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R. Kelly May Be Flying to Jail Soon

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

R. Kelly has long avoided prosecution and conviction for his allegedly long known sex crimes against minors and young women. On Oscar weekend, in a made for TV movie moment, his free time may soon be coming to an end. In  a surprise move, according to the Chicago Sun Times, today the Cook County state’s attorney charged R. Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated sex abuse.  A Cook County Grand Jury indicted Kelly. The charges stem from 4 victims who were under age and involve incidents that occurred between 1998 and 2010.  Aggravated criminal sex abuse is a felony which carries a range of 3-7 years if convicted.

R. Kelly has avoided conviction in a past trial but the tide may be changing. His time may soon be up. He is the sex pied piper of young underage girls of lewd sex acts and alleged imprisonment, according to many reports and a recent documentary, Surviving R. Kelly. Despite past allegations, women of all ages still flock to his concerts. And his song, I Believe I could Fly is routinely played on many Black gospel radio stations across the country every Sunday.

In a made for TV movie twist, porn star Stormy Daniels’s attorney, may be the reason for the charges being placed. Michael Avenatti allegedly produced (and/or represents) one women who may have given Cook County Grand Jury testimony. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

Two other women who were under age at the time allege sex acts at a Baltimore concert in 1995. If so, Kelly could face charges in Baltimore—if the statute of limitations is not expired. Felony sex offenses have no statute of limitations in Maryland. As a former Baltimore prosecutor, I have prosecuted sex crimes. They are tough crimes to obtain a conviction. The Baltimore women may have some proof of their attending the concert in 1995. And with the tape of the Cook County incidents and perhaps willingness of the victims to testify, it may prove easier.  The past case against Kelly resulted in a not guilty verdict.

The documentary Surviving R. Kelly may have paved the way for a fresh look at the singer’s alleged sex crimes and for women to now come forward. If so, Kelly could become the new Bill Cosby—albeit with young under aged (at the time of the offenses) and mostly Black victims. The Baltimore and Chicago cases may be just the tipping point for Kelly. And in another interesting plot twist, both Baltimore and Chicago (Cook County) have Black women prosecutors, Marilyn Mosby and Kimberly Foxx leading the charge.

Kelly’s Chicago court appearance is March 8.

R. Kelly is No Bill Cosby: He’s Worse

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

The recent docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, has many folks wondering if R. Kelly will be joining Bill Cosby in prison one day. Multiple state attorneys are looking into investigating possible charges against Kelly. Although a prior 2008 case involving 14 child pornography charges against Kelly was unsuccessful, this time may be different. It’s still too soon to tell if Kelly’s time is up. The docuseries helped to re-ignite the fire but the flame is still low for a prosecution or conviction of R. Kelly.

The issues facing any prosecutor who investigates and brings charges against Kelly will be credibility of witnesses and victims, statute of limitations, solicitation of victims by the prosecutors, length of time to bring charges (assuming the statute has not tolled) and the popularity of R. Kelly.

Unlike most of Bill Cosby’s victims, R. Kelly’s victims are African American and other women of color. A sexual assault case is always difficult to obtain a conviction. A sexual assault or rape case involving a woman of color presents an even further uphill battle due to implicit race bias.

In spite of the docuseries, the popularity of R. Kelly still soared. The streaming of his music soared during the docuseries. Even without the docuseries, Kelly’s “I believe I can fly” is played almost every Sunday on many gospel radio stations and in churches across the country. His “Step in the Name of Love” is played at many wedding receptions. And when the music starts, almost everyone is on their feet dancing to it.

Many of the women who are alleged to have been emotionally manipulated and sexually controlled by Kelly in a cult are over 18 years of age. Consent is a real issue for most sexual assault cases. Unlike Cosby, many of the victims allegedly held captive in Kelly’s orbit are not drugged. They are allegedly held against their will but not by drugs, alcohol or any other substance. They are held against their will allegedly by mind manipulation and psychological tactics by Kelly. Some refuse to come home despite pleas by their families.

In addition, Cook County prosecutor Kim Fox is soliciting potential victims to contact her office. If any of those potential cases lead to an indictment, there will be issues raised of coercion by the prosecution office. I applaud prosecutors who are looking into evidence against Kelly. The docuseries made me physically sick to watch it. The alleged acts were so gross that my heart bled for the victims.

