04/15/20 Natalia Cornelio

Natalia Cornelio is running for Judge in the 351st District in Harris County/Houston. We discuss bail, jail crowding during pandemic, voting rights & more. Plus song Eternal War & a snippet with Freeway Ricky Ross who talks of his ties with the CIA

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Natalia Cornelio
351st District Judge
Natalia Cornelio
Download: Audio icon FDBCB041520.mp3


Cultural Baggage
04/15/20 Natalia Cornelio

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network. This is Cultural Baggage. My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished Truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker. The Reverend most high. This is Cultural Baggage and this is a covid-19 program, but don't worry. I'm wearing a mask, here in just a moment, We'll bring in our guests for the show Natalia Cornelio. She's running for judge in the 351st district court here in Harris County Houston, Texas. Well today, we're gonna talk about Houston a bit going to share it with our listeners all around North America, but I think Houston serves as an example or sometimes a bad example of the way things are or where they need to go. But truth be told here in Houston were kind of turning blue. So to speak, in the last couple of election Cycles, we've had a situation where we've replaced- I think more than a dozen white male Republican judges with Democratic women, minority women and today we're lucky to be talking to a woman who is running for the 351st District Court here in Harris County Houston Natalia Cornelio.

DEAN BECKER: How you doing today? Natalia?

NATALIA CORNELIO: I'm good. I'm good. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm well, it is has been rather astounding the the changeover in the last few election cycles the number of minority women replaced replacing these white male judges. Am I right?

NATALIA CORNELIO: I think that that's right. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Now you have a lot of experience. I was looking at your website. You tell us a little bit about the work you've done over the years.

NATALIA CORNELIO: Sure. I've been a lawyer since 2006 and you know, I made it I became a lawyer to make a difference. I served on a federal appellate court for several years and then I became a federal public defender here in Houston. And then I switched over to become a civil rights lawyer. I was the director of Criminal Justice Reform at the Texas civil rights project and you know the access to the protections of the law and the courts is is critical and it's always been my belief in my work to make sure that folks have access to those protections regardless of their background including whether they have money or not whether they have status as immigrants or not. And so that's that's really been the focus and heart of my work.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that that brings to mind I have over the last couple of years three years plus now, I guess the Trump Administration has really been trying to build the wall at the border. So to speak to not just the brick wall or a steel wall, but a wall of defiance if you will to Bar people from entry into our country more so than perhaps ever before have you been involved in that situation or would you agree with my thought?

NATALIA CORNELIO: Yeah, I think that there are I did work at x equal rights project on family separation that happened under the zero tolerance policy back in 2018 in the summer of 2018. And and I think that one of the things that's coming to light right now under there are crisis is how some of all the limitations that we've made in Immigration policy is hurting us as far as the essential workers and and Frontline workers First Responders who who are working and their immigration status or not and some restrictions that we had had on allowing people to be here to work, you know is potentially limiting how many resources we have to respond to this pandemic.

DEAN BECKER: Sure and and this brings to mind. Oh that kind of a hot button item at this point. And that is the fact that we have would not just in Houston, even though we very specifically do have a situation here in regards to the release of prisoners during this time of you know, the virus so to speak that we want to try to forgo a true pandemic with in our jails, because it's such tight confined spaces and we have had a couple of bouts back and forth with the judges and with the governor and and etcetera and I'm not sure exactly where it stands today, but it's been a real wriggleramole- has it not

NATALIA CORNELIO: It has it has and you know at the end of the day it is sad that politics, you know, and the back-and-forth is so heavy because from a public health perspective all of the experts are clear and consistent and talking about why it's important to reduce the jail population for the public health and safety of the community during this pandemic and, and I emphasize for the community because we have to remember that our jail community does not just include people that are in jail facing charges or maybe even serving sentences in a very small number of cases. It includes workers. It includes staff who guard the at the jail, medical staff who work at the jail, counselors who work at the jail and that's thousands of people. We have almost over 3,000 people who either work or are contracted to work and are essential at our jail and we have to think about that those people go back home to their families and their communities. And so what we do with our jail and how well we can take care of our jail during the pandemic is critical to the safety of our community because if there is an outbreak in jail, it's not just inmates and you know, that's its own issue is that's its own tragedy, but you know then if somebody gets sick be a guard or inmate over a medical staff there, you know, they have families to and then they go to the grocery store too. So the need to treat this pandemic with care including in confined spaces, like the jail has tremendous impact on our entire community and when we think about what policies and practices we are going to have during this time with respect to the jail, we have to remember that that's the big picture.

