I’ve Been a Bad Newsletter Writer
Tues., Feb. 22: Let me make it up to you + Raleigh hit with new Omar Abdullah lawsuit + sh*t hits fan in Ukraine + Charlie Reece resigns from Durham council
Hello, friends. As it turns out, I (once again) badly underestimated the amount of time it would take me to finish up a magazine feature. “Two weeks max” is apparently my code for “sometime next month, maybe.” The story, a profile of Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, took a few unexpected turns and proved exceedingly frustrating to write—it also produced material for at least three more features that I’ll get to soon—but I’m sorry for being such an unreliable slacker.
In any event, it is with the editors now, and should be out … I’m not entirely sure. Later this week? Next week? I’ll post a link when it’s ready.
In the meantime, to thank you for your patience, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of my family, Rose, who joined us on Saturday.
Behold the cuteness:
So all’s forgiven, right?
Rose is about nine weeks old and, according to the rescue, a yellow lab mix—we’re not entirely sure of all the component parts, but we don’t really care, either.
OK, now for the news:
» Raleigh Hit With Another Omar Abdullah Lawsuit
In September, the city of Raleigh settled a federal lawsuit with 15 people who alleged that they’d been arrested based on drug charges fabricated by Detective Omar Abdullah and his snitch, Dennis Leon Williams Jr. for $2 million.
Two weeks earlier, I’d reported that District Attorney Lorrin Freeman had quietly indicted Williams, but not Abdullah, on charges of obstructing justice.
Less than a month later, the RPD fired Abdullah.
Abdullah has not been charged. Freeman still says the investigation is ongoing.
A few weeks ago, Abraham Rubert-Schewel, the plaintiffs’ attorney in that first case, told me another was coming down the pike. Yesterday, it arrived.
This one is filed on behalf of Yolanda Irving, whose house was raided on May 21, 2020. This turned out to be the last time the RPD use Williams because he gave them the wrong address.
With a no-knock warrant, “RPD officers pointed assault rifles at Plaintiffs, some of whom were minor children, entered their homes suddenly, forcefully, and without consent or warning, frisked and searched them, and forced them to sit on the ground for over an hour while their homes were ransacked,” the federal complaint says.
By quickly settling the previous lawsuit, the city tried to prevent details about the case from coming to light. This complaint dives into the relationship between Abdullah, Williams, and the rest of the vice squad:
Mr. Williams was homeless at the time of his arrest and agreed to be a confidential informant to work off his pending criminal charges and to make money. …
According to VICE Officer Julien Rattelade, after Mr. Williams complained about his pay, Abdullah told him he could make more money if he brought in bigger cases.
During his time as an informant, Mr. Williams, according to RPD records, was paid $3,545. …
The RPD VICE officers always worked as a team when making controlled buys, raids, and arrests. …
Abdullah claimed he searched Mr. Williams before each alleged buy and never located any contraband on his person.
Mr. Williams shielded the surveillance cameras, in violation of RPD procedure, so each alleged buy could not be video recorded.
After each controlled buy, Mr. Williams, Abdullah, and the VICE team produced fake heroin allegedly purchased from the arrested individuals.
Abdullah claimed he also searched Mr. Williams after each controlled buy and never located any contraband on his person.
Abdullah, against RPD policy on the Management of Informants, met alone with Mr. Williams, before and after buys.
Abdullah always paid Mr. Williams without any other officers present, which was also a violation of RPD policy, requiring witnesses to be present for these payments.
Upon information and belief, RPD VICE Officers … assisted in this scheme by signing receipt of informant funds sheets, falsely stating that they had witnessed payment of informant funds to Mr. Williams. …
RPD VICE officers sometimes conducted field tests on the fake heroin—immediately after the alleged buy from the arrested individuals—and each time it tested negative for a controlled substance.
The negative field tests were never preserved, recorded, or noted in the RPD officers’ reports.
