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St. Paul man gets probation for beating and robbing passenger having a seizure on Green Line



St. Paul man gets probation for beating and robbing passenger having a seizure on Green Line

A St. Paul man will serve no additional jail time for beating and robbing a man having a seizure on the Green Line light rail last year.

Joseph Ray Conley Jr., 29, served 140 days in the Ramsey County jail and pleaded guilty in November to aggravated robbery. He will serve five years on probation and must pay $636 in fines.

Joseph Ray Conley Jr. (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

Ramsey County District Court Judge Elena L. Ostby said that the sentence was a downward dispositional departure from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Should he violate his probation, his stayed sentence of 6 and a half years in prison may be enacted.

Conley violated probation from a 2015 case in which he threatened a man with a gun during an argument. For that case he served 64 days in the Ramsey County jail and was put on probation for seven years.

He also violated probation conditions from a 2018 felony drug conviction in which he spent 78 days in the Ramsey County jail and was put on probation for three years.

As part of his most recent probation, Conley is not allowed on any light rail cars or platforms; he has to stay away from the victim, not use alcohol, vote or carry a gun, and must be evaluated for chemical dependency and education, among other things.

On Dec. 30, 2020, around 4 p.m., Metro Transit police were dispatched to an eastbound light rail car at the Dale Street Station in St. Paul. Surveillance video and witnesses show Conley sitting down beside a man who appeared to be having a seizure.

Conley struck the man in the head, dragged him to the floor, stomped on his legs, punched him in the stomach and then went through his pockets and removed his shoes. Other passengers attempted to shield the man from Conley.

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Jury in federal trial in Floyd killing appears mostly white



Jury in federal trial in Floyd killing appears mostly white

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A jury of 18 people who appeared mostly white was picked Thursday for the federal trial of three Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s killing, a case that the judge told potential jurors has “absolutely nothing” to do with race.

The jurors chosen to hear the case against former Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng appeared to include one Asian among the 12 jurors who would deliberate if no alternates are needed, and a second person of Asian descent among the six alternates, with all others appearing white. The court declined to provide demographic information.

Thao, who is Hmong American; Lane, who is white; and Kueng, who is Black, are broadly charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority as Derek Chauvin, who is white, used his knee to pin the Black man to the street. The videotaped killing triggered worldwide protests, violence and a reexamination of racism and policing. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday.

The single day of jury selection was remarkably rapid compared with Chauvin’s trial on state charges, where the process took more than two weeks. The apparent jury makeup would also sharply contrast with Chauvin’s jury, which was half white and half nonwhite.

Responding to a potential juror who said he wasn’t sure he could be impartial “due to my color,” U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sought to reassure him and other jurors in the pool.

“There is absolutely nothing about the subject of religion, race or ethnicity that’s involved in this case,” Magnuson said.

The man, an immigrant who appeared to be Black, was later dismissed.

Two legal experts said Magnuson’s remark was accurate from a legal perspective. They noted the officers aren’t accused of targeting Floyd because he was Black, but rather of depriving him of his constitutional rights.

“It is true that it has nothing to do with race in the framework of the law and facts,” Joe Daly, an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline Law School, said. “But from what I can see it has almost everything to do with race. It has to do with what we know about how police enforce minor crimes against African Americans, how police have acted toward African Americans, minority people.”

Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney not connected with the case, said Floyd’s killing “was kind of the tipping point of unarmed Black men being killed at the hands of police. It had everything to do with race.”

The jury pool was selected from throughout the state — much more conservative and less diverse than the Minneapolis area from which the jury for Chauvin’s state trial was drawn. That jury convicted Chauvin of murder and manslaughter. He later pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge.

Three of the jurors who will deliberate at the federal trial and one of the alternates are from Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located.

Scholars and legal experts have increasingly advocated for greater jury diversity, not just in race but also by gender and socioeconomic background. They say jurors who share the same background are unlikely to have their biases and preconceptions questioned during deliberations.

