Boston Herald and Reporter Bagged for Defamation of Press Pass TV Co-Director

BOSTON – The Boston Herald and one of its reporters have been found liable of defaming a local journalist, community activist, and prison-rights advocate following a jury trial in a Suffolk County court last month.
Joanna Marinova, co-director of the nonprofit news outlet Press Pass TV, sued the Herald and its reporter Jessica Van Sack following a May 28, 2009 article, which falsely claimed that Marinova had sex with an inmate while visiting Old Colony Correctional Facility.
In a verdict reached on March 19, the jury awarded Marinova over $500,000 – not including accrued interest of over $250,000 – for knowingly publishing defamatory statements that Marinova’s lawyer Megan Deluhery says had a “devastating” impact on Marinova, and a damaging effect on Press Pass TV’s youth work.
In a phone interview, Deluhery told Open Media Boston the defamatory article concerned a visit Marinova made to the prison on May 7, 2009 with State Representative Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), “to investigate reports of abuses … by guards against inmates and their families.”
Deluhery explains that Marinova had just gotten involved in a prison-reform group called End the Odds Coalition – headed by prominent local activist Mel King – and that King asked Rep. Fox to meet with inmate Darrell Jones.
According to Deluhery, Jones “had been involved in an anti-violence video project by another organization unrelated” to Marinova’s work, and “was gathering information about the abuses” at the prison.
Marinova – who was in a relationship with Jones at the time, and has since gotten married to him – booked her visit to the prison on May 7 two days in advance, following procedures, and had her visit approved before going there with Rep. Fox.
After they were both allowed into the prison “they were met by the superintendent and led to an interview room in segregation,” but sometime after Marinova was asked to wait in the lobby, because the superintendent had wrongly “assumed she was a legislative aide,” seen as she was with Rep. Fox.
“That’s pretty much the extent of what happened,” says Deluhery, but “what the paper reported was that our client and the state representative had snuck into the prison on May 7, and that our client had previously been ‘bagged’ for engaging in sexual acts in the visiting room with the inmate.”
Referring to Marinova being mistaken for Rep. Fox’s aide as an “apparent charade” on her part, the Herald articles falsely claims, “Fox and the woman were bagged by a vigilant guard who recognized the ‘aide’ as Jones’ girlfriend – a woman previously written up for engaging in prohibited ‘sexual acts’ in the visitor room with Jones.”
According to Deluhery, during a visit between Marinova and Jones at the prison in November 2008 an “officer reported observing a hand on the leg and a kiss,” and Jones was written up as a consequence of this ‘sexual act,’ along with two other reprimands.
Despite the dismissal of the “sexual acts charge” in that December, which was documented in a prison report, Van Sack claimed that Marinova “had been ‘bagged’ or ‘written up,’ essentially caught in the act,” says Deluhery, “putting ‘sexual acts’ in quotes without explaining the nature of the charge, the underlying conduct, that it had been dismissed, or anything like that.”
As a result of the defamation, Deluhery says that Marinova has suffered personally, and has had her family impacted – while Press Pass TV also lost contracts, had a business plan derailed, which took “them several years to get back on track.”
Asked what the motivations behind the article may have been, Deluhery says she “can’t really speculate,” because there wasn’t evidence at trial,” but added that “if you can just put ‘sexual acts’ in quotes it’s certainly more attention-grabbing than saying there was a hand on the leg and a kiss …”
According to Deluhery, Marinova’s “work is her life, it’s a passion of hers, and so to see this happen to an organization that she had just joined, and was trying to take to the next level was really devastating for her, so she’s very gratified by the outcome of the case.
“That it’s finally out there in the public domain that what they printed is not true, so that at least if people continue to find this article, maybe they’ll also find the outcome of this lawsuit and not just believe it for what it says,” she continues.
According to a statement released by the Herald following the jury verdict, the paper “has stated since its May 28, 2009 article on a major security breach at Old Colony Prison was published that its article was entirely correct, from its headline to its last line. The article was meticulously researched, carefully written and extremely well-documented. We are proud of it, and of the journalist who wrote it.”
“The article was not only excellent, but important, leading as it did to a Department of Corrections investigation and certain reform measures. Lawsuits like the one filed here are serious threats not only to the rights of a free and robust press, but to the rights of the citizenry that expects, and depends upon, that free and robust press. The Herald fully expects to ultimately prevail in this matter,” the statement continues.
A lawyer for the Boston Herald declined to add to the paper’s statement, but confirmed that an appeal has been filed on behalf of the defense.
Full Disclosure: Open Media Boston editor/publisher Jason Pramas has been a member of the Press Pass TV Board of Advisors since the organization’s inception. (Published on Open Media Boston)

