TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey’s Supreme Court has granted parole to Sundiata Acoli, an 85-year-old former Black Liberation Army member who was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.
According to the New York Times, the Parole Board had previously ruled against parole for Acoli, who has now served 49 years in prison.
However, on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a 3-2 ruling in favor of parole, concluding that “the board had not proved that Mr. Acoli was likely to commit another crime if released.”
Justice Barry T. Albin wrote in the Syllabus for the ruling:
“We conclude that the board’s finding that there is a substantial likelihood that Acoli will commit a crime if paroled is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record.
“No member of the court disputes that Acoli committed a horrific crime.
“However despised Acoli may be in the eyes of many because of the notoriety of his crime, he too is entitled to the protection of the law — and to the fair and impartial administration of justice.”
New Jersey’s top court granted parole to Sundiata Acoli, an ex-Black Liberation Army member convicted in the 1973 killing of a state trooper, one of the state’s most infamous cases. https://t.co/WctsQ9OEwY
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 10, 2022
Acoli committed his crime of shooting Trooper Foerster on May 2, 1973.
According to Fox News, Acoli was traveling in a vehicle with two other members of the Black Liberation Army, JoAnne Chesimard and James Costan. All three were armed with handguns.
State Trooper James Harper pulled them over for a broken taillight on the New Jersey Turnpike.
When Trooper Foerster arrived at the scene as backup, Acoli had exited the vehicle and was speaking with Harper.
Foerster searched Acoli and discovered a handgun and ammunition. Meanwhile, Chesimard shot Trooper Harper in the shoulder, and a shootout followed between Chesimard, Costan, and Harper.
Acoli next attacked Foerster, attempting to take his service weapon.
Fox reports that Acoli claimed that Harper then shot at him, grazing his head, and he lost consciousness, awakening to find Foerster’s body on the ground. Acoli fled the scene with his fellow Black Panthers.
— Acting AG Matthew J. Platkin (@NewJerseyOAG) May 2, 2019
Foerster, age 34 at his death, left behind a wife and a three-year-old son.
In 1974 Acoli was found guilty of all charges in connection to the shooting of Trooper Harper and the murder of Trooper Foerster. He was given a sentence of life in prison plus twenty-four to thirty years. He was first eligible for parole in 1993 and has been denied each time he met with the Parole Board.
Chesimard was also convicted in the murder of Foerster, but she escaped from prison in 1979. Under the name Assata Shakur, she fled to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum. In 2013, she became the first woman listed for the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorists.
Costan died of wounds sustained in the shootout.
New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy spoke out against the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to parole Acoli.
Referring to a law passed over 20 years after Acoli’s conviction that required life in prison for cop killers, Murphy said:
“I profoundly wish this law had been in place when Acoli was sentenced in 1974.”
“Our men and women in uniform are heroes, and anyone who would take the life of an officer on duty should remain behind bars until the end of their life.”
New Jersey acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin also said he was “disappointed” in the court’s decision, adding in a statement:
“Under New Jersey law today, if an individual murders a law enforcement officer on duty, he is never eligible for parole — a decision that reflects the heinous nature of that crime.
“I will always stand up for the safety and well-being of our law enforcement officers, including the brave Troopers of the New Jersey State Police.”
— Acting AG Matthew J. Platkin (@NewJerseyOAG) May 10, 2022
Civil rights attorney Soffiyah Elijah, who represented Acoli, was, as expected, pleased with the ruling.
Elijah said in a statement:
“Even under the most deferential standard of review, the Board has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that, if released on parole, Acoli will commit a crime.
“Acoli must be released because the statutory standards for granting parole have been met, without regard to extraneous factors like sympathy or passion or public opinion.”
State Supreme Court rules former Black Panther member convicted in 1973 slaying of state trooper can be released on parolehttps://t.co/DYq2ddVowU
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 11, 2022
“We applaud the New Jersey Supreme Court in granting Mr. Acoli’s freedom and correcting the parole board’s improper application of the law by denying his petition for release after serving more than 49 years in prison.
“It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community.”
According to the New York Times, Acoli has dementia and will now be living with his daughter and grandchildren in Brooklyn.