DEAN BECKER: yes, it certainly isn't and kind of tied down or tangent to that situation. We've also had a large back and forth on requiring bail bonds or not and how much they ought to be and who could qualify and has that been settled? I don't know that's still ongoing as well. Isn't it?

NATALIA CORNELIO: That is ongoing and one of the things that the share of you know, he's actually been a big advocate for releasing more people on bond. Let me back up. So there are the numbers change every day. I think we're just under 8,000 now and a month ago we were just under 9,000 for the number of people that are in jail and maybe eighty percent of those people are there waiting trial for charges and it's significant because the question of bond and fail and the presumption of innocence are all triggered by that. The mass number of people that are in jail, you know, almost 7,000 are waiting for trial and one of the things that the sheriff is always pointed out because he has a public dashboard of data on this is that you know over a thousand of those people are there on a 10-thousand dollar Bond or less and the conversation about money bail really becomes triggered at those levels of bonds because whether someone can afford or their families can afford to pay that Bond we're talking for 10 thousand dollar Bond, you know, 752 $1,000 It is a difference between someone's Freedom or not sure where and when you think about that number and who can pay a thousand bucks and who can't we're really getting into people's economic circumstances and their family circumstances and opportunities that tend to be more arbitrary than things that we would think the justice system should be shaped around whether someone can pay a hundred, or a thousand bucks or their family can pay a thousand bucks to get out on cash Bond that's at $10,000 because that's how the bail bond industry, you know allows it to work. You know, that's a isn't fair. If a thousand dollars is keeping someone from being free, especially if it's going to risk them getting exposed to a virus that's that's more fatal than what we've seen and that has no cure.

DEAN BECKER: No, you're absolutely right and given the current situation to I think I just if I caught the number, right 17 Million Americans have just been laid off in her now applying for unemployment and that you know families are hurting most Americans do not have cash reserve of much volume and are are going to be hurting even worse. And you know, I've talked, you know, and you talked about the Sheriff having a good perspective on this and and I've talked with him and DA and our police chief about the fact that you know, people once they're in jail, maybe their cars impounded maybe it's the tallying up charges every day of the week there. They lost their job, lose their apartment, lose their girlfriend, lose their standing and all because they've been accused not convicted of anything and confusions them quite often lands people in jail without any reason whatsoever your response there Natalia.

NATALIA CORNELIO: No, I mean, I think that's great to point out and especially how all of those problems are compounded by the struggle that folks are facing right now with losing work during this pandemic and the safety measures of needing to stay home instead of work. I mean, you're right. You're absolutely right about that and I think you know, one of the one of the things that that needs to adjust always and one of the reasons that I decided to run for judge is really because the story of every single person needs to be taken into account and include all of the all of the repercussions, right because most of the decisions that judges make our in their discretion and take into account- are supposed to take into account all of the circumstances and what we see sometimes is that that doesn't happen and that the story of the person who is getting consequences for having charges or maybe even getting convicted isn't adequately taken into account with all of these pieces. Because the system has just become so massive and there's so many cases and you know, we want to be efficient. I think that it's always important to balance those efficiencies with the humanity component of it and the reminder that you know that everybody has a story and it's important to figure out the reasons and the solutions in each of those stories instead of, you know, kind of default to this. Practices that we've had of doing things the way they've been done without having without making adjustments.

DEAN BECKER: No, I'm with you there I go. No, I don't spend a lot of time in courtrooms. But when I do it's been a few years back before our current DA was elected and I the last I recall they would bring in a string of these guys in their orange jumpsuits. They're all handcuffed together and they would stand before the judge for maybe a minute and a minute and a half- I guess that's the initial hearing or whatever you want to call it. But it off times the court-appointed attorney would mumble my few words with them and and I guess what I'm trying to say here Natalia is that it seems so slipshod to me that we're just hustling these people through because we had well Houston is America's fourth largest city, and he's you said 8,000 , 9,000 prisoners on any given day and and it's just it's like we maybe bit off more than we can chew. So to speak you once again folks were speaking with Natalia Cornelio. She's running for district court judge 351st District here in Harris County Houston, Texas. Natalie, you I want to come back to that question have we not tried to do more than as humanly possible at times trying to be more?

