Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kalief Browder: An American Horror Story That Should Make Us All Shutter

Even in a nation that has been awash in horrific injustices since its "birth", there are some injustices that simply go beyond the pale. Even when a cop murders an innocent person - that's something that most of us can [at least] get our heads around. But in the case of Kalief Browder however, there is just no making sense of it. 
Perhaps to have been gunned down in the street by cops might have been a more preferable fate. At least [he] would have been spared years of torture, trauma, and suffering. "Unjust" does not begin to describe what was done to Kalief Browder. Go to the Democracy Now site HERE to watch a full story of Browder's case. On May 15th 2010 Browder was arrested in The Bronx, New York City on false accusations of stealing a backpack. He was sent to the infamous Rikers Island. For anyone who does not know about, nor has ever been there, it is easy to think of Rikers as a single, terrifying structure full of hardened adults. Actually, the island houses ten different facilities. Eight for men, one for women, another so decrepit it has reportedly not [ware]housed anyone since 2000. Rikers is situated along the East river, between Queens and The Bronx. That a 16 year old child would be falsely accused and send to a jail known for systemic levels of horrific abuse is by itself an intolerable violation of international human rights. But it gets much worse, and there is no happy ending.

On the night of their arrests, Browder was walking back home with a friend, from a party. Arresting cops claimed that the two boys had robbed a man named Roberto Bautista - a Mexican national -  of his backpack. The backpack was said to have contained a credit card, debit card, digital camera, mobile device, and $700 in cash. Cops searched Browder and his friend, but neither of them had any stolen items, weapons, nor much cash. Despise zero evidence they had done anything wrong, the two were arrested anyways. It should be made clear right now that Browder never robbed anyone, and that the accusation against him was false from the start. After their kidnapping, Browder and his friend were taken to NYC's 48th precinct. Hours later, they were taken to Bronx County Criminal court for processing. A couple of days after their false arrests, Browder and his friend went before a judge. The friend was released. Browder however, was charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault! Because he had already been on probation from a prior pissant misdemeanor plea months earlier when he was 15, Browder was remanded to custody. His parents could not afford the $10K bail/extortion fee required to get him out. Thus, began his long excruciating nightmare.

Unforgivable: At age 16, Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack. He was innocent, but the state stole his adolescence. Another unresolved crime. Another open sore for this shit country, that will never heal!

Browder was placed in shackles and shipped to Rikers where he was caged in the Robert N. Davoren Center(R.N.D.C.). This unit is where Rikers adolescent prisoners are warehoused, age 16 - 18(New York is one of only two states in which juveniles aged 16 and up are automatically charged as adults. The other state in North Carolina. A cruel violation of international human rights in of itself, which Black and Latino youths find themselves disproportionately impacted). During his stay in NY's gulags, Browder was viciously beaten multiple times by both guards and other inmates. In 2012 Browder was violently thrown the the floor by a Black guard, then beaten relentlessly without provocation. He was handcuffed at the time. In another video from 2010, he was beaten by nearly a dozen inmates, again, with no provocation. The video surveillance of both these attacks can be viewed HERE. Of course Browder, in later interviews, would speak of constant physical abuse at Rikers. Numerous beatings from guards and attacks from "fellow" inmates. Most likely "worse" had also been done to Browder - though he never went into such details. The physical violence was only part of the nightmare, though. Browder also spoke of being starved while in solitary confinement. Already meager meals would often be withheld, not by due punishment or official order - but a guard's whim. If Browder dared spoke up or protested, or a guard simply decided that he did not like his face... no meal. There were times when Browder did not eat for 16, 18, 24 hours. And there was not a damned thing he could do about it either - not while locked up in a small cell, a thing slot in the door, and no human contact for 23 hours a day. And even though his mother often put money on his jailhouse account so he could by snacks and other essentials, Browder had no access to such things while in confinement. All of this was a gross violation of his Civil and human rights, mind you, but that's neither here nor there. 

Sadistic: This video still depicts Kalief Browder being beaten by guards at Rikers.


These following video stills capture a gang of about dozen inmates attacking Browder, as an inept guard does little to stop it.

Sadistic Prosecutors and worthless public defenders leaned on Browder to accept a so-called "plea deal". Plead "guilty", to crimes he had not committed, and he would soon be released with time served. What a fucking SCANDAL! He refused however, on account of his being INNOCENT, and asked for(and kept asking for) for a trial instead. A trial - speedy and just - that he had every damned right to. Even though he was grossly over-charged with multiple felonies, even though he would be facing up to 15 years in prison, had he gone to trial and lost. But the fact is, Browder was innocent and he knew then that what was being done to him was wildly unjust. A series of endless court dates, delays, and bureaucratic foot-dragging would keep Browder locked up at Rikers for over three years. He was kept in solitary confinement for over 800 days, most of his time there. 

