2 accused of intimidating family

Two members of a white supremacist group were arrested Thursday and accused of intimidating a Michigan family, authorities said.

Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor, were charged with gang membership, unlawful posting of a message and using computers to commit a crime, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.

The charges followed an investigation by Michigan State Police and the FBI into a group called the Base and a December 2019 incident in which a family in Dexter saw men in dark clothing shining a light and taking photos on the front porch of their home. The photos were uploaded onto the Base’s social media platform channel along with a caption that alluded to a person involved with an antifa podcast, authorities said.

Nessel’s office said the group was targeting that person, but that he had never lived at the home, which is about 52 miles west of Detroit.

Antifa is an umbrella description for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.

Watkins and Gorman were being held Thursday in the Washtenaw County Jail pending arraignment. Watkins has professed to be the appointed leader of the Base and reportedly ran a hate camp that included tactical and firearms training, Nessel’s office said.

— Associated Press

New York

Ex-cop admits to cheating 9/11 worker

A former police lieutenant-turned-lawyer on Thursday admitted cheating a fellow officer of $900,000 he was due after working at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gustavo Vila, 62, pleaded guilty Thursday in White Plains federal court to cheating the U.S. government by failing to pass along proceeds of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund that were owed to John Ferreyra, 59, who was a New York Police Department officer when the attacks occurred.

Prosecutors said Vila paid his own taxes and gave money to his then-wife and their son while lying to Ferreyra about the fate of over $1 million Ferreyra was awarded from the fund in 2016.

Ferreyra received only $100,000 of the money he was awarded after his 2005 cancer diagnosis. He had worked at the toxic trade center site for months after the attacks.

Vila told Judge Vincent L. Briccetti that as Ferreyra’s lawyer, he was entitled to take a 10 percent fee from the $1,030,000 award. Vila has since been disbarred. The judge set sentencing for Feb. 5.

— Associated Press


Court revives lawsuit in wrongful arrest

A Black man who was wrongly arrested when he was 15 years old and held for three weeks without charge will be allowed to sue the two Kansas City officers who detained him, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled 2-1 Wednesday that the officers violated the constitutional rights of Tyree Bell when they arrested him without probable cause on June 8, 2016, KCUR reported.

Officers Peter Neukrich and Jonathan Munyan said they arrested Bell because he resembled another teen who had run away from officers earlier in the day, discarding a gun as he fled. Bell was walking home about a mile from where that happened when the officers stopped him.

The appeals court wrote that Bell’s only resemblance to the suspect was that he was Black, juvenile and male.

Bell and his mother sued the police, plus several city and police department officials in 2017. The lower court dismissed the lawsuit in March 2019 after finding the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, which protects government officials from being sued for actions in their official capacity unless they violate a legal or constitutional right.

— Associated Press