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African Burial Ground Closure of Ancestral Chamber Due to Hairline Fractures Highlighted

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video Q&A

FOLEY SQUARE / SDNY, May 10 – The new Congressman representing lower Manhattan, Dan Goldman (NY-10), announced on Monday he will be introducing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act along with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), who used to represent the area before redistricting.

  Inner City Press stepping out from the SDNY courthouse to cover the announcement and asked where the museum would go - video here.

    Now on May 10, Rep. Dan Goldman has written to Charles F. Sams III, Director of the National Park Service "to urge you to take swift action to make the much-needed repairs to the African Burial Ground National Monument so that the closed Ancestral Chamber can reopen to the public.... I recently toured the site to see for myself that this critical feature within the African Burial Ground National Monument’s outdoor memorial is temporarily closed due to safety concerns at the Ancestral Chamber. I understand that multiple hairline fractures along the foundation need to be addressed so that this feature can safely reopen to the public. Please update me on your budget estimate and timeline for these renovations, as well as your target date to reopen it to the public." Watch this site.

  Previous Inner City Press / Downtown News Service (TM) coverage: Ivan Nieves was charged with vandalism and disorderly conduct for racist graffiti on the African Burial Ground, specifically with writing the N-word preceded by "Kill" on 1 November 2018 on a sign on Duane Street.

 On August 8, 2019 after spending a week in the Metropolitan Correctional Center on a charge of failure to report to the Probation office, Nieves pleaded guilty to one of two Violations of Supervised Release specifications. In exchange, the U.S. Attorney's office dropped the other specification.

 Nieves was no longer subject to any supervised release, to which he proved to not be amenable. His total punishment, for the graffiti and the lone "specification," would be the week in the MCC. Magistrate Ona T. Wang after noting to Nievies "our rather lengthy history for this misdemeanor" revoked the terms of his probation and said Time Served, No Supervised Release. Both the prosecutor and Nieves second defense attorney Bennett Epstein looked relieved. 

Previously after a nearly full day bench trial, Nieves was found guilty of vandalism, and not guilty of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced on July 18 to a month's home confinement with a location monitoring bracelet. Periscope video here.

  On August 1, 2019 in the SDNY Magistrates Court with Inner City Press the only media present Nieves re-appeared, in custody. He had refused the location monitoring bracelet that Magistrate Ona T. Wang had ordered. When she asked Probation if it could be put on today they said no, Nieves was not "amenable" to it and refused to return their calls.

  Judge Wang ordered Nieves detained, along with his prostate medicine. Nieves got a new lawyer, a Mr. Epstein, who said since he will be in the SDNY courthouse next Thursday anyway, why not another Nieves hearing then? Inner City Press will be there. Nieves' Federal Defender lawyer previously said, "Nieves is now working for the Parks Department. The vandal had refused to participate in court-ordered mental health assessments. Nieves’s brother died at a young age after being abused at a mental health clinic, Weinstein said. The tragedy left Nieves with a lifelong aversion to therapy, but now Nieves plans to receive grief counseling through a church program, according to his public defender."

  If he can say that publicly, what was the basis for withholding the entire sentencing submission? And why has Judge Wang, who as Inner City Press reported initially asked to prior restrain reporting from the trial, not denied or modified the implicit request for total secrecy and privatization of the sentencing process?

  Only from Nieves' lawyer is it said that Nieves got thirty days home confinement. Inner City Press, working perched over the 500 Pearl Street PACER terminal that at least for 17 hours had no update on the sentences, has been advised to not ask so many questions. The US Attorney's Office did not (yet?) send out a press release, as it did after Judge Wang's verdict. We'll have more on this.

  Back in April after the choppy evidence portion of a bench trial on April 11, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Ona Wang told the press in the courtroom not to publish Nieves' home address which had been said out loud by one of the three government witnesses. Judge Wang immediately agreed, then after press-back tried to say there is an injunction pending briefing.

But that is prior restraint.

   Nieves' Federal Defenders lawyer Philip Weinstein, who made the request to seal in an "off the record" sidebar the legitimacy of which  was also disputed, tried to use the gag order against Roger Stone as precedent. But Stone is before a court, in a way the media and people present in the courtroom are not. Judge Wang argued that people are under her jurisdiction merely by entering her court room. For prior restraint?

  Resuming for summations at 3 pm, Judge Wang acknowledged that to direct the information not be reported would be prior restraint. She therefore shifted to requesting that it not be published, since Nieves says he has faced threats. Okay.


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