OPINION / Letter to the Editor

By Michael Joseph, FreedomCity Times Law Commentator

The V.I. Judicial Branch Superior Court on May 20, 2021 declared that Act No. 8438 (“the Act”) violated the separation of powers principle, established in the U. S. Constitution, and made applicable to us since 1948. The Act created a “Corporation Board of Directors” made up of members of two districts boards to control our hospitals and related health facilities. It fully removed the hospital boards which were within the supervision of the executive branch’s traditional powers to provide for the general welfare and security of the community.

The Act instead designated the membership of these two new boards. They would have come from various organizations and appointed by same groups without further ado. But the three members of each districts appointed by the Governor would’ve had to be members only with advice and consent of the Legislature Besides, “none of the members appointed by the Governor are permitted to serve on the Board of the Corporation. Furthermore; one of the three appointees in each district must be a member of the Virgin Islands Chamber of Commerce,”

And so, while our health care would have been placed, as designated by the Legislature, mostly in the hands of people we never met, much less voted for, Gov. Bryan, whom we the people elected as our executive officer, would have become an irrelevant observer of health care delivery, good or bad.

Of course, it likely would be bad since architects, accountants, lawyers, business people, and engineers are not usually familiar with ICU, Surgical, Delivery, Mental and Emergency care. On the other hand, a governor by the broad cross section of voters that placed him in office has a better view on issues such as health care through his numerous advisors from every corner of the V.I,

Thanks Governor Bryan for fighting back and winning on behalf of We the People. And to my friends in the Legislature, never discount the Judicial Branch’s eagle-eye for strikes and fouls when you legislate.

Respectfully, /s/ Michael A. Joseph, Esq.; May 31, 2021

Atty Joseph , a Freedom City man passed the California Bar exam when it had its highest failed rate ever . He became Legislature Director to the Hon. Ron DeLugo, the yDelegate to Congress where he drafted the first immigration amnesty act in U. S. history, in 1981 he came home to be appointed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as the first native Federal Public Defender. To date, there has not been another. He is author of "Fountain Valley 1972," a video of which is on Youtube, under same name Queen Matilda of the Fireburn was his grandmother's aunt.

 

Let's not lose our healthy fresh Caribbean air.

By Michael Joseph

Rightly praised were the contributions to the USVI that stemmed from Mr. Leon Hess’ decision to establish a mega oil refinery in St. Croix. Thanks also to Gov. Mapp’s decision to save it from mothball by creating Legislature-approved agreements with Limetree Refinery. But for its infusion of $millions each payday, COVIC-19’s negative commercial impact would be truly titanic. Recall the massive food handouts on the mainland. Even oil-rich Texas had up to ten miles of cars in line for their daily bread. In contrast, Gov. Bryan is now delivering meals to our elderly and to others. For that he certainly deserves thanks.

On the other hand, what is wealth without health? As citizens of the USA—the only industrialized country in the world without health care for all—there are among us thousands of good people already skating on very thin ice as to their wellbeing and longevity. And having a biochemistry degree, I’d be remiss if I stood by and accepted the description of recent gases originating from the refinery as merely a bad smell or a bad odor. Scientifically, they are toxic, high-incidence cancer causing chemicals!

Every refinery in varying degrees emits benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and other volatile compounds that cause leukemia and other cancers. These toxic gases, depending on concentration, increase the risk of cancer for everyone within 30 miles of a refinery. There are hundreds of medical studies showing the link. The increased cancer risk is there whether you are smelling the gas or not. If you are near the refinery you are breathing toxic gases. But if you can smell it, you and your family are getting a big dose! Go upwind until the excess leak stops.

A 2020 study, “Proximity to Oil Refineries and Risk of Cancer: A Population- Based Analysis,” by Dr. Stephen B. Williams and a dozen other scientists, learned that living within 10 miles of a refinery doubles the rate of cancer in the population. Closer to home, 95% of us lives within 10 miles of Limetree.

Therefore, it is not only unscientific for a governmental agency to describe gaseous emissions from a refinery as merely “a bad smell,” it also endangers the lives of those exposed to it. The bad smell of a rotten egg and the bad odor from a refinery is of proportionate danger as is size of an egg is to size of a refinery.

Let's not lose our healthy fresh Caribbean air.

Op-Ed from Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor Regarding the Death of George Floyd

We observe yet another death of an African American man through non-combative interaction with law enforcement. George Floyd of Minnesota died as a result of an officer’s pressed knee to his neck for an extended period of time during an arrest. Mr. Floyd was heard pleading for his life as he repeatedly stated, “I can't breathe." This incident was eerily similar to the case of Eric Garner in New York, when Mr. Garner said the same words before dying at the hands of police in 2014.

I must admit that I had a very difficult time watching the video of the senseless death of another black man. Law enforcement has a responsibility to serve and protect even those suspected of wrongdoing. The position and uniform do not give us the authority to act reckless. Officers must always assess the situation and when other officers observe wrong procedures, techniques, or actions they must not stand idly by. Officers have a responsibility to respond to their peers and provide redirection or de-escalation as needed. The Minneapolis Police Department did the right thing by terminating the officers, and now we must wait for the judicial course to take place.

