06/21/18 Art Acevedo

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Art Acevedo
Houston Police Department

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies in Wash DC & Amy Povah re Presidential pardons

Audio file


JUNE 21, 2018


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi, folks, this is the Reverend Dean Becker and man, do we have a great show for you today. We're going to hear from police chief of Houston, Texas, Mister Art Acevedo. We're going to hear from Amy Povah, who helped Kim Kardashian get her aunt out of prison through the help of Trump, and we'll hear from Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

Here's a quote for you, listeners. God is watching us. We can't hide from him. Those are some words from the police chief of Houston, Texas, Art Acevedo. He's with us now. Hello, chief, how are you sir?

ART ACEVEDO: I'm well, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm well. I'm, like many folks, kind of outraged at the -- the change in principle, or perspective, that's going on in our country at this time, especially in regards to those children down on the border and the way we're treating immigrants in our cities. Would you agree with that thought, sir?

ART ACEVEDO: Yeah, I think that there's a lot of frustration amongst god-fearing Americans, and Americans that value the 248 years of pragmatic values that have made us the greatest country on earth.

And, I just left a press conference with Sylvester Turner, our mayor here in Houston, and probably a couple hundred leaders, faith leaders, political leaders, people from all over the city, that say enough is enough. A line's been crossed, and it's time for others to either, we need to either speak up, speak out, be heard, weigh in, or be complicit through our silence.

DEAN BECKER: And, that's the truth of it, yes sir, there's -- there's big marches going on down in, near El Paso, being led by Congressman Beto O'Rourke and others. Dallas, Houston, lots of cities around the country are objecting to what's going on, and with good reason. Correct?

ART ACEVEDO: Yeah, you know, look, when we have a policy to take away children as young as, you know, days and weeks old, from parents, and we know from a lot of the studies, and a lot of the literature, the psychological, emotional damage, developmental damage, we can do to young children when they don't have the nurturing love of their parents.

We're doing a disservice, and we're doing harm, untold harm, we don't know the totality of the harm to these children that, you know, it's going to impact them for the rest of their lives, and I think it's something that, again, you know, you're either against it or you're complicit in it, by not speaking out, and I'm glad that, you know, our mayor, Mayor Turner, and many people in this city, in this state, in this country are starting to speak out, because I want to make sure, as a police chief, and as a person that values human dignity, that history will be able to see that we weighed in, and history will prove that we were on the right side of history.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I agree with every word you said sir, and I also want to just throw this in, that that is why I do this radio program, is to show folks that I did not believe in this prohibition that empowers terrorist cartels and gangs, and, speaking of gangs, you know, you have brought focus to bear on the gang members that are killing children just by accident, if you want to use that word.

ART ACEVEDO: Ah, I won't say it's an accident, because they intentionally discharged firearms. It's by a reckless and wanton, willful disregard for the sanctity of life. When they decide to spray and pray as you're shooting at another gang member, and, you know, they don't hit the gang member, they end up shooting innocent children, and, you know, there, there is -- you want to get real clear, because people that support this draconian, zero tolerance policy that's been adopted by this administration -- attorney general, would say, we're a sanctuary city, which is absolutely false.

You know, we actually work with HSI, Homeland Security Investigations, we work with ICE. We work with them to go after violent criminals, not after asylum seekers, not after people that, but for their immigration status, don't bother anybody, because life and leadership and safety and security is about making sure that the very limited resources we have at the national, state, and local level are focused on what matters most, and that's safety.

And so, that's why we arrested hundreds of gang members. Some of them were undocumented, some of them US born, the last few months, working with our federal partners.

But we cannot just sit back as a city, we cannot just sit back as a state, and we cannot sit back as a nation, and a nation that is based on Judeo-Christian values and founded on those values, and not speak out on something that's completely contrary to every lesson I've learned as a person of faith and as a Christian, and I think for those to try to use the bible to say it's okeh to dishonor a family, to tear apart a family, to dishonor the love of a mother, of a father who, because of the circumstances they were born into in another country, you know, risk everything to bring their kids to a better life.

