SINGAPORE (AP) — Lawyers for an outspoken Singaporean teenager charged with offending religious feelings in an online video that criticized the city-state’s founding father said that he did not intend to hurt Christians.
Amos Yee, a 16-year-old blogger, has been thrust into the spotlight in tightly-controlled Singapore after he posted the online monologue laced with expletives as the country was mourning the first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Such open criticism is rarely tolerated in Singapore, where deference is a cultural norm and self-censorship is endorsed. In his blogs and previous video postings, Yee has portrayed himself as the opposite of what society expects of a model citizen: a high school dropout who has criticized his teachers, parents, government and even the nation’s founder.
He is facing two criminal charges — one of offending Christians with comments in the video such as Jesus and Lee Kuan Yew were “power-hungry and malicious,” and another of distributing a manipulated image of Lee and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a sexual act.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors completed their closing arguments Friday, and the judge said she would announce her verdict next Tuesday.
Yee wore thin flip-flops and a white T-shirt to court with the word “prisoner” emblazoned in black letters across the back. He smiled to the crowd as he was escorted into the courtroom by three police officers, his wrists handcuffed and his ankles in shackles connected by chains.
He could face up to three years in prison and a fine if found guilty of hurting religious feelings, and up to three months and a fine on the charge of distributing obscene content.
Yee’s lawyers said he did not intend to hurt the feelings of Christians, and that prosecutors had not presented any evidence that he had actually offended any.
Prosecutors countered by saying Yee had made the material public, suggesting that it was intended to reach “all and sundry” and that Yee therefore could not claim that he did not intend his words to be seen by people who would be offended. They also said the image of Lee and Thatcher was obscene “because it depicts gratuitous sexual activity.”
Deputy public prosecutor Hay Hung Chun said Yee’s defense contradicted a statement he had given police on the night he was arrested in which he said he knew his video was “bound to promote ill-will” among Christians.
In the statement to police, Yee said he dropped out of school late last year and spent his days watching movies, playing video games and making videos. He said after Lee Kuan Yew’s death in March he noticed that “many people were glorifying him and praising him for his contributions to modern-day Singapore,” and that he then began researching Lee’s life.
“After my research, I realized that he was a horrible man and that some of his policies were inane. In the midst of my research, I began to see a lot of similarities between Lee Kuan Yew and Jesus Christ,” he said in the statement.
According to court documents, Yee told police that he was raised Catholic but later turned atheist.
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Police in Delaware have released dashcam video showing a white police officer kicking a black suspect in the face as he puts his hands on the ground. The officer was charged this week with assault.
Dover police released the August 2013 video Thursday after a federal judge ruled it was no longer considered confidential. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 30-year-old Lateef Dickerson by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The video shows Dover Cpl. Thomas Webster IV kicking Dickerson, who is on his hands and knees in response to commands to get on the ground.
Police say Dickerson was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw. Webster is on unpaid leave after he was indicted for second-degree assault.
A previous grand jury declined to indict Webster.
Online: Police video http://bit.ly/1F8DzQp
DOVER, Del. (AP) — A police dashcam video released Thursday shows a black suspect being kicked in the face by a white police officer who was charged this week with assault.
The video, recorded in August 2013, was released by Dover police after a federal judge ruled last week that it was no longer considered confidential. The judge’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the suspect by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Recorded by another officer’s dashboard camera, the video shows Dover Cpl. Thomas Webster IV kicking Lateef Dickerson after Dickerson gets down on his hands and knees in response to commands to get on the ground.
Dickerson, 30, was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw, police said in a news release Monday after Webster was charged.
Webster, 41, was arrested Monday and placed on unpaid leave after a grand jury indicted him for second-degree assault. A previous grand jury declined to indict Webster in March 2014, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after reviewing the case, found no violation of Dickerson’s civil rights.
The ACLU subsequently sued Dover police on Dickerson’s behalf.
“We believe that the video demonstrates the need for large-scale reform of the Dover Police Department, specifically improvements to their use of force and internal affairs practices, and supervision of their officers,” said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware.
“The people of Dover have a right to know about this incident and deserve a dialogue with law enforcement about how they can create a safe and equitable Dover community for all.”
Webster and a second officer encountered Dickerson while responding to a fight at a local service station possibly involving someone with a gun. Court records show that Dickerson has a long criminal history. He was arrested by Dover police last July after a traffic stop for expired tags and was charged with DUI and several weapons charges, including possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and receiving a stolen firearm.
Webster’s attorney, James Liguori, said once the dashcam video from Webster’s own patrol car and audio from the dispatch center come out, “everybody’s going to be satisfied that no crime was committed.”
“They’ve only seen half the movie.”
The president of the Central Delaware Branch of the NAACP criticized the police department’s decision to release the video, saying he feared it could lead to unrest before his group has had a chance to meet with members of the community.
“This premature release I don’t believe sends the right message, and it places unnecessary risk on members of the community,” said La Mar Gunn.
