocol, only one person is allowed to answer: St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch. Per state law, the grand jurors who investigated the case must stay silent about it for life or face criminal penalties.

One grand juror, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, wants to change that.

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Grand Juror Sues McCulloch, Wants to Speak Out About the Ferguson Case

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A grand juror is suing to prevent St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch from filing charges if the juror speaks about the Ferguson case.
Grand jurors typically live under a lifetime gag order preventing them from discussing their cases.

But there's been nothing typical about the Ferguson grand jury investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson.

Now a grand juror is suing for the ability to speak out about the widely-publicized case, saying St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch is mischaracterizing the jury's decision in his multiple media appearances while jurors are forced to stay silent.

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Sunset Hills Mayor Accused of Striking Cyclist Faces Grand Jury, Impeachment

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Tom Carlson
Mayor Mark Furrer's Mercedes parked outside Sunset Hills City Hall.
As the Sunset Hills board of alderman prepares to possibly impeach Mayor Mark Furrer for allegedly striking a cyclist with his car, a grand jury will investigate him for felony charges of assault and property damage, says the cyclist's attorney.

Court documents show Furrer is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Thursday, but attorney Michelle Funkenbusch tells Daily RFT Furrer will instead face a grand jury on Wednesday, with the jury's decision expected by Thursday.

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Columbia Asked to Pay $250,000 For Damaged Alligator

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YouTube
Ken Henderson, the "Gator Educator," doesn't mind showing affection to his reptile friends.
A Florida wildlife organization tied to a traveling "gator educator" is demanding the city of Columbia to pay up for injuring their alligator, a twenty-year-old, 100-pound, six-and-a-half-foot-long female gator named Babe.

Babe was one of seven alligators (along with a Burmese python, various turtles and a few dogs and cats) seized from Ken Henderson's van in June 2011 while he was parked in the Boone County Fairgrounds. He was charged at the time with nineteen misdemeanors, of which all but seven were dropped this past April, according to the Columbia Tribune.

But tragedy struck while the animals were being held for two months in 2011: Angel, a seven-year-old alligator, was allegedly placed in the same pen as Babe and the other five gators, which Henderson had explicitly warned animal control officers not to do. The other gators attacked and killed Angel. Babe also damaged her mouth and teeth.

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North St. Louis Facility Agrees Not to Accept Ebola Waste [UPDATE]

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Google Street View
The Stericycle facility in north St. Louis.

Update 3:45 p.m.: Daily RFT just received this statement from Stericycle: Stericycle has reached a voluntary agreement with the Missouri Attorney General confirming that it has not and will not accept, store or treat Ebola-contaminated waste in its St. Louis facility. Should healthcare facilities in Missouri encounter a suspected or confirmed Ebola case, Stericycle will be available to work with these facilities to find other disposal options. At present, each Ebola waste generating incident is being handled on a case-by-case basis with primary emphasis placed on protecting the general public, healthcare workers, and our team members.

A medical waste management facility in north St. Louis has applied for permits that would allow it transport and dispose of material that's been in contact with the Ebola virus, according to a press release from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office this morning. A copy of the permit application provided by Koster's office says it is a "special permit [which] authorizes the transportation in commerce of certain Ebola-contaminated medical waste for autoclaving or incineration."

Now Koster is trying to block the facility, Stericycle, from bringing Ebola waste to St. Louis because the company has violated the Missouri Solid Waste Management law several times.

"This facility has a history of violations in the handling of medical waste," Koster writes in the release. "We should not allow this company to transport Ebola waste into our state without absolute assurances of safety."

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SLU Professor Sues Rock 'n' Roll Marathon for Fraud, Exploiting Volunteers

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Elvert Barnes via Flickr
"So, wait, this isn't a charity?"
When Yvette Joy Liebesman biked to the starting line at the 2012 St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, she knew she wouldn't get paid for spending the morning escorting half-marathoners along the route.

She didn't mind. She was a volunteer, and she thought her free labor would help charities and not-for-profits officially associated with the popular race.

But that's not really what happened. The time and effort Liebesman and thousands of other race volunteers in 27 U.S. cities don't directly benefit any charities. Instead, profits go to the race's owner, a for-profit company called Competitor Group Inc. -- something Liebesman didn't realize.

Now Liebesman, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, is suing for minimum wages for her and all other Rock 'n' Roll Marathon volunteers. In a class-action lawsuit filed last month, Liebesman's lawyers say race operators are "exploiting a volunteer labor force" by hiding behind a "veneer of community service."


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ACLU: Police Used "Five Second Rule" to Arrest Ferguson Protesters at Random

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Danny Wicentowski
Officers arresting protesters the night of August 18. Nineteen people were charged with failing to disperse that day.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri argued to a federal judge Monday that St. Louis County and Missouri State Highway Patrol are enforcing an unconstitutional "five second rule" that allows cops to arrest protesters at will.

Known as either the "five second rule" or "keep moving rule," the controversial police tactic was sprung on protesters August 18, nine days after Ferguson cop Darren Wilson shot and killed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. Police threatened protesters with arrest if they stopped moving, forcing crowds into grueling marches to avoid violating the ill-defined rule.

According to the witnesses brought by the ACLU, police used the tactic arbitrarily, harassing some protesters and letting others go. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar admitted yesterday the rule even confused officers, who misinterpreted his orders and used the "five second rule" to arrest protesters during the peaceful daytime hours.

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Muslim Prisoner Sues Springfield Jail for Denying Him Access to Quran

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Cezary Piwowarski/Wikimedia
A Muslim prisoner is suing the jail he's locked up in because he claims it won't give him access to a Quran and a prayer rug.

Richard Ray McLendon Jr., who is locked up in the Greene County jail awaiting transfer to a federal prison in Illinois to serve a two-year stint for violating supervised release on a sex offender charge, filed a lawsuit against alleging he is not permitted to bring a Quran into the jail.

"I was told to get someone from the outside to send it from the publisher," McLendon wrote in the lawsuit, according to the Springfield News-Leader. "So I did, and I'm still being denied. There are Bibles everywhere."

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