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  • Felony Charge for Cutting in Line While Black in Missouri

    http://mediastudy.com/articles/pp9-1-09.html



    By Michael I. Niman, Progressive Populist 9/1/09
    Missouri prosecutor's response follows article below

    Subsequent CNN, Fox and CBS follow up coverage links. Additional floow up stories linked below.

    In a perfect world, Heather Ellis would seem like a source of pride for her hometown of Kennett, Mo. As a high school honor student she earned a position on the National Honor Roll and was recognized as a National Achievement Scholar while rounding out her American heartland persona as a cheerleader, a member of the Volleyball and Track teams, the Drama Club, the Spanish Club and her high school band. After graduating high school, she left Kennett, continuing her education at Maryville College and Xavier University, where she was recognized for her leadership abilities.

    The problem is that this isn’t a perfect world — and some folks in Kennett, Mo., apparently didn’t appreciate the return from college of a dignified young black woman with a sense of social justice and an expectation to be treated with dignity and respect. While on leave from college in January 2007, Heather Ellis went shopping with her cousin at the local Kennett Wal-Mart. She left in handcuffs, allegedly bleeding, after, according to prosecutors, cutting to the front of the checkout line and disturbing the peace of two white Wal-Mart employees. Now, more than two years later, she’s facing trial on multiple felony counts stemming from that fateful January evening — and the Ku Klux Klan has come to town.

    Understanding the Boot Heel
    To put this odd prosecution into context, we need to look at Kennett, located in rural Dunklin County, four miles from the Arkansas border in Missouri’s “Boot Heel Region.” Kennett’s official government website boasts a six paragraph “city history,” devoting one of those paragraphs to the county’s 1862 defection to the Confederacy. Dunklin County is adamantly conservative, with Republicans handing Mike Huckabee an almost three-to-one victory over John McCain.

    Today Dunklin County is 89% white and 9% black. Sticking with Missouri’s history of never repealing its laws banning marriages between white folks and Asians or blacks, 88% of Dunklin County’s voters recently voted for new marriage restrictions, this time aimed at gays.

    This is the Dunklin County Heather Ellis returned to from Xavier University for winter break. It was near closing time when Ellis and her cousin David got on line to check out at the Kennett Wal Mart. There were two checkout lanes open. Ellis got on one line, David on the other. When David’s line moved quicker, Ellis claims she moved over and joined him. The Kennett Police Department’s arrest report states that Ellis “broke in line” and “walked to the front of the line, to the cash register attendant, apparently because she did not want to wait in line.”

    Demanding to be Rung Out With Dignity
    At least two white customers reportedly objected to Ellis joining David on line. One, according to Ellis, pushed and verbally accosted her. An off-duty Kennett Police officer working as a Wal Mart security guard came over to the line. Ellis claims she told the cashier to go ahead and ring the upset customer out ahead of her. By Ellis’s account however, the cashier, after ringing the upset customer out, refused to ring Ellis out, instead proceeding to ring other customers out. The Wal Mart shift manager walked over and told Ellis to leave the store. By all accounts she refused to leave and demanded to be rung out like the other customers, hence she was charged with trespassing. Ellis subsequently wrote, “I felt like I was part of the civil rights movement — I thought I had traveled in a time capsule and was living in Mississippi in the 1960s.” The guard radioed his fellow police officers. David telephoned his mother. Police and relatives were now en-route to the stand-off.

    The police arrived and Ellis was allowed to pay for her goods. According to Ellis, however, the cashier refused to give her the change she was due. The arresting officer claims that the Wal Mart shift manager demanded Ellis be removed from the store, but that Ellis told him, “I’m not going nowhere until I get my f***ing change back.” Ellis denies the language the arrest report attributes to her, but both she and the police are in agreement that Wal-Mart was withholding her change, with the arresting officer adding, “So I stood by while the cashier attendant handed the belligerent female her change.” “Belligerent” being the core of the “peace disturbance” charge.

    In her statement, Ellis wrote that she was hopeful the officers would give her “a little support” with her demand for her change. She added that “they didn’t provide any,” which is corroborated by the arresting officer’s statement that he “stood by” while Ellis was apparently being provoked by the Wal-Mart cashier, with her manager at her side.

    Talking Back to the Law
    Once outside of the store, according to Ellis’s subsequent complaint, five Kennett police officers proceeded to torment her with racist and misogynist slurs as she and David walked to their car. Ellis claims that while still walking to her car, she suggested to the police that they instead harass “drug dealers and crack heads,” rather than “taxpaying citizens.” The police report claims she refused repeated requests to “calm down” and was “not receptive to these simple requests.” As her aunt arrived by car, the officers arrested Ellis — quite violently, by her account, lifting her off the ground and tossing her into a police car as her aunt helplessly stood by and watched while herself allegedly being threatened with arrest. Heather’s mother arrived at the police station in time to witness what she describes as her daughter being pulled out of the car by her hair and slammed against a wall. Ellis was charged with resisting arrest and two felony counts of assaulting subsequently uninjured law enforcement officers. That was in January 2007.