Tormented: Kaleif Browder tells his story in an interview with a local ABC affiliate.

Browder describing his three-yr. ordeal during an Huffington Post interview. And below is his lawyer Paul Presia, who sat beside him.
In June 2013, during yet another court hearing in which Browder had little reason to expect his situation to change, all criminal charges against him were suddenly dismissed. This was mostly due to the fact that Mr. Bautista, the person who allegedly claimed to have been robbed by Browder in the first place, has long since gone back to Mexico. Or so it was claimed. According to some reports, Bautista has a brother who lives in The Bronx that authorities had been in contact with. But after some time, the brother was also unable to be located. After court, Browder was then released... just like that. No apology, no admittance of wrong-doing on the court's part, no atonement of any sort. No real explanation of his accuser's whereabouts, no acknowledgement of the torture and violence Browder endured, no compensation, no bus ticket back home. Browder had spoken of attempting suicide several times while imprisoned. He made a few more attempts after his release. He endured severe psychological, as well as physical torture while at Rikers - most of that time having been in solitary confinement. Browder had his 17th birthday in jail, nine days after his unlawful arrest. And he was 20 years old by the time of his release. He missed the remainder of his junior, and entire senior year in high school. He missed prom, graduation, a sister's wedding, the birth of a nephew, and was left to move back to his old bedroom at his parent's home, while everyone else his age had gone on to college, learned to drive, live on their own, developed relationships, and made full transitions into adulthood(theoretically with minimal trauma). 

Browder did make serious strides to get his life [back] in order. While still at Rikers he continued his schooling, whenever he could. After jail he took GED courses and enrolled in classes at Bronx Community College. He maintained a 3.5 average - which is remarkable, considering the nearly two years of high school he had lost. He was also involved in a lawsuit against the city, and told his story those who would listen, including media outlets such as The New Yorker and Huffington Post. He did all of this, despite battling the trauma he was left with, and the increasingly severe depression and paranoia that was setting in. 


On Saturday June 8th 2015, Kalief Browder committed suicide by hanging in his Bronx home, in which he had lived for most of his young life. His mother had been the only other person present in the two-story apartment at the time, and it was her who discovered him. He was 22 years old. Many people would argue that Browder had indeed been murdered. And they all would have been right - a slow torturous murder drawn out over several years. Though a private woman, Mrs. Browder(her full name has not been released to the public) eventually broke her silence on what she sees as the murder of her son Kalief. She places blame for his death squarely on the entire system which ensnared him to begin with. 

On Thursday June 11th, a vigil was held in Browder's honor and attended by hundreds of people in NYC. There were calls for the entire criminal "justice" system in the city to be drastically reformed. The state's top judge has called for reforms. City officials have called for bail reform. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has done the same. But REALLY... what goddamned difference will it all make? No one who ever took part in Browder's torment has ever been made to pay for what they did... and they never will be! The racist arresting cops, the judges who allowed soo many delays, the prosecutors, the abusive guards... all of these people remain protected by anonymity to this day.

Kalief Browder spend three years in jail, for a crime he absolutely did not commit. He was completely innocent, and police kidnapped him right off the street. He was never given a trial and he was never convicted. As mentioned before, Roberto Bautista - the Mexican tourist who supposedly "accused" Browder of having robbed him of his backpack - was said to have long since returned to Mexico, and was never produced as a witness in court. Neither the stolen backpack in question, nor its contents, were ever recovered. There seems to be no indication that Browder ever faced his supposed accuser directly, or that this Mr. Bautista ever made so much as a single court appearance. To be frank, there seems to be NO proof that the individual who "accused" Browder of robbing him EVER EVEN EXISTED. And unless you're looking for a Spanish tennis player, good luck finding a "Roberto Bautista" on the internet. The guards who were known to have abused and tortured Browder have never been publicly identified, and there is no indication that any of these bastards were ever punished. The same goes for the pigs who originally arrested Browder, along with his friend, back in May 2010. None of the numerous judges that Browder stood before in countless court appearances, nor the prosecutors who cynically pursued a boundless criminal case against him, have ever been forced to answer for their actions.

To read an exclusive article on Kalief Browder from October 2014 by The New Yorker, go HERE
To watch a Huffington Post interview with Kalief and his lawyer from 2013, go HERE.  


  1. Don't you mean, "... make us all shudder"? Make us all shutter doesn't make sense.

  2. Shudder: (of a person) tremble convulsively, typically as a result of fear or revulsion.
    "she still shuddered at the thought of him"
    synonyms: shake, shiver, tremble, quiver, quaver, vibrate, palpitate, flutter, quake, heave, convulse
    "she still shuddered at the thought of him"

  3. Reminds me of Rick and Morty, when Rick says, "we shouldn't take things for granite"