Rather than ride off in, say, a stretch limousine, newlyweds Jay Leonard and Lilly Grooms did it their way:
Aboard Jay’s 2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
They decided on his Harley instead of hers, a Sportster, as they pulled onto Waynesburg’s East High Street and turned at South Washington for their first ride as husband and wife.
Their own take on a dream wedding started promptly at 2 p.m. Saturday outside of the Greene County Courthouse, with Alma Gray, Jay’s sister, officiating. His father, Jay Sr., and Lilly’s mother, Mary Marion, stood by their side as they exchanged vows in front of an enthusiastic group of family members and friends, most of whom dressed for the occasion in gear representing the motorcycle that made Milwaukee famous.
One exception was the bride, who celebrated her nuptials in a traditional gown and veil, holding a neatly arranged bouquet and frequently flashing a scintillating smile as she and Jay Jr. tied the knot in an otherwise unconventional manner.
“Everybody’s up for it,” Jay Jr. said prior to ceremony. “Everybody’s always looking for a reason to ride.”
The Waynesburg resident has been riding for 40 or so years, starting on a Honda Trail Z50.
On his Street Glide, he and Lilly led a procession that eventually led to a reception full of favorites for feasting and possibly a beverage or two.
Although the weather forecast leading up to Saturday was somewhat on the foreboding side, precipitation held off until well after the wedding.
Jay, though, said he wasn’t worried about possibilities along those lines.
“If there’s a 90% chance it’s going to rain,” he observed, “there’s a 10% chance it won’t.”
MINNEAPOLIS – With Derek Chauvin convicted of murder in George Floyd’s death, activists and the Floyd family are turning their attention to this summer’s trial for the other three officers involved in his May 2020 arrest.
All three have already sought to deflect responsibility to Chauvin, by far the most senior officer on the scene.
Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao face trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill ordered that they be tried together, but separately from Chauvin, to reduce the number of people in the courtroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the three weigh their strategies, legal experts say they are sure to be watching what kind of prison time Chauvin gets at his June 16 sentencing – as much as 30 years, though likely less. Minnesota law sets the same penalties for aiding and abetting murder or manslaughter as for the act itself.
They’ll also be mindful that it took jurors less than 24 hours to find Chauvin guilty on all charges. That could ratchet up pressure to consider a plea deal.
“The factual differences between Chauvin and the other three are what should drive this,” said Tom Heffelfinger, a former U.S. attorney for Minnesota.
Experts said the best Lane, Kueng and Thao can hope for is a jury of 12 people who think Chauvin was guilty but aren’t so sure about what roles the other three played. And they said the evidence against the three is weaker than the evidence against Chauvin, which provides opportunities for their attorneys.
“I would expect the theme of all three would be, ‘That’s a really bad thing that Chauvin did. I didn’t like it. I’m not responsible for what happened,’” former Ramsey County prosecutor Susan Gaertner said.
Prosecutors declined to discuss their case. Attorneys for Lane and Kueng also declined, and Thao’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment. But their past filings and the evidence offer clues for likely strategies.
Lane and Kueng can argue they were rookies, in just their first week as full-fledged cops, and felt a need to defer to Chauvin – their training officer – when he pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee for nearly 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd shouted repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe before going silent, then limp.
“Those two rookies have a facially different defense, and a very real factual defense, as compared to Chauvin,” Heffelfinger said.
Lane might have the best defense. Body camera video shows he asked the other officers if they should turn Floyd on his side – and Chauvin said no.
Local defense attorney Joe Friedberg said the evidence at Chauvin’s trial showed that Lane was “trying to use as little force as possible” before Chauvin arrived and took charge.
Kueng can be heard reporting to Chauvin at one point that he could not find Floyd’s pulse.
“They’re raising questions about what was happening and whether they should be doing something different,” said another local defense attorney, Brock Hunter. “It’s not nearly as clear-cut as I think the evidence against Chauvin was.”
But both Chauvin and Kueng maintained their restraint, and body camera video shows Kueng holding up one of Floyd’s handcuffed hands – an action that prosecution medical experts testified made it even harder for Floyd to breathe.
Thao can argue that it was crowd control, keeping an agitated group of about 15 onlookers at a safe distance, and that he largely had his back to the other officers and Floyd.
“His defense could be, ‘I was just present and it takes more than presence to make a crime,’” Heffelfinger said.
But one of the onlookers Thao specifically ordered to stand back was Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter who can be heard on video pleading repeatedly for officers to check Floyd’s pulse. Hansen cried on the witness stand at Chauvin’s trial as she described her frustration at being prevented from coming to Floyd’s aid.
The quick conviction for Chauvin spurred speculation about plea deals. Heffelfinger said prosecutors may be open to that because they’re aware of the potential weaknesses in the cases against the three.
“Prosecutors know this stuff, so this is a good time for all parties to consider settlement over the next two or three months,” he said.
Gaertner said prosecutors will feel pressure not to strike a plea deal that could be seen by activists as letting the officers off lightly. But she said she hopes they do consider deals that would avert a trial, particularly due to the stress and expense of the just-completed trial that transformed parts of Minneapolis into a militarized zone.
“Clearly these three defendants are significantly less culpable than Chauvin,” she said. “And that should be taken into account. Another trial is going to be very disruptive, costly and I’m not sure that that’s in the best interests of the public.”
But Friedberg said he doesn’t expect any deals.