Listen, if you want to detain them, and deport them, because a process, a legal procedure, shows that they did not have justification, legal justification for asylum, that's different than let's separate them at the border, and now one of the things that some of the faith leaders were talking about today is that -- that, they're separating the families at the border, now they're categorizing those new kids as unaccompanied minors, when in fact they were detained at the border accompanied by their families or by a guardian, and that is truly not the same as an unaccompanied minor that traverses across, you know, the border by themselves.

So, we really need to be vigilant, we need to be vocal, and I think we all need to weigh in.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, and, you know those who have those type of pronouncements, that's it's the bible that require this, are, in my opinion, pseodo-Christians, they're not following the intent of that book.

The thought that, you know, we have here in Houston and around, the gangs, and their violence, and it is never really put forward that many of the people coming northward, seeking asylum here in Texas, or in the US, are fleeing cartel violence, fleeing ultimate brutality and barbarism that's going on down there. Your response there, please, Chief.

ART ACEVEDO: I mean, what a lot of folks, like, first and foremost, I'm a political refugee, you know, we were very fortunate in 1968, when I was about four and a half years of age, in December of 1968, my family fled communist Cuba. There were a lot of bad things going on, we're not communist, we love freedom, this country gave us the greatest gift of all, which is freedom.

And that's the way I was raised, to be a patriot, and that's why I've dedicated my entire adult life to public service. But what I find really disheartening is, immigrants themselves, that might have received political refugee status, as a Cuban, when I see the son of -- who's a political official, and I'm not going to name him because it's not important, names aren't important, but when I see the son of a Cuban, who believes it's okeh to separate children, when in the '60s, Cuban parents, out of desperation, put their kids on flights to the United States by themselves, and they were called the Peter Pan Flights, when parents took to the open seas and so many have died trying to bring their kids here.

When I hear Vietnamese Americans who, they themselves came over as boat people in the mid-'70s into the early '80s, fleeing communist Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in April of 1975, it makes me question their heart, because what was so special about them, that it was okeh for them and their families and their -- and their parents, but it's not okeh for other people that are fleeing persecution.

And again, it's trying times in our country, but I think it's time for all of us to weigh in, all of us to fully participate in the political process in terms of being heard, in terms of registering to vote, in terms of voting, but more importantly, not looking at whether you're voting for a Republican or a Democrat or Independent or Green party, not voting for, you know, a letter by somebody's ballot in terms of party affiliation, but being a well-informed voter, paying attention to what people weigh in, paying attention not only to what they're saying, these people that want to be elected to office, but also what are their policies, what are their impact, what do they mean to us individuals, our families, our communities, our state and nation, and then be a well-informed voter.

And I think until all of participate a hundred percent, we're going to see the fringe on both sides of the equation, both to the left and the right, carry the day, and that's not good for any of us, especially the majority of Americans who are pragmatic in our give and take people and believe that life is not about a zero sum proposition, a lose win proposition, but that life should be about win win, trying to figure out how everybody can get a win out of policy discussions.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now, it's been over a year since we've had a discussion. I wanted to bring up just a couple of things to have you address briefly. One is the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, has saved thousands of people from having that black mark, from having that record which may ruin their potential in life, and we've also had the, I don't know, the diminution of the need for bail bonds, for people to pay to get out of your jails, and that has helped a lot of people to have a better chance at life. Am I right, sir?

ART ACEVEDO: Yeah, I mean, look, I think that jail should -- we should focus on people that we should -- reason to be afraid of, i.e. violent criminals, than people that we're mad at. And so, to me, we need to make our bond decisions based on risk of violent crime to the public, right, not who we're mad at, and so, again, this is -- this police department, Houston Police Department, is a very under-resourced department. The Mayor talks about the challenges that we have because of the revenue cap that was placed on the city that's really made us an artificially cash-strapped city for the last, you know, ten, fifteen years.