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Unfair Hiring for People of Color and Women, Claims Boston Jobs Coalition

BOSTON/Downtown Crossing – The luxury building developer Millennium Partners was slammed in a demonstration at Filene’s Basement in Downtown Boston on Monday for its claimed lack of adherence to local policy that sets hiring rates for city residents, people of color, and women.
Around 200 members and supporters of the Boston Jobs Coalition picketed the condominium development before moving onto Millennium’s office on Tremont St., calling on them to meet the Boston Residents Jobs Policy (BRJP) rules, and to make required affordable housing payments to the city.
In an interview with Open Media Boston, coalition spokesperson Aaron Tanaka said the demonstration was “to do with the current workforce numbers, in terms of who’s actually getting on the construction site … so we’re calling on Millennium to hold their general contractor to the standards that are required by the current Boston Residents Jobs Policy.”
He said the coalition is asking Millennium, as “such a prominent developer, to reach for best practices standard, which is going for 51 per cent residents, 51 per cent people of color, and 15 per cent women.”
Tanaka says the coalition wants Millennium to have higher rates of hiring for people of color and women than is mandated in the BRJP, but he claims “they’re not really reaching that” lower requirement, despite two other construction projects in Roxbury being able to meet those higher hiring goals.
In a press statement given to Open Media Boston, a spokesperson for Millennium Partners and its contractor Suffolk Construction, said that the developer “is proud to be part of the resurgence of Downtown Crossing,” and that the construction firm “fully complies with the City of Boston Jobs Policy Executive Order administered by the Boston Employment Commission.
“We have ongoing relationships with groups, such as Youth Build and Building Pathways, which encourage training for minority, women and city residences in the construction industry and others,” it continues.
Tanaka claims that developers are supposed to allocate funding for affordable housing units, “but basically Millennium did not pay the full amount … and so not only are they developing a building that is going to have a huge displacement impact on the neighborhood, they’re not even fully meeting their obligation …”
Speaking at the rally, Mark Liu from the Chinese Progressive Association claimed that since Millennium received $27 million in tax breaks – based on Filene’s Basement being an historical site – “this is our development, and we need jobs, and we need them to pay their affordable housing fee, and we shouldn’t wait for the next millennium for this to happen, we need to have it happen now.”
Also speaking at the rally, Priscilla Flynn of the Black Economic Justice Institute said, “this is an historic moment in Boston: we have the Asian community, we have the Latino community, the Black community, and the white community standing up for our rights as citizens of Boston.
“This proves that there are people who care about the injustice that continues to plague our communities, this is ‘Boston Strong,’” she continued.
Several workers spoke about their difficulties trying to secure work in Boston, including Kenny Gerald, an African-American bricklayer who’s unemployed despite high levels of construction taking place in the city.
“I can’t get a job, they won’t hire me, I don’t know why,” he told the demonstrators, “I haven’t worked in three years, I’ve been trying to get on, and they say you have to be in the union; how are they going to comply if they won’t let you in the union? That’s how I think they get around , with their little tricks there.”
Bianca Duncan, an unemployed mother of one, said “it’s hard out here to get a job … I’ve applied for jobs over and over, they never responded back, my resume is good, but they just won’t give me a job.
“It’s really hard for a black girl like me to try to work out here, because they won’t offer nothing, everybody out here, they want a job, they want to work, but the government’s not helping us … everybody needs to step together, and we need to do this,” she continues.
Open Media Boston made repeated requests for a press statement from the Boston City Mayor’s office regarding the issues surrounding affordable housing, tax breaks, and noncompliance with the BRJP, but did not receive a response before the filing of this report.
Editor’s note (4/2/14): The name of one of the speakers at the rally has been corrected. Mark Liu from the Chinese Progressive Association spoke at the rally. (Published on Open Media Boston)

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Students Demand State Action to Reduce Fossil Fuel Investment

