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Facebook Photo of Judge Holding Beverage Is Not Proof of DWI Release Violation, Judge Says

Photographs posted on Facebook showing a judge holding a beverage at a Thanksgiving gathering don’t prove that she violated post-release terms of her earlier drunken-driving conviction, a court has ruled[1]. While noting the post had caused controversy in Rochester, where City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has been suspended since her 2016 conviction for driving while intoxicated, Judge Stephen Aronson ruled that the photos are not legal proof that Astacio actually was drinking alcohol.

“There was no evidence that the defendant was drinking alcoholic beverage, i.e., no witnesses to describe what was contained in the defendant’s cups in the photographs and, more importantly, no witnesses that observed the defendant drinking alcoholic beverages,” said Aronson, an acting Rochester City Court judge. Two witnesses at the Thanksgiving get-together testified in a “credible manner” that Astacio was not drinking alcohol at the gathering, Aronson wrote Monday in People v. Astacio, CR 16-02496.

“It is a fundamental right for a judge or jury to decide a case only after hearing and deliberating upon all of the evidence presented,” he said. “This is a basic principle that our family members and friends in the armed services have fought and died on foreign soil to preserve.”

Astacio’s sister and her boyfriend, who posted the photos, testified that Astacio was participating in a drinking game with family members, but was herself consuming only water. Aronson also wrote that the evidence presented before him during a trial earlier this month was insufficient to sustain a finding that Astacio was intoxicated during a night out with friends at a mall restaurant in the Rochester suburb of Henrietta, also in November 2016. While Aronson said a security guard testified that the judge “needed support for balance,” he noted that the guard did not smell alcohol on Astacio nor observe her buy or drink liquor during a two-to-three-hour stay at the restaurant.

Aronson also found that oversight of the terms of Astacio’s one-year conditional release were transferred illegally from Monroe County, where she was convicted, to neighboring Ontario County. He said state Vehicle and Traffic Law provides for no interjurisdictional transfer of responsibility for monitoring ignition interlock devices and ordered the matter back to Monroe County officials. Aronson’s ruling restored Astacio’s driver’s license under the 2016 post-release terms. Astacio continues to be barred from the bench, though she continues to receive a $173,700 annual salary. She was elected city court judge in 2015.

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is continuing to investigate Astacio. Though the commission does not comment on open investigations, Astacio herself acknowledged that she had been interviewed by commission personnel for the panel’s inquiry. She is being represented by Edward Fiandach, partner at Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. Fiandach said Tuesday that Aronson was “absolutely right” in finding that the legal proof was insufficient to show that Astacio was drinking at the Thanksgiving gathering or that Ontario County officials had jurisdiction to monitor the ignition interlock device in the judge’s car.

References

  1. ^ a court has ruled (nycourts.gov)

Nova Scotia Course Teaches Retail Workers How To Not Be Racist

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Nova Scotia Course Teaches Retail Workers How To Not Be Racist

HALIFAX More than a decade after racial profiling was identified as a festering problem among some police forces, it is now being addressed in another sector: retailing. After years of complaints about retail staff who routinely follow, search, ignore, insult and provide poor service to visible minorities, one province has decided to do something about it in a big way. On Monday, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission launched a free, online training program aimed at preventing a problem that has sparked a growing chorus of complaints across the country.

The 20-minute interactive course for front-line service staff described as the first of its kind in Canada has already attracted attention from businesses in other provinces and the United States, and plans are in the works to roll out a national campaign.

Nova Scotia Course Teaches Retail Workers How To Not Be Racist
Lennett Anderson, senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, speaks as Justice Minister Diana Whalen, and Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, look on in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday.

“As a proud African Nova Scotian and seventh-generation Canadian … I am acutely aware of the problems associated with navigating race relations in our society,” Rev. Lennett Anderson of the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia told a news conference at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

“The need for a campaign such as this is a desperate one … It is worthy of our celebration.”

The retail sector is Canada’s largest employer, with over two million people working in an industry that generated $59 billion in payroll in 2015.

“The need for a campaign such as this is a desperate one … ”
Rev. Lennett Anderson

Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, said the need for such a training program was reinforced in 2013 when the commission released a groundbreaking report that concluded aboriginal people and African Canadians more often reported being treated poorly by retail staff than did any other group.

“In fact, people from all racialized groups, including Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern people, reported being treated poorly by staff far more than did white people,” the report said. “In the focus groups, several participants commented on being made to feel ‘lower class’ or like ‘second-class citizens’ when shopping.”

Nova Scotia Course Teaches Retail Workers How To Not Be Racist
Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, announces an online training course dealing with consumer racial profiling to educate retail businesses, in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday.

The report went on to say that aboriginal people, African Canadians, and Muslims were all targets of offensive language and were treated as if they were physically threatening and potential thieves.

“A person who is a member of a visible minority group is three times more likely to be followed in a store, and four times more likely to be searched,” Hanson said. The online program, called “Serving All Customers Better[1],” includes a quiz about immigration and visible minorities. It also cites statistics from the 2013 report and clearly spells out what the law says. The course also cites some examples, at one point quoting a worker who said: “I worked for a retailer who said, ‘The eagle has landed,’ when a black person walked into the store. I quit my job over it.”

Examples of consumer racial profiling continue to make headlines across the country.

