Saturday, November 27, 2010

1223 26th Ave. N. May Be "Steve Meldahl World Headquarters"

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

No blog is going to top the Irving Inquisition when it comes to detailed coverage of the Steve Meldahl slumlord empire, click here for an example of that coverage. But today I was driving past 1223 26th Ave. N., which Meldahl lists as his master address for a number of properties he owns, and I thought: So that's where all the slummy magic begins!

But, of course, nobody in North Minneapolis believes that Meldahl really LIVES in this crappy little crackerbox, and yet...

...the building may very well be Meldahl's headquarters, in some sense of local administrative control over his empire of slum. When residents of North Minneapolis cast their eyes around at Meldahl's mess and ask aloud: Where is Meldahl? Where is this slimeball? THIS is the answer we get: 1223 26th Ave. N.

Well, Irving Inquisition blog can have Meldahl as a bone to chew, and good luck with that, but I certainly want to get my licks in before Meldahl's rental property empire collapses.

And why would I think that? Why would I think Meldahl's empire will fall?

Because North Minneapolis is turning itself around, and the empires of slumlords stand in the way. Something has to give, and it won't be progress, it will be the slumlord empires.

Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Utility Pole Sign Spam Has Got To Go!

Contributed photos, xoxo, blog post by John Hoff

When my son Alex sees me during visitation, it's always a question of how are we going to entertain ourselves BESIDES letting Alex play online video games all day long? Today part of the answer was: take down sign spam on Lyndale Ave. N.

We found these two signs advertising a...

...slummy 3-bedroom hovel for rent, so we removed the signs. Legitimate landlords advertise in legitimate ways, not by placing sign spam on utility poles. Sign on utility pole equals illegitimate business. We don't feel the need to inquire more deeply. We have more right to take the signs DOWN than shady operators have to put the signs UP.

The signs were made out of some kind of plastic, so we won't burn them. Since the back of the signs are blank, at some point we might re-purpose the signs to protest a slumlord. For now, the signs can rest in a big pile of political yard signs in some dark corner of a garage, but they WON'T be on Lyndale Ave. N.

Sign spammers should just give up on North Minneapolis. We will remove your crap from our utility poles, then mock you on the internet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Criminal Record Of El Mio Ju Johnson, Victim In "Porch Murder" Incident...

Stock photo and blog post by John Hoff

El Mio Ju Johnson was one of two victims killed in a bizarre incident in which a car was used as a murder weapon, click here for the story about charges pressed in the wake of Johnson's death.

The mainstream media has reported on Johnson's murder but it seems bloggers are always left to fill the cracks in the public record...

In the pattern of most other homicides in North Minneapolis, it is not surprising to learn that Johnson had a fairly extensive criminal record and, well, here it is:


Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Give False Name/DOB/ID to Peace Officer

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Theft-Take/Use/Transfer Movable Prop-No Consent

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Public urination prohibited.


I really wish the mainstream media would routinely link to criminal records of this kind when reporting on homicides. Minneapolis is not plagued by murder so much as we are plagued by a criminal underclass who--in an almost random manner--sometimes commit acts of murder, mostly against each other. The coverage of murders by the mainstream media usually omits this fact.

Beyond Fun-derdome: Citizens Can Jog At The Metrodome!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

As much as I enjoy running around the Jordan Pond for exercise--interrupted, from time to time, by some kind of interesting drama--I don't enjoy jogging in Minnesota's winter weather.

Thankfully, there is a great alternative to jogging outside in winter: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from November to March, you can run in the Metrodome for only $1. Click here for a website with more detailed info.

Last Tuesday was the first night of the season, and my very first night running in the dome. I've jogged for exercise a lot of different places, including...

...truck stop parking lots while out on the road, but this has to be one of the coolest places to run EVER. Where else can you run beneath banners of Minnesota sports hall of famers? (Hey, there's Carl Eller representing the Northside!) It's a little bit maddening to jog past locked up beverage coolers with their contents on display but there are water fountains and convenient rest rooms.

The people jogging there are the best of all: everybody from housewives to senior citizens to people who appear to be professional runners. There's always somebody you can overtake while running, but always somebody who can overtake you in return, so you're constantly gratified by small victories yet motivated by small defeats. The super fast runners go clockwise on the inside of the Metrodome concourse, while everybody else goes counter-clockwise on the broad outside.

I'm one of those bookworm types who doesn't care about sports at all, except for their economic and social impact. So as much as I revel in being an involved citizen of Minneapolis, this was actually my first time inside of the Metrodome. Standing on the concourse, looking down on the field, I thought to myself: So this is where it all happens!

By which I meant: Here it is where, in that movie "The Postman" with Kevin Costner, legend has it the "Restored United States Government" convened and, inter alia, revived the United States Post Office to reestablish order in world torn asunder by apocalypse.

Click here for a clip of "The Postman."

Keeping A Close Eye On 722 23rd Ave. N.

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

It has been a few months since I've written about 722 23rd Ave. N., a house near my own residence which has gone from being abandoned and used by squatters to extensive renovation activity, click here for a sample blog post.

If the pace of the repairs are any indication, the new owners are being careful and doing a good job. And so I remain hopeful. I'm very lucky that I don't have to deal with the kind of issues Hillside Chronicles blog experiences with a house right across the street at 1551 Hillside Ave. N, click here for a blog post about THAT.

I tell you, if North Minneapolis had at least one blogger in every four-block area, reporting in a highly public way on the good and bad situations in close proximity to their own houses, we'd get to something approaching urban utopia within, oh, I figure about five years. And so I will continue to watch, to report, to keep tabs on this house and hope the new owners don't fill it up with criminal no-accounts in the manner of slumlords like Bashir Moghul and Mahmood Khan.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Last Rites For A North Minneapolis Pit Bull...

Photos and blog post by John Hoff

This is not a happy story about a dog. If you are quite sensitive and would find a dark story about the death of a canine too disturbing to bear, you won't want to click the "Read More" and read the rest...

But I see you're not that kind of person. Fine, then.

It was Thanksgiving morning and everybody had places to be: I needed to pick up my son in the affluent south suburb where he lives, for four days of visitation. My girlfriend, North Minneapolis super citizen Megan Goodmundson, was making green beans almondine with maple dijon dressing for the police officers at the Fourth Precinct, and some chocolate dipped orange clementines for good measure. Really, nothing is too good for our cops.

We were going from Point A To Point B, crossing the intersection of 26th and Emerson, when Megan spotted a large dog laying on the sidewalk, looking dead or injured. Megan stayed in the car while I got out to deal with whatever was dead, dangerous and/or gross.

The dog was indeed dead, and frozen stiff, but not frozen solid. His eyes were open and the palest shade of blue. His tongue was extended. There was no blood, no sign of a wound, but there he lay dead. The dog was obviously NOT NEUTERED, with testicles like a woman's handbag.

Megan called the police, but the dispatcher said Animal Control wouldn't be around until Saturday.

"So this dog is supposed to lay on the sidewalk for two days?!" Megan asked, in a tone of disbelief.

Affirmative. Nothing could be done until Animal Control returned on Saturday. Megan wanted to be mad, but it wasn't the fault of the dispatcher. But having this big, dead dog lay on the sidewalk for two days over the Thanksgiving holiday, in plain sight of a major intersection wasn't acceptable.

It was time to take matters into our own hands: we obtained a heavy duty black contractor bag and I scooped up the dog for transport to a more private and controlled location. All of the great outdoors would be a meat cooler until Saturday, when a pickup could be arranged, hopefully, with Animal Control. As I bagged up the dog, I saw his body heat had melted through to a patch of sidewalk.

So, clearly, he'd been alive when he laid down and died. Even on the "sidewalk side" of the animal, I didn't see any wounds or blood. Perhaps he'd been hit by a vehicle, sure, but the injury wasn't obvious. I wondered how long he laid like that, how much pain he experienced, and what exactly had happened.

Incredibly, I thought I recognized the dog: it looked like the exact same pit bull I'd called about in an incident on the Jordan Pond, click here.

As rough as those last rites were, as unpleasant as the task was on Thanksgiving morning, I took some quantum of solace in the belief I was showing that animal more kindness and decency in its death than it may have received during its life. Just as important to me: my neighborhood is not a ghetto where a dead pit bull lays in the street for days at a time. My neighborhood is nice and getting nicer every day. When something bad happens, there are decent people who will not hesitate to take matters into their own hands, and do something.

Thanksgiving With The Fourth Precinct (And God Bless Them!)

Photos and blog post by John Hoff, except last photo was contributed, xoxo

For the past several years, Northside neighbors threw a Thanksgiving meal for all three shifts of officers at the Fourth Precinct. Joan Thom and her husband, Len Lewis, are the primary organizers of this event with a lot of help from Buzzy Bohn and her son, Jeremiah.