BOSTON/State House – Calling on Gov. Deval Patrick to do more to address the issue of climate change, hundreds of students and young people left their classes as part of a demonstration in front of the State House on Monday.
Around 300 protesters from across the Bay State gathered to demand that the state divest from fossil fuels and fossil fuel-related infrastructure, and to highlight the growing threat from climate change.
One of the organizers of the event, and member of Students for a Just and Sustainable Future, Martin Hamilton, told Open Media Boston in an interview, “we have to start moving away from fossil fuels, and Massachusetts is a state that can really lead in that, and we can take this opportunity to start investing in renewables.
“We know that Governor Patrick is a strong leader on climate, and so we feel that we’re going to be able to convey to him the importance of a ban on new fossil fuels in the state,” he continued, “we’re all primarily students, young people, and the fact is we’re going to be living in a world affected by climate change, and we feel that urgency of already seeing the effects of climate change and feeling that as important as school is, we have more important deadlines right now, we need to fight for our futures.”
A small delegation of the student protesters who went inside the State House announced that they had secured a meeting with Gov. Patrick on the issue of state investment in fossil fuels and renewable energy in the coming weeks.
Open Media Boston made multiple requests for a press statement from the Governor’s office, but did not receive a response before the filing of this report.
Speaking at the demonstration, Newton North High School junior Kerry Brock said, “Our schools, our communities, and our state are not taking climate change as seriously as we need them to.” Holding her large biology school textbook, she said “in these 1,500 pages, there is one paragraph about climate change … about a crisis that is completely destroying the way our world functions … a crisis that is killing people, a crisis that threatens society as we know it, I chose to walk out of my junior year of high school, because this one paragraph is not enough.”
Hitting out at Gov. Patrick’s effort to reduce carbon emissions since the signing of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, Brock said “he agreed to reduce Massachusetts’ emissions 80 per cent by 2050, as of right now, we are not on track to meet that goal, and if we continue to build fossil-fuel infrastructure, that goal will become impossible to meet, so today we have a choice, we can continue to be just another state impossibly entangled in a rogue industry, or we can be the spark to start a clean energy revolution.”
The feared outcome of inaction on climate change says Brock is “more floods, more droughts, more wild fires, more storms and more injustice.” (Published on Open Media Boston)

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News in Brief: March 31, 2014

SEIU – Cambridge College

Cambridge City Council adopted an order last Monday, saying it will “formally go on record expressing its great disappointment in how Cambridge College has conducted itself” in choosing to hire Hunter Protective Services (HPS) to fulfill a campus security contract without being fully open with security staff. In an effort to improve wages, security guards at the college have been attempting to unionize through SEIU local 32BJ with both their former employer Longwood Security, and HPS. The order states that the council is “strongly urging representatives of Hunter Protective Services and representatives of Cambridge College to meet with SEIU 32BJ District 615 in order to establish an open line of communication and to determine what steps Hunter Protective Services will take to ensure that its security officers are paid prevailing wages and treated fairly.”

UNITE HERE – Lesley University

Food-service workers and members of UNITE HERE Local 26 at Lesley University have ratified their first union contract earlier this month. The contract “increases their wages by about $1.20 an hour in the first year and $3.40 over three years,” report The Boston Globe. “Currently, the 85 cooks, dishwashers, servers, and cashiers make $12 an hour, on average. The contract also cuts workers’ health insurance premiums in half and doubles the number of annual paid sick days, to six. The workers, who are employed by a contractor, Bon Appetit Management Co., join 800 other cafeteria workers from Northeastern University, Harvard Law School, and other local colleges who have joined the hospitality workers’ union … over the past two years.”

QueerUP – Northeastern University

A queer and pro-Palestinian activist group called QueerUP hit out at a planned appearance of gay porn director and actor Michael Lucas at Northeastern University on Tuesday. Claiming that Lucas is Islamophobic and ‘pink-washes’ Israeli crimes in the occupied territories, the group slammed the event’s organizers, and criticized Northeastern University’s gay pride group for their initial support of the appearance. The event went ahead with a film showing when Lucas did not attend to speak as expected, and NU Pride pulled their sponsorship ahead of the appearance.

MassCOSH – Boston Fire Department

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has extended its sympathy to the families and colleagues of the Boston firefighters, Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh, tragically killed while trying to tackle a blaze at a house in Back Bay on Wednesday. Wishes were also sent out for a swift recovery for those who were injured in the fire. MassCOSH will honor the two men in a gathering at the State House on April 28 to mark International Workers Memorial Day.

Women’s Fightback Network – International Women’s Day

To mark International Women’s Day earlier this month, a small number of protestors marched from Park St. station to the Boston School Committee headquarters on Court St. on Wednesday. Organized by the Women’s Fightback Network, demonstrators called for investment in education and jobs, a raise in the minimum wage, and fair treatment of the Boston Public Schools bus drivers. (Published on Open Media Boston)

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Doubletree Hotel Picketed in Demand for Fair Unionization Process

