- Created on 21 May 2013
Korey Wise sits smirking through a one-man play, saying “hmph!” and “ummm” now and then. Youth groups, activists, and college students have packed the auditorium at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. Wise will join a panel after the play on wrongful imprisonment, a subject he knows too well.
In 1989, Wise and four other young black and Latino teenagers were convicted of raping and beating a white investment banker in Central Park, leaving her for dead. The media called her the Central Park Jogger and the accused the Central Park Five. No evidence linked them to the crime except for their confessions, which came after relentless hours of police interrogation. They recanted shortly afterwards, but those statements were still enough to send them all to jail. Wise was 16 and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years as an adult.
Last year, a decade after an inmate named Reyes Matias confessed to the crime, resulting in all five of the boys’ exoneration, Sarah Burns, Ken Burns, and David McMahon released a documentary about their story, “The Central Park Five”. Wise, who went free after 13 years, is now suing the city for wrongful imprisonment.
During the panel, a young man in the audience talks about being imprisoned at Rikers Island at 16. Wise can relate. He sits straightforward, hands clasped, no emotion on his face, almost dazed.
“Wow,” is Wise’s unspoken reaction.
Later, in his Bronx apartment, he compared Rikers Island to another local landmark.
“The Bronx Zoo is dealing with all types of elements,” he says.
Yet he sees Rikers Island as a place rebirth happens, because inmates’ natural instinct and appetite for survival kick in. “There’s no mommy, no daddy,” he says. “Just you.”
Wise’s instincts did kick in one day on Riker’s Island after an altercation with a fellow inmate, Reyes Matias. “Destiny made it his business to come see me,” Wise tells the audience, explaining how the true rapist of the Central Park Jogger confronted him over control of a television.
Thirteen years later, almost five hours away at Auburn Correctional Facility, Wise and Matias met again on the yard where about 10,000 inmates congregated. Matias approached Wise and established that he too had transferred from Rikers Island. When inmates travel from prison to prison, it’s hard to meet new people, so they tend to stick with familiar faces. Matias broke the ice by apologizing for the fight; Wise accepted.
“I see you’re still maintaining your innocence,” Matias said.
“I guess so, yeah,” Wise said.
“Are you religious?”
“Nah, I’m not religious. Why, what’s up?”
“Well, you know, I just became religious.”
“Well, all praises be to the most high for you then.”
The next day in the chapel, Wise got a call from his mom. Inmates summoned to the chapel usually expect to hear about a death in the family, but not Wise.
“I don’t know who you talked to, but whoever you talked to, he freed you,” his mother said.
The white walls and concrete floors in Wise’s Bronx apartment living room are as bare as a prison cell’s. The wind from the open window competes with an accordion heater right beneath the sill. Wise often repeats phrases three to four times before completing a poignant thought. He stands up from the wood framed chair.
Wise takes off his green long-sleeved shirt, points to the scar on his wrist.
“I’m not a 5.”
He lifts his undershirt to show a cut on his abdomen.
“I’m not a 5.”
He pulls his pants down halfway exposing a permanent purple bruise on his upper thigh.
“I’m not a 5,” Wise says, meaning, the Central Park 5.
Wise insists that he’s an individual, more than a part of the group. Out of the five convicted, he was the only one tried and sentenced as an adult because he was 16.
“He spent twice as much time in prison and was in an adult maximum-security facility,” says his lawyer, Jane Byrialsen, with whom he has a developed familial relationship.
“The damage that he sustained from that experience is incomparable,” says Byrialsen, who adds that Wise can be a loner sometimes.
Documentarian Sarah Burns echoes Byrialsen’s sentiments. “The juvenile facilities were no walk in the park but they were not the same thing as where Korey served all of that time,” she says.
Wise has been struggling with maintaining his individuality since this nightmare began years ago. Burns says the media contributed.