But despite that, we still are doing a wonderful job of reducing violent crime, just about every category this year is down so far year to date, all of our violent crime, and part of that is because we're being smart on crime. We're focusing on protecting life and limb, and instead of, you know, being tough on crime across the board, we're being very laser-focused on fighting the crimes that hurt us, the crimes that cost us our lives and our limbs, and I think as a result we're creating a safer city, with still a lot of remaining challenges, but we're creating a safer city.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Once again, we've been speaking with Art Acevedo, the police chief of Houston, Texas. Just to ask you, sir, I am trying to work with ministers and other citizens here, people of stature, to decide, should we have one of the safe injection sites, where people who have drug habits can go and use under medically supervised conditions, and save lives. Your response there, sir, is that something you might want to support?

ART ACEVEDO: When you look at what's going on with opiates and so many accidental deaths from opiates and fentanyl, and carfentanyl, and all the bad stuff that's out there that people are using, and they're using it from injections, and they're ingesting it in different ways, we -- if our goal is to save lives, that's a conversation that should be had, because we know that our officers are now carrying Narcan with them. We've actually administered it quite a -- several, a handful of times now. We've saved lives.

And there's some really bad stuff out there, we've got to be careful of, so that's a -- I think that's a conversation we need to have, and I'd be supportive of having.

DEAN BECKER: Chief, now, I may be an old hippie and all that, but, I am trying to help this city too, and I think you know that.

ART ACEVEDO: Oh, I appreciate your voice and anytime you need me, I'm a phone call away, my friend.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, chief. All right, bye bye.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Lung infections, overheating, seizures, paralysis, overdose, death. Time's up! The answer, from some snake oil salesman at a shopping center near you selling fake hemp oil, AKA synthetic marijuana, AKA rat poison, calling it CBD oil.

Well, it seems the newspapers, the broadcasts, are full of news about what's going on on our southern border, where children are being taken from their mothers and put into camps, into abandoned Walmarts and other facilities, and as I understand it, US Congressman Beto O'Rourke just took a tour, or had a vision, if you will, of a tent city set up in El Paso, Texas, in the middle of the summer.

And here to talk about the situation, from the Institute for Policy Studies there in Washington, DC, is Mister Sanho Tree. Hello, Sanho.


DEAN BECKER: This just grieves my heart. What is your thought about what's going on down there, sir?

SANHO TREE: It's absolutely maddening, and depressing, and insane, but on the other hand it's energized people in ways that I have not seen before, even under this administration, so I think he's really hit the tipping point in terms of how much crap he can get away with.

People who haven't been politicized before, I mean, it takes a real cartoon supervillian to go after and terrorize children, to use them as a bargaining chip because you want to build a wall or advance some other objective. It is the most cynical and destructive, and self-destructive, thing I think Trump has done yet.

And it's scapegoating of the highest order, that, you know, for months now, for two years, basically, he's been driving home this one message, that equates anyone with dark skin with gangs, that MS-13, and that everyone's from MS-13, it's like, they can't distinguish anything else.

Even today, the Drudge Report ran a photo of kids holding up pistols. They happened to be darker skin, they were Syrian kids, but they were, you know, claiming that these were Central American refugees. And they're applying for asylum, for god's sake, these people who are coming right now.

These are not economic migrants for the most part, they're coming because they have a legitimate fear of death or rape if they remain in their home countries, and it's perfectly lawful for them to do what they are doing, which is to apply for asylum, and they are actually trying, trying very hard, to turn themselves in to the nearest Border Patrol agent. They're not trying to evade Border Patrol, they're trying to find Border Patrol.

And yet they're being turned away at official checkpoints with all kinds of BS excuses, so that they could be forced to cross illegally, away from that checkpoint, and then they become criminals. It is absolutely Orwellian, what Steven Miller and these Trump advisers have done.

DEAN BECKER: What people need to understand is what's going on in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, the gangs are taking over many of the smaller cities, the villages, and running them, as if they were, you know, the law enforcement themselves, and demanding that they, the kids, join the gangs and help out in that effort.

SANHO TREE: Some gangs do get involved in narcotics trafficking, but a lot of them are going, you know, the old fashioned means of raising money, which is extortion, you know, protection money, that sort of thing, and theft, and other ways, and sex trafficking, human trafficking, that sort of thing.