The Virgin Islands Police Department does not teach its officers to utilize a knee to the neck when making arrests. We teach techniques that are recognized and endorsed as best practices. Anyone looking at the video can surely see that the force used in that situation was unnecessary and the officers missed all the signs to protect and better serve Mr. Floyd. As the Commissioner of VIPD, I assure our community that my expectation is that officers use those techniques they are trained to utilize, and that excessive force is not tolerated. If members of our community believe that excessive force was used by an officer, please file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Unit. An investigation will be initiated, which can result in discipline, to include termination and criminal charges.

As a life member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), I join NOBLE and the many law enforcement professionals to find solutions to the issues of constitutional policing and ensuring equity in the administration of justice.

Op-Ed from Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor Regarding VIPD Testimony at VI Legislature Hearing

February 10, 2020

On February 7, 2020, Deputy Commissioner Celvin G. Walwyn and St. Croix District Police Chief Sidney Elskoe provided testimony to members of the Virgin Islands Legislature regarding crime strategies and accomplishments of the Virgin Islands Police Department. I appreciate our leaders standing tall and representing the Department. During the hearing, at least one Senator, although well intended, expressed frustration regarding the consent decree requirements as it relates to searches and seizures (of firearms). Police officers have learned during their academy training and throughout their careers that there are certain practices that are illegal and expressly prohibited. The Bill of Rights, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, expressly prohibits unlawful search and seizure.

The Fourth Amendment also sets requirements for warrant issuance by a judge through demonstration of probable cause. As police officers, we are held to a high standard and VIPD will not engage in practices that are unconstitutional, unethical and illegal. Evidence obtained as a result of violations of the Fourth Amendment are not admissible, and illegal searches that yield evidence are routinely dismissed as the “fruits of the poisonous tree.” Any violation of the constitution by a VIPD officer can result in lawsuits against the Department, the Government of the Virgin Islands, and the officer. Additionally, officers can be criminally prosecuted for civil rights violations if engaged in illegal searches.

Lastly, the consent decree does not direct our policing efforts but outlines that constitutional policing must be adhered to. This is not an option in policing. Officers cannot use excessive force, nor can they conduct illegal practices in furtherance of their policing responsibilities. The consent decree requires that the use of force must be reported, documented, and reviewed. Additionally, there must be a systematic manner to access those reports of use of force and citizen complaints.

I encourage our police officers to continue to use their training and be guided by policies and best practices. They can rest assured that I will support them in this effort.

January 30, 2020

Dear Freedomcity Times Editor,

I gasped when I saw the story of Ann Abramson’s passing. (FreedomcityTimes.com Jan. 25, 2020). Ann was one of those persons you never associated with mortality.

Birth named Ann Elizabeth Christian, she is the only Virgin Islander to have received national recognition as “Entrepreneur of the Year,” awarded to those who strive for business distinction through excellence.

Six-term Senator Holland Redfield, III, was then-White House Liaison and informed the committee for that prestigious prize of Ann’s achievements.

Yet, she never entertained the idea that she was “self-made.” With smiles glowing from her flawless equatorial face, Ann enjoyed retelling stories of her hard-working family in Frederiksted’s vibrant economy where natives owned nine bakeries, 52 stores, plus a skilled silversmith who fixed many household items.

Ann gave credit to others including her brothers. Peter was a pioneer in the grocery business, Alphonso and Allan were lawyers. Alphonso became a judge. And school Principal, Clifford, inherited the nickname “Mayor of Frederiksted.”

In three interviews with Ann for my book “Fountain Valley 1972,” she proved to be a truly special person. Ann worked hard for gain and just as easily gave back. I recall yearning to win the fancy new car she donated every year to be raffled at St. Patrick’s Annual Bazaar. This charity was but one of the many she contributed throughout her life.

Alas, poet Henry Longfellow mourned: “Thy fate is the common fate of all, into each life some rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.” As so said, Ann was convicted in a retrial on charges about federal funds in consequence of the jury’s power—in the terse words of a Third Circuit Court of Appeals judge—“to return a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts.”

I represented Ann’s subcontractor in her first trial. She had stateside counsel whom I asked to not bring up another project that wasn’t part of the case but he did the opposite to show Ann had similar contracts without problems. My client lost his case and the jury hung as to Ann’s. Months later, a juror came up to me and said: “Two jurors refused to let Ann go because we convicted their countryman from St. Kitts, and they said that we have to convict the Crucian too.”

In her second trial, Ann was acquitted of the same charges in the first trial, but convicted on added charges arising from that project I’d asked her counsel to not put in issue. The U.S. Supreme Court teaches the more charges which are filed the more likely the jury will think the accused must have done something wrong.

Ann’s rain didn’t douse her smile while talking of her walking 12 miles a day as a teacher for $50 a month. She didn’t talk the walk. Ann walked the walk.

Respectfully, Michael A. Joseph