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Oops: Faced with spike in auto thefts, New Jersey reverses course on banning police pursuits of stolen vehicles
Originally published May 3, 2022
MARLBORO, NJ- Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Only months after the state of New Jersey prohibited that state’s police officers from engaging in pursuits, the state has reversed course after a spike in car thefts, according to New Jersey’s acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, NJ.com reported.
Garden State officials said they would also utilize federal coronavirus funds in order to expand license plate technology to assist in tracking down stolen vehicles.
Stolen car complaints have skyrocketed in New Jersey since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, state officials announced as they unveiled the new law enforcement initiatives at a public event in Marlboro.
Officials said auto thefts are up 37% year to year over 2021, when 14,320 vehicles were stolen. The number of auto thefts is up 53% over 2020, Platkin said.
He noted that stolen vehicles do not always occur in a vacuum and are not “isolated incidents, saying that they are “increasingly linked” to shootings.
“This is a serious threat to our state’s safety,” he said, noting that thefts are occurring in both urban and suburban areas.
Last December, the state implemented an overhaul of the state’s use-of-force policy, the first in over twenty years. Under those new guidelines, auto thefts and most drug offenses were prohibited reasons for police to engage in pursuits. In essence, officers were only permitted to pursue vehicles for more serious crimes, such as murder and kidnapping.
At the time, New Jersey officials complained that chases frequently resulted in injuries to officers, third-parties, and pedestrians. However critics complain that change virtually handcuffed police officers and made it easier for criminals to get away with car thefts.
Platkin said state officials heard the concerns of police officers and have agreed to tweak the policy to permit police pursuits in car thefts and the “receiving” of a stolen vehicle.
“These changes will give law enforcement the tools that they need to meet the moment and to protect our communities while also being mindful of the inherent risks that come to officer safety and to the public when officers do engage in police pursuits,” Platkin said.
The reversal is currently only authorized through the end or the year when it will be reevaluated by his office.
At the same time, Gov. Phil Murphy announced New Jersey will use $10 million received from the American Rescue Plan—which was supposed to be used for COVID-19 relief—to help local law enforcement agencies obtain automatic license plate recognition technology (ALPR). Police agencies in the state will need to apply to the state for grant funding.
ALPR technology uses high-speed, automated cameras that capture and store images of license plates across the state in a centralized database, NJ.com said. This will aid police and other law enforcement authorities in tracking down stolen cars and arresting suspects. Such devices are installed at fixed location and on police cruisers.
Law enforcement officials said ALPR technology is already being used in urban areas, however, will now be expanded to the suburbs.
Murphy noted the recent spike in car thefts has “rattled families.”
“Crime does not stop at the municipal boundaries of our cities,” Murphy said. “This investment can mean less officer hours spent chasing leads and more of them spent recovering stolen vehicles and getting car thieves off of our streets.”
One city which has seen an increase in auto thefts is Marlboro, located in Monmouth County.
“The thefts have become more brazen, happening in broad daylight while people are unloading groceries,” Marlboro Mayor Jon Hronik said.
The plan for the new cameras is not without its detractors, as one might expect.
Marleina Ubel, policy analyst at a leftist think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective slammed the idea of using coronavirus funds to implement the license plate technology.
“American Rescue Plan funds were meant to help families and communities harmed most by the pandemic, not to expand police powers,” Ubel said. “Any kind of police access to surveillance technology where they can store that information shouldn’t be done at all, or at least with great discretion, because we know we have a culture of policing in this state that has resulted in New Jersey having the number one black-white disparity in incarceration in the nation.”
Always about race with these leftists.
Platkin dismissed those concerns, promising to “honor the strong privacy protections that have been in place in the state for well over a decade.”
He also reminded those in attendance that the Attorney General’s Office announced a couple of months back that it would spend $125,000 in federal funds to bolster its auto theft task force.
Platkin also cautioned residents to lock their car doors and not to keep key fobs—remotes to automatically unlock car doors—inside their vehicles. He said most thefts happen when such devices are stored inside a car.