I don't know draconians, maybe not the right word. But, but really going at it harder than we need to.

NATALIA CORNELIO: That's a big question. I think the way that I'll frame my response is we certainly need to reflect on what we're doing and how we can do better always and it's absolutely urgent because there are thousands of people in the jail on any given day. It's very expensive. It has its limits, you know, there's a diminishing return on how effective some of our choices are it's not detailed. I think one of the things that you know, I would want to prioritize is really understanding better. What resources are available that are community-based that are alternatives to what we've been doing and you know and in general, I mean, I think just I can't of course the the public health of Epic emergency is on everybody's mind right now and you know even reviewing I would love to get in there and review our emergency plan and prepare for things after reflecting on how things went. Right now we are in the midst of responding to an emergency and I think really debriefing and reflecting and figuring out. Okay, like we didn't respond quickly enough on this front. You know, how can we do better? How can we do differently for the next time something happens? We flood every few years. You know we've had Pandemics before, we need to be ready. We need to keep doing better. And I'm just I think that that should be on every leader's mind always.

DEAN BECKER:Well, that's very true. Thank you for that and tell you now a couple of other points to very I don't know current if you will there's a lot of discussion hoopla- how we going to handle voting, you know, the the fact of the matter is that we the state of, Wisconsin Forced people to go vote to stand in line to share one another's germs just a week ago and we have a very important election coming up in this November where you know, you're running for office and I guess my point is you know, I think it did Trump even was quoted as saying that if we allow voting by mail, will the Republicans will never win another election again, because they don't want people to vote and and I don't want you to necessarily glom onto my thoughts about Trump there but it is important that people are allowed to vote not be denied by this virus your thought there, please?

NATALIA CORNELIO: I absolutely agree with you. I think that a lot of leaders and the state democratic party is seeking to resolve whether our laws in Texas allow us to vote by mail during this pandemic. There is litigation happening. The secretary of state issued a suggestion that there's a thought that like while the pandemic is going on anybody technically qualifies as disabled for purposes of the legal definition and is going to be eligible for voting by mail because we put ourselves at risk by not social distancing the litigation is working,going to get a court to to definitively say whether that's true or not. So that folks can plan accordingly. So I'm definitely

watching that case. I agree. That voting is important. I have so much heart and respect for the people and how seriously we take our right to vote, you know during the primaries. I talked to voters who are in lines of hundreds of people after hours waiting to get to the to the poll, you know, we're really an incredible people when it comes to exercising our right to vote and I think that it would be tragic for our leaders to not accommodate and make sure that we're able to exercise that right safely.

DEAN BECKER: Now Natalia, you, from your picture you look young enough that you probably will were in high school. But back when I started this but back when I started this I used to open this show cultural baggage with this thought broadcasting from The gulab Filling Station of planet Earth. This is Cultural Baggage, but I don't say that anymore because I think through and and I've been told that I educated the District Attorney's over the years the Sheriff's and Police Chiefs and they now I'm not going to say they're legalized errs, but they know that all the hoopla over drugs was really excessive and then we have overdone it and I'm aware that in cities like Seattle and a couple of other major cities around the country. They're no longer arresting anybody for minor amounts of drugs not under this covid-19 situation realizing that that they don't need them in jail. They don't need that further complication. And to me it brings to mind that well if we can have that perspective now, why can we not have it for all time? Where is the moral judgment? Where did it come from? How did it develop and why does it continue because drunks kill a lot more people I think than than drugs do it's a moral question and and it's not a legal question from my perspective. What are your thoughts insofar as people with minor amounts of drugs.

NATALIA CORNELIO: Yeah, I'm so I mean I want to stay in my Lane because I'm you know, I'm running for judge with sure.

DEAN BECKER: No, no and I'm not trying I'm not trying to pin you down. I know you you you have to have a more judicial perspective. But but I think we've overdone it. Maybe you could deal with that thought that's fair.