It wasn't your usual Thanksgiving conversation as officers laughed over which officer would eat extra pie, versus which officer would be the "designated runner" in foot chases. One officer was described as a 14-year veteran who...

...can run like a deer, even while wearing a utility belt. The officer himself, however, was more humble and felt like he'd been getting slow in the past few years compared to when he was younger.

There was general agreement among the officers that Thanksgiving is indeed volatile, as relatives get together, drink, and then argue while cooped with each other. The Winner Gas station (Lyndale and West Broadway) was described by one officer as selling beer "left and right" on Thanksgiving Day, since the liquor stores were closed.

Officers expressed thanks to residents who provided the meal, but the residents were insistent that it is the officers who deserve our thanks, every day, and a meal on Thanksgiving while they work their shifts, away from their families, is the smallest of favors.

The officer at the front desk, above, was very nice to my 13-year-old son, Alex, and showed Alex stuff about the cameras and shot spotter.
Joan Thom helps with the meal as officers serve themselves. The officer who can "run like a deer" is to the right of Thom.
Pies served to the officers included pumpkin, blueberry, cherry, pecan, and this helpfully labeled sweet potato pie.
My son Alex assisted by cutting up numerous pies. This is the second year Alex has been to the event, click here for coverage of the previous event.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Former Petro Gas Station On West Broadway May Go Down As Soon As Monday...

Stock Photo And Blog Post By John Hoff

The Petro Gas Station on West Broadway is reportedly set to be demolished as early as 8 a.m. Monday morning, depending on the weather, etc. The gas station was formerly owned by notorious North Minneapolis slumlord Keith Reitman and was sold by Reitman to a developer, reportedly before the big economic crash of 2008.

The site is expected to have apartments in the not-so-distant future.

The stock photo above is a child's toy car left on the steps of a foreclosed house at 2719 Lyndale Ave. N.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

New Trash Containers On Lowry Ave. N.?

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

A North Minneapolis resident recently made me aware of the pleasant, brightly-painted trash containers on Lowry Ave. N. which (the resident swears) just appeared recently. This blog prides itself on getting right down to the granular level of neighborhood issues, and so here's some grain, dear readers, here's some grain.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

3107 Lyndale Ave. N. Goes Down, Nobody Noticed...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

There is no "before" pictured above, only the here and now.

The building at 3107 Lyndale Ave. N. was a small, undistinguished, one-story gray structure which at one time housed an insurance agency called "K United Insurance." The building was relatively recent construction and did not appear historic. Hennepin County owns the property and, according to a witness across the street at Bangkok Market, demolished the building approximately August.

Its passing was not remarked on the internet until just now. But I feel we must document the face of our neighborhood, as a massive transformation sweeps North Minneapolis through demolition--arguably too much--and renovation; of which we need a whole lot more.

The corner where this building once stood (near) is getting better all the time. This blog recently featured a story about the law office of Ian Alexander, click here, which is now located at 626 Lowry Ave. N., and Bangkok Market remains a favorite which never fails to please.

Trendsetter Newspaper Reappears Like Mushrooms After A Hard Rain...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Apparently it happened within the last month or so: the dead tree media entity called "Trendsetter Newspaper" has reappeared after a hiatus of, well, who knows? Copies can be found at Cub Foods on West Broadway bearing a price of $1 per issue but containing far less newsprint than, for example, free copies of City Pages.

Trendsetter Newspaper is run by Travis Lee, a professional photographer and husband of former fifth ward city council person Natalie Johnson-Lee, who did not manage to unseat Don Samuels in the last election. Trendsetter was the subject of brief, intense political debate back in 2005, here's a link to some of that discussion, click here.

For a random YouTube clip of tree-sitting activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill, click here, and remember to ask yourself, "What is your tree?"

(Do Not Click "Read More")

PART FIVE: Closing The Curtain On The Late, Great Civil Rights "Toe Stepping Trial" Of 2010...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

It is fitting the coverage of this trial should end with an image of Michael "Kip" Browne speaking. Because Browne was trying to speak at a press conference...because Browne NEEDED to speak and represent the neighborhood, but loudmouth bully Al Flowers was shouting down Michael Browne...because Council Member Don Samuels took a moral stand, and made a gesture of standing in front of Al Flowers...

And because within the span of two seconds Flowers SHOVED Don Samuels, then shoved Samuels AGAIN...then filed a lawsuit a few days later, ridiculously alleging Samuels had stepped on Flowers' toes (which reportedly lack toenails, ewwww) here we were: the great "toe stepping civil rights trial" of 2010.

It was time for final arguments by plaintiff attorney Jill Clark. Some of her first words were...

"We don't need to get too deeply into bias."

This statement was in regard to the witnesses who were presented as to whether Don Samuels did or did not step on Flowers' toes. Indeed, one might agree with Clark, here. Both sets of witnesses had their bias though perhaps one set of witnesses were biased for THE TRUTH and the other, well, you do the math.

So, indeed, let's set bias aside. Ultimately, it would appear it was a question of who was CREDIBLE.

NOT A SINGLE JUROR WAS TAKING NOTES as Clark outlined the "elements of assault." Not a single juror made a written notation as Clark said, "Getting in somebody's space is offensive conduct."

Describing Don Samuels standing with back turned to Al FLowers, arms crossed, Clark said of Samuels: He could have kicked backwards, elbowed, slugged, ANYTHING! And Clark vigorously demonstrated "could have elbowed" with her arms, elbows crooked, looking something like a funky chicken only without the actual funk.

At least twice in her closing statement, Clark made mention of something she called The Sixth Sense. While I have always understood this phrase to mean "extrasensory perception," some paranormal ability to, for example, talk to the dead as in the movie The Sixth Sense, click here for movie trailer, Clark appeared to steal a page from the all-too-innovative linguistic playbook of plaintiff witness Steve Jackson when she said "the sixth sense" somehow involved the feeling of personal space being violated.

Clark pointed out that witness Megan Goodmundson said "We were all shoulder to shoulder" in that room, but Samuels was on the other side of the room (when Flowers started doing what Flowers does so well) so, well, "couldn't he (Samuels) have been symbolic over there?"

In her closing statement, Clark put forward an idea that Don Samuels basically came up with a premeditated plan to stomp on Flowers foot and get away with it. Once again making mention of Megan Goodmundson, whose video was virtually the "Zapruder film" of this incident, Clark asked, in a conspiratorial tone, "Was the cue...when Samuels starts to walk over, turn on the video cameras?"

(At this point, dear reader, if I was telling you the story in person I would be imitating somebody's facial expression, the all-too-serious look of a paranoid as something ridiculous comes out of their mouth which makes you want to laugh, but you have to suppress your laugher as you realize, oh my god: it's not funny to the raving paranoiac. No, indeed, the raving paranoiac is making this statement seriously and expects YOU to take it seriously)

Clark next attacked the notion Don Samuels wasn't acting under "color of law" when he stood in front of Flowers. Clark used this example: A police officer who was chasing somebody but, at the moment of shooting his gun, said, "Oh, but now I am a private citizen." Despite the overwrought analogy, Clark would ultimately win on this point: the jury agreed Samuels was acting "under color of law."

But it didn't matter. Samuels hadn't stepped on Flowers' toes. So said the jury.

Clark next addressed the issue of damages, saying the defense had "not made any effort to dispute damages." At this point I looked over and saw a jurist had her arms crossed at this point. And, my word, I had thought THAT juror was one of the most sympathetic to Clark's arguments.

None of the jurors took notes as Clark talked about damages, except one juror: a young female who was scribbling furiously, as she had scribbled furiously throughout the trial. Indeed, often that juror's scribbling didn't seem to follow the ebb and flow of the trial at all. I finally formed the opinion the "novelist juror" was writing something creative which didn't relate to the claims of Al Flowers: a personal journal, a love letter, even poetry. During key points of trial drama, she didn't look up, but was scribbling furiously with her head down.

Clark talked about the previous civil rights case with Flowers, and the $1 of punitive damages in that trial. That jury, Clark said, was trying to "send a message."

(Editorial comment: Yes, but perhaps the message was intended for FLOWERS and the very existence of this toe stepping trial shows Flowers didn't get the message?)

Once again going after Megan Goodmundson in her closing statement, Clark imitated Goodmundson chanting "Shut up, Al" and noted Don Samuels didn't go stand in front of GOODMUNDSON. Clark claimed that "the real Don Samuels shows through for a moment" when Samuels related "what he said" to Farheen Hakeem.

Clark didn't repeat what it was Samuels said in that chastising tone: something along the lines of "you were a promising young woman, you ran for political office, but now you associate yourself with marginal people and with crazies."

Clark began to talk about damages and how there was a need for a relationship between the various kinds of damages. The amounts should make sense and not be random. For example, Clark talked about the relationship between $100,000 versus a million dollars...

