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Soon after Cambridge police arrested and handcuffed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on a disorderly conduct charge, they realized the black man they wanted to prosecute was a renowned academic. As a result, he was released and the charges against him were dropped.
The ensuing public debate – in which Cambridge authorities now try to justify arresting a man because he refused to comply in his own home with police directions and deny that race had any influence on how the police reacted – suggests that if an ordinary black homeowner, rather than a Harvard professor, had been arrested under these circumstances, the criminal charges would not have been dropped so readily.
Consider the pending case of Rivka – a black, very dark-skinned, extremely devout Orthodox Jewish woman. Rivka is employed in New York, spends Shabbat in Washington, and her work frequently takes her on extended trips overseas. Being single and in her mid-fifties, she rented a 3-bedroom apartment on the West Side of Manhattan, and advertised on Craigslist for female roommates willing to accept short subleases. All applicants were informed by Rivka that the apartment was strictly kosher. A special page prescribing the kashrut rules was added to the lease that each roommate signed.
The rules were followed by a series of women Rivka accepted as roommates. In July 2007, a white blond-haired girl named Brooke answered Rivka’s ad and signed a five-month lease with the kashrut provisions. Brooke promptly violated the kashrut rules and admitted, in sworn testimony, that she brought nonkosher food into the apartment in knowing violation of her signed agreement. Rivka told Brooke she would have to leave.
Having e-mailed Brooke that she had arranged, at her – Rivka’s – expense, for a hotel room where Brooke could stay while she was looking for other accommodations, and believing that Brooke had agreed to have her belongings transported to the other location, Rivka began moving Brooke’s clothing to the hotel. Brooke arrived at the apartment unexpectedly and called the local precinct, reporting, “My roommate is currently stealing stuff out of my room.”
When Rivka returned after depositing Brooke’s belongings in the reserved hotel room, she found two policemen at the apartment with Brooke. The senior police officer (who is white), testified that Rivka showed them the lease and the e-mail she had sent to Brooke, and explained that she had moved Brooke’s belongings to the nearby hotel because she had an agreement with Brooke to do so. Rivka insisted to the officers that she wanted Brooke out of the apartment. The officers testified that Rivka interrupted her conversation with them to spend ten minutes in prayer.
Rivka then left the officers and retreated to her bedroom and locked her door. The officers demanded that she come out. On her cell phone, Rivka called a friend from the Georgetown Synagogue in Washington who had a law degree but was not in private practice. He told her to ask the officers for a warrant and for their precincts and badge numbers. The white policeman said in his testimony that he “did not recall” whether he gave his precinct and badge number.
When Rivka did not emerge voluntarily from her bedroom, the sergeant called the Emergency Services Unit – the police department’s riot squad. They came in full force, with more than one dozen policemen. They broke down the door to Rivka’s bedroom, dragged her into the hall and up against the wall at gunpoint, handcuffed her, and then took her downstairs to a waiting ambulance.
The ambulance drove to a nearby hospital. One of the officers tried to have her committed to the psychiatric unit. After an examination, the hospital said there was no basis to admit her. The police then took Rivka to the police precinct, where she was permitted one phone call. She called a person she had befriended while regularly attending Shabbat services at the Georgetown Synagogue, but the arresting police officer hung up the telephone in the middle of Rivka’s call.
Rivka was then taken to another hospital, where she was handcuffed to a bed. Next morning, she was returned to the precinct. The rabbi at the New York synagogue she attends on weekdays heard of her plight and brought a kosher meal to the precinct – the first meal Rivka had since her arrest the day before.
About the Author: Nathan Lewin is a Washington, D.C. lawyer who has argued numerous cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and teaches a seminar in Supreme Court litigation at Columbia Law School.
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Is not Israel’s policy of “territory for peace” with Arab leaders criminally irresponsible?
Israel must develop it’s truthful message to be as clear & simple to comprehend as the Arab’s lies
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It shakes our sense of justice when allegations against a famed role model are covered up or ignored
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The West needs to ensure Russia understands that aggression comes at a significant cost.
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We see pictures of mosques, monuments for terrorists, illegal schools, and hundreds of apartments being built on Jewish land without repercussions. We are losing Jewish property, so it is up to us to protect it.
Thus, despite the increasingly serious problems for the mayor arising out of the current anti-police protests, Mr. de Blasio apparently will be cut no slack by those who seem to be aiming for a significant role in running the city from the streets and who will do whatever they can to prevent their momentum from ebbing.
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Editor’s Note: On July 30, the firm of Lewin & Lewin, LLP, filed in the Supreme Court its brief in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, No. 10-699, on which the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in early November. The constitutional issue in the case is whether Congress had the authority to enact a law in 2002 that directs the Secretary of State to permit U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to record their place of birth in their passports as “Israel.” Because the State Department has consistently refused to recognize any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel, the government has refused to implement the 2002 law, claiming it violates the President’s constitutional authority to “recognize foreign sovereigns.” This is the Introduction to the Zivotofsky brief written by Nathan Lewin, followed by a Summary of Argument.
Congress has never seen a better friend of the observant Jewish community than Stephen Solarz, who died of esophageal cancer on the 22nd of Kislev. Yonoson Rosenblum’s recently published biography of Rabbi Moshe Sherer describes Solarz as an “invaluable ally” for many Agudath Israel projects and there are 20 references to Solarz in the book’s index.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-if-gates-were-an-unrenowned-jewish-black-woman/2009/07/29/
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