Gunn said the release of the video was an attempt by police to “control the narrative.”
Police said they had not received any tangible threats of violence, but that they had notified store owners and local schools that the video was being released.
“This is just us being pre-emptive. … It’s obviously a concern with the lawlessness that we’ve seen across the country,” said Lt. Jason Pires, the police department’s patrol unit commander.
Mayor Robin Christiansen said at a hastily arranged news conference that the city will honor the First Amendment rights of citizens to protest.
“But I must assure the members of our community that lawlessness and violence will not be tolerated,” he said.
Webster was placed on paid leave in November 2013 pending an internal investigation and a review of the case by then-Attorney General Beau Biden’s office, which took the case to a grand jury but failed to get an indictment against Webster.
Police have said they “acted accordingly” after an internal investigation found that Webster’s action did not comply with department policy, and he returned to patrol duty in June 2014.
Attorney General Matt Denn, who took office in January, reviewed the case last week and instructed prosecutors to present it again to a grand jury.
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers apologized Thursday for a video parody that showed a man violently throwing a woman across a room for wearing a Chicago Bulls T-shirt.
During a timeout in Cleveland’s win on Wednesday night, the team showed a one-minute video (https://youtu.be/zVV6oXTH9Wc ) on its large scoreboard spoofing a popular TV commercial for United Healthcare in which a couple fall while attempting the famous lift from “Dirty Dancing.” In the Cavs’ in-arena promotion, the male Cleveland fan lifts his partner then tosses her over a sofa, saying: “Bulls fan? I didn’t know you were a Bulls fan.”
An announcer then says: “When it’s playoff basketball time, you have to be all in. Don’t make the same mistake she made.”
Later, the woman is shown holding an ice pack on her head and saying: “Well, I’m all-in now,” a nod to Cleveland’s playoff motto.
The Cavs released a statement Thursday in which they said they regretted their actions.
“While the video was not intended to be offensive, it was a mistake to include content that made light of domestic violence,” the team said. “Domestic violence is a very serious matter and has no place in a parody video that plays in an entertainment venue. We sincerely apologize to those who have been affected by domestic violence for the obvious negative feelings caused by being exposed to this insensitive video.”
The Cavaliers said they have a long track record supporting domestic violence-related causes and efforts.
Prior to making the apology, the team was widely criticized on social media for being insensitive toward domestic violence.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers should be ashamed of themselves,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, an online community that fights sexism, said in a statement. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that domestic violence is a very serious issue in America — three women die each and every day as a result of domestic abuse. With a national epidemic of violence against women, we simply cannot afford to have the NBA condone this kind of violence.”
The ill-conceived video wasn’t the only promotion to backfire on the Cavs this week. The team also canceled plans to hand out 20,000 arm slings to show support to injured forward Kevin Love, who is out for the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery. Love attended Game 2 and was given a rousing ovation by Cleveland fans.
SINGAPORE (AP) — A Singaporean teenager pleaded not guilty Thursday to two charges over an online video he posted that was critical of Christianity and the nation’s late founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Sixteen-year-old Amos Yee Pang Sang told a packed courtroom that he would not be taking the stand to provide further evidence in the case. Prosecutors said they did not plan to bring forward any witnesses.
Yee faces two charges: intending to wound the religious feelings of Christians and transmitting an obscene image over the Internet of Lee and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A third charge, making offensive remarks against Lee, has been stood down temporarily.
In an eight-minute clip that was posted on YouTube in March, Yee said Lee and Jesus were “both power-hungry and malicious,” among other derogatory comments mostly targeting Lee.
If found guilty, Yee could face jail time of up to three years, or an unspecified fine.
His trial was adjourned until Friday afternoon, when prosecutors and his lawyer will submit their closing arguments. The judge may issue her verdict then or next week.
According to court documents shown to The Associated Press, Yee told police that he was raised Catholic but turned atheist by mid-2013.
Yee has spent about two weeks in jail. Arrested and charged in March, he was bailed out by a stranger, then defied one of his bail conditions — refraining from posting any public material online — and jailed again.
When he re-entered custody on April 30, Yee was slapped in the face by a stranger outside court. The assailant was arrested and is being investigated by police.
DENVER (AP) — An undercover video showing workers at a Colorado pig farm hitting animals with cans and boards has led to a criminal investigation and the firing of seven employees.
The video, posted online Wednesday by Los Angeles-based group Mercy for Animals, was filmed by one of its members at a Seaboard Foods farm. The group gave it to the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office, which launched an investigation and notified the company.
Seaboard Foods supplies pork to Walmart and other retailers. It says the handling of the pigs, which happened while they were being loaded onto trucks, is “unacceptable and inexcusable” and violates its standards. It fired five workers and two supervisors.
Walmart says it doesn’t tolerate mistreatment of animals and requires its suppliers to adhere to industry and government standards.