In the back of the jury box, a young female juror with hair as dark as McDonald's coffee was looking directly at Clark and I thought I could read the expression on her face, almost use "The Sixth Sense" to read her thoughts: this is madness. This is the stuff you hear about on television, the ridiculously large jury verdicts for petty incidents. Only it's not something distant and disconnected, something on television: here I am right in the middle of it, and I have to render the verdict!

City Attorney James Moore stood to his feet and made an objection: improper argument. The judge sustained the objection.

Clark moved on breezily, asking for "damages" (amounts not specified) to deter Council Member Don Samuels from "future disregard" of the First Amendment.

Before the jury went back, the judge told them to consider whether a contradiction might result from "a lapse of memory or a falsehood."

(If I had a vote on that jury, I'd probably go with "falsehood" based on what I observed of the plaintiff witnesses)

And so the jury went to render its verdict, and I scored some lunch downtown, expecting the jury wouldn't be gone long. In fact, I'd made a public prediction of one hour. But I forgot the "lunch theory" of jury duty: if a jury breaks around lunch time, they're darn sure going to make sure they get lunch. And so the jury was actually out for something like four hours, lunch included. Word of a verdict came back at around 4:05 PM. A source tells me the jury had sent a question back to the judge. The question concerned assault and was something along the lines of: can an assault take place if there was no (deliberate?) physical contact by Don Samuels against Al Flowers? As soon as the judge answered "No," the jury announced it had a verdict.

I ran back to the courthouse after being dialed by the judge's assistant. Samuels' attorney James Moore, who works in an office nearby, returned but plaintiff attorney Clark did not, nor did Al Flowers. It was only myself and Jordan super citizen Megan Goodmundson (who is my girlfriend) present to hear the verdict in that lonely courthouse.

The judge assured the jury that a real court was not like television: parties are not always present for the verdict, but Moore happens to work nearby. So no disrespect should be taken from the gesture of individuals not being present. One or two of the jurors nodded understandingly including the venerable Mr. Martinson.

The foreperson of the jury read the verdict. She did not bother to stand. The foreperson turned out to be the "novel writing juror" who had taken so many notes during the trial, to the point I began to doubt whether her notes concerned the trial at all. Maybe I had her wrong, and maybe I had her right, but in any case she was the foreperson. The first part of the verdict concerned whether Don Samuels had acted under color of law. The answer was yes. Don had acted as a public official when he stood in front of Al Flowers.

The next part of the verdict concerned whether an assault took place. To that, the jury said "No."

And so said them all.

At some point I ran into the husband of the juror named Sandy Zappa, and I asked him what may have been the most important and pressing issue of the trial: Any relation to the musician Frank Zappa? (Click here for more info) I was informed "That is my dad's second cousin."

Thus ended the Great Toe Stepping Civil Rights Trial Of 2010.

Click here to experience, once again, the Benny Hill theme song ringtone of an unknown juror's phone, an inadvertent musical commentary on the dubious civil rights claim of Plaintiff Alfred Flowers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PART FOUR OF FIVE: Council Member Don Samuels Triumphs Over Uncivilized, Loudmouth Bully Al Flowers...

Stock photo and blog post by John Hoff

Warning: Adult Language

My dearest readers, did you think I'd forget to conclude coverage in Alfred Flowers vs. City of Minneapolis? The part where the jury came back in four hours (lunch included) and found in favor of Council Member Don Samuels over Al Flowers in the great "toe stepping" civil rights trial of 2010? No, actually, I was saving the last part for dessert. (Think of it as a virtual "Dessert With Don.")

For those who are joining the story late, here are links to Parts 1-3.

Part One, setting the stage with Judge Schlitz, like the beer, click here.

Part Two, a parade of sometimes-pathetic plaintiff witnesses spend themselves against "The Teflon Don," to no avail, click here.

Part Three, the last fitful gasp of the plaintiff witnesses, and an overwhelming "tour de force" of credible, politically powerful defense witnesses, click here.

Don Samuels finished his testimony on November 10. The judge, jury, and lawyers would have to show up in a virtually empty court building on a federal holiday to finish up with Alfred Flowers' claim Don Samuels had deliberately stepped on his toes while Samuels' had his back turned...

And So It Ends

On November 11, the court room was lonely but there was Don Allen of the IBNN blog, dressed in a business suit, keeping one side of the court room not-so-lonely. Don Allen didn't seem so much his lively self and sat with his eyes straight ahead, unsmiling. In front of the judge, City Attorney James Moore and Plaintiff Attorney Jill Clark were arguing, but only Clark seemed to be putting much energy into the argument which, as it turned out, was a losing argument.

Clark wanted to send a "demonstrative" back to the jury room: the crudely drawn, not-terribly-accurate schematic of the JACC house which had been rendered by plaintiff witness Dokor Dejvongsa on the stand, and subsequently used by other witnesses to point out where they'd been during the incident between Samuels and Flowers. Defense witness Michael "Kip" Browne had complained, on the stand, how the diagram wasn't terribly accurate or to scale but what really mattered was whether the diagram was evidence.

It wasn't. Judge Patrick Schlitz (like the beer) said, in a somewhat didactic tone, the diagram was a "demonstrative" and therefore not evidence and THEREFORE it wouldn't be going back with the jury because, generally, such "demonstrative" evidence doesn't go back with a jury. City Attorney Moore won without needing to try very hard. So began the third day. And so would the third day ultimately end.

Clark then called Don Allen to the stand as an "offer of proof." The judge had already decided Allen couldn't testify as to Don Samuels' "reputation within the community" so the testimony took place outside the hearing of the jury so Clark could make the record as to what Allen WOULD have testified to, if he'd been allowed to testify. I had to wonder if I was the only one in the court who noted something dubious about Clark putting Allen on the stand: Clark is currently suing Don Allen on behalf of her client Jerry Moore, a case this blogger knows all-too-well.

In any case, Allen testified that he didn't agree with the idea of Samuels having a "reputation for peacefulness" within the community and, furthermore, Allen disagreed that Al Flowers frequently interrupts meetings. Allen testified that "at some meetings you can't ask questions that 'go against the grain' of what is being said." However, Judge Schlitz thought the issue of Samuels' reputation in the community made no difference and was "several steps removed" from what the jury had to decide, therefore Schlitz excluded the testimony under Rules 402 and 403.

A Jury Serves America On Veterans Day

The jury had spiffy new name tags when they entered the court room. Martinson, the senior citizen juror who seemed to particularly loathe Al Flowers, was at or near the front of the jurors as they walked to their seats.

The judge read aloud a "stipulation" of facts both sides could agree upon: In 2007, in a DIFFERENT lawsuit, Al Flowers sued Don Samuels in a case that involved things Flowers said on a (public access) television show. The jury awarded damages of $1 and punitive damages of $1. (To readers who are aware of another dollar being out there: apparently there was another defendant involved who also lost a dollar and the stipulation only involved Samuels' dollar and the punitive dollar)

Flowers took the stand again, briefly. Sitting in the seat which had been briefly warmed by Don Allen, Flowers said Don Samuels "doesn't have a reputation for peacefulness" and disagreed that he (Flowers) disrupts meetings, saying it's all about the content of what he's saying.

Well, now that Flowers had nailed down THAT loose board on the ship all by himself himself, it was time to set sail with closing statements.

Paranoid Imaginings Versus, Um, Video

Very soon into his closing argument, Moore said "let's take a look at the video." Moore described Samuels walking "slowly, calmly, peacefully" but "in two seconds, he gets shoved."

Going right after the credibility of attorney Ben Myers and Dokor Dejvongsa, who had testified about a whole lotta toe stepping, Moore said "it's ironic that two witnesses...engaged law partners, representatives of the old board...try to say they could see the feet."

At that moment, one of the jurors' cell phones rang, interrupting the proceedings with a crazy ringtone: the theme from the Benny Hill show, click here for a sample.

There was laughter, probably because the cell phone ring tone was an accidental musical commentary on the past three days: this is RIDICULOUS. How did nine normal people get roped into this charade?

Moore returned to his argument after the ringtone interruption: It defies belief that Dejvongsa doesn't see a push on the video. Flowers even says, "I pushed him" and yet, watching the video of events she herself saw in person, Dejvongsa doesn't see a push. Ask yourself, is she being a candid witness?

"I can't make her see what she refuses to see," Moore said. "Judge her credibility as a witness."

Moore next demolished Farheen Hakeem, pointing out Hakeem "tried to say words that don't appear on the video."

"Let's listen right now to what Mr. Flowers said," Moore urged, and pointed out "His focus isn't on pain or his foot but on the INSULT he perceived when Don stood in front of him...the symbolism was not lost on Mr. Flowers."

Moore talked about how Hakeem discussed her fear of being falsely accused of a crime.

"It's a conspiracy theory spun completely out of her own head," Moore said. "It has no basis in fact...she thinks people in this room are evil and out to get her."