“It turns out if you have a new vehicle, your car is really hard to steal—unless you leave the key fob in it,” Platkin said. “Then it’s remarkably easy to steal.”
For more on the failures of police “reform,” we invite you to read our prior reporting:
Defunding the police and cutting the prison population in half are ideas rejected by the vast majority of Americans regardless of demographics.
Democrats are retreating as fast as they can on justice reform. Per Politico and other national publications, they understand that they are going to lose the midterms unless they change their policies.
It seems that I no longer have much sympathy for progressives regarding crime and justice.
I swore that when I began my writings many years ago, I would be a fair and impartial source of information. All I ever wanted to do is to combine multiple sources of data on crime and come to logical conclusions.
Do I dislike progressives? No. I worked for Democrat-progressive government organizations for most of my professional life. But while I supported their desire to be more equitable and to provide second chances for offenders, most remained supportive of law enforcement and understood that there are many who deserve to be in prison. They respected the rights of victims.
Defund Law Enforcement-Cut The Prison Population In Half
Then progressives changed. Their focus became the offender, not the victim or the public’s safety. They gleefully beat up on law enforcement. I predicted a backlash reasserting support for policing back in November. It’s now happening. Even progressive publications are running the stories below.
The defund the police movement may be the dumbest thing to ever leave the mouths of advocates-politicians-media. Yea, a few cops committed incredibly stupid and illegal acts. So stipulated. We in the justice system need to own this. We need to improve.
But the result was the universal condemnation of a million cops and civilians based on the actions of a few, the theoretical basis for any form of racism, sexism, or any other “ism.” This resulted in thousands of officers leaving and the end of proactive policing, the only modality with an exhaustive research base indicating that it reduces violence and crime.
The second annoyance was candidate Biden’s pledge to cut the prison population in half.
“Would you commit to cutting incarceration by 50%?” Albert asks Biden. “More than that. We can do it more than that,” he responds.
Last month in Concord, New Hampshire, another self-identified ACLU voter asked if Biden would “commit to cutting the prison population overall, and specifically the federal prison population, in half” — a slightly different wording. Biden responded at length about criminal justice policy before telling the woman that he would not commit to reducing the prison population by any percentage target, BuzzFeed.
It’s interesting that per an ACLU article, “This week, Joe Biden also agreed, telling an ACLU volunteer that he would, in fact, commit to reducing incarceration in half and that he’s put together a plan that will go further than 50 percent.”
This quote came after his assertion that he would not commit to a percentage cut. Thus, after taking time to think it over, candidate Biden is still committed to a 50 percent (or more) cut in the prison population, ACLU.
But Wait, There More
As I started to write that progressives were horribly wrong and that all this would lead to exploding violence and fear and literally the destruction of struggling areas and people, I began to get more pushback.
When I used federal data to document the increase in violence, I got this comment, “Leonard, why don’t you just admit that you’re a racist,” per a commentator in the Reddit criminology forum. Cowardly moderators said nothing.
There are still publications and organizations denying the increase in violence and fear. They are like climate deniers.
“There’s a ton of evidence-based data presented by the federal government supporting progressive initiatives” per a LinkedIn Ph.D. critic. The writer had to be schooled that “evidence-based” doesn’t mean successful and that you had to rely on multiple studies (meta-analysis or literature reviews) for an indication as to what works.
For example, one of the most successful criminal rehabilitation modalities is cognitive-behavioral therapy which reduces recidivism by approximately 20 percent, which means that 80 percent fail, which seems cruel to me. But most rehabilitation programs don’t work per the National Institute of Justice (same link). Inmate and parole and probation recidivism is astoundingly high.
I went to a meeting with ACLU officials who stated that crime victims had no right to interfere with policy discussions.
Finally, the attacks on cops were way beyond proportional. If proactive policing is the only modality we have that has multiple supportive studies showing that it reduces crime, belittling all cops to the point where we have lost thousands seemed foolish. I started to wonder about the sanity of today’s progressives. The only effort that indicates reductions in crime are proactive police strategies via the US Department of Justice and the National Academies of Sciences.
I began to understand that “my” progressives had morphed into people inflicting great harm on minorities, the poor, the disenfranchised, and many others impacted by rapidly growing violence. Ideology, not data, guide their public statements.