BOSTON/Allston – The DoubleTree hotel in Allston was picketed on Thursday as protestors called on its operators Hilton Worldwide and its owner Harvard University to grant their demand for a fair unionization process.
A number of hotel employees and around 200 supporters demonstrated outside the hotel claiming that workers have not received a fair process in their unionization efforts, and highlighting poor working conditions and low pay.
In an interview, Sandra Hernandez, who has been working in housekeeping at the hotel for 22 years, told Open Media Boston through an interpreter, “I’m fighting for a fair process, because I have my husband and my daughter who don’t have health insurance,” and because she alone is insured through the hotel’s policy.
Referring to Hernandez, the interpreter says, “yesterday, she brought her daughter to the emergency room; she thought she had MassHealth for her daughter, but she realized she actually doesn’t; so she feels really frustrated, because she doesn’t have the money to pay for the health insurance.”
“I don’t know what else to do besides fight, because my husband doesn’t have a good job either,” says Hernandez.
According to a report into the jobs available at DoubleTree carried out by Harvard student Gabriel Bayard on behalf of the UNITE HERE union, some of the major issues faced by workers includes injuries, pain, stress, inadequate health insurance coverage, and low wages.
The reports explains that “On March 12th, 2013, a supermajority of workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree came together to ask their employer for a fair process to decide upon unionization.”
Under a similar unionization process, Harvard Law School dining services workers chose to become members of UNITE HERE’s Local 26 in December 2011.
“However,” the report continues, “on May 8, 2013 in a letter to Local 26, Harvard Human Resources stated that the University ‘respectfully declines Local 26’s request for the University to insert itself into this organizing campaign.’ Since then, workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree have not received a fair process.”
The demonstration was also supported by Harvard students, many of whom are affiliated with the on campus Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM).
In an interview with Open Media Boston, SLAM member Sandra Korn explained the demonstration, saying “the workers have voted to launch a boycott of the hotel, which means that we’ll be asking people who are checked into the hotel to check out, and we will be asking people who are considering staying at the hotel to cancel their reservations or not book reservations.
“And in-particular since the hotel is itself owned by Harvard university and I’m a student at Harvard, we’re going to be particularly targeting Harvard university affiliates and groups, asking them to cancel reservations they have at the hotel, and not book further reservations at the hotel, until the hotel grants the workers a fair process to unionize,” Korn continues.
She says that the working conditions for DoubleTree employees are “really a shame,” and she says that Harvard as “the richest university in the world,” has the “ability to treat workers well on campus, and so we just want to make sure that the workers at the DoubleTree hotel have the same standard of union representation, the same health benefits, the same ability to bargain for their wages as the workers on campus.”
In response to a request for a press statement, a Harvard spokesperson declined to comment, telling Open Media Boston that the university “does not operate the Doubltree Hotel,” and referring questions to the hotel’s operator.
According to a Hilton Worldwide spokesperson, “Hilton provides some of the best jobs in the hospitality industry and is committed to offering a workplace environment where our team members are treated fairly and with respect, including respecting the right of our eam embers to choose or not choose collective bargaining representation.
“We have informed UNITE HERE that we do not believe a true majority of Doubletree by Hilton Boston-Cambridge employees wish to be represented by any union for purposes of collective bargaining. The appropriate and fairest process for determining whether a majority of employees wish to be represented is through a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board,” the statement continues.
(Published on Open Media Boston)

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State Legislators Called on to Raise Minimum Wage