As for Flowers, "He decides for himself there are no rules or he makes the rules...he came with an agenda to disrupt the meeting."

Moore urged the jury to pay attention to the part of the tape where Al Flowers "told a different story" as police arrived, saying something like "No, you pushed ME...don't lie."

Samuels gesture was symbolic and, furthermore, "Mr. Flowers got the point."

"The message was sent and received as between these two individuals," Moore said, coming somewhat close to the Plaintiff's table, where Flowers sat...wilting.

"Don wasn't a government official at the moment he stood in front of Flowers but a courageous individual," Moore argued. Ultimately, the jury would not agree with Moore on this point: they determined Samuels acted "under color of law" in his role as a public official at the point where Samuels stood in front of Flowers.

Focusing on Flowers' disruptive behavior, Moore asked, "Black power...what does that have to do with ANYTHING?"

At that moment, Al Flowers looked back toward the gallery and smiled. It was not clear where Flowers was looking.

"What was SAID is supposedly the reason Don Samuels acted," Moore explained. "No, let's break down their theory."

It's about the city trying to control the neighborhood board? Moore called this a "fanciful claim." No, rather, what this was all about was a simple message, which Don Samuels had articulated out loud during the same press conference: BEHAVE YOURSELF, AL."

Political Commentary By The Oh-So-Charming Al Flowers (Sarcasm Font)

There was a break between Moore's closing statement and that of Jill Clark. Out in the hallway, City Attorney Moore and Don Samuels used the restroom. Experience had taught me the men's room of a federal court building is a little too exciting, so I didn't enter the restroom but, after seeing Don Samuels enter and James Moore leave, I hung by the door for a moment so there wouldn't be a situation with Samuels and Flowers alone, and no bailiff nearby. (Parody font) If Don were at a urinal, after all, he'd have his back turned and what happens when Don has his back turned? Good god, man, it's the Jamaican karate attack position!!! With Jamaican karate (known as "karate-mon") a skilled master can assault an enemy in broad daylight in front of video cameras and get away with it, for he has his back turned the whole time! (End parody font)

At that moment Al Flowers was standing in the hallway. Looking at me, Flowers said, "He's waiting for Don to suck his dick."

How clever, I thought, thinking in the sarcasm font.

North Minneapolis has been, after all, waiting for the exciting sequel to that public access television comment "Kill the house n***er."

Well, here it was:

"He's waiting for Don to suck his dick."

And these were the last words I heard Al Flowers say. The oh-so-charming Al Flowers wouldn't even be around to hear the verdict from the jury, nor would his lawyer.

To Be Continued And Completed In Part Five...

Utility Pole Sign Spammers Should Stay Out Of North Minneapolis...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff, photo digitally altered to remove phone number

They've been warned on this blog and other blogs again and again: if we see your "utility pole sign spam" in North Minneapolis, we will not only remove your signs, we will use them as pinatas and...

...burn them in bonfires. (As long as there is no plastic or paint involved) We have more legal right to remove your signs than you have to erect them and, by golly, we will do it.

Still, sign post spammers apparently don't get the word. In fact, sometimes their signs seem to be evolving: this sample above is shrink wrapped so it could be on the pole a long time. I didn't have a stick or hammer handy so I beat this one down with my fist, but plenty more of this "Let Us Do Your...Hardwood" type remain.

I mentioned in another post how I like winter because it keeps the thugs inside and off the streets. Another thing I like about winter: the snowdrifts make it easier to reach utility pole sign spam, and knock it down.

City Council Member Don Samuels Works To Retire Campaign Debt...

Photos and blog post by John Hoff

Even if your opponents happen to be political midgets, fighting them off and winning a city council seat is expensive. City Council Member Don Samuels is working to retire campaign debt and recently had a fundraiser at Local D'Lish, which the NoMi Passenger blog billed as the social event of the season.

I attended the fundraiser, which looked like a success based on the modest but respectable pile of money and checks. While there, I noticed innovative "wine barrel composting bins" for sale at the store and thought, oh my word, I want one of those. But I'd be more likely to find an old wooden barrel somewhere and make it myself.

All the same...a very cool item at a nice party for a great man. Samuels is pictured above with NoMi developer Stu Ackerberg and Mike Christensen of CPED. As regular readers might guess, many laughs were shared at the party about Alfred Flowers vs. City of Minneapolis, the great "toe stepping civil rights trial" in which Don Samuels played a starring role due to his moral act of literally "standing up" to loudmouth heckler and verbal bully Al Flowers.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Trouble Waits For Johnnie B. Riggins Once The Cops Catch Him...

Stock photo and blog post by John Hoff

Johnnie B. Riggins isn't a very successful criminal. Loitering, littering, urination, and panhandling are apparently the best he can do in Hennepin County. And yet, because Riggins didn't appear on a bench warrant on November 8, 2010, the city is gunning for Johnnie...

Through Crime Prevention Specialist Tim Hammett of the Fourth Precinct, the City Attorney is requesting community impact statements for that inevitable day when Johnnie gets caught by the cops. Click here for a link to a sample Community Impact Statement you can forward to the City Attorney when various no-accounts are going before a judge, and keep in mind you don't need to PERSONALLY witness the livability crimes in question, merely their impact. This campaign against "urination poster boy Johnnie B. Riggins" is part of the West Broadway Court Watch initiative, and it's good to hear there is such a thing.

A year or two ago, I used to submit dozens of impact statements through the city attorney's website, click here for a link to that site, but the site doesn't seem to get updated anymore. One hears rumors of a new and improved site to submit Community Impact Statements, scheduled to happen sometime in a bright utopian future which will be upon us within our lifetimes, but so far that doesn't seem to be happening which is a shame...submitting these statements is like eating popcorn or dialing 311 on graffiti: once you start, it's addictive and very hard to stop.

So, yes, I've been missing the opportunity to submit community impact statements very much, something I used to blog about from time to time, click here for an example. But then an email hit my inbox with an opportunity to submit a statement about Riggins to

And I thought, hey, I'll do that. But, really, a lot of us need to do THAT. And the system should be made very easy, very accessible so we can do exactly THAT.

In closing, allow me to make public the court records of notorious no-account Johnnie B. Riggins, as follows:

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Southdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Offensive Conduct Ordinance

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Brookdale
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Theft $250 or less

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
Trespass-Occupy/Enter Dwelling/Locked/Posted Build

Hennepin Criminal/Traffic/Petty Downtown
Crim/Traf Mandatory
Under Court Jurisdiction
Loiter with an open bottle

I only wish I had a mug shot of Riggins to post. Sigh.

"Salmon House" At 2700 Morgan Ave. N. Poised For Demolition Doooooom!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Known to residents on the Jordan Pond as "the salmon house" because it is the color of slightly decomposed salmon, the house at 2700 Morgan has been a problem and a blight on the Jordan Neighborhood for as long as most residents can remember. It was a crack house and a whorehouse at the same time, with blatant hooking and dealing taking place right outside. After being boarded, break-ins happened repeatedly. Even from the outside, it's plain to see the inside must be in really rough shape.

Don't get me wrong. If somebody loved this house and wanted to save it, like most houses in North Minneapolis it could certainly be saved. But it's going down soon, as evidenced by a...

...gigantic construction dumpster which recently appeared beside the house. Since all the stuff in the house has already been hauled away (including the nasty mattresses, click here for a blog post) clearly the dumpster is intended for construction debris.

The end of the "Salmon House" will mark another important turning point in a neighborhood which is rapidly turning around.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Residents Of North Minneapolis Publish Level 3 Sex Offender Addresses With Impunity, And Much Much More!

Stock photo and blog post by John Hoff

An anonymous source sent me this interesting document on sex offender recidivism, click here for the PDF support site to obtain a copy of this document. I'll give you the high points: these sons-of-bitches are likely to reoffend, and (not so much highlighted by the report) they're being stacked in North Minneapolis like perverted piles of cordwood.

Thanks for the document, anonymous source. Now, can an anonymous source get me the current addresses of every Level Three sex offender in North Minneapolis so I can publish those addresses?

Which leads me to my next point: months ago, Johnny Northside Dot Com began publishing the addresses of Level Three Sex Offenders in North Minneapolis, along with information about which landlords were involved in putting these predatory monsters in our vulnerable neighborhoods. This blog will continue to publish that information as it falls into our hands, however, it turns out this blog has some competition...

The Irving Inquisition blog has also begun publishing the names, click here. In fact, "The Irving Ink" discovered an "Rapist Village" at 3008 and 3010 Emerson Ave. N.

More than half the states in the United States (including Texas, notorious for do-it-yerself justice) publish the actual addresses (not just block numbers) and no harm comes of it. Much GOOD comes of it, knowing precisely and exactly where these dangerous deviants reside.