“If I was (prosecuting this case), I would want a jury made up of Black jurors,” Brandt said. “If I’m representing these cops, I would prefer a white jury, which is what they have here.”

The three officers face a separate state trial, scheduled for June 13, on charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.

Legal experts say the federal trial will be more complicated because prosecutors must prove the officers willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional rights — unreasonably seizing him and depriving him of liberty without due process.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was facedown, handcuffed and gasping for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs. Thao kept bystanders from intervening.

A statement from attorneys for the Floyd family Thursday said bystander video showed that the three officers “directly contributed to (Floyd’s) death and failed to intervene to stop the senseless murder.”

Magnuson, who questioned potential jurors, stressed repeatedly that Chauvin’s cases should not influence the proceedings. Magnuson told jurors he was “harping and harping and harping” because state and federal law are different and he wanted to ensure they could be objective.

Federal prosecutors face a high legal standard to show that an officer willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. Essentially, prosecutors must prove that the officers knew what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are all charged with willfully depriving Floyd of the right to be free from an officer’s deliberate indifference to his medical needs. The indictment says the three men saw Floyd needed medical care and failed to help him.

Thao and Kueng are also charged with a second count alleging they willfully violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not stopping Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. It’s not clear why Lane is not mentioned in that count, but evidence shows he asked twice whether Floyd should be rolled on his side.

Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Such federal civil rights violations are punishable by up to life in prison or even death, but federal sentencing guidelines indicate the officers would get much less if convicted.

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US sanctions Ukrainian officials accused of helping Russia



US sanctions Ukrainian officials accused of helping Russia


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department levied new sanctions Thursday against four Ukrainian officials, including two current members of parliament who administration officials say are part of a Russian influence effort to set the pretext for further invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions name parliament members Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn and two former government officials. According to Treasury, all four have been intimately involved in disinformation efforts by Russia’s federal security service, known as the FSB.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the four men were at the heart of a Kremlin effort begun in 2020 “to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function.”

The new sanctions were announced less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden said he thinks Moscow will newly invade Ukraine. He warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and a possible restriction in access to the global banking system if it does.

Biden faced criticism from Republicans and Ukrainian officials that he invited a limited Russian invasion by suggesting in comments to reporters on Wednesday that the U.S. would react with a measured response if there was only a “minor incursion.” Administration officials immediately sought to clarify his remarks, and Biden himself did so on Thursday.

“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin,” Biden said Thursday. “He has no misunderstanding: any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.”

Biden on Wednesday said his team is looking at possible sanctions against Moscow that would target the Russian banking system, restricting its ability “to deal in dollars.” Biden was referring to potentially limiting Russia’s access to “dollar clearing” — the conversion of payments by banks on behalf of clients into U.S. dollars from rubles or other foreign currency, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who co-led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Ukraine last weekend, told reporters Thursday she understood the administration was still analyzing what the impact would be on other countries if Russia were banned from SWIFT, a banking system that handles the flow of money around the world.

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan in a Twitter posting urged the administration to take action that makes certain that “Russian oligarchs that support Putin” aren’t “able to spend their weekends shopping in Monaco and Paris.”

The White House last week warned that Russia has stationed operatives in and around Ukraine possibly to create a pretext for an invasion. U.S. and Ukrainian officials have also been concerned about the Russian weaponizing of disinformation.

“The United States is taking action to expose and counter Russia’s dangerous and threatening campaign of influence and disinformation in Ukraine,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. “We are committed to taking steps to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing actions.”

Kozak, who controls several news channels in Ukraine, is accused of amplifying false narratives about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inner circle and the 2020 elections. Voloshyn has worked with Russia’s FSB to undermine Ukrainian government officials, Treasury says.

Treasury officials say Voloshyn also worked with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who was previously sanctioned for allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and passing on information to Russian intelligence.