But, it is true that these kids are faced with, and these parents of kids, are faced with an untenable choice. You know, they tell you you're either going to join the gang, or they're going to kill you, and if you're a woman, you'll submit to them sexually or they'll also kill you.

It -- and they can get away with it, because there's incredibly high levels of impunity, which was not helped by the Trump administration recognizing fraudulent elections in places like Guatemala, where, you know, they're fine with corruption as long as the oligarchs stay in power.

And so we've created, in many ways, this hellhole. It also began, let's be very, very clear about this, MS-13 originated as a US street gang in Los Angeles. Thirteenth Street Gang, and it's our gang deportation policy that began under Clinton, essentially, where we began to escalate this sort of thing, and continued under Bush and under Obama, and hugely under Trump, where they deport a lot of these kids, who are from Central America, back to their home country of origin if they're in any way even alleged to be involved with a gang, and these people, very often, these kids have no memory of these home countries. Some of them don't even speak the language, but they're being forced back, a one way ticket, and guess who's waiting for them at the airport? Gang members.

So we helped turn a localized, regional problem, into a transnational criminal organization. We've given them strong footholds in both societies, both ends of this problem now, and it's no wonder that they've become as strong as they have.

DEAN BECKER: And I guess I maybe overstepped, claiming it was just the cartels, but, the cartels have branched out in many instances, you know, not necessarily given up the drug trade, but have branched out into extortion and other criminal activities as well. Am I right there, sir?

SANHO TREE: Yeah. Yeah, and a lot of that is thanks to President Calderon's war on drugs, which, you know, was so ill-conceived that he showed and demonstrated to criminal organizations, not only can you get away with drug trafficking but you can get away with anything, with impunity.

And so that opened up a whole Pandora's box to other types of criminals, and other types of crime, and diversification of criminal activities. You know, people always suspected that the government was corrupt and weak and inefficient, and couldn't protect you, but, it's another thing to go out there and prove it in a stupid drug war escalation, as President Calderon did a dozen years ago.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again, that was Sanho Tree with the Institute for Policy Studies there in Washington, DC. Their website, Thank you, Sanho.

SANHO TREE: Thanks, Dean, it's been a pleasure.

DEAN BECKER: A couple of weeks back, we heard about Kim Kardashian going to visit president Trump, to seek clemency, a pardon, for one of her relatives, and that turned out okeh, and today we have with us a guest who was instrumental in educating Ms. Kardashian in how to go about that, and I'll let her introduce herself. There's a lot we can learn from Amy Ralston Povah. Hello, Amy.

AMY POVAH: Hi, Dean. Thank you for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Amy, you had your time behind bars. You were caught up in a conspiracy decades ago. Correct?

AMY POVAH: Yes. I was arrested in March of '91, and had to wait in the Waco County jail for a year to go to trial, and was convicted in November of '91, received 24 years and four months, was sent on to a women's federal facility near San Francisco and served nine years on that sentence, until President Clinton granted my clemency.

DEAN BECKER: Now, this was due to the fact that you were, again, a conspiracy, you can make up all kinds of things, you can point all kinds of directions when you have a conspiracy, and you, that just, you got caught up in that innuendo, if I'm correct. Right?

AMY POVAH: Right, really all you have to do is one overt act, which can be really just about anything, like passing on a phone conversation, giving somebody a ride in your car, and, although the conspiracy statute says that you were supposed to have agreed to enter the conspiracy, there's many people who've received ten year mandatory minimums who did not know about the scope of the conspiracy or the particulars, and they basically say, well, you furthered the conspiracy one step, you should have known, ignorance is no excuse, and all day long the courts and the appellate courts rule that those convictions are good, even if you didn't -- even if you weren't aware of a conspiracy, and the players, you don't have to know everybody or what's going on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, last week we talked briefly about the situation with Kim Kardashian, but, elaborate on how that occurred, how you were able to educate her and how it made a difference, and perhaps what it means to the rest of us activists and reformers in trying to make a change.