    The Dunklin County prosecutor dismissed charges against Ellis in early December of 2007. At this point the family thought their legal nightmare was over. One month later, shortly after New Year’s Day of 2008, however, the prosecutor re-filed charges and issued an arrest warrant and extradition order to take Ellis in as a wanted felon. At press time, Ellis is still facing a zealous prosecution and up to 15 years in a Missouri prison. Friends and relatives, such as her 83-year-old grandmother, claim that they’ve received harassing visits from representatives of the Dunklin County Prosecutor’s Office fishing for dirt on Ellis. The white Wal-Mart customer Ellis accuses of pushing her was never charged. Other white customers and Wal-Mart employees are listed in police reports as the victims of Ellis’s “peace disturbance.”

    Ellis and her supporting witnesses claim that she was racially targeted by Kennett Police officers who repeatedly called her a “******” and a “bitch” both before and during her arrest. Her narrative also indicates that three Wal-Mart employees apparently mistreated and baited her based on the fact that she was black. Ellis and her cousin David were the only black folks present, with all the Wal-Mart workers and customers, as well as the five Kennett police officers, being white. Ellis’s supporters argue that the zealous two-and-a-half-year prosecution of the case, accusing her of two felony assaults despite the lack of a single injured victim, is also racially motivated. They support their claim with a litany of what they argue are similar racially motivated prosecutions conducted by the Dunklin County prosecutor’s office over the last two decades, which they contrast with weak prosecution and light sentencing of violent white criminals during the same time period.


    The Klan Wears Blue?
    In June 2009, the local NAACP chapter organized a rally to protest what they argue is racist police violence directed against Heather Ellis. According to Jesse Bonner, president of the NAACP chapter, “Kennett is still set in the old ways and racism is still strong down here.” According to Bonner, the situation “is mind boggling,” with the black community in Kennett feeling as if they were “back in the 1960s in the middle of the civil rights struggle.”

    The depth of the struggle ahead of Kennett’s black residents was driven home, according to Bonner, during the rally when a Kennett police officer handed a rally organizer a Ku Klux Klan business card, then echoed the text of the card by telling her she just received a “social visit” from the KKK and warning her that the next visit would not be social. According to the local newspaper, The Dunklin Democrat, Kennett police were just making organizers aware that such cards had been scattered around downtown and that they were actively removing them from the streets. In essence, the official line has the police investigating Klan activity by turning over their evidence to organizers of a protest against alleged racist police misconduct. Interestingly, there are no current allegations of any Klan activity in the area that doesn’t involve the Kennett Police Department.

    Bonner summed up the situation in Kennett, calling it “intolerable” and describing an alarming “tension in the air.” Like Ellis, Bonner had spent considerable time away from what he describes as a racist climate in Kennett, having served nine years in the military. And like Ellis, he became accustomed to being treated with a dignity that he claims black folks in Kennett often don’t experience. His response was to become active with the NAACP and the civil rights movement, which he argues, is still in the midst of a struggle — at least in Kennett. Ellis’s response appears to be the simple demand to receive her change at Wal-Mart.

    After the rally, Bonner and the NAACP ignored the supposed KKK warning and joined Ellis’s family and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in calling for an FBI investigation into the Kennett Police Department and the Dunklin County Prosecutor’s office. The American Civil Liberties Union has also become involved, at this point observing the situation, lending support to the Ellis family and contacting the US Justice Department Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney’s Office formally requesting investigations.

    Wal-Mart officials have so far refused to comment on the case or clarify their role in the prosecution of Heather Ellis. They won’t answer questions about the actions of their employees in the events leading up to Ellis’s arrest or whether or not they have conducted an investigation into allegations of possible racial bias at their Kennett store. At press time, the Dunklin County Prosecutor is still pursuing felony charges against Ellis. With the charges pending, a school district that offered Ellis a position as a teacher and track coach, withdrew its offer.

    Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism at Buffalo State College in New York. He writes for ArtVoice (Buffalo’s weekly), Coldtype (Canada) and The Humanist. See mediastudy.com.
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Response from Dunklin County Missouri Prosecutor Stephen P. Sokoloff
    Received via email on 9/19/09
    Dr. Niman;

    After reading your "article" on Heather Ellis' case pending here in Dunklin County, my first response was to look gfor the editorial heading over it. When I didn't see any, my next question was what fine journalism school did thes reporter attend. When I saw that you, rather than attending a J-school, actually taught at one, I was somewhat amazed. I cannot really visualize your article being ne that you would hold up to your class as an example of well researched, fair reporting. It is clear that you wrote this article after getting one highly biased account of the matter. Had you performed any actual background research, you would discover that Ms. Ellis was not cursed by any employees, but in fact was the one doing the cursing and insulting and threatening. when the store personnel advised her that she would have to calm down or leave, she continued to threaten and curse tham. even after the police arrived, no one made any attempt to lay hands on her, still requesting that she leave. she actuallywalked away as the clerk was trying to give her the merchandise and her change. She was notrefusing to leave without it. the clerk had to come outside and give it to her. Ms. Ellis can be very clearly seen in the video shoving the merchandise of the next customer in line back from the register and trying to place her own in fromt of it. The video anso clearly shows her cursing at the officers as they followed her out of the store, it also clearly shows that ther was no excessive force used in the arrest and that Ms. Ellis was not lifted off the ground. Further despite your report that ther were no injured victims, one officer sustained a split lip from a punch thrown by the "innocent" Ms. Ellis and another a bruised shin where she kicked him. Furhter, the E.R. records of Ms. Ellis' visit show no visible injuries, but I'm sure they are also part of the conspiracy against her as well

    With regard to yoyr report of the rally, Ther were indeed some KKK cards strewn around one of the streets of the planned march, the police gathered them up and Maj S. Williams showed one of them to one of the march organizers, Ms. Ellis' aunt. This waas done as an attempt to keep them advised of what had happened. She (the aunt) grabbed the card and accused the Major of distributing the cards, with no basis.

    You might want to talk to any of the three attorneys that Ms. Ellis has fired, or who withdrew from representation because of threats from her family. They can tell you what a poor persecuted little girl Heahter is, and can tell you about the multiple missed court appearances, and the accusations of being in the prosecution's pocket( this last one made to an african-American lawyer from St. Louis, referred to Ms. Elleis by the NAACP) who withdrew because Heather's father threatened to"kick his ***" because he would not prevent the prosecution from finding out who the witnesses were that the defense intended to call at trial. (of course, this is required by law).
    So in closing, Dr. Niman, I would be interested to hear how you explainyour article as journalism, and what you think your journalism students would think about its disregard for objective facts and its reliance on biased and purposefully misleading statements and outright lies.


    Very truly yours,

    Stephen P. Sokoloff
    Prosecuting Attorney
    Dunklin County, Missouri

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    http://theheatherelliscase.files.wor...rallyflyer.jpg


    journey for justice the heatherellis case

    Date: november 16, 2009
    location: kennett, mo
    what to wear: black tshirt
    COST: $35 includes tshirt too and from Memphis Tn


    Heather Ellis, Walmart and the KKK
    We at the Your Black World Coalition wish to show support for Heather Ellis, a young college student who faces 15 years in prison for cutting line at a Walmart store in Kennett, MO. Heather joined her cousin in line (as many of us have done) and was accused of cutting in front of the other customers. This led to an argument in which the security guard and local police were called. Heather was arrested and charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace, and two felony counts of assaulting a police officer. These charges have delayed her education and cost her potential employment opportunities.

    When Heather refused to sign a plea deal (she insists upon her innocence), prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff chose to prosecute Heather for the original felony counts. If convicted, she can face up to 15 years in prison.

    When Heather protested her trial publicly, she was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. From reports we've received from this region of the country (Rush Limbaugh was born roughly 100 miles away), the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system is abominable. We feel this is wrong and want to do something about it.

    If you believe in fighting this case, please sign our petition below. We are going to forward these signatures to United States Attorney General Eric Holder, Missouri State Attorney General Chris Koster, CNN, and any other outlet that can help us to achieve justice for Heather. More importantly, we want to utilize this horrific situation as an opportunity to ask deeper questions about the justice system in general. Heather's case is not the end of the battle: it is just the beginning.




    Oh WOW! This proves we are all racists here........

    From reports we've received from this region of the country (Rush Limbaugh was born roughly 100 miles away),

    http://theheatherelliscase.com/

    -----------------------------------------
    So stupid its almost funny

  • #2
    Sorry for the length everyone

    Comment


    • #3
      Date: november 16, 2009
      location: kennett, mo
      what to wear: black tshirt
      COST: $35 includes tshirt too and from Memphis Tn


      What? you see the future !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Last edited by Steelers5; 11-10-2009, 03:59 AM.
      Originally posted by Michigan
      I won't say anything mean to you because you're obviously retarded. I don't know if you will understand or comprehend what everyone is saying to you, so put it this way: The internet is bad, bad place. No go, no go. Computer bad, no login. Stay home, eat sour patch kids- yum yum. No talk to no one. Stay home. Internet is bad, stay away. Bye, bye.