So now two blogs are publishing the specific addresses, and that's twice as many as before. Residents of North Minneapolis will, I hope, continue to gain confidence about sharing the names in open internet forums, whether it be Facebook, listservs, other blogs, whatever.

The only difficulty is GETTING the info in the first place. Unless the L3SOs leave their surname on their mailbox on the same block in which they are known to be living, or can be plainly observed entering and exiting a building on that block, getting the names continues to be tough unless sources drop the info.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Home Hits The Skids At 1207 26th Ave. N.

Foreclosure claimed another house at 1207 26th Ave. N., but not before some unfortunate tenant ended up in the middle of the mess, according to unnamed sources.

Just when you think the foreclosure tidal wave has gotten done working havoc on North find out it's still going on. There's nothing special or unique about this house, except I happened to be walking by and I'm a blogger. And so its fate will be remarked. There you go. Its fate is remarked, now.

To anybody reading this blog, still doing that foreclosure outreach stuff which bores me to tears...there appears to be a family in this house, with utility shut off notices slapped on the doors. I took this photo right after the first snowstorm of the year, last weekend. If there is help to be given, this family surely needs thanks to whoever put them into that house and put them into this mess.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

CORRECTED POST: Wafana's Store Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth...

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

It was around Christmas of 2009 when I wrote how the notorious and very closed inconvenience store known as Wafana's was "moving toward demolition," click here for that article.

But still it stood for months afterward. Some time in the past few months, though, it disappeared. I wasn't sure when it happened.

Maybe it was during the month of June while I was busy in school? Maybe it was...

...while I was gone for most of August, September, October in South Carolina for job training?(Oh, wait, I forgot...there are crazy hater blogs which say I wasn't in South Carolina at all. Okay, believe whatever cuckoo thing you want while the reality train is leaving the station, choo choo)

But at some point Wafana's got demolished and who wrote about it? Who?

ANSWER: It was on the Hawthorne Voices blog. I missed it. Here is a link, click here.

I don't cheer for demolitions MOST of the time. I didn't cheer for this one. I thought the building would have made a nice little restaurant but it was, well, quite small and there were bureaucratic obstacles in the way. In any case, it's gone and its passing should be remarked here on Johnny Northside Dot Com.

There, its passing has been remarked.

I remember when I first came to North Minneapolis in 2008 and scary loitering groups of no-accounts would hang around in front of Wafana's, even though it was closed. They have gone away and Wafana's has gone away. I could dig down deep, all the way to the bottom of my toes, seeking emotions...but will I miss it?


And so our North Minneapolis neighborhood moves forward in leaps and bounds. Another crappy building gone, and the crappy people who hung out there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A New Law Firm On Lowry Ave. N. Near The Hawthorne EcoVillage!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

First, and most importantly, North Minneapolis attorney Ian Alexander has announced a super affordable special on wills, healthcare directives, and powers of attorney: through the month of January, you can obtain any of the above for a mere $150. This includes the filing fee. His email is and the website of his law office is

He also handles divorces, child custody, and child support. He can give you a good referral if you bring him some other kind of case, such as personal injury.

Alexander’s conveniently located new office is at 626 Lowry Avenue North, in the Lowry Food Market building, facing Lowry Ave. N. The portion of the building housing Alexander’s office used to be a check cashing business, but the space was vacant for a number of years before Alexander rented it and started making improvements and alterations. Though still a work in progress, this office space has great potential and is coming around nicely. The century old wood floors, in particular, will be breathtaking when refinished.

Alexander’s law office is the latest in a steady march of new and improved businesses along the Lowry Ave. N. commercial corridor, including the Lowry CafĂ©, (still in progress) Banana Blossom Restaurant, and the Goddess of Glass. This office sits right on the periphery of the Hawthorne EcoVillage.

Ian Alexander also wrote an interesting thesis about bureaucratic hurdles standing in the way of revitalization in North Minneapolis. Click here to download a complete copy of the paper.

Ian is married to Deven Nelson, who was previously mentioned on this blog, click here. Deven is a wedding planner/ florist, click here for her business website. She also serves as the Grant Writer at Ascension Place/St. Anne’s Place, a shelter for homeless women and their children, in North Minneapolis.

(Do Not Click "Read More")

Nature's Brutal Pruning: Images Of The Snowstorm's Impact In North Minneapolis

Photos and blog post by John Hoff

The impact of last weekend's storm is still being felt all over North Minneapolis: downed trees are still being cleaned up, many sidewalks at vacant, foreclosed houses are not shoveled and most likely won't be shoveled all winter unless neighbors begin calling 311.

Here are some images left over from the storm. In the top photo, a sign advertises...

the food shelf at Church of St. Phillip on 26th Ave. N. However, another sign on the church door stated the food shelf was closed due to the storm. I met a man who had appeared to have walked many blocks through thick snow to get to the food shelf that day, only to find it closed.

On 26th Ave. N., a major tree limb blocks the sidewalk.
On James Ave. N., a tree limb is down on a car.
In a backyard on Newton Ave. N., four separate branches have been lopped off a tree by the weight of snow and are piled up at the bottom of the tree. It's like the tree was brutally pruned, but with no regard to aesthetics; all that mattered was weight versus strength.
This tree in the yard of a house in the Hawthorne neighborhood won the prize for most spectacular storm damage. Lucky thing it missed the house when it came down!

And so winter begins with unusually early brutality.

On the bright side, during winter lawless thugs often stay indoors instead of shooting each other on hot summer streets during random encounters over simmering grudges. Drug dealers and prostitutes are easier to spot and report to 911, because their otherwise pointless "hanging out" on streets like Penn Ave. N. becomes more apparent. And, while an unmowed yard at a vacant, foreclosed house might merit a single 311 call a month, snowstorms which bury sidewalks allow 311 reports over and over to report the irresponsible bank-owned properties which need to be moved forward toward the housing market, faster faster faster.

I love winter in North Minneapolis.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PART THREE: The Late, Great Toe Stepping Trial Of The Century! Alfred Flowers vs. Don Samuels!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Some adult language included. Some elements of parody included. Be warned.

So after the first day of testimony concluded, see Part Two, I wrote something on my blog that night about jury selection in the trial. A troll came along and commented, as trolls are wont to do, telling me I should expect a subpoena if I showed up in court the next day, click here for that conversation, see comments.

The subpoena never happened, of course, though it would have been an honor to do my civic duty and take the stand, if asked. I was only late for the second day of court because of a prior appointment. (Parody begins here) So I missed the testimony of my fraternal twin half-brother Ben Myers, who reportedly got up on the stand and tried to say he (Brother Ben) could see Don Samuels' foot come down and step on the foot of Al Flowers.

Lies And The Lying Lie-Bags Who Tell Them

For the record, our Mama Sweetums calls Ben "the world's worst liar" but, normally, she only gets boiling mad for a day or two about stuff Ben does like lying about whether he paid any taxes on her trailer house. Yet, for some reason, Mama Sweetums seems to think "lying under oath" is the most serious of sins, something you'll never get forgiven for, unlike, for example, getting liquored up and murdering a neighbor in drunken mutual combat while jacked up on Original Formula Nyquil and vodka. The jury said "mutual combat." I'm talking GRAND jury, here, Mama was never even put on trial for that incident, no thanks to Ben Myers who said he'd be Mama's attorney but then never showed up in court because he claimed to have lost his watch, which turned up at a strip club, turned over by an honest stripper, who would have thought?

In any case...Mama has a weird thing about lying under oath and how God will forgive anything but THAT. So when she found out what Ben did on the stand, our Mama wasn't angry. No, she began crying and keening in a loud voice, saying Ben was "dead to God" and she herself would be harshly judged for failing to protect his mortal soul as a mother should. She even blamed me for not being in court that day, like I could have just...

...jumped right up and said, "Ben, don't lie! GOD IS WATCHING!"

What am I supposed to do now, dear reader? Should I tell Mama Sweetums that people can be genuinely wrong about reality, convince themselves something is the truth when it's not, and testify accordingly? Therefore their souls are not in danger, for they are merely DELUDED, not purposefully lying under oath?

Or should I say, "You're right, Ben'll be taking that long dark train to hell, alright. Does this mean you're going to give me his half of the trailer when you die?"

On the one hand, I sure want to get one over on Ben...but this really hurts our mother. So I'm put in the position of having to make elaborate excuses for Ben to spare the feelings of Mama Sweetums. But between you, me, God and the internet, I can be completely honest: Ben is a big fat liar and the jury saw right through him.

(End of parody font except, well, that last sentence was transitional between the parody world and reality)

And so I missed the testimony of Ben Myers, but I walked into court in time to see and hear Alfred Flowers talking about his precious feelings. His feelings, that is to say, about Don Samuels.