“I think part of the problem with that initial coverage in 1989 was that it lumped them all together like they were this wolf pack as the newspaper said,” Burns says.
By the time Matias confessed to the crime in 2002, Wise was 30 and the other four young men had returned home; they only served seven years. “If I had went to Spofford with them it would be none of this. Reyes would still be playing stickball,” he says, meaning Matias would’ve never confessed had they not run into each other.
He still sees his social worker almost once a week but he doesn’t feel the need for a therapist, Byrialsen says. Wise doesn’t work now; he receives a disability check for being partially deaf in his right ear and having post-traumatic stress. He also gets Supplemental Security Income, a program that pays disabled adults who have limited income and resources.
He spends most of his time hanging around his old neighborhood and speaking on behalf of the Innocence Project at events.
He hardly goes anywhere without his Ipod and headphones. Sometimes when Wise is riding on the train he’ll see a poster for the documentary. “I just feel a pain, it hits me,” he says. “That’s why I try to keep my hip hop in my ears.”
But if you ever saw Wise on the streets of Harlem, he would meet you with a big grin and say something like, “I’m good, you know why?” then add, “Cause I’m hip-hop! Hip-hop is me!”
Over the years his lawyer noticed that music helps Wise escapes his pain. “He still listens to 80′s music from when he went in,” says Byrialsen. “It’s like he’s still stuck. It’s like he’s still sort of that 16-year-old kid in a way.”
She hopes that he will soon be able to move on with his life and not be continuously reminded of the past, but her hopes and reality seem farther away than she and Wise would both like.
Wise is suing the city for $50 million in damages for being wrongfully convicted, a case he filed 10 years ago; it could be a year before he sees any closure. Being unemployed has given him time to sit in the courtroom for about 40 depositions. His lawyers and the defense will have to go through 50 more before this summer. During these depositions Wise witnesses the city’s law department present evidence against his case as if they doubt Reyes’ confession should’ve exonerated him. Watching all of these legal arguments doesn’t do much for Wise’s healing, Byrialsen says.
“I think that it’s very hurtful. I think he suffers every day,” she says.
The city’s law department responded with an emailed statement.
“As we’ve said before, the City stands by the decisions made by the detectives and prosecutors,” said Celeste Koeleveld, the executive assistant corporation counsel for public safety.
The confessions, hearings, and trials all presented “abundant probable cause” for the plaintiff’s, conviction, she said.
“Nothing unearthed since the trials, including Matias Reyes’s connection to the attack on the jogger — changes that fact. . . .Under the circumstances, the City is proceeding with a vigorous defense of the detectives and prosecutors,” said Koeleveld.
Byrialsen says the longer this case remains un-settled, the more Wise’s closure is delayed. “The thought that you’ve been exonerated, and you’ve been out all these years and people still think you did it. I don’t think you can ever escape that,” she says.
Since the documentary has aired on national television on PBS, Wise is hoping it would create some type of change in the case. “The city is getting quite fed up with it so I’m hoping for a positive out of it.”
Wise says sharing his story is very therapeutic. Just recently, on the anniversary of the crime, he went to Charlotte, North Carolina for an Innocence Project conference.
In 2002, after being released, Wise changed his first name from Kharey to Korey. Byrialsen says he no longer wants to be associated with all the negative documents that carry his old name. Someone who doesn’t know Korey personally wouldn’t know the hurt he internalizes because over the years, since he’s been released, he has acquired a peaceful persona. But once he starts to unravel, the pain from this experience is exposed like an open wound.
Wise thinks highly of Burns for creating the documentary and giving him the opportunity to share his story. “The doc is beautiful. It hurts to the core,” he says.
Now that the documentary has gained national attention, Wise is happy that the truth is finally out. After it aired on television he got a lot of feedback on Facebook about his strength for taking the punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s also glad that people now recognize the connection between his incarceration and the group’s freedom; a fact he says many people leave out when telling the story. “They give a perspective as if we were together when Reyes woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning in a cold sweat and said ‘let me get this out the way,” he said in a phone conversation.
