Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Cleveland Schools Student Maliciously Prosecuted For Protesting Teacher Layoffs Rejects Judge Keough's Probation In Lieu Of Trial Offer

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Ann Keough

Tina Bronaugh (lt.) and her daughter, Destini Bronaugh

From the Metro Desk of theDeterminerWeekly.Com and the
Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog and Media Network

Former Collinwood High School student Destini Bronaugh, who graduated this summer and is awaiting trial before Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Ann Keough on misdemeanor charges or resisting arrest and obstruction of official business, rejected the judge's offer of probation in lieu of trial offer at a pretrial yesterday. Had Bronaugh agreed to the plea deal and sucessfully completed the proposed selective intervention program all charges would have subsequently been dropped, though any such agreement is in essence an admission of wrongdoing, comnnunity activists that attended the pretrial said.

The celebrated case stems from an arrest at the school on May 13 in what community activists say is retaliation for Bronaugh's participation in a student organized protest in May around school closings and the projected layoffs of hundreds of Cleveland's public school teachers. Many were recalled before school started in August in compliance with the recently renegotiated collective bargaining agreement between the Cleveland Teachers Union and the Cleveland Board of Education.

"I do not want the offer," said Bronaugh, 20, after Keough stressed that she was giving the girl a good deal, though the judge's presence in the case is a conflict since the charges were brought by Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi on behalf of the City of Cleveland and he is a former judge in the Cleveland Municipal Court and Keough's lawyer as late as last year in unrelated proceedings before the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.

Those proceedings allege that Triozzi brought charges for the city against a Black female defendant in another case and handpicked Keough to harass the woman in exchange for an endorsement for a seat on the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Triozzi's boss.

"I will be gone," Keough told the Bronaugh family and their supporters at the pretrial, referencing her successful election in November to the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals, a six-year term that commences Jan 3, though she could have easily recused herself from the controversial case, given her relationships with
both Triozzi and Jackson.

"We urge the new attorneys for Destini to file an affidavit of prejudice against Judge Keough for subsequent determination by Cuyahoa County Common Pleas Presiding Judge Nancy Fuerst on the grounds that Triozzi is Keough's lawyer," said Kathy Wray Coleman, a community activist and Cleveland area journalist. "The affidavit seeking her removal from the case is also necessary because Mr. Triozzi brought the charges against Destini for the city instead of the chief prosecutor, and allegedly that she was handpicked, according to the case docket, as opposed to the random draw process that Cleveland Municipal Court Administrative and Presiding Judge Ron Adrine is responsible for ensuring."

Though Keough heads to the appellate bench next year she could face discipline by the Ohio Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel for harassing Coleman in a malicious prosecution also brought by Triozzi for the city, allegedly for her activism, and more than 37 articles in the Cleveland Call and Post Newspaper written by the veteran journalist and published in 2008, the year the prosecution was initiated.

Coleman was exonerated of a host of misdemeanor charges last year in a two day trial before Keough, who is illegally trying to sentence her for allegedly resisting arrest rather than throwing out the case as required by the Sixth Amendment since sole White male arresting Deputy Sheriff Gerald Pace did not accuse her of a crime, or even testify at trial.

Coleman said that the harassment continues at the direction of Jackson and Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, both upset because she allegedly would not shut-up as told on issues of public concern that impact Cleveland's Black community. She said that those issues include the Imperial Avenue Murders and case fixing relative to Ohio' Municipal Court judges that are replaced with retired and former judges from around the state as visiting judges to further judicial impropriety following bias or conflict in the proceedings by the elected judge of the court.

"Judge Keough has done enough, research reveals, to be suspended, though since she is White and we are Black women we shall see if there is a double standard at the Ohio Supreme Court level if and when I file a complaint against her." said Coleman. "She harassed me by issuing orders impacting my substantial rights when an affidavit of prejudice was pending against her in violation of state law, and her refusal to get off of the case for that reason and others seemingly warrants a suspension as the Ohio Supreme Court has done in two other identical situations involving Ohio judges."

Though Cleveland Attorney Terry Gilbert originally took the case pro bono the Bronaugh family has since hired criminal attorney Robert DeMarco, who appeared for Destini Bronaugh at yesterday's pretrial.

Gilbert allegedly fell out with the family when he sent a scathing letter seeking a "plea deal" via Keough's recommended probation in lieu of trial offer. This, the family said, was after he had pleged to fight the case and following his refusal to
seek Keough's recusal or removal, in spite of an obvious conflict.

Tina Bronaugh, Destini's mother, said the family believes that Destini did nothing wrong and that Keough and Triozzi are harassing her to get at the predominantly White Cleveland Teachers Union and because they have such little respect for Black students that they are pushing to criminalize Destini when at the most a suspension for a peaceful student protest is all that was needed. Community activists agree.

"We will not allow Mayor Jackson and his insensitive non-Black and non-female law director and chief prosecutor to criminalize Black or other Cleveland schools students over peaceful student protests protected under the First Amendment, " said Coleman, who leads the grassroots group dubbed the Imperial Women."If Destini were White, highly educated and upper middle class like Judge Keough, Jackson, Triozzi, and Mr. Forbes would have had this case dismissed long ago, particularly since Triozzi is conveniently the judge's attorney."

Tina Bronaugh said that more is at stake than Destini's freedom where Black Cleveland schools students, like their rich White counterparts in Shaker Hts. and elsewhere, do not shed their constitutional and statutory rights at the schoolhouse gate.

"We have to fight this," said Tina Bronaugh.

A trial date has not yet been set.