BOSTON/State House – While currently considering more than one bill to raise the state’s minimum wage, legislators were called on Wednesday to increase it to $10.50 an hour, to tie future raises to the cost of living, and to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to $6.30 an hour.
Around 400 supporters of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of labor, faith, and community groups rallied outside the State House, before calling on their political representatives with their demands.
A number of workers spoke at the rally of the difficulties of making ends meet on minimum wage, and they were joined by employers who believe business and the economy would improve if the legislation were to be passed.
Working as a shuttle bus assistant at Logan Airport, mother of a five year old daughter Stephanie Daley told the rally that her job is “hard work that should be rewarded, but I can barely pay my bills on $8 an hour … that’s why Massachusetts needs to step up and raise up.”
Gerardo Nino, who works for tips and is affiliated with the Restaurant Opportunities Center in Boston, spoke about coming to the US several years ago with the goals of working hard and saving money, but he says, “after all these years I’m still trying to save money, because this wage that I have doesn’t allow us to do much with that.
Speaking on behalf of employers in the Alliance for Business Leadership Philip Edmundson said, “I’m humbled to be in front of you, because I know the stories, we all know the stories, and it’s not anything any of us should stand for anymore, and I can tell you that there are hundreds, thousands of business leaders in this state that support what you’re fighting for today.”
He said that “it’s great for business if the minimum wage goes up, so if a legislator tells you it’s bad for business, you tell them that if all of us in the state have more money to spend, more things are going to be bought, there’s more demand, it’s better for our economy.”
According to a press release by the Raise Up campaign, “The rally was part of campaign to lift low wage workers out of poverty by raising the minimum and tipped wage in Massachusetts. The coalition is already mobilizing its final signature gathering effort to put raising the minimum and tipped wage and earned sick time on the November ballot.
“Tipped workers have lost thousands of dollars over the last six years because the tipped wage has not kept pace with inflation, and they stand to lose even more. Minimum wage workers could face similar struggles in the future as the cost of living rises and their wages do not keep pace,” it continues.
Low-wage worker Kathy Byner spoke about her young daughter who needed brain surgery in 2012, and was subsequently diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I had to provide from my job of three years where I was gainfully employed,” said Byner, but that “upon returning to work in 2013, I was only able to find a minimum wage, part-time job earning $8.50 an hour.”
She says that “working extra hours at this pay rate is barely enough to pay one entire bill, or budget to get through the next week,” and that she finds herself, “making sacrifices of buying a few groceries, paying enough on a utility bill just to avoid disconnection of services … I’ve been stripped of my dignity working for minimum wage.”
Activist Linda Mae Pittsley, told the rally she’s “fighting for what is right,” and spoke about the need for earned sick-time benefits for workers.
She implored legislators to “do right by us,” and said that “earned sick time has been forgotten by the people inside ,” and that “we need to let them know that it’s not fair to have a sick child, and not be able to stay home that child is sick.”
The Raise Up coalition comprises over 100 member groups, and some of those in support of the rally included the AFL-CIO, Unite Here, the SEIU, Mass Senior Action Center, Neighbor to Neighbor, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Boston, United for Justice New England, and the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action.
(Published on Open Media Boston)

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Charged After Rumsfeld Protest, Local Activist Alleges Wrongful Arrest by Boston PD

BOSTON/Downtown Crossing – A local activist is suing a Boston Police Department officer for allegedly wrongfully arresting and charging him during a protest of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Boston.
Shaun Joseph filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston on March 14 against Boston Police Sgt. David O’Connor, alleging that O’Connor falsely claimed he was assaulted by Joseph.
Rumsfeld, who was speaking at the Old South Meeting House in September 2012 to promote his new book, was derided by local activists who called him a war criminal and highlighting his key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the complaint, the protesters held a “peaceful demonstration,” and “peaceably marched and chanted their slogans without any problem,” for more than an hour.
It is claimed that Joseph, who does not have a criminal record, “helped organize the event and was present for the protest rally.”
During the protest, the complaint alleges that O’Connor “approached a female protester and told her that she could no longer use a bullhorn without a permit,” but then a short time later “a male protester started using the bullhorn.”
It is alleged that O’Connor “ran towards the male protester and attempted to grab it out of the protester’s hands.”
The complaint claims that Joseph then “went over, put his hands on the bullhorn and tried to tell defendant O’Connor that he was an organizer and that he would take custody of the bullhorn and make sure that no one used it.”
At this point, it’s alleged that O’Connor “falsely claimed that he was being assaulted” by Joseph, claiming that he been “struck him in the right forearm ” in a kind of karate chop.
It is then claimed that another Boston Police officer pulled Joseph to the ground, but that he complied by putting “his hands behind his back for handcuffing without any assistance from police officers.”
The complaint alleges that O’Connor “falsely claimed” that Joseph had “resisted the arrest by holding his arms underneath him and did not remove his hands without assistance from police despite orders to do so.”
It is alleged that O’Connor “had no warrant for the arrest … no probable cause … and no legal cause or excuse to seize him.”
After his arrest, it’s alleged that Joseph was “placed in a holding cell and held for approximately three hours,” and that O’Connor allegedly “intentionally prepared and submitted a false police incident report containing the above-fabricated facts,” causing “a criminal complaint to issue against Mr. Joseph charging him with assault and battery on a public employee and resisting arrest.”
According to the complaint, Joseph was arraigned on these charges on September 27, 2011, and that for 18 months, though he claims he “knew that he was innocent, he feared that he might be convicted of the false charges.”
It is stated that the criminal charges against Joseph were dismissed by the Commonwealth on the day of his trial on March 7, 2013, and it’s alleged that as a result of O’Connor’s actions, Joseph “endured emotional pain and suffering,” and “remains upset that he was arrested and falsely charged with crimes he did not commit.”
Open Media Boston requested statements from the Boston Police Department and the city’s Law Department, which represents the city and the police department in legal issues, but did not receive a response.
Joseph’s lawyer could not be reached for comment before the filing of this report.
(Publish on Open Media Boston)

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