National Roundup

Activist who acknowledged helping flip police car during 2020 protest sentenced to 1 year in prison

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A well-known west Philadelphia activist who acknowledged having helped overturn a police car during 2020 protests following the death of George Floyd has been sentenced to a year in prison.

Anthony Smith was sentenced Tuesday following a guilty plea in June to a federal charge of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder, which included aiding and abetting an arson, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Smith acknowledged having helped others flip a vacant Philadelphia police car over outside City Hall on May 31, 2020. After someone fired a road flare into the vehicle, sending it up in flames, Smith then threw a piece of paper into the blaze, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Juan Sánchez heard emotional pleas in a packed courtroom from family, friends and ex-students of the former social studies teacher who asked him not to send Smith to prison. Sánchez praised them for coming to court and lauded Smith’s community work and “passion for advocacy” but said such leadership “comes with a heavy price.”

“You failed, in that regard, all of us,” he said. “Your influence was used in a negative way and impacted public safety.”

Smith told Sánchez his actions were “immature and emotional,” and that he acted as a follower that day.

Smith was sentenced to a year and a day in prison as well as two years of probation, less than the 30 months or more prosecutors had recommended, citing sentencing guidelines, and far less than terms meted out to two co-defendants, the Inquirer reported.

Defense attorney Paul Hetznecker pointed out that his client had spent three years on house arrest and the felony conviction bars him from teaching for 10 years. He said justice “is not served” by incarcerating Smith, calling his actions “a bad moment in his life against a lifetime of altruism.”

Another defendant, Khalif Miller, was sentenced in April to 61 months in prison and Carlos Matchett to 46 months. Two other defendants who pleaded guilty to setting fire to cars during the demonstration were sentenced to shorter terms: Ayoub Tabri to 364 days and Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal to 2½ years.

Smith’s plea came a few months after Philadelphia officials announced a $9.25 million settlement over lawsuits filed by him and other activists challenging the police response to the protests and civil disorder following Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Officials said in March that the settlement would be distributed among 343 plaintiffs in connection with police actions during the protests that erupted in west Philadelphia and along Interstate 676 in the city center. A grant will also provide $500,000 to $600,000 for mental health counseling for west Philadelphia residents.

Videos of Philadelphia police firing tear gas on June 1, 2020, at dozens of protesters on I-676 were spread widely on social media, and officials were criticized over reaction to unrest in and around a west Philadelphia business corridor that is the heart of a predominantly Black neighborhood. Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw faced harsh criticism in two audits of the planning and response to the protests.

Documents of Gov. DeWine and lieutenant governor subpoenaed in lawsuit over bribery scheme

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor have been drawn into a FirstEnergy Corp. investors lawsuit connected to the $60 million bribery scheme concocted by the Akron-based energy giant and a now-incarcerated House speaker.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine received a subpoena for documents in the case dated Nov. 17, according to a copy provided to The Associated Press by his office on Tuesday and first reported by His spokesperson, Dan Tierney, said the governor’s lawyers are reviewing the order.

It seeks any communications DeWine might have had with FirstEnergy, executives named in the lawsuit or Sam Randazzo, the state’s former top utility regulator, that related to former House Speaker Larry Householder’s efforts to secure power, to the tainted $1 billion nuclear bailout legislation Householder championed in exchange for the bribes, and to a host of other related topics.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, also a Republican, received a similar subpoena on the same date — and, according to a court filing Monday, is scheduled to be deposed in the case sometime between Feb. 28 and March 19.

“We’re aware of the civil investor lawsuit against FirstEnergy,” Husted spokesperson Hayley Carducci said in an email. “The Lt. Governor has already provided public records pertaining to this, and we will continue to comply as we have done in the past. There’s no new information to disclose.”

The civil lawsuit is distinct from a separate, ongoing criminal case, in which Householder, lobbyist Matt Borges and two others have been convicted. A fifth man charged died by suicide in 2021. Householder was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Borges received five.

Tierney said no one in the DeWine administration has ever been subpoenaed or identified as under investigation in the criminal probe.

Nor has Randazzo, the governor’s pick for the powerful chairmanship of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, whose Columbus townhome was searched by the FBI in November 2020.

As chair of the commission, Randazzo held immense sway over the fortunes of FirstEnergy and other investor-owned utilities.

During his confirmation hearing for the job, he testified before a state Senate committee that he was asked before DeWine and Husted took office on Jan. 14, 2019, to forgo plans to retire to Naples, Florida, where he owned an expensive waterfront home, and to return to government at the utility commission.

He specified during the confirmation hearing that Husted and Laurel Dawson, DeWine’s then-chief of staff, were among those who helped recruit him. DeWine disregarded cries of alarm from consumer and environmental advocates at the time, as well as pleas from GOP insiders concerned about Randazzo’s selection, the AP first reported in December 2020.

When he was Ohio House speaker in 2007, Husted appointed Randazzo to the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council and the two were allies in thwarting renewable and alternative energy mandates proposed by then-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and opposed by a coalition of utilities led by FirstEnergy.