Even though he feels that others don’t always tell his story correctly, he still is glad that he can continue to speak out against injustice. Almost weekly, he appears through The Innocence Project on panel discussions, rallies, and screenings of the documentary.
Just as he left his old name behind, he speaks about his past self as if he is two different people.
“I love to see little Korey do his thing, cause he done died,” he says meaning prison almost killed his youthful spirit, “and came alive, like, 13 times in 13 years,” he says.
“Little Korey was just looking to have his life. Not have his life torn away from him,” Wise says.
“So when I look at him — as his new representative, his lawyer — I have to give the audience his life, because he’s no longer here to tell it.”
- Created on 20 May 2013
(CNN) -- AEG Live filed an insurance claim to recover losses from Michael Jackson's death the same day he died, according to a lawyer for Jackson's family.
That revelation may not relate to the heart of the wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Jackson's last concert promoter, but Jackson lawyers hope it could sway jurors to see AEG Live executives as motivated by money over the pop icon's needs.
It is one of many points Jackson lawyers will try to make Monday when they call AEG Live's top lawyer to the witness stand as the trial's fourth week begins in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Jackson's mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in the singer's death because its executives negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The promoters ignored a series of red flags that should have warned them Jackson was in danger as he was pressured to get ready for his comeback concerts, the Jackson lawsuit claims.
AEG Live lawyers counter that it was Jackson who chose, hired and supervised Dr. Murray, and that he was responsible for his own bad decisions. Its executives could not be expected to know Murray was using the surgical anesthetic propofol -- the drug the coroner ruled killed him -- to treat his insomnia, they argue.
Jackson lead lawyer Brian Panish will question AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell about his company's negotiations with Murray to be Jackson's personal physician for his "This Is It" shows in London.
The doctor signed the contract prepared by AEG lawyers and sent it back to the company a day before Jackson's death. The company argues it was not an executed contract because their executives and Michael Jackson never signed it.
The Jackson lawyers argue that e-mails, budget documents and the fact that the doctor was already working for two months showed a binding agreement between AEG and Murray.
Panish, speaking outside of the courtroom Friday, said he would also ask Trell about AEG's insurance claim, which he said his team recently discovered was filed with Lloyds of London on June 25, 2009 -- hours after Jackson was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center.
A Lloyds of London underwriter later sued AEG, claiming he company failed to disclose information about the pop star's health and drug use. AEG dropped its claim for a $17.5 million insurance policy last year.
Monday's court will start with AEG Live controller Julie Hollander completing her testimony about the company's budgeting, which she acknowledged included $1.5 million approved to pay Dr. Murray. The doctor's costs were listed as production costs -- expenses that AEG is responsible for paying -- and not as an advance, which Jackson would ultimately be responsible for giving back to the company, she testified.
The controller's testimony appears to contradict the argument AEG lead lawyer Marvin Putnam made in a CNN interview days before the trial began.
AEG Live's role with Murray was only to "forward" money owed to him by Jackson, just as a patient would use their "MasterCard," Putnam said. "If you go to your doctor and you pay with a credit card, obviously MasterCard in that instance, depending on your credit card, is providing the money to that doctor for services until you pay it back. Now, are you telling them MasterCard in some measure in that instance, did MasterCard hire the doctor or did you? Well, clearly you did. I think the analogy works in this instance."
Jackson lawyers played video testimony of one of AEG's own expert witnesses Friday -- 25-year veteran tour manager Marty Hom.
The opinion Hom submitted for AEG concluded he saw no red flags that should have alerted the promoter that something was wrong with Dr. Murray.
He was asked if AEG Live should have realized something was wrong when Dr. Murray initially asked for $5 million a year to work as Jackson's personal physician. "That raised a red flag because of the enormous sum of money," Hom testified.