      Comment


      • #4
        http://www.topix.net/forum/city/kennett-mo for comments

        Comment


        • #5
          No........
          Originally posted by Michigan
          I won't say anything mean to you because you're obviously retarded. I don't know if you will understand or comprehend what everyone is saying to you, so put it this way: The internet is bad, bad place. No go, no go. Computer bad, no login. Stay home, eat sour patch kids- yum yum. No talk to no one. Stay home. Internet is bad, stay away. Bye, bye.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Steelers5 View Post
            Date: november 16, 2009
            location: kennett, mo
            what to wear: black tshirt
            COST: $35 includes tshirt too and from Memphis Tn


            What? you see the future !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            On the website link, they got to make money somehow lol

            Comment


            • #7
              Please explain what race has to do with this, I don't get it. How were laws arbitrarily enforced based on race?

              The voters aimed restrictions on gays this time? LOL (I really did LOL).

              Comment


              • #8
                OP, your story is idiotic. Every time some ignorant person acts like a fool and gets arrested, they like to blame racism.

                The incident started with her cutting in line. The police did not arrest her for that.

                The police affidavit contends, at numerous times, Ellis became belligerent, loud, abusive and cursing when she was told to leave by the store's assistant manager
                So the store manager asked her to leave and rather than just leave peacefully she starts acting like a fool. The store has every right to refuse service and ask any customer to leave.

                Ellis was charged with disturbing the peace, trespassing, resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer.
                The store manager who had a loud and ignorant woman yelling, cussing, and acting like a fool inside the store, rightfully called the police to have her removed for trespassing. If she would have just left, she could have avoided it, but then when the police came, she resisted arrest, and assaulted one of the cops.

                Now I have seen multiple situations just like the one described above. I worked at a wal-mart for 7 years, and you often saw people doing just what this lady did.

                The fact that she was black is 100% irrelevant.

                Once the video is shown in the courtroom (that's right, wal-mart video tapes everything), she will look like the idiot that she is.

                BTW, OP, I am black myself, and she is just one of those people who scream racism just in a feeble attempt to justify stupid actions.

                She won't get 15 years, she will probably get probation.
                What is Perseverance?
                -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
                -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
                -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


                BOP - BPA - ICE

                Comment


                • #9
                  Blacks in general have a huge chip on their shoulders against whites. I did read the story. She was looking for a problem and found it. You'd think a highly educated lady would know not to cut in line.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TheKansan View Post
                    I am black myself.
                    If I were you.....I would never step foot in that part of the State... And I am White.....

                    There is some strange crap down there....very strange. I know some Troopers that are fighting to get the hell out of there......because the locals don't care for black folks.......

                    Just sayin'....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bearcat357 View Post
                      If I were you.....I would never step foot in that part of the State... And I am White.....

                      There is some strange crap down there....very strange. I know some Troopers that are fighting to get the hell out of there......because the locals don't care for black folks.......

                      Just sayin'....
                      Try walking in downtown Detroit or Philly, being white.

                      Just saying...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Seahawks398 View Post
                        Blacks in general have a huge chip on their shoulders against whites. I did read the story. She was looking for a problem and found it. You'd think a highly educated lady would know not to cut in line.
                        Yeah...that's the dumbest thing I've heard all day. Because the media plays up Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson's rants or because some Black people you've seen cry racism...don't lump us all into one category or assume "most" of us behave or act a certain way...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Seahawks398 View Post
                          Try walking in downtown Detroit or Philly, being white.

                          Just saying...
                          I have White friends who live in Philly (good and seedy parts) and have had no problems. Also, isn't Eminem, the most popular and best selling rapper out of Detroit, white?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bearcat357 View Post
                            If I were you.....I would never step foot in that part of the State... And I am White.....

                            There is some strange crap down there....very strange. I know some Troopers that are fighting to get the hell out of there......because the locals don't care for black folks.......

                            Just sayin'....
                            No kidding! I went to a military school in Woodstock, VA and being of color I had my share of fights with the locals and subjected to slurs. There was a barber shop in town that refused to cut non-whites. This was the mid 90's.
                            Hell growing up in NYC in an Italian neighborhood during the first Gulf War taught me quickly on how to fight.

                            SEAHAWK--I'm not sure where you have visited but any outsider walking around in major cites in bad areas are subjected to the locals.Its the "not from around here" body language that sparks the interested, not the color. But of course you live in the heaviest concentration of White Supremacists I-5.

                            TGY
                            Disclaimer: The writer does not represent any organization, employer, entity or other individual. The views expressed are those only of the writer. In the case of a sarcastic, facetious, nonsensical, stirring-the-pot, controversial or devil's advocate-type post, the views expressed may not even reflect those of the writer [This sig stolen from Brickcop who stole it from Frank Booth].

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Seahawks398 View Post
                              Try walking in downtown Detroit or Philly, being white.

                              Just saying...
                              Been there/done that slick..... Including SE DC.....

                              The rednecks down there will lynch folks that they don't like.... Once again..... Been there/Done that.....

                              Comment

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