“None of them will ever plead guilty,” Friedberg predicted. “They have three really good lawyers who are extremely aggressive lawyers. There’s no question in my mind they’re going to go to trial and they’re going to claim that they were completely unaware of the depths of what Derek Chauvin was doing.”
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
WASHINGTON – The card tucked in President Joe Biden’s right jacket pocket must weigh a ton. You can see the weight of it on his face when he digs it out, squints and ever-so-slowly reads aloud the latest tally of COVID-19 dead.
Sometimes he’ll stumble on a digit – after all, flubs come with the man. But the message is always clear: The toll of the virus weighs on him constantly, a millstone that helps explain why the typically garrulous politician with the megawatt smile has often seemed downright dour.
For any new leader, a lingering pandemic that has killed more than a half million citizens would be plenty for a first 100 days. But it has been far from the sole preoccupation for the now 78-year-old Biden.
The oldest person ever elected president is tugging the United States in many new directions at once, right down to its literal foundations – the concrete of its neglected bridges – as well as the racial inequities and partisan poisons tearing at the civil society. Add to that list: a call for dramatic action to combat climate change.
He’s doing it without the abrasive noise of the last president or the charisma of the last two. Biden’s spontaneity, once a hallmark and sometimes a headache, is rarely seen. Americans are seeing more action, less talk and something for the history books.
“This has been a really terrible year,” said Matt Delmont, who teaches civil rights history at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. “There’s so much. We want a new president to be a light forward. From that perspective, it makes sense that you want to get out of the box fast.”
Biden “sees the virtue of going bigger and bolder,” Delmont said. “It so strongly echoes FDR.”
Few would have bet Joe Biden would ever be uttered in the same breath as Franklin D. Roosevelt. It’s too soon to know whether he deserves to be.
But the scope of what Biden wants to do would – if he succeeds – put him in the company of that New Deal president, whose burst of consequential actions set the 100-day marker by which all successors have been informally measured since.
It’s not all been smooth. Biden has struggled to change course on immigration practices he railed against in the campaign, drawing accusations from within his party that he’s “caved to the politics of fear.”
Yet in 100 days he has achieved a pandemic relief package of historic breadth and taken executive actions to counter the legacy and agitations of Donald Trump.
The U.S. has pivoted on the environment and established payments that could halve child poverty in a year. It has embraced international alliances Trump shunned. It has elevated the health insurance program Republicans tried for years to kill.
“He ran as the antithesis of Trump – empathetic, decent and experienced, and he is delivering,” said former Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod. “He’s restored a sense of calm and equilibrium to a capital that lived on the jagged edge for four years of Trump.”
Gone are the out-of-control news conferences, the sudden firings, the impulsive policy declarations, the Twitter drama. Instead Americans are getting something more methodical. Like the index card in his pocket. It shows his schedule, the key virus statistics and war casualties.
Biden has appeared in public far less than his predecessors. That’s partly because of the pandemic but also because he wanted to occupy less of the American consciousness than did Trump, who spoke loudly but achieved almost nothing legislatively in his 100-day debut.
If there is a consistent through line to Biden’s term so far, it’s his attempt to respond to age-old racial inequalities, even in unexpected corners of public policy.
His massive infrastructure plan, for example, contains measures to address harms inflicted generations ago when governments built urban highways through Black neighborhoods.
“That’s something most Americans don’t think about if they don’t have a direct experience of it,” Delmont said. “People hear infrastructure and think it’s a race-neutral set of policies.”
But without understanding the fracturing of Black neighborhoods from the bulldozer or the heavy pandemic toll on minority communities, he said, “It’s hard to know what systemic racism looks like. These are civil rights issues. That’s where people want to see actions and resources.”
For the most part, Biden is actually doing more than he promised in his campaign. The election dealt him a hand that makes bigger things possible, thanks to majorities so thin in Congress that he needs Vice President Kamala Harris to cast tiebreaking votes in a 50-50 Senate.
But that power might not last. First-term presidents historically see their party lose big in the midterms and Republicans have shown no inclination to support his policies.
Even within his party, cohesion is not a given, with constant tension between centrists and the left. So far, Biden has managed to avoid a revolt from either faction. But liberals were from pleased when Biden balked at reversing Trump’s cuts in refugee admissions, as promised.
Biden was deprived of an orderly transition by Trump’s false claims of election fraud, which meant delays through the federal bureaucracy. It meant the Trump administration had done little to facilitate vaccine distribution before Biden took office, prompting his complaint about “the mess we inherited.”
Still, the Trump administration and Congress had made a massive investment in vaccine development. Trump also locked in early supplies for the U.S. while many other developed countries still face crucial shortages.
Biden’s success in surging vaccine distribution since then was a significant early achievement, helped by the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill signed into law within two months. No Republican lawmakers supported it.
To this point, Biden enjoys healthy poll numbers. Pew Research found an approval rating of 59% this month, in league with Obama and President George W. Bush and far better than Trump, 39% in April 2017.
Few people have tried longer to be president than Biden, who had formed a clear vision of the job after decades in Washington.
He talks more quietly now, moves a little slower and has lost weight. Mindful of his age, and his own life touched by immense tragedy, Biden knows tomorrow is never a given.
He speaks of all he wants to do, “God willing.”
“I’m just going to move forward and take these things as they come,” he said at his only formal news conference. “I’m a great respecter of fate.”
The schedule on his card is full. The virus death tally inches up, more slowly now. He’s played golf once.