Hom acknowledged he had not seen many of the documents and depositions in the case -- and AEG was considering him for a job as the Rollings Stones tour manager at the same time he was asked to testify.
- Created on 17 May 2013
(CNN) -- Every day, the workers in the Guantanamo Bay kitchen cook three squares for the detainees held here.
And every day, up to 100 of the 166 inmates send them back. They're protesting their ongoing imprisonment by going on hunger strikes for what is now 100 days.
Not only has Guantanamo Bay become a lightning rod for America's critics -- it's no prize for America's taxpayers, either.
Running the prison camp costs the Pentagon more than $150 million a year -- just over $900,000 for each of the 166 detainees at the facility, located on a Navy base on the eastern end of Cuba. By comparison, costs for a typical federal prison inmate run about $25,000 a year; at the "supermax" prison in Colorado that holds domestic terrorists Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski, it's about $60,000.
And despite calls by President Barack Obama himself to close the 11-year-old facility, the military is about to spend millions more to upgrade the prison camp.
"We have to always plan to conduct that mission from now into the future," said Army Col. John Bogdan, commander of the military's Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo. "And the policymakers will decide when that mission's over."
The renovation plans include a $50 million overhaul for Camp VII, the most secretive part of the compound. The inmates there include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed organizer of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington; accused co-conspirators Walid bin Attash and Ramzi Bin al-Shahb; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the man accused of leading the plot to bomb the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors.
They face trial on war crimes charges before the military courts set up to try al Qaeda and Taliban figures. Most of the rest of the prisoners face no charges at all.
Because the facilities were hastily built and never thought to be permanent, the prison camp may need as much as $170 million more in repairs, said Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, the chief of U.S. forces in the region.
"This is really a kind of thrown-together operation," Kelly told the House Armed Services Committee in March. "It's really not 11 years long. It's really one year, 11 times."
The kitchens are "literally falling apart," Kelly said, and the barracks that house the 1,900 troops assigned to the prison camp need replacing. And since everything has to be brought in from outside, it all costs about twice as much, he said.
The decrepit remains of previous units -- the original Camp X-Ray, where detainees were first housed in chain-link cages, and the successive Camps I-IV -- still stand on the way to the infirmary. Weeds grow up among the rusted gates, empty watchtowers and abandoned exercise equipment, all within a mile of the facilities where the remaining prisoners are held.
A total of 86 of the 166 detainees have been approved for transfer out, but both the Obama administration and Congress have effectively halted the moves. The last transfer took place in September, and the State Department office tasked with finding countries that would take the others was closed in January.
And the indefinite imprisonment the detainees face has fueled the wave of hunger strikes, which have progressed to the point where about 30 inmates are being force-fed.
"It's kind of a tough mission," the camp's senior medical officer, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity for security reasons, told CNN. "This is kind of an ugly place sometimes."
The inmates are given a last chance to drink a nutritional supplement before being force-fed. If they refuse, they're strapped to a chair and a plastic tube is shoved up their noses, down their throats and into their stomachs.
The Pentagon says the feeding program is lawful and humane. The inmates are given a numbing gel and the thin tubes are lubricated before being inserted, they say.
"Nobody's expressed to me that this hurts," the senior medical officer said.
But Cori Crider, a lawyer for hunger striker Samir Moqbel, called it "an incredibly agonizing process."
"You don't get farther than about here, into your throat, before the tears start streaming down your face. ... He said he had never felt so much pain like that in his life," she said.
The practice has been condemned by human rights groups and the American Medical Association, which says every patient has the right to refuse even life-sustaining treatment. But the senior medical officer said that when a prisoner is on the verge of harming himself, "suddenly it's not a very abstract decision."
"It's very easy for folks outside this place to make policies and decisions that they think they would implement," he said.
"There's a lot of politics involved" in the AMA's opposition he added, "And I'm sure there's lots of politics that they need to answer to as well."