Al Flowers Talks About His Feelings...And His Toenails, Or Lack Of (Ewwww)

Don Samuels, said Flowers, doesn't represent African Americans. Samuels is JAMAICAN, said Flowers, in an accusing tone.

I snuck a glance at the jury to see if any of this was flying with jurors like Mr. Martinson.

No, it really wasn't flying.

Returning to the subject of his feelings, Flowers said he was distressed after the press conference that he couldn't "be in there and advocate." He had to "pull back" and figure out what he could do.

By "pull back," I presume Flowers may have meant look over his shoulder and wonder if he would be arrested for shoving a city councilman, until he managed to file a lawsuit a few days later as a preemptive political defense, so he could have characterized any arrest as retaliation.

Flowers talked about "pain in his heart." Flowers said his wife wasn't in favor of him doing "political stuff" anyway, because there is a fear of "what can happen to me."

Clark asked: When you saw Don that day, in what capacity did you see him? Flowers saw Don as a city council member. (All the more frightening, one might note, since Al Flowers SHOVED DON SAMUELS IN THE BACK. What would have happened if Flowers DID NOT see Don as a public official at that moment?)

Clark asked: Prior to that day, did you feel like a strong advocate? Answer: I KNEW I was a strong advocate for the community.

Clark: Were you aware of other ways to complain about Don Samuels? Filing stuff? Why did you file a lawsuit?

Flowers said: Because the Civil Rights Department, CPED, they are all run by the city. They will shut you down.

Flowers said he knew the police were coming and what he said was "Tell the truth. Tell what you did, Don."

Actually, what the "Dottie Titus Tape With Audio" shows, at about 12 minutes, 10 seconds, is Al Flowers saying "No pushed me, don't, don't tell no lie. No, you better quit lying. You backed--you ain't got no bidness--you backed into me. You elbowed me."

As soon as the police were done talking to the council member, Flowers said, they (the police) "came and got me." The police said they were doing this to Flowers because of Don's "status."

Asked about a picture of himself holding up a fist, Flowers said he was saying "Black power!" in the picture. By this he meant, "We kill each other because we never come together. While millions of dollars come in we--"

Objection from the City Attorney, James Moore. The objection was sustained, Flowers answer struck as non-responsive. The jury was told to disregard what Flowers said. Chalk another one up for the defense.

Flowers felt what Samuels did was "intentional," not "accidental."

I Have Problems...That's Personal

James Moore stood some distance away from Al Flowers to cross examine him.

"As soon as you came in," Moore asked, "You began YELLING?"

You could characterize it that way, Flowers agreed, though he'd presented witnesses who'd tried so hard to downplay that aspect, and his attorney had gone on about, oh gee, MICROPHONE PLACEMENT. "I talk loud."

Moore pointed out how Flowers was not really "asking questions" but was shouting a REPEATED STATEMENT. Moore asked Flowers about the statement "I live in Jordan." You didn't really live in Jordan, did you?

Well, Flowers replied, I have a friend who lives in Jordan...I thought I was going to be living with that friend...I have problems. That's personal.

Quote marks, back there. "I have problems. That's personal."

Then, in an amazing statement of madness and hubris, Flowers explained: I thought I was going to run the Fifth Ward city council and I was going to live in Jordan."

This is why he's the Mayor of Crazy Town and, no, I'm not writing in the parody font.

"I was STAYING with somebody," Flowers explained, about his Fifth Ward residency qualifications.

Taking Flowers' mad desire for power for what it was worth, building on it, Moore said: "He (Samuels) was in your way, and that made you MAD, didn't it?"

One can't help but think of John W. Hinckley, Jr., who thought he was going to shoot President Ronald Reagan and live in the White House with actress Jodie Foster. It's a mad dream but, damn it, a man's got to have a dream. Al Flowers thought he was going to replace Don Samuels and run the Fifth Ward. Only in a world where gasoline is used as currency and warlords build a city fueled by pig excrement could something like that happen.

Why, Moore asked, are you yelling "Don't get in my way." Moore asked about the statement "You better go better go somewhere." And "Don't get in front of me...tell Don don't get in front of me" and "Don't step in. I got a right to speak."

Moore asked, gently but firmly, "He never raised a hand to you, did he?"

Flowers began talking about aggressive backing up and toe stepping.

Moore pointed out how, after the incident, Flowers wasn't chilled in his free speech. He kept speaking out. Heck, Flowers ran for MAYOR.

After getting what he needed from Flowers, Moore appeared to decide it was time to let Flowers just show off the way Flowers' mind works for the jury. Even though Flowers' answers didn't always seem responsive, Moore kept letting Flowers talk himself into a hole in the ground. Moore asked about whether Flowers had other means to speak to Michael Browne besides shouting him down, and Flowers would go into a rant about stimulus dollars or whatever. Flowers alluded to a "prior relationship" with Browne, and actually said after Browne was "ousted from City Hall," Browne stopped working for "the people" and their civil rights. However, after Browne "did this thing" with the neighborhood association, Browne was "back in good" with the city and made his way back to City Hall.

The city, Flowers said, has taken over all the community organizations and they are no longer run by the community.

And so it was inside the bubble of madness which is the mind of Al Flowers: inside the bubble you don't realize it is madness, but you think it is reality. Real reality is very unpleasant: your mayoral campaign doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell and you are not a hero to the community, but a laughingstock. People like Michael Browne and Don Samuels, these are the heroes of the community and you, Al Flowers, are a loud scary buffoon.

The community will not rise up and throw off Don Samuels, as you think inside your bubble of un-reality, an un-reality supported by unrealistic peers and friends such as Zack Metoyer and Farheen Hakeem. No, rather, the community will reelect Don Samuels again and again.

Worst of all, there is no deep dark conspiracy by the city against "the people" whose champion you purport to be. Indeed, the city is desperately trying to help "the people" have quality schools, decent housing, safe streets. Al Flowers, your shouts of "black power" are an anachronism, like spraying DDT to get rid of mosquitoes is an anachronism.

In the post-Obama for president world, "black power" is already here, and it is embodied by individuals like Michael Browne and Don Samuels. White neighbors go to the polls and, along with black neighbors, Asian neighbors, bi-racial neighbors, our colors don't even MATTER neighbors but we vote for Don Samuels at the polls. We punch out the little paper chad and we vote for BLACK POWER but we don't really think of it that way, we simply vote for the content of character.

You, Al Flowers, are not the champion of the people. In fact, you are in the way of the people.

Al, you said it yourself: I HAVE PROBLEMS.

Al, go work on your personal problems where you live in South Minneapolis and stay out of the problems of North Minneapolis.

It was time for a break for the jury. After the break, one of the court aides fetched the attorneys with the words "Let's roll."

Al Flowers came to the stand and there was a shift in his testimony, which was rather notable. Suddenly, Flowers was much more willing to talk about his FEELINGS, how deeply he had been hurt by the alleged assault (emotional damages, ka-ching!!!!) and Flowers even discussed the intimate details of his toes. Flowers alleged he possesses no nails on his big toes and was in "immediate pain" because Don Samuels was on his toes.

Furthermore, Al Flowers talked about having a FLARING ULCER which flares up if he has stress. The ulcer is so bad it has stopped him from drinking and he can't eat certain foods. After "the incident" Flowers' ulcer flared up and he stayed home for a while. Don Samuels is to blame for Al Flowers' flaring ulcer. Flowers said he wouldn't go anyplace where he knew Samuels would be, until resolving the court issue.

Compare this testimony with this video, click here.

At this point the plaintiff "provisionally rested."

An Amazing Parade Of Defense Witnesses Rapidly Hit The Stand

James Moore seemed determined to present all his witnesses that second day and let the jury go deliberate. Though Moore could have taken a great deal more time, there was really no need. The plaintiff's case was bogus and videotapes had captured key evidence.

First to the stand was council president Barbara Johnson, first elected in 1997, the year my 13-year-old son was born. The jury seemed to sit up a bit: Johnson was a powerful woman, and a couple of the jurors were from Minneapolis. She was their council president, too.

Part of the Jordan Neighborhood is Johnson's ward. Johnson provided an explanation of how a neighborhood association "empowers the neighborhood." She went into some discussion about how, yes indeed, millions of dollars were to be allocated to cities. These dollars would purchase abandoned or foreclosed homes to rehab or demolish. Johnson attended the press conference because of consternation about the elections, and a new board being elected. She wrote a letter of support for the new board because "it was important to recognize the process had taken place...there was a legitimate board."

Johnson personally witnessed Michael Browne interrupted by Flowers "hollering." Browne was unable to speak during some of the hollering. Council Member Don Samuels "stepped in front of Flowers."

Flowers shoved Don Samuels. No physical contact was initiated by Don Samuels. Johnson described herself as "watching closely" as the tense situation unfolded. She saw Samuels pushed forward twice. No, she didn't see what happened with the feet, nor what happened with Al Flowers' hands.