R. Kelly is no Bill Cosby. He’s a much worse predator than Cosby, if the women’s accounts are believed.

Washington, D.C. Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Women’s History Month and the Supreme Court

Monday, March 19th, 2018

supcourt_buildingAs we wind down Women’s History month, the role women played in Supreme Court cases is pivotal in understanding the huge  impact of women on the laws of this country.  For centuries, women advanced the law in cases involving civil rights, women’s right, marriage equality, health care and a myriad of other issues.   For all that remains to be done in the area of women’s rights, we have largely come from the second class status barring women from practicing professions,  attending schools and  marrying the person of their choosing without infringement of the government.

 

Beginning in 1869, Myra Bradwell applied for admission to the Illinois bar in accordance with a state statute that permitted any adult of good character and with sufficient training to be admitted to the practice of law. Because she was a woman, however, the Illinois Supreme Court denied her admission, noting that the “strife” of the bar would surely destroy femininity. Chief Justice Charles B. Lawrence  of the Illinois Supreme Court stated that “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action.”

Bradwell appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that her right to practice law was protected by the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states may statutorily deny women the right to practice law.   Today women make up over 35% of all lawyers according to an American Bar Association report in 2016.

 

Following on the heels of Myra Bradwell, Virginia Minor of Missouri, a member of the suffrage movement, applied to the voter’s registrar  to register to vote. She was not allowed to register. In 1875, her case advanced to the Supreme Court. The question presented  was whether  the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, permits a woman, who is a citizen of the United States and of the State of Missouri, to become  a voter in that State, notwithstanding the provision of the constitution and laws of the State, which confine the right of suffrage to men alone.   In 1875, the U. S. Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett decided that no new State admitted to the Union had ever conferred the right of suffrage upon women.  It would take a constitutional amendment in 1920 to confer the right to vote for women. And it would take decades later for Black women to become franchised in Jim Crow states.

In 1951,  third grader, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools. In the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled on May 17, 1954, through Chief Justice Earl Warren that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.”  Years later, Linda Brown would address the implications of Brown v. Board of Education:

 

 

In 1967, the case of Mildred Loving and Richard Loving would change the laws of interracial marriage. In 1664 – 300 years before the Loving decision, Maryland passed the first British colonial law banning marriage between whites and slaves — a law that, among other things, ordered the enslavement of white women who married black men. In 1667, the Commonwealth of Virginia banned all interracial marriages, threatening to exile whites who marry people of color. By 1883 in Pace v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state-level bans on interracial marriage do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling will hold for more than 80 years until Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred Jeter, of African American and Native American descent married Richard Loving, a white man in 1958 in the District of Columbia and then came back to their home state of Virginia.  They  were arrested and later tried.  They agreed to leave  their Virginia home due to its miscegenation laws and move to Washington, D.C.     Unable to return to visit Virginia, they sought legal help through Attorney General Robert Kennedy and then with the ACLU. In a unanimous decision, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that the laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional. Mildred Loving spoke to ABC News immediately following the decision on the effects of it:

 

Loving v. Virginia paved the way for Windsor v. U.S.  and the government’s discrimination of federal benefits to legally married same sex couples.  Edie Windsor sued the U. S. government which denied federal estate tax exemption benefits to legally married same sex couples.  In a 5-4 decision in 2013, the  Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage act was unconstitutional.  Edie’s case paved the way for marriage equality in 50 states with the case of Obergefell v. Hodge in 2015.

 

Unlike Mildred Loving, Edie Windsor and Linda Brown,  Washington Post CEO Katharine Graham came from a family of privilege when she faced off with the Supreme Court and the Nixon administration over the Pentagon Papers. Nonetheless, Graham was still treated with the  second class rights of a woman when her father, Eugene, upon his retirement,  passed the helms of the Post over to Graham’s husband, instead of to his daughter Katharine.  However, as Katharine’s husband would later take his life in 1963, she became the CEO of the Washington Post. Faced with the decision in  1971 on whether to publish the Pentagon Papers exposing the lies of the Vietnam war, in defiance of the Nixon Administration’s lawsuit against the New York Time, she decided to publish.  The U. S. government filed suit for an injunction which led to the Supreme Court case holding  that the paper’s first amendment right to make information public trumped the government’s right to keep secrets. “In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do,” wrote Justice Hugo L. Black.  Graham’s valiant efforts changed the course of history, as did those of Edie Windsor, Mildred Loving, Linda Brown, Mildred Bradwell and  countless others.