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence reported from Guantanamo Bay. Matt Smith reported and wrote from Atlanta.
- Created on 19 May 2013
As he evolved away from his past as Detroit Red, he transformed himself first, into a loyal protégé of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, then, into a world renowned human rights activist. He never hid behind his legend to avoid speaking of his time as a...
- Created on 16 May 2013
(CNN) -- The White House released more than 100 pages of e-mails on Wednesday in a bid to quell critics who say President Barack Obama and his aides played politics with national security following the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The e-mails detail the complex back and forth between the CIA, State Department, and the White House in developing unclassified talking points that were used to underpin a controversial and slow-to-evolve explanation of events last September 11.
The talking points have become a political flashpoint in a long-running battle between the Obama administration and Republicans, who accuse it of not bolstering security prior to the attack, of botching the response to it, and of misleading the public for political gain less than two months before the November election.
The GOP suggests that the administration removed specific terror references and stuck to an explanation -- later proved untrue -- that the attack was result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim film that was produced in the United States. There had been such a demonstration in Cairo.
The Benghazi attack killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The White House and its allies in Congress have made the case that any confusion and conflicting information in the early hours and days after the attacks stemmed from the "fog of war" -- not any deliberate effort to mislead the American people about the source of the attacks.
Obama has called Republican concentration on the talking points a political "side show."
Senior Obama administration officials contend the e-mails demonstrate the process of developing talking points for members of Congress to use in media interviews was not focused on politics but rather on events.
For instance, some of the e-mails expressed caution about what should be said publicly during an FBI investigation while others centered on the strength of intelligence at the time.
The White House said the e-mails it provided to inquiring lawmakers months ago and released on Wednesday aim to paint a fuller picture following what it described as a series of selective and inaccurate e-mails recently appearing in media reports.
"Collectively, these e-mails make clear that the interagency process, including the White House's interactions, were focused on providing the facts as we knew them based on the best information available at the time and protecting an ongoing investigation," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
The e-mails indicate the CIA was likely the lead organization in developing the talking points with the State Department recommending significant changes.
Changes made to talking points
Following the original drafting of them, CIA analysts made a handful of significant changes, according to administration sources.
In the CIA's original set, the first bullet point included a reference that the Benghazi attack was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. consulate and subsequently its annex."
It noted assessments could change "as additional information is collected and analyzed."
The second bullet point noted the attackers in Benghazi were comprised of "a mix of individuals from across many sections of Libyan society."
It specified that intelligence officials did not know whether Islamic extremists, including those aligned with al Qaeda, had participated in the attack.
This bullet was later changed after a CIA analyst questioned whether the current intelligence supported the assertion that extremists had participated in the attack.
Another CIA officer agreed, stating intelligence placed extremists at a protest but could not support the notion that extremists were responsible for the American deaths.
The editing team revised it so that talking point read, "The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is on-going as to who is responsible. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
The second CIA change was to the swap out the word "attacks" with "demonstrations" in the first bullet point, which an administration source said was to eliminate an awkward and illogical account of events.
A third change the CIA made was to remove the name al Qaeda from the second talking point, which was done because it didn't want to get ahead of the FBI's investigation of the attack.
A key point of contention revolves around statements by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who took the most direct criticism because of her assertions in television interviews days after the attack that linked it to the demonstration.
State Department concern
A final CIA addition to the talking points was a warning about the security situation at the time of the armed assault. But that warning was eventually removed.
Senior administration officials say that long before the CIA heard concerns from the State Department about warnings being put in the talking points,
CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell advocated for removing the warnings out, since he felt the talking points should focus on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, rather than the previous six months.
He also felt it was unprofessional and unfair for the CIA to cite its own warnings to the State Department, officials said.
Victoria Nuland, then the State Department spokeswoman, had raised concerns over the CIA's first version, saying that they went further than what she was allowed to say about the attack during her briefings.