Politico (all cited publications offer selected-rearranged quotes)
President Joe Biden is proclaiming that it’s time to “fund the police” and pouring more money into law enforcement in his budget plan. Democratic mayors in deep-blue cities are promising to hire hundreds more cops. Even in liberal bastions like Los Angeles, candidates are sprinting to claim the tough-on-crime mantle.
If 2020 was the year progressives reordered the traditional politics of crime and policing, 2022 looks like the year centrists are regaining their footing and nullifying those gains.
“As dumb as we are, we do listen to the base. The base has been giving it to us left and right: ‘What do you mean, cutting police?’” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who served two terms as Philadelphia mayor. “Go into North Philadelphia, where 99 percent of the people are African American, and ask them what they think of defunding the police. You wouldn’t find 10 people who are in favor.”
In an NBC News poll last month, fully 73 percent of voters said they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports defunding the police, while Democrats’ House campaign arm, raising alarms about the “defund” label in its own research earlier this year, urged Democrats to reiterate their support for police.
From USA Today; Is California, one of the bluest states in the US, at a turning point over crime and homelessness? California residents have signaled they feel frustrated and unsafe and are in need of change after seeing both crime and homelessness appear to rise in the state.
In an interview with ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos, the mayor said former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was ‘right’ when he said on the Bloomberg Businessweek podcast last week that progressive policies have led to an increase in crime in Democrat-run cities.
What have I learned after writing hundreds of articles? People don’t care about data; it’s all about what they believe and whether it supports or offends their politics. You could say that 2+2=4 but if it doesn’t adhere to their personal beliefs, you will be blasted.
Progressive Democrats may take a beating during the mid-term elections. It’s possible that they will lose the House and Senate. President Biden is backing off police and justice reforms like victims running from a mass shooting.
While I remain uncomfortable with hugely partisan politics, people need to understand the harm being done to struggling communities.
I’m a pragmatist, give me ten minutes and I’ll p___ off every extremist in the country. It shouldn’t be a matter of personal beliefs, we should be relying on data to guide us (the vast majority of which doesn’t support progressive views).
Everything should be on the table for discussion as long as proposals are evaluated by independent, nonpartisan researchers (if there are any left).
I’ve been blasted by conservatives for supporting social workers taking nonviolent mental health 911 calls or for being open to the possibility of violence interrupters. I’ve been bullied by progressives for everything and anything that doesn’t fit their agenda.
We have to come to grips with the complexity of crime and criminals. Simple slogans saying that we have to cut the prison population in half ignores the best available evidence from the US Department of Justice and the US Sentencing Commission that the great majority will commit more crimes and most will return to prison. Released inmates hurt a lot of people.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t support rehabilitation programs. I do based on humanitarian or religious grounds. But it’s simply unethical to firmly state that they reduce recidivism; that’s lying to the American public based on the best available data.
And denying the failure of rehabilitation programs hurts our effort to figure out why they don’t work. If this was a medical initiative, the AMA or the NIH would shut it down in a heartbeat. We are hurting the very people we are trying to assist.
Yes, there are thousands of former inmates who have done well, and several continue to be my friends. I interviewed many for radio and television shows. But when I suggested that the overwhelming number of them will be arrested and incarcerated once again, they state that recidivists have daemons they can’t control.
Violence Interrupters “may” be a worthy idea (three have been murdered in Baltimore-multiple others have been assaulted) but if street smart parole and probation agents can’t break the cycle of violence, what makes us believe that former offenders can?
There are endless ideas that seem personally intuitive that turn out wrong (i.e., boot camps for young offenders).
Everyone needs to be open to the ideas of others as long as they are backed by independent research. “Evidence-based” concepts are fine as long as we acknowledge that it doesn’t mean that initiatives work, or work well.
Pragmatism means being open to all data-backed solutions. This shouldn’t be about politics. Yet publish anything based on the best available research that disagrees with agendas and be prepared to be endlessly criticized.
But for the moment, progressive Democrats are now running as hard as they can from reforms. Based on the data, it was inevitable.
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