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Former Baltimore Detectives Face Up To 60 Years In Prison For Racketeering And Robbery

What a concept. Bad cops being arrested for doing bad things. 

Two Baltimore detectives were convicted for their part in what many are calling one of the biggest corruption scandals in the city's history.

Daniel T. Hersl, 48 and Marcus R. Taylor, 31 were found guilty of racketeering, racketeering and conspiracy and robbery. According to the Baltimore Sun, prosecutors on the case said Hersl and Taylor along with a few others from the Gun Trace Task Force acted as both "cops and robbers" using the law to take large sums of money from residents under the guise of police work.

Some of the most brazen acts committed were caught on video. Taylor was accused of participating in a robbery in which he stole $100,000 under the semblance of it being police duty. According to reports, prosecutors said he handcuffed a man, took his house keys, broke into the man's safe in the basement and found $200,000. Taylor and co. took half the money, left the rest in the safe and filmed cops "discovering" the lesser amount.

In another incident Hersl was accused of stealing $20,000 from a couple in Carroll County who had been detained but hadn't committed a crime. Officers testified Hersl was part of a group of cops who later split the money at a bar.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning spoke on how the disgraced detectives were able to get away with their crimes. “Their business model was that the people that they were robbing had no recourse,” Schenning said. "Who were they going to go to?”

Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said during the trial evidence uncovered showcased “some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement.”

Hersl and Taylor face up to 60 years in federal prison for their crimes.

Jurors deliberated for 12 hours for two before finally rendering their verdict on Monday. (Feb. 12) The government gave immunity to admitted drug dealers in exchange for their testimony, that Hersl and Taylor stole money and sometimes drugs. The defense tried to argue statements from drug dealers were not trustworthy.

Officer's testified to routinely violating people's rights, dating as far back as 2010, and not fearing they would be caught. Former Detective Momodu Gondo explained "It was just part of the culture.” Now, U.S District Judge Catherine Blake will hopefully put an end to that culture and sentence those involved anywhere between 20 and 40 years behind bars.

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The USC Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism Celebrates Commencement at The Shrine Auditorium on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

USC Will Offer Free Tuition For Students From Families Making Under $80,000

USC announced a new effort to make attending the university affordable to students from middle and low-income families. The school will offer free undergrad tuition for families making less than 80,000 a year, USC president Carol L. Folt announced on Thursday (Feb. 20).

Thanks to the new policies, owning a home will not be counted in calculating the student’s tuition needs.

“We’re opening the door to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks life,” Folt said in a statement. “This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey. We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances. Investing in the talent and diversity of our student body is essential to our education mission.”

The announcement comes as USC remains embroiled in an admissions scandal that became public last year.

As for the new policy, USC will increase undergraduate aid by $30 million annually which will expand financial aid for more than 4,000 students. The new policies will be implemented for incoming students beginning in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021.

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7.7. Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Jamaica, Cuba And Miami

A powerful earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea on Tuesday (Jan. 28) triggering temporary tsunami warnings and tremors felt as far away as South Florida. The 7.7. magnitude quake hit the waters between Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, according to the United States Geological Survey and the International Tsunami Information Center.

The quake, which struck roughly 86 miles northwest off the coast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, resulted in multiple aftershocks including a a 6.1 tremor near the Cayman Island, and a 4.4 aftershock. “Light shaking” was also reported in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

“Despite the large size of the earthquake, the fact that it occurred offshore and away from high population areas lessened its societal impact,” the USGS said. The organization described the quake as “moderate shaking” in parts of Cuba and Jamaica.

The quake comes nearly a month after a 6.4. magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico, but the USGS said that the “seismic events” were unrelated.

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Black People Make Up More Than 50% Of U.S. Homeless Population, Study Finds

Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, per an Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Housing and Urban Department. According to the report, blacks account for more than 50% of the country’s homeless population, despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population.

“African Americans have remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population,” the report states. “African Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 and 52% of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children.

“In contrast, 48% of all people experiencing homelessness were white, compared with 77% of the U.S. population.” People identifying as Hispanic or Latino are bout “22% of the homeless population but only 18% of the populations overall.”

As of 2019, the U.S. homeless population swelled to 568,000, an increase of about 10,000 from the previous year. In 2019, Roughly 35,000 of those experiencing unaccompanied homelessness were under the age of 25, a 4% decrease from 2018. The number of those experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 9% between 2018 and 2019.

A staggering 52% of black families experience homelessness, compared to 35% for white families.

The goal of the report is to “demonstrate continued progress toward ending homelessness, but also a need to re-calibrate policy to make future efforts more effective and aligned with the unique needs of different communities.”

HUD, which is has been releasing the annual housing stats since 2007, shows a 3% bump in the number of those experiencing homelessness on any given night, a 16% increase in California, and a “decrease” in other states. California accounts for 53% (108,432 people) off all unsheltered homeless people in the country. Despite being only twice as large as Florida, California’s homeless population is nine times that of the Sunshine State, which came in at a distant second place with 6% (12,476 people). New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington have the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people.

Numerous variables come into play when determining the origin of the black homeless epidemic due to a longstanding system of oppression in housing, and beyond. Black families are twice as  likely to experience poverty in the U.S., compared to white families; and in spite of laws against open discrimination, black renters face overt and covert financial and racial prejudice, in addition to gentrification and the racial pay gap.

On Jan. 7, HUD unveiled a housing proposal that attempts to undue Obama-era housing mandates put in place to prevent racial discrimination. The newly-released proposal may end up further promoting racial discrimination.

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