Happy Hump Day, CivMixers!! Another week, another Wednesday, another day full of news. Some people are looking forward to re-opening at the end of this week; others are wondering when their regions are going to go seven for seven, so they can begin their phased re-opening.
The Capital Region is one step closer to opening, but it is unclear when we will cross that final threshold. Hopefully, it will be soon, both for economic reasons and because it would mean that deaths are on a steady decline.
Well, let’s move on to the wrap-up.
1) There were more developments in the Ahmaud Arbery case today. It was revealed that there were no reported break-ins for weeks leading up to the incident that proved fatal for 25-year-old Arbery. Also, the owner of the construction site where there was footage of Arbery shortly before the shooting on Feb. 23 says no crime was committed there by Arbery or anyone else.
The video does show a man, confirmed to Arbery by his family’s attorney, entering the site. He wanders around looking at things, but never touches anything and finally simply walks away. The owner, Larry English, said he didn’t even see the video until after the shooting. He also stressed that he never accused Arbery of any crime.
It has been almost three months since Arbery was pursued while jogging around the neighborhood of Satilla Shores in Georgia. Father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, were arrested just this past Thursday and charged with murder. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also levied aggravated assault charges against them.
The story that Greg (64) told the police was that there had been a string of break-ins within the neighborhood over the weeks before the incident. He also stated that Arbery matched the description of the person who had been captured on a security surveillance video.
The reality is that for more than seven weeks leading up to the incident, there were no official police reports of any such burglaries. The only report came from the McMichaels, who said a gun had been taken out of an unlocked vehicle in front of their house.
Videos have played an essential role in the case, with a cell phone video taken by William “Roddie” Bryan pushing this incident to the forefront of the public’s awareness. It captured the seconds leading up to and seemingly including the shooting in a bumpy 36-seconds.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, contends that his client was simply a bystander, disputing Greg McMichael’s contention that Bryan was assisting his son and himself in running Arbery down.
Neither Gough nor Bryan has given an actual reason to explain why Bryan did not call 911 during the chase or after the shooting. The only response Gough came up with was that Bryan heard the sirens almost immediately, and it was clear the police were on the way.
Akeem Baker was Ahmed Arbery’s best friend and described him as a “man of principles, loyalty, respect, and love.” Arbery was the kind of friend who checked in on those around him, just to see how they are doing. Baker said that at the end of every conversation, Arbery would tell him that he loved him.
The autopsy report showed three gunshot wounds, a graze to the wrist, and two wounds to the chest. According to the McMichaels, Greg grabbed a handgun, and Travis grabbed a shotgun, and they ran to the truck to chase Arbery down. They claim he avoided them twice, and then they caught up to him a third time, which is when Travis exited the truck, and the struggle ensued. Greg claimed his son only shot once Arbery attacked him.
An April 1 autopsy report obtained by CNN shows Arbery was shot three times, including twice in the chest. The autopsy report agrees that the wounds match up with a struggle for the shotgun.
Last Friday, a judge declined to set bail.
There is also an investigation underway by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), which quickly arrested the duo shortly after taking over the case last week and is now looking into why the local police did not arrest them for more than a month. There is also a question as to why the case is on its fourth prosecutor.
2) Yesterday a teacher in Pinellas County, Florida, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of video voyeurism after it was alleged that he set a camera up in his bathroom and invited students over for a pool party in 2011.
Thomas John Kovack, 41, also faces previous charges for a 2018 incident in which he allegedly covertly recorded a female student who was changing for yearbook photos.
According to the Sheriff’s Office in Pinellas, Kovack admitted to the videos he took during the pool part in 2011. He supposedly had this party for his journalism students while employed as their teacher at J.W. Mitchell High School. He allegedly gave them alcohol and offered them a place to stay over, though none took him up on that offer. However, plenty were caught on camera without their consent or knowledge.
The actual arrest took place in the neighboring county of Pasco County, which is where Kovack kept the hard drive that contained the videos.
The 2018 case is pending in Pasco County, and Kovack is still in the Pinellas County Jail as of this afternoon. He was scheduled for hearing today on all 10 charges that stem from that 2011 pool party. He has a bond hearing May 19 at 10 a.m.
3) The New York Child Victims Act was ruled constitutional today in state Supreme Court. The CVA gives sexual abuse survivors the ability to file complaints against alleged attackers even if the charge is decades old.
The motion to have cases pursued under this Act dismissed was filed by the Long Island Rockville Centre Catholic Diocese. The motion was filed back in November. They are facing over 40 suits under the CVA and maintain that the Act violates the alleged offenders due process rights under the state Constitution.
Supreme Court Judge Steven M. Jaeger, of Nassau County, did not agree with their motion. Jaeger found the Act constitutional and declared it to be entirely reasonable in an attempt to help victims deal with the injustice forced upon them under past sexual abuse.
The CVA was given a one-year temporary look-back period, which would eliminate any statute of limitations regarding sexual abuse civil suits. Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the said window to January since civil courts are stopped under the COVID crisis response.
The diocese spokesman, Sean P. Dolan released a statement that the diocese disagrees with the ruling and is looking into what options they have for appealing. Though in Nassau County, the decision will apply statewide.
Advocates called the ruling a victory for survivors and families and said it’s a strong statement that the Catholic Church will no longer be able to escape accountability.
4) In Saratoga County, they are looking forward to planning their re-opening. The Board of Supervisors has created an advisory council which they filled with local health and public safety experts, as well as local officials and business leaders.
The council’s goal will be to help the county plan its re-opening and guide them in their choices. Todd Shimkus is the President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and stated that the council is in existence to help small business owners for the most part. They acknowledge that this is a very emotional time for them, and they are hoping that the council can help them all move forward efficiently and safely.
The commission is going to focus on how to phase-in businesses and make sure that they are staying compliant with all protocols going forward. They will work as liaisons to other groups throughout the Capital District that will be doing the same thing.
They will have their first meeting this Friday and at 3 p.m.
5) A Schylyerville man battled COVID-19 and today won when he walked out of the hospital after spending two weeks on a ventilator.
Tom Cappelletti, 57, works out daily and stays in good health, but he almost didn’t defeat COVID-19. After being ravaged with the aches, fatigue, fever, and developing a cough, Cappelletti began having issues breathing. He ended up on a ventilator in the ICU of Saratoga Hospital.
His girlfriend Sara Kilian was terrified, speaking to an emotional doctor over the phone who told her the situation was critical. Neither Kilian nor Cappelletti’s family were allowed in to see him. But they do not have enough good things to say about the Saratoga staff, because they were kept informed at all times.
Cappelletti left the hospital today under his own steam after almost a month of being admitted. Outside, the path was lined with family, friends, and hospital staff who cheered as he was reunited with his loved ones – including his girlfriend and his two children.
After he recovers, he will be back in the hospital as the disease destroyed his gall bladder. He will have to have surgery to have it removed, but the staff is sure that will be nothing compared to what he already went through.
That is all for today, folks. Have a great night, see all of you (so to speak) tomorrow.
Photo credit: George Fazio.