In October 2015, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario agreed with a woman who said she faced discrimination as a black person when she was confronted by a Shoppers Drug Mart employee who demanded to search her backpack on suspicion of shoplifting. The tribunal ordered the store to pay Mary McCarthy $8,000. And in February 2015, Calgary university student Jean Ventose said he was racially profiled when he was followed by a security guard inside a local Walmart, apparently for no reason. He posted a video on the encounter on Facebook, which received more than one million views and 10,000 reactions in two days. In August 2016, one of Canada’s largest grocery chains withdrew its appeal of a human rights decision that found an employee of Sobeys had discriminated against a black customer in May 2009 after falsely accusing her of being a repeat shoplifter.

Sobeys said it reached a settlement with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and would apologize to Andrella David, pay her $21,000 in compensation, and develop a staff training program on racial profiling. The company faced a boycott by a group of 19 churches in the province. As well, Nova Scotia’s first black lieutenant-governor, Mayann Francis, came forward to reveal that she, too, had been the victim of repeated racial profiling while shopping. At the time, Francis said Nova Scotia was in a state of denial when it came to racial profiling, saying she had often been the victim of “shopping while black” since she left her viceregal post in 2012.

“It does not matter how successful you are, it still can happen to you,” said Francis, who had previously served as CEO of the province’s human rights commission.

Nova Scotia Course Teaches Retail Workers How To Not Be Racist
Former lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, Mayann Francis, says she has experienced racial profiling while shopping.

“It’s just so wrong and so hurtful and I know how I feel when I’m followed in the stores … They’re stalking you.”

Earlier in the year, the Hudson’s Bay Company agreed to educate its staff about racial profiling as part of a settlement in the case of a now-deceased Nova Scotia grandmother allegedly accused of shoplifting a rug from a Zellers outlet in 2008.

“It’s just so wrong and so hurtful and I know how I feel when I’m followed in the stores … They’re stalking you.”
Mayann Francis, First black lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia

Anderson, the pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hammonds Plains, N.S., said the new online course in Nova Scotia marks a big step forward for visible minorities.

“Today, we are engaging in a courageous conversation,” he said. “We have decided that it’s time to confront major issues in our society … Race is not a card we play, it’s a life we live … This campaign is not about behaviour modification, it’s about a societal transformation.”

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References

  1. ^ Serving All Customers Better (www.servingall.ca)

Man injured in Shoppers Drug Mart accused of punching loss-prevention officer, stealing $2 pop

A man who was injured in an interaction with a loss prevention officer at Shoppers Drug Mart at York University allegedly stole a $2 bottle of pop, Toronto police say. The man, 25, has been charged with assault, assault with intent to resist arrest, possession of property obtained by crime, and theft under $5,000 in the incident on Friday. He appeared in court on Saturday and is due back in court on May 2nd. Const. Victor Kwong, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said the man who was charged allegedly punched the loss prevention officer in the face and allegedly had his hands around the officer’s throat.

According to Shoppers Drug Mart, the loss prevention officer is on leave due to injuries sustained in the incident.

Man Injured In Shoppers Drug Mart Accused Of Punching Loss-prevention Officer, Stealing  Pop

Shoppers Drug Mart said in a weekend statement that it plans to conduct a ‘thorough investigation.’ (CBC)

In a video posted to the York United Black Students’ Alliance’s Facebook page, the accused man is lying on the ground outside of the store’s entrance, with his leg twisted at an unnatural angle. He screams in pain as onlookers and security guards hover nearby.

“Help me!” the man yells repeatedly.

“Yes, an ambulance is on the way,” someone can be heard saying in the video.

“I walked in and I saw him being tackled, man,” a person can be heard saying off camera. Kwong says the loss prevention officer has not been charged with assault and that he is waiting to hear back from investigators as to why no charge has been laid.

“Right now, there are no charges even pending,” Kwong said.

The injured man was taken to hospital with a twisted ankle, treated and released, police confirmed Sunday.

Man Injured In Shoppers Drug Mart Accused Of Punching Loss-prevention Officer, Stealing  Pop

A security guard takes notes after an alleged shoplifter was injured in an interaction with a loss prevention officer at Shoppers Drug Mart at York University. (Facebook)

For its part, Shoppers Drug Mart says it plans to conduct a “thorough investigation.”

In an email, Tammy Smitham, Shoppers Drug Mart vice-president of external communication, said the company’s stores often employ third-party loss prevention officers to help deter and identify theft.

“We never encourage physical interaction between loss prevention representatives and individuals in our stores,” she said.

Boycott Shoppers, students say

“Shoppers Drug Mart is committed to diversity and to being inclusive, equitable and accessible in our interactions with each other and with customers,” she said. Licensed private security guards are regulated under Ontario’s Private Security and Investigative Services Act (2005), which includes a Code of Conduct. Under that code, licensed private security guards must “refrain from exercising unnecessary force” and “refrain from behaviour that is either prohibited or not authorized by law.”

A formal complaints process is available through the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

“Should an individual believe licensed security personnel or companies have contravened the Private Security and Investigative Services Act or any of its regulations, the ministry may review and investigate the complaint and take appropriate action, as necessary,” spokesperson Brent Ross said.

Ross would not comment further, saying the case is before the courts.

Meanwhile, the York United Black Students’ Alliance is calling on York University community members to boycott Shoppers Drug Mart.

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