Treasury also sanctioned Ukraine’s former deputy secretary for national security and defense councils, Vladimir Sivkovich. The administration says Sivkovich worked last year with a network of Russian intelligence activists to carry out influence operations that attempted to build support for Ukraine to officially cede Crimea to Russia in exchange for a drawdown of Russian-backed forces. Russian troops seized Crimea in 2014 and Russia then annexed the Black Sea peninsula.

The other former official cited is Volodymyr Oliynyk, who Treasury says worked at the direction of the FSB to gather information about Ukrainian critical infrastructure. Oliynk is currently living in Russia, according to Treasury.

Biden on Thursday noted that Russia “has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression.”

After his speculation about a “minor incursion” by Russia, Biden underscored that any invasion would be seen as violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and would result in severe consequences for Russia. Nevertheless, his comments rattled Kyiv.

“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelenskyy tweeted Thursday shortly before the new sanctions were announced. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”

Some 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine’s border. Russian officials are demanding written guarantees that NATO will not expand westward. Members of the alliance refuse to give such a pledge.

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‘It’s so disheartening’ – Mistreatment of nurses around the Ozarks on the rise



‘It’s so disheartening’ – Mistreatment of nurses around the Ozarks on the rise

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers were praised as heroes, but now that seems to have changed. Healthcare workers around the Ozarks say over the last few months they’ve experienced yelling and even threats.

“We were being talked about as healthcare heroes and now for whatever reason, we’ve become the whipping post of healthcare,” said Tracy Hill, a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital. “Part of it is just disbelief on our part. We do not understand why we are being treated the way that we are being treated. We’re challenged with providing care to extremely sick patients. I would never go into a store and have the conversations patients are trying to have with us. I’m in a position to help them and provide care.”

Hill became a bedside nurse two years ago. She says most nurses have faced bad treatment when a patient calls them into their room. Sometimes that leads to cursing and yelling, which gets so loud to the point that other nurses are coming into the room to figure out what’s wrong.

“One particular time I said, ‘Hi I’m Tracy I’m your nurse I’ll be taking care of you,’ and the patient literally screamed at me to get out of their room,” Hill said. “That is nicely putting what this patient said to me.”

Hill and other nurses have witnessed or been victims of verbal abuse several times.

“We’ve walked out together and shared tears,” Hill said. “You to start to wonder, ‘Is this something that I really want to continue to do?’ Your heart really has to be in it day after day to continue to come in and suffer that type of abuse.”

In the past year at CoxHealth locations, system chief nursing officer Beth Polivka says there have been 4,127 reported incidents of aggression or violence towards hospital staff.

“We’ve had staff spit on,” Polivka said. “I was talking with an employee just three weeks ago who had bruising underneath her eye who had taken a punch. It’s hitting, it’s kicking, it’s biting.”

Of those reported incidents, 637 cases were assaults. More than 320 situations resulted in a staff member getting hurt. Polivka says it’s gotten to the point where almost one employee a day is not only assaulted but injured.

“It’s disheartening at times,” Polivka said.

With all of this going on, Mercy and CoxHealth have a request for patients: Be better.

“I would just ask that people just be empathetic with us as well,” Mercy nurse Tracy Hill said. “We’re making a choice to be here to support you.”

Hill says her team deserves more respect, especially because they put themselves in danger to help others. She says her team is working to pick up the slack and continue to help patients who aren’t even theirs. Hill says people never know what is happening in the room next door to them. Often times, it’s a patient who is as sick, or sicker than them.

She encourages people to keep that in mind the next time they visit with a healthcare worker.

“We deserve even more empathy and respect for continuing to serve in this community,” Hill said. “Show us your grace. I promise you we are providing the best care to everyone that we can.”

Beth Polivka with CoxHealth says it all comes down to just being a nice human. Polivka wants people to know her staff is working as hard and fast as they can to give patients the best care possible.

“I think just being patient and being kind,” Polivka said. “I think that’s a good message for all of humanity whether you’re in a hospital setting or you’re not.”

However, despite the sudden negativity being thrown at healthcare workers, there are heartwarming moments like this that make it a little easier:

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