Women still await full rights with regard to pay equity, sexual harassment laws, discrimination in the workplace, among other areas.  But time is almost up in these areas too.

Debbie Hines is an attorney and a member of the Supreme Court bar. She also is a contributor to the Women’s Media Center.

International Women’s Day and Black Sheroes

Thursday, March 8th, 2018
Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Debbie Hines

Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Debbie Hines

 

International women’s day on March 8, 2018 is particularly special in light of the recent #MeToo and #TimesUP movements. As we celebrate international women’s day to commemorate the many generations of women who have advanced women’s rights, I wanted to highlight five African American women whom I admire for their strength, courage and fortitude.

 

When I think of a woman who displayed enormous resilience and fortitude in unfathomable times. I can’t help but honor Harriet Tubman for her heroic and humanitarian efforts in advancing freedom for slaves. Born into slavery, she escaped in 1849 and later led hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad with help from abolitionists.  Tubman devoted her entire life for racial equality and women’s rights.  After slavery ended, she continued with efforts on suffrage for women. In honor of her life, the U.S. Treasury announced in 2016 that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson in the center of the new $20 bill.

 

As a lawyer, I stand on the shoulders of Charlotte E. Ray.  In 1872 Charlotte Ray became the first woman admitted to the Bar in the District of Columbia, as well as the first African-American woman to be a member of the formal bar anywhere in the U.S. She opened a solo practice in Washington, DC specializing in real estate law, but according to historians, she was not able to obtain sufficient legal business and had to give up the active practice of law. Ray remained involved in the suffrage cause and returned to her first career, teaching, in New York in 1879.  Today women lawyers make up 36% of lawyers, according to the American Bar Association’s report in January, 2017.

Dorothy I. Height was a fierce civil rights and women’s rights leader who was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and fought alongside of Martin Luther King.  She counseled presidents on civil and women’s rights issues including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson to President Barack Obama. Height was one of the original organizers of the March on Washington but did not receive the opportunity to speak due to her gender. She would later help found the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D. NY), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others.  National Women’s Political Caucus founded in 1971 called for action “against sexism, racism, institutional violence and poverty” and recruits and trains progressive women candidates to run for public office through today.  In 2018, there are the  largest numbers of women running for elective offices in American history.

Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D. N.Y.)  was the first black woman elected to the U.S.  Congress in 1968. She served until 1983.  And in 1972 she became the first woman to run as a candidate for president in the Democratic party and the first African American to run for president in a major party, thus paving the way for Barack Obama. She ran on a campaign of “unbought and unbossed”.  Despite being a political trailblazer,  Chisholm would later say that, “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black.” Chisholm knew her efforts were not in vain but a “catalyst for change”.

Rosa Parks never held a political office.  In her own right, she was a fierce women’s and civil rights activist.  She is often referred to as the “mother of the freedom movement.”  She was far more than the Black woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus designated for whites only section in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.  Her actions started the 381-bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama and helped to launch nationwide efforts to end discrimination in public facilities. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower Mississippi court’s ruling that stated racial discrimination laws in public accommodations are unconstitutional. Parks’ small but mighty gesture of refusing to give up her seat on a bus led to one of the largest and most successful boycott movements against racial segregation.  At her death in 2005, Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Today women are still using their efforts as catalysts for change for gender and racial equality.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer and political and legal commentator.  She addresses issues on women and race in law and politics.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Missouri Governor Meets #MeToo and Ferguson Movements

Monday, February 26th, 2018
Creative Commons

Creative Commons

In an interesting twist of the #MeToo and Ferguson movements, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens  was indicted last week by a St. Louis grand jury on one felony charge of invasion of privacy  stemming from  a 2015  consensual extramarital affair but allegedly nonconsensual taking of nude photos for transmittal.

