Friday, September 20, 2013

Federal jury returns guilty convictions in carjacking ring

Two Detroit men and a Redford Township man were found guilty yesterday by a federal jury in Detroit on 20 counts in a case involving armed carjacking to support a chop shop, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge John Robert Shoup of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department, Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue of the Michigan State Police, and Special Agent in Charge William Hayes of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The jury convicted Frank Harper, age 29, of Detroit, Phillip Harper, age 25, of Detroit, and Bernard Edmond, age 46, of Redford Township. The three-week trial was conducted before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

The evidence presented at trial established that the defendants conspired with several others to steal high-end vehicles, many by committing armed carjacking, and then to retag the vehicles for sale. Edmond would purchase the stolen vehicles from the Harper brothers and others after the thefts. He would then alter the vehicle identification numbers of the stolen vehicles to conceal the fact that the vehicles had been stolen. Edmond would also create false documents to file with the secretary of state and then sell the vehicles to unwitting buyers in Michigan and other states. Edmond created a market for the stolen vehicles by informing the Harpers and others of his desire to buy these stolen vehicles.

The Harper brothers committed several carjackings and other auto thefts. For example, on October 14, 2010, Phillip Harper and others brandished firearms to steal a Cadillac Escalade, a GMC Yukon, a Chyrsler Aspen, and a Mercury Milan from the Elysium Night Club in downtown Detroit. On January 25, 2011, Frank Harper and others carjacked a Mercedes S550 from a person at the intersection of Atwater and Joseph Campau streets in Detroit. On January 31, 2011, the Harper brothers and another used a firearm to carjack three vehicles from a person on Joseph Campau Street in Detroit. On February 22, 2011, the Harper brothers and others carjacked three high-end vehicles from the valet at Opus One restaurant in Detroit. On March 20, 2011, Philip Harper and others carjacked a Lexus 460 near Club Vain in Detroit. Many of these and other vehicles were intended for Bernard Edmund to retag and sell.

Co-defendants Justin Bowman, Stratford Newton, and Darrell Young have each pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.

Phillip Harper faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 80 years in federal prison, and Frank Harper and Bernard Edmond are facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 55 years in federal prison. A sentencing date will be set by the court.

In a prepared statement, McQuade said, “Armed carjacking poses an unacceptable danger to public safety and creates a climate of fear for residents in our community. Although these convictions bring with them severe sentences, we think they are appropriate for such serious and pervasive crimes. We hope that these convictions will deter others from committing similar crimes that wreak havoc in our neighborhoods.”

Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Shoup added, “This case stands as a superb example of the fine collaborative work being done by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Detroit Police Department. FBI thanks the Assistant United States Attorneys who handled this case for the excellent work that they did in bringing justice to those who would prey on our society.”

Chief Craig thanked all law enforcement agencies involved by saying, “Thank you to all involved who dismantled this Detroit carjacking ring. This is another opportunity for the Detroit Police Department to work with our partners to help reduce carjacking crimes, which is one of the department’s top priorities.”

The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations as well as officers from the Detroit Police Department and Michigan State Police.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pilgrim statue to visit the Warrendale neighborhood

Mr. Jose Robert Dias Tavares - artist of Our Lady's Image

An important Catholic statue, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, will visit Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church (7685 Grandville Ave.) in the Warrendale neighborhood next month. This statue will be on display on Sunday, October 6, starting with a living rosary at 11:30 a.m.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima last visited SS. Peter and Paul Parish on November 27, 1968.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bombing victims receive a Congressional Gold Medal

Congressional Gold Medal - Image from the U.S. Mint
Earlier this week, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. They were the four young black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.  The ceremony was held at the U.S. Capitol Building.

The senseless, premature deaths of these young girls as they prepared for Sunday school galvanized the civil rights movement and sparked a surge of momentum that helped secure the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The 16th Street Baptist Church remains a powerful symbol of the movement for civil and human rights, and the ultimate sacrifices made by these girls are emblematic of many others who have lost their lives for the causes of freedom and equality.

The United States Mint struck and prepared the Congressional Gold Medal as authorized by Public Law 113-11.  The medal's obverse (heads side) was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Master Designer Barbara Fox and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.  The design features the silhouette of four young girls, representing those killed on that fateful day.  The victims' names are inscribed around the border of the design, with the quote, "Pivotal in the struggle for equality." Additional inscriptions include "September 15" and "1963," which are incised across the silhouettes. 

The medal's reverse (tails side) was designed by AIP Master Designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.  The design depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church with the quote, "Killed in the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church" to the left of the image.  Additional inscriptions are "Act of Congress 2013" and "Birmingham, Alabama."

The public law that authorized the United States Mint to strike the Congressional Gold Medal also authorizes the bureau to strike and sell three-inch and 1½-inch bronze replicas.  These medals are currently available for purchase at the bureau's online catalog, The medals also can be purchased by calling 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).  Hearing- and speech-impaired customers with TTY equipment may call 1-888-321-MINT (6468).  The three-inch medals are priced at $39.95 each and the 1½-inch medals are priced at $6.95 each. 

The United States Mint was created by Congress in 1792 and became part of the Department of the Treasury in 1873.  It is the Nation's sole manufacturer of legal tender coinage and is responsible for producing circulating coinage for the Nation to conduct its trade and commerce.  The United States Mint also produces numismatic products, including proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins; Congressional Gold Medals; and silver and gold bullion coins.  The United States Mint's numismatic programs are self-sustaining and operate at no cost to the taxpayer.

Publisher's Note: The Friday Focus series seeks to highlight interesting stories, in my opinion, simply have not gotten as much attention in the news media as they deserve.