Destroying evidence of negative field tests would constitute obstruction of justice. When I asked Freeman about those missing tests a few weeks ago, she told me:
“In and of itself, it may not be criminal. Things get lost, they get disposed in the natural course—I’m not saying that’s what happened here. I’m just saying, that’s why I know it’s frustrating to people. But I mean, that’s why you have to go through a process of investigation, not just jump to the conclusion that x means y, but certainly in the scope of this investigation, if that is something that can be validated, that’s something that people would be looking at and trying to investigate.”
(That—I think—is one of the parts of my Freeman profile that I’m pretty sure won’t make the final cut. There’s soooo much material.)
Among other things, the plaintiffs want the RPD to end the practice of no-knock warrants.
» So, It Sure Looks Like Putin’s Invading Ukraine
I’m not going to hold myself out as an expert on Eastern Europe or Vladimir Putin or anything like that. I’m sure Twitter has plenty of PhDs from the University of Google who can tell you all about how it’s Joe Biden’s fault. But you don’t have to be an expert to know that yesterday, Europe moved closer to what might be its largest military conflict since 1945.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering military forces into two separatist regions of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes as Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence Monday.
Putin signed a decree recognizing the areas—a move that Russia could use to justify an attack in those locations—and an agreement of cooperation with the heads of the two regions: Denis Pushilin of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Leonid Pasechnik of the Luhansk People’s Republic. The separatists do not control the entirety of their regions, and it was not clear Monday evening whether a military incursion could occur.
And then …
Russian President Vladimir Putin, after recognizing two Russian-backed separatist regions in Ukraine as independent, ordered Russian forces into the territories for “peacekeeping” purposes, dramatically escalating a crisis that has put Europe on the brink of a full-fledged war.
In two Russian presidential orders published by the state news agency RIA Novosti, Putin ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to ensure the deployment of the Russian military into the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic for the purposes of “supporting peace.” Troops have been amassing near the Ukrainian border for weeks.
Putin approved the agreements for 10 years, according to the full document published by RIA Novosti, allowing Russia to build military bases in Donetsk and Luhansk and jointly patrol their borders with Ukraine.
Putin recognizes the regions’ independence after a long, televised rant:
In his lengthy television address on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin excoriated Ukraine’s leaders and called the country “a colony with puppets at its helm” where Russian speakers were oppressed.
“Ukraine has never had its own authentic statehood. There has never been a sustainable statehood in Ukraine,” he said. He warned that Ukraine could develop its own nuclear weapons, calling this a “real threat,” adding that the West might help Kyiv develop them.
He also attacked NATO’s expansion, saying Western countries wanted to hold Russia back, and had never taken Moscow into account. …
Moscow has been preparing the ground for years—issuing Russian passports to 800,000 Ukrainians in the two separatist regions since 2019 so Russia could send in forces to “defend” them as its own citizens.
What does Putin want out of all this?
Robert Kagan argues that he wants to reestablish the Soviets’ sphere of influence. Ominously, Kagan believes Putin’s action will allow China to move in the South China Sea or into Taiwan, too.
“But it is time to start imagining a world where Russia effectively controls much of Eastern Europe and China controls much of East Asia and the Western Pacific. Americans and their democratic allies in Europe and Asia will have to decide, again, whether that world is tolerable.”
The U.S. has responded with sanctions—on the breakaway republics, but not Russia.
White House officials said on Monday that President Biden will impose economic sanctions on the two separatist regions of Ukraine that President Vladimir V. Putin recognized as independent, but stopped short of imposing any penalties directly on Russia.
The limited nature of the sanctions appeared intended to allow the United States and its European allies to hold in reserve the more aggressive sanctions they have threatened to impose on Moscow if Mr. Putin sends Russian armed forces into Ukraine, and to allow for the increasingly slim possibility of a diplomatic solution.
Europe and NATO nations have universally condemned Putin, but it doesn’t look like anyone is eager to send in troops to stop him. And it’s unclear whether sanctions can disrupt Putin’s plans.
As tensions escalated, oil prices rose and stocks tanked.
» Charlie Reece Leaving Durham Council, Moving to Europe
I’ve always thought Charlie was a good guy. Resigning from the city council to move to Europe to further his wife’s career only reinforces that impression.