Jordan resident Dave Haddy took the stand. Again and again, Clark tried to shake Haddy's testimony but Haddy was like a pit bull clinging to a bloody leg: Haddy didn't know about any "theory of the defense." Haddy knew what he'd seen: Flowers pushed Samuels. There was enough space between the two men to see Samuels DID NOT step on Flowers' feet, perhaps a full foot of space.

At one point, Haddy pointed out the incident was on videotape. LOOK AT THE TAPE, Haddy urged.

Asked about whether he'd communicated with Don Samuels about the incident, Haddy admitted he had: He'd waved his subpoena in the air and said, "Thanks a lot, Don." Don Samuels lives right across the street from David Haddy. The jury smiled. This is what neighbors talk about in Jordan: not about mowing the lawn, but about the latest subpoena.

Jordan resident Tyrone Jaramillo took the stand: Tyrone ran for the board to help promote transparency and rectify impropriety. Was Flowers yelling? Jaramillo said Flowers was "borderline screaming." Samuels had been "walking calmly," then stepped in front of Flowers, back turned. Jaramillo actually read Samuels' body language to mean, "I don't want a confrontation."

Al Flowers' "Chaotic Trance" Caught On Videotape

(Please note: Megan Goodmundson is the girlfriend of the author of this blog post)

Jordan resident Megan Goodmundson took the stand. The jury was likely to see Megan as a key player in this incident, in three different ways: after the police dragged out Al Flowers, Megan had gotten the floor of the press conference and addressed issues at length on the "Dottie Titus video." Goodmundson had also been heard chanting "shut up, Al" as Flowers continued his extended rant at Michael Browne. Most important, Goodmundson had shot the silent videotape which showed--more clearly than any other piece of evidence--the shoving by Al Flowers and the period of time when the alleged "toe stepping" took place.

Plaintiff attorney Clark appears to have a special hard, dark place in her heart for Goodmundson. Indeed, Goodmundson had been somewhere near the center of the previous Flowers case regarding the cancellation of the cable access show. It was 12:15 PM, approximately, when Clark said "Good morning." It wasn't morning. After thinking about it for a second, and wondering if Clark was going to follow up with a question, Goodmundson agreeably said, "Good morning."

The whole thing was just...awkward. But at least Clark was making a show of civility unlike her uncouth client, who would later growl that I'd been "waiting to suck Don Samuels' dick" as I came out of the men's room into the hallway next to the court room.

Goodmundson testified she had first become involved in the neighborhood association in October of 2002, right when she moved into the neighborhood. In early 2003, she served 2 and a half years on the board, but continued to volunteer afterward. For a few years she helped with the annual elections. In 2008, she helped with the nominations committee after the first committee "didn't fulfill their obligations." (This was apparently Goodmundson's polite way of saying "dropped the ball.")

Yes, she'd helped on the Don Samuels campaign for city council. Guilty as charged.

Goodmundson wanted to be at the JACC press conference to "see neighbors who had been elected, and hear what they had to say." When Flowers arrived, he made a grand entrance, announcing he'd "arrived in Jordan" and had a house. Flowers went around greeting people at JACC headquarters.

Goodmundson had a camera with her that day. It was brand new, a gift from her parents. She had never used the video setting on the camera before. This was the first time she'd shot video, and she assumed the camera recorded video AND sound.

Why did Goodmundson shoot the video? Because Al Flowers was shouting loudly and "I had a camera in my hand, I thought I might as well use it." There was "contention" and here was Flowers shouting loudly. Goodmundson demonstrated how she held the camera above her head to get a good view. A still photo showed Goodmundson's hand, holding up the camera. Jill Clark's tone remained unconvinced: there had to be a conspiracy to record Al Flowers at angles which didn't show his feet!

Why did Goodmundson chant "Shut up, Al?" It was because Al Flowers seemed to be in a "chaotic trance" and she was trying to "snap him back to reality." Al was disrupting the proceedings. Even after Flowers was quiet or, one should say, LESS NOISY, Flowers still "made no effort to be quiet." At one point, Flowers loudly answered his cell phone and rudely talked while Browne was trying to give his statement.

In regard to the lawsuit, Goodmundson said she still couldn't believe it: Flowers shoved Samuels for no good reason, and then filed a lawsuit. Sometimes Goodmundson wakes up and finds it hard to believe "This is reality."

Clark ended with an odd question which didn't seem to fit anywhere: Do you feel there are people who, if behavior passes a certain boundary, think it is better to call the police than engage in self-help?

Sure, Megan agreed some people think it's better to call 911.

Later, I wondered what the question meant: were people supposed to enable Al Flowers, cover for him, endure his scary fits of temper and NOT CALL THE POLICE because the officers would oppress Flowers? We should all just endure Flowers because, really, calling the police is WORSE?

Is Al Flowers A Broken Man?

During the trial, I watched the body language of Al Flowers. He seemed unhappy and nervous. Though Flowers was the plaintiff, it seemed like there were times Flowers was actually the one on trial. One witness after another testified about how they really, really didn't approve of Flowers' behavior, for real, and poor Al Flowers just had to sit and hear the harsh criticism. The 911 tapes were the worst: Flowers shouting like a lunatic in the background as Vladimir Monroe called for police. And then three other people called the police.

Another thing I thought was interesting: I never saw Al Flowers write a note to his attorney, nor point to any written material at the plaintiff's table. In my observation, clients write notes for their attorneys. Clients point to some meaningful words in some document. I didn't see Flowers do that. For Flowers, words all appear to be verbal. The written word doesn't enter into the picture as meaningful. As a writer, this strikes me as quite odd.

Al Flowers looked broken and sad, like a race horse with a broken leg. Others who observed Flowers phrased it this way:

Flowers has lost his mojo.

During breaks, both sides retired to separate conference rooms in the vestibule of the court chamber. At one point, I could hear Jill Clark doing a harsh imitation of Megan Goodmundson: "Shut up, Al...shut up, Al." It was all bitterness and bile in the plaintiff's room. But in the defense conference room, on the other side of the vestibule, the joyous sounds of socializing were heard, laughter and conversation. I longed to be in that room, but I had a job to do.

In court chambers, during a break from the "self-inflicted trial of Al Flowers," a sentencing hearing took place, presided over by Judge Schlitz. A Hmong citizen of Canada named Mr. Phan, (spelling unknown) age 32, pled guilty to being in possession of 100,000 pills of MDMA ("ecstasy") with intent to distribute. Phan went to high school and two years of college in Canada. He felt he spoke English just fine, and had no accent, but a Hmong interpreter dutifully sat by, at the ready. A young woman in the back of the court room seemed to be a relative: too far away to be a wife, I was guessing a sister.

It was like, ho hum, a prison sentence handed down in the recess of the toe stepping trial. SOME folks were still involved in real, serious activities.

Out in the hallway, a woman who seemed to be a friend of Jill Clark commented, "What a waste of tax payer dollars."

Yes. Common ground. But perhaps we might disagree on whose FAULT that is.

Before the jury came back in the Al Flowers trial, the judge had a conference in open court with both attorneys. He said the jury will be asked "Whether Samuels took adverse action and whether the action would have chilled a person of ordinary firmness."

If they don't find an assault, the judge said, I may direct a verdict for the city.

"If they don't find an assault," the judge said to Jill Clark, "I don't see how you have a First Amendment claim."

And so it really WAS the great toe stepping trial of the century: the jury may have THOUGHT they were deciding many things, but really it all came down to whether you believe Al Flowers' toes were stepped on.

An Electric Current Goes Through The Jury Box At The Testimony Of Michael "Kip" Browne

Michael Browne took the stand and went through his resume for the jury. The jury appeared impressed. Here was a trial about civil rights and the defense witness was...a civil rights attorney? This was so much more impressive than the third party also-ran plaintiff witness, the oddly-dressed guy from cable access, and (parody font) my dubious semi-sibling Ben Myers, who fancies himself an attorney, but has been known to end up paying money to somebody he sued, click here.

It's not SUPPOSED to work that way, Ben.

(End of parody font)

Browne explained he ran for the JACC board because of the issue of vacant and boarded houses. Browne "wanted to do something about that." Browne finds the distinction of "pro-city" versus "pro-community" to be meaningless labels. The press conference was, in fact, an attempt to bring people together and "heal the rift."

There are issues in the neighborhood. There are serious issues. Besides vacant houses, there are crime issues: drug dealing and prostitution.

At this, it seemed like a slight electric current went through the jury. Several sat up slightly. Their expressions seemed to say: it's THAT bad in your neighborhood? No wonder you are passionate about your neighborhood association. You are fighting for your lives. OK, this is actually serious. I need to really pay attention, here, because this is SERIOUS.