AMY POVAH: Right. Well, first, I mean, I never spoke directly to Kim Kardashian, it was her lawyer, Shawn Holley --


AMY POVAH: -- who reached out to me and one of the connections to Alice after Kim saw the video go viral. So, I communicated with Shawn Holley, and relatively quickly, a team was put in place. Jennifer Turner and Britney Berg were part of the legal team, and so we kind of became Team Alice. I was privy to the strategy, and the White House actually reached out to somebody wanting some information on Alice's case, and I guess that was because they saw the Mic video op-ed go viral also.

I decided to make Shawn Holley and Team Alice aware of the fact that the White House had reached out to someone and that that person had contacted me, wanting to know more information about Alice, and so the decision was made that Kim should try to reach in to the White House, and she was able to do that by reaching in to Ivanka Trump.

And then fairly quickly, the communications were switched over to Jared, because he's kind of ground zero for prison reform and also desire, I believe, and interest in helping with just more education, and his father went to prison, so that lives in him. Ivanka was very receptive from the beginning.

DEAN BECKER: Sylvester Stallone, I think, got a pardon for Jack Johnson, and a couple of other celebrities have stepped forward seeking pardons, you know, for one person or another. I think even Muhammad Ali was considered for a pardon [sic: true, however Ali's conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971 so there is nothing to pardon], and here we have Kim Kardashian, another celebrity, and Trump's talking about those football players that are protesting, perhaps they have someone that he should pardon. Is it just for celebrities with Trump? What's your thought there?

AMY POVAH: No, I don't think it is at all, and in fact, Kim started reaching into the White House last November. So, all of this started happening, and there was interest, and quite a bit of back and forth, long before anything, Sly Stallone popped up, or other celebrities, or before any of this happened.

We were already providing information that they were seeking on Alice, the legal team assisted, hands-on, was helping, so, this was seven months in the making, and just happened, the intersection just happened to occur about the same time that president Trump tweeted that Sly had reached out to him about John Jackson [sic: Jack Johnson].

And in fact, Mark Osler went on CNN, and when I heard that he was going on CNN to talk about pardons and this latest interest that Sly Stallone had triggered, I actually asked him if he would consider referencing Alice Johnson, that, great, we think that a posthumous pardon would be appropriate, but what about Alice Johnson, who's serving a life sentence?

And that kind of triggered another kind of flurry of inquiries, because we had sort of gone into a holding pattern, and because Mark referenced Alice Johnson on CNN, there was more dialogue that followed that. And then things started moving very quickly. So, it was decided that Kim would go to the White House.

So, it kind of became all about celebrities, but, I can assure people that this has been on their radar long before the whole celebrity part.

After I received clemency from President Clinton, I was determined to get a few more women out, and even wrote my roommate's clemency petition, and she did get out. Some people remember there was a long list when, when -- on his final day. She and some other people that I know were on it. And I never stopped. I started the CANDO Foundation, which stands for Clemency for All Nonviolent Drug Offenders, in 2004. It became nonprofit status, and there's been some long dry runs where there just wasn't any interest in clemency, so I learned to become a filmmaker and produced 420: The Documentary, which won an award at the Santa Monica Film Festival.

And then Obama's clemency project 2014 kicked in right after I was done with my film, so timing was great, and I started performing vigils in front of the White House, and was invited to the Obama White House on three separate occasions.

Women were being denied who were perfect. First offenders, perfect conduct in prison, and we tried to ring the alarm bell to the Obama administration to not let the Department of Justice corrupt this process, because there's a pattern of corruption.

So, here we are. Trump -- president Trump seems to understand that there's a fundamental kind of broken process at the Office of the Pardon Attorney, because it's completely controlled by the Department of Justice. And it seems like he has signaled that he's willing to look at cases that are sent directly to the White House.

I think they're putting a process in place, then asked to submit a list, and we have, so we're kind of waiting to see what the next phase is going to be.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, we've been speaking with Amy Povah. Amy, you're out there on the web, you want to share your website with the listeners, please.

AMY POVAH: Yes, it's, and it's under the CANDO Foundation. People can get involved if they want. We have a guardian angel program, but there's more details about that on the website.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's it. Please check out our seven thousand radio programs at and again I remind you because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.