NATALIA CORNELIO: No, I think it's really important for all of our leaders including our judges to make sure that our decisions have a purpose and are grounded in what we have learned from

I've done in the past including our mistakes and I think that there is a universal understanding that we have done more harm than good by the extent to which we have not just criminalized but incarcerated for drug offenses, when that it's not going to necessarily change or help the harms caused by the drugs, and so I'm a firm believer in you know Finding alternative solutions to incarceration where it's appropriate and we're treatment or other, you know needs are met in a different way. I think it's critical that our leaders including our judges consider them. Well educate themselves on them so that so that the decisions made by them are informed.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there you go. I had the privilege just the right at two years ago. I went to Portugal I got to meet up with their drugs Czar, dr. Zhao Lao they have a decrim situation. I guess it is that nobody's ever arrested for possessing drugs. They might have their drugs taken. They would be have to go to a dissuasion committee to talk about their usage Etc. But as I understand it if they go to enough dissuasion committees and say I'm going to keep using well, they quit arresting them and they quit sending them because they treat them in, since as adults, and I'm not asking you to endorse that, but I My Hope Is that we can begin to move in that direction to let people to judge people by their actions rather than the contents of their pocket or their bloodstream or their urine your thought there, please?

NATALIA CORNELIO: absolutely. I think that that's absolutely right. We want to further a purpose and in our decisions, and and I think what you're saying makes sense to me,

DEAN BECKER: well, I thank you. Friends, once again, we've been speaking with a Natalia Cornelio. She's running for judge the District Court 351st District Court and Houston Harris County, Texas Natalia. I want to give you a 30 seconds a minute to kind of wrap up here Point folks to your website. Tell them why they why they should vote for you.

NATALIA CORNELIO: Well, thank you so much. I mean I appreciate the time to speak. My name is Natalia Cornelio, I'm on the ballot this November. And I'm really excited to be running. I'm really excited to have won, won the Primary. You can learn more about me on my website at Natalia Cornelio.com. That's NATA L IA CO R NE L IO and it's just an honor to be here. I am really looking forward to to winning in November and serving the people of Harris County with the perspective that our leaders have to work hard and strive to serve the community by a constantly improving.

DEAN BECKER: very good very good and I'll tell you thank you so much. I wish you well. From watching, what I'm hearing from you. I think you would serve the community quite well,

NATALIA CORNELIO: Thank you so much. It's such a pleasure and let me know if you need anything.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play name that drug by its side effects: yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers or white spots on lips and mouth. Unusual bleeding time's up the answer another FDA-approved product acetaminophen.

I'm going to work harder next week, but you wouldn't think so, but it's kind of difficult to reach some people during this pandemic has a virus outbreak, maybe their office number doesn't forward or whatever, but it's hard to reach them. I'll do better next week, but it gives me a chance to resurrect something hear my song Eternal War. It was produced here in Houston by mr. Guy Shwartz and his Compadre at the controls Mr. Roger Stars, it was a quick edit. I didn't have a lot of money but few hours they brought in a specially good guitarist for the solo. I asked for Pink Floyd kind of sound. I think they achieved It Anyway sadly. I don't think musicians are going to get a check from the government. So if you can find a way to support your local musicians, please do. So. Once again, this is Eternal War.

---Music Clip, Eternal War ---

Not bad. I think it shows the challenge of Guy and Rodger and their crew of friends and what they can do at their Studio. We got about a minute left and want to bring on a little clip of a guest that shows the caliber of the guests in the truth that we bring to the airwaves here on Cultural Baggage.

---Audio Clip Rick Ross--

DEAN BECKER: Mr. Freeway, Ricky Ross, but now Ricky you are sentenced to life for your shenanigans back in the day. Correct?

RICK ROSS:Yes. I was

DEAN BECKER: There was a situation developed that allowed you to get out after about 20 years.

RICK ROSS:Yes. It was, it was discovered that the CIA was responsible for kicking off the crack cocaine era.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and that's what Gary Webb was trying to report and people were just lying that he was they told everybody he was a liar, but that's just not true. Is it?

RICK ROSS: No, the CIA later admitted that they did know that these guys were selling drugs, but they didn't sanction it but they knew that their army was selling drugs, I mean.

DEAN BECKER: during your span of selling that cocaine that you sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth and they say by today's number it could be two and a half billion dollars worth of any truth to those numbers.

RICK ROSS: Yeah. I saw for my last two years, At least a million dollars every day and I had days that I went as high as three million dollars and all in between.

---Audio Clip Rick Ross End--

DEAN BECKER: folks. We've proven repeatedly the drug war as an absolute disgusting stinking God damn pile of feces and needs to be brought to an end forthwith. Again, I remind you because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful!

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