She also questioned information about CIA warnings of extremist threats linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya, saying "the penultimate point could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned..."
Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee which is investigating the matter, told CNN's "Situtation Room" that his staff wants to digest the e-mails. He stressed that they were a selected set of documents as released and the committee is still seeking a range of other information.
What the e-mails say
September 14, 2012
Page 6 (11:15 a.m.): The original talking points were sent by the CIA.
Page 12 (3:04 p.m.): Talking points were sent to the White House's Tommy Vietor (National Security Council spokesman) and Ben Rhodes (a top National Security aide).
Page 13 (3:27 p.m.): A top official with the CIA Office of Public Affairs says they're working on the talking points, and "will have further edits."
Page 15 (4:42 p.m.): CIA sends out a new draft for review before sending to the White House.
Page 21 (5:09 p.m.): A version of talking points is sent to the White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence at 5:09 p.m. This is the second draft of the talking points, when the reference to "attack" was changed to "demonstrations."
Page 26 (6:21 p.m.): The White House suggests adding the word "Cairo" to the first bullet point.
Page 28 (6:33 p.m.): Talking points are sent to the State Department. An administration official says the highlighted portions included the last sentence of the first bullet -- "On 10 September we learned of social reports calling for a demonstration in front of Embassy CAIRO and that jihadists were threatening to break into the embassy."
A sentence in the second-to-last bullet was also highlighted. That sentence said "The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya."
Page 29-30 (6:41 p.m.; 6:43 p.m.): Office of the Director of National Intelligence proposes an edit: "I've been very careful not to say we issued a warning," wrote Shawn S. Turner (a spokesman).
Page 32 (6:52 p.m.): White House national security staff send around their own edits, namely to the second bullet.
Page 37 (7:39 p.m.): Then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sends her e-mail flagging concerns about information contained in the bullet points revealing too much information.
She also questions the point about the CIA's previous warnings to the State Department about potential attacks in Benghazi.
Page 38 (7:51 p.m.): The FBI weighs in with questions on particular pieces of intelligence.
Page 48 (8:58 p.m.): CIA sends the latest draft in talking points, which they say take into account State Department and FBI concerns.
Page 48-49 (9:24 p.m.): Nuland responds, saying the new draft's talking points "don't resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership. They are consulting w NSS."
Page 51 (9:25 p.m.): State Department Official Jacob Sullivan says "we'll work through this in the morning and get comments back."
Page 58 (9:44 p.m.): Department of Justice officials are added to the e-mail chain.
On the next day, a Saturday, officials from the State Department, CIA, FBI, the White House and the Justice Department convene at a "deputies meeting."
According to an administration official, the meeting was not focused specifically on Benghazi or Libya, but rather on the broad violence, prompted by the anti-Muslim video throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The meeting centered on keeping Americans safe.
Only at the very end were the talking points discussed, the administration official said.
The administration official said Morell relayed that he was aware of some interagency concerns about talking points, and noted he had his own concerns. He said he would take a crack at editing them and would send them to those attending the deputies meeting.
The administration official said then-Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough thanked Morell. That was the total extent of the discussion of the Benghazi talking points at the meeting.
Page 63, From Saturday: after the meeting, Morell edited the document by hand. He reordered the talking points and struck out sections about CIA warnings to the State Department on possible demonstrations, and the outbreaks of violence in the region. He also removed the reference to Islamic extremists.
Page 64 (9:49 a.m.): Original CIA drafter says the edits Morell made are "fine with me. But, pretty sure HPSCI won't like them. :-)" HPSCI refers to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Page 69-70 (11:08 a.m.) New draft of talking points is circulated to agencies for clearance.
Page 69-89 (11:12-12:43 a.m.): Officials from various agencies sign off on the talking points.
Page 74-76 (11:25-11:26 a.m.): Officials from the State Department and the White House National Security Staff ask to change the reference in the first bullet point from "US Consulate" to "diplomatic post."