Newly sworn in St. Louis City chief prosecutor Kimberly Gardner, the first Black to hold the position, expressed that St. Louis must have confidence in their political leaders.  Kimberly Gardner was elected in 2017, in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising of 2014 following the killing of Michael Brown. Upon being sworn in, Gardner stated that since the uprising of Ferguson, the public has a new expectation for the role of prosecutor.

While the main focus of the #MeToo movement has been on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace, Greitens’ case fits within the larger picture of how powerful men sexually exploit women.  If allegations are proven true, Governor Greitens intended to use the explicit photograph of the partially nude woman to prevent any derailment to his career.

And like many other incidents involving other men, Governor Greitens’ past sexual misconduct was kept secret.  Greitens’ 2015 affair was apparently known to many politicians, presumably male politicians.  As with many powerful men, Greitens was allowed to advance politically without so much as a whisper in public of any sexual wrongdoings.  Greitens ran in 2016 on a platform of morality as  a family man, proud father  and husband.  Since Harvey Weinstein and a host of other powerful men, who used their positions of power to sexually demean women in various ways, we are just being made aware of their past actions.  And the public has a right to know about alleged sexual misconduct and wrongdoings, particularly of any politicians.

 

With the #MeToo movement and the sheer extraordinary numbers of women running for office this year, we may be seeing more charges brought against men in positions of power who abuse their power.  In the past, a male prosecutor may have declined to present the Greitens case before the grand jury.  Having chief women prosecutors at the helm helps to ensure that cases involving criminal sexual transgressions, particularly against women will not be overlooked.  And Gardner, as with other women in similar positions, will not be reluctant to pursue controversial cases.  As a former Baltimore prosecutor, I know that women prosecutors review cases with a different eye than that of their male counterparts.

 

While Greitens admits to the affair, he denies any other wrongdoing such as  blackmailing the woman to stay quiet. His attorneys state the charge does not apply to consensual sexual activity.  In Missouri, the charge is a 4th degree felony and Greitens faces a maximum of 4 years in jail.  While an indictment is the initial step in a felony criminal case, it is a start in the road towards justice. Greitens is due back in court on March 16.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, frequent legal/political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She is a contributor to the Women’s Media Center.

 

Harvey Weinstein is Everywhere

Monday, October 16th, 2017

gamma_2From Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump to Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, men like Harvey Weinstein are in every professional. While the recent focus has been on prominent men in the media and politics, the truth of the matter is powerful men who seek to use women as sexual objects for their own power perks have existed since the beginning of time. And the crime of rape has also existed since the before the beginning of this country. As a lawyer, I have encountered my own Harvey Weinstein.

There are powerful men who view women as toys for their own sexual satisfaction. And in many professions, the practice is pervasive, in all areas. While the encounter may last only a few minutes, in some instances, for women, the stigma and emotional trauma may last a lifetime. While women seek to advance in their careers on their professional merits, often times, some powerful men have other misogynist ideas in mind which may make or break a woman’s career or her self-esteem.

I spoke recently to a lawyer who represents companies in sexual assault and other discrimination cases. She confirmed that the practice of powerful men who want women to pay to play is in every profession from law, business, entertainment, politics, tech and even the medical profession. And although the Harvey Weinstein defense is that it was a different culture earlier than it is now, that is not true. Sexual predators, perverts and rapists existed in the early Weinstein days and now. And the fact that most of these men can get away with decades of wrongful sexual allegations shows the power of silence.

In 16 states, the statute of limitations has changed to no statute of limitations. This means that there is no longer a year limit in which to file a claim in these states. This is why New York and Los Angeles are investigating alleged claims against Weinstein. But for many women, the harm has been already done and some may still prefer to stay silent.

In these misogynist cultures, it is incumbent upon other men to speak up, in defense of women who are victimized. In the Weinstein case, there were men who knew of his sexual transgressions. According to accounts, at least several women allegedly confided in male colleagues. If the all -male board had been advised of the alleged Weinstein sexual predator actions, then perhaps some women may have been spared his advances.

Many times, women may not want to speak up. Silence is the protector of male sexual predators. I encourage men to become more actively involved in speaking out against these sexual transgressions by their male colleagues, instead of staying silent on the sidelines.

For further commentary on the subject, I participated in a lively panel discussion with anchor Bruce Johnson.