Why did Samuels stand in front of Al Flowers as Flowers tried to shout down Michael Browne, the man so passionate about his neighborhood and doing something about the drugs, the prostitution? Browne said Council Member Samuels seemed to be offering up his body "like a human shield" so Flowers would be "screaming at the back of his (Samuels') head."

At this point, Jill Clark asked city attorney James Moore to stand up and help her with a demonstration. Many attorneys would have objected at that point but Moore was all, like, WHATEVER. Clark poised Moore between herself and Browne on the stand. Then Clark shouted at that back of Moore's head: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Clark also waved her arms.

See? Clark said. It doesn't work. You can still hear me.

In my opinion, the demonstration backfired. In fact, it demonstrated how meaningful it was to stand in front of somebody and shield somebody else from rude shouting. Nobody ever said Al Flowers couldn't be heard just because Samuels was standing in front of him, nor that he couldn't be seen. The demonstration tended only to show the plaintiff was being ridiculous by insisting an assault happened by somebody standing with their back turned, and such an assault was the whole intent of standing with the back turned.

City Attorney James Moore asked Browne how he got his current job with the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Browne answered he moved with his boss, basically, to run stuff.

Any aggressive physical action by Don Samuels toward Al Flowers? No, there wasn't.

Mayoral Aide Sherman Patterson testified. Again, the jury sat up respectfully. The witnesses brought by the defense were powerful people, not losers and malcontents. Witnesses were hitting the stand like soldiers hitting a beach in rapid-fire succession, actually being prepped for launch by a paralegal in the defense conference room. Here was Patterson, an important aide to the mayor, but his testimony didn't even last long. It was one witness after another, bang bang bang.

John George "PJ" Hubbard hit the stand. The judge wanted to know where "PJ" came from. PJ explained he got his nickname "from growing up." PJ Hubbard had a clear recollection of the Farheen Hakeem conversation: she was being very animated "as if somebody was doing something to her" and PJ thought, "Are you fo' real?" (Parody font:) No, she answered, I'm Far Heen." (End of parody font)

Robert Hodson took the stand and said he ran for the board because of questions about the finances of the organization. It was "suggested he run with an idea to get an idea about the finances." He was interested in the FINANCES, not so much the community issues. It was, for him, like an "academic exercise." If anything, Hodson would call himself "anti-city" because he is in frequent disagreement with city policies.

Hodson was at the center of a long moment of testimony drama, since Hodson was the only witness who called 911. The 911 tapes were introduced as evidence as Hodson sat on the stand.

The 911 tapes were categorized by name of operator (who knew?) and the time and date. Attorney Moore wanted the jury to be clear on this: the names of the files visible on the computer were the names of operators, not callers.

Hodson testified he'd called 911, but then hung up because he was "told others had dialed 911." The operator actually called him back.

The first 911 tape was Vladimir Monroe, who must have been quite near Al Flowers. Al Flowers' shouted words can be heard so clearly the listener can figure out where in time, precisely, the 911 call fits with the video tape that has audio. Listening to the call, one can't help but be reminded of dramatic television programs where somebody is calling 911 and, in the background, one can hear the sounds of the emergency which caused the dialer to summon police: the drunken, armed man...the domestic beating...the lunatic making crazed demands.

Even knowing how things turned out, one still subjectively half-expects Vladimir to be violently confronted on the audio tape, the phone wrestled from his hand, the line going dead with an electronic shriek.

The next 911 call was Anne McCandless saying, "Al Flowers is going off on Don Samuels" and "Al just SHOVED Don Samuels." McCandless pointed out she was a retired Minneapolis police sergeant and, in fact, requested a specific officer to be sent BY NAME. The 911 operator pleaded, "Let me do my job."

The next call was a 911 hang-up.

"Could that have been you?" Moore asked Hodson. Could have been, Hodson agreed.

The audio tape then records the operator calling Hodson back. The operator is very focused on whether weapons are visible.

"It's Al Flowers, so who knows what he carries?" answers Hodson, who points out, "They haven't come to blows, yet."

At one point, the operator has a disbelieving tone. This is happening at the neighborhood association office? The council member is right in the middle of it?

"NEVER A DULL MOMENT!" Hodson exclaims, cheerfully.

Jill Clark asked, "Did you know whether Don Samuels had a weapon on him that day?" Hodson answers no, he did not know.

But, Clark pressed, the operator didn't ask you THAT?

No, Hodson had to agree, the operator did not.

And there you have it. The conspiracy. The smoking gun.

The last call was an unknown female. It was brief, because squads were on the way.

One Guy Goes To The Bathroom, EVERYBODY Goes To The Bathroom

Dan Rother was the next witness, but he'd stepped out to the men's room. So the judge decided it was a good time for everybody to take a break. When Rother testified, he said he was recruited by the JACC Executive Director, Jerry Moore, to run for the board. Rother described Flowers as "very vocal and wouldn't wait his turn." Rother clearly saw Al Flowers' hands come up and shove Don Samuels.

Clark had no questions for Rother. Rother got off easy.

Don Samuels Can't Stand "Disorder And Disrespect"

Don Samuels took the stand again. His duties, he said, are to make policy and to tweak policy, to address livability issues, and constituency concerns. He tries to assure access to city government. Though his political career arguably started on the Jordan neighborhood council, he is forced to "distance himself somewhat" to avoid "the perception of undue influence." He respects the grassroots neighborhood process and doesn't want to "contaminate the purity" of the process.

Samuels went to the press conference to "witness and be seen as involved in the neighborhood's work."

Yes, at one time Samuels had been hoping to set up an office in the JACC headquarters. When Don Samuels tries to meet with people in the neighborhood at the Bean Scene, all his appointments "get interrupted ten times" by somebody coming in to talk. But the old board didn't give him an office and, the way things ended up, neither did the new board.

Oh, well.

Don Samuels testified he "can't stand disorder and disrespect." On the day in question, Flowers was "persistently and unnervingly loud."

Clark stopped the proceedings for a sidebar conference. The proceedings continued after the sidebar. What was THAT all about, I wondered?

Why, Moore asked, did Samuels make his GESTURE of physically standing in front of Al Flowers as Flowers shouted down Michael Browne?

Because, Don Samuels answered, he wanted to "create a sense of confidence that there was leadership which disapproved of the disturbance" and "we weren't all just sitting down subject to a RANT" and "there had to be a response that this was not OK, this disorder."

Samuels explained, "I was careful and thoughtful about what I was doing. So I approached with my arms folded. I walked in front and stood with my back to him. It was a symbolic gesture that said we are having a meeting in this circle."

Moore asked about the conversation with Farheen Hakeem. Samuels said "Farheen approached me. I don't know her well. She was expressing her disapproval of me. I said, you ran for political office and you were a promising young lady. And now you align yourself with marginal people, with craziness. This is not good."

Moore asked about whether Samuels could order the police to do his bidding. Samuels answered, "In my relationship with the police, they tend to tell ME what to do." He described an incident where he was caught speeding because his daughter had to go to the bathroom very badly. A cop pulled him over and gave him a ticket. The daughter just had to wait. Samuels denied getting special treatment from the police.

Clark questioned Don Samuels about the conversation with Farheen. Samuels said of Farheen, "She is aligning herself with violence."

"Violence, sir?!" Clark exclaimed.

"Violence," Samuels said, calm and even.

I waited for the line of questioning to continue. What violence is Farheen aligning herself with? That was the obvious question. The obvious question didn't come. Clark moved to a different topic.

Was it out of order, Clark asked, what you said to Farheen?

Samuels didn't think it was out of order.

Did you tell Farheen that Flowers was CRAZY? Clark asked.

Yes, Samuels replied, calmly.

However, Samuels said, he doesn't DISLIKE Flowers. Samuels face seemed to say, "I actually feel sorry for Al."

"What was meant by leadership when you stood in front of Flowers?" Clark asked, and I could see the "color of law" argument being built: Samuels did what he did as a council member, not a private individual. Samuels said he hoped somebody would "take leadership." He was trying to support somebody "taking leadership."

Clark didn't seem to like the "symbolic gesture" line of reasoning AT ALL. What is more powerful against a "chilled my free speech" case than the response, "No, I didn't, I just used free speech right back"? Clark pointed out Samuels had not written any emails talking about the "symbolic stance."

"I didn't need to," Samuels said, and appeared to shrug. "Everybody understood it." Furthermore, right after the incident happened it was "posted on YouTube."

Samuels explained he has "often put (himself) passively in harm's way." He has led the community this way. And, really, he'd be glad to provide examples.

I leaned forward, hoping Don would talk about the time he told a drug dealer to leave his neighborhood, while holding his baby daughter in his arms. Clark wanted none of THAT, however. What, she asked, did Samuels think the police would do when they showed up?

Samuels thought the police would "come...and stand there and do nothing." He had seen it happen before.

And so that day of testimony wrapped up. The jury would have to return the next day, November 11, to deliberate in a closed courthouse.