Weekly Update: Judicial Watch Sues Veterans Affairs for Violating Protester’s Constitutional Rights
Judicial Watch Sues Veterans Affairs for Violating Protester’s Constitutional Rights
The VA is a mess of a government agency and too often abuses the rights and interests of veterans it is supposed to protect.
This is highlighted in new our lawsuit against several Veterans Affairs police officers and officials for violations of the constitutional rights of Robert L. Rosebrock, a 75-year-old Vietnam era veteran, who for nearly a decade has protested misuse of a 388-acre parcel of prime West Los Angeles real estate set aside to serve veterans.
We joined attorney Robert Patrick Sticht in filing the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles (Robert L. Rosebrock v Michael Perez et al. (No. 2:17-cv-04354)).
Our lawsuit seeks damages and asks the court to enjoin further violations of Rosebrock’s constitutional rights. It also asks the court to declare invalid a law VA officials have used to prohibit photography on the public sidewalk where Rosebrock holds his regular Sunday afternoon protests. The complaint explains:
Plaintiff has held regular protests on the public walkway at the Great Lawn Gate entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park every (or nearly every) Sunday since March 9, 2008.
Plaintiff protests the VA’s failure to make greater use of its West Los Angeles facility, known as the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (“VAGLAHS”), to care for and house veterans – particularly homeless veterans.
Plaintiff records his protests with a camera and uses the images in email updates he sends to an informal group of like-minded individuals and supporters, which he refers to as the “Old Veterans Guard.” Plaintiff’s email updates are an important part of his advocacy for homeless veterans and respect for the American Flag.
On June 12, 2016 and again on June 19, 2016, Plaintiff was arrested at the Great LawnGate for allegedly taking unauthorized photographs of VA police officers citing a fellow protestor for allegedly posting the American Flag on a VA fence. On both occasions, Plaintiff was alleged to have violated 38 C.F.R. § 1.218(a)(10), which provides, “Photographs for advertising or commercial purposes may be taken only with the written consent of the head of the facility or designee.”
Rosebrock was handcuffed and forcefully placed into the back of a patrol car during the June 12, 2016, incident. VA police confiscated Rosebrock’s cameras on both June 12, 2016, and June 19, 2016.
This lawsuit follows a key court victory from earlier this year when a Los Angeles federal magistrate ruled that Rosebrock could not be criminally prosecuted for taking photographs at the “Great Lawn Gate” entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park. The court also separately ruled that Rosebrock was not guilty of violating federal law by allegedly displaying two four-by-six inch American Flags above a VA fence on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016.
The Los Angeles veterans’ facility was donated in 1888 to provide a home for needy veterans, but the VA has allowed the parcel to be used for a variety of non-veteran related purposes, including a baseball stadium for the UCLA baseball team, athletic fields for a private preparatory school, and a dog park. Judicial Watch recently filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits (click here and here) seeking information about the use of the West Los Angeles parcel.
Relatedly, a new law signed by President Trump June 23, 2017, the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Act of 2017, seeks to restore accountability to the VA by making it easier to demote, suspend, or remove department employees based upon bad performance or wrongdoing. In addition to being a veteran, Rosebrock also is a whistleblower, highlighting misuse of the West Los Angeles VA facility for non-veteran related purposes.
This 75-year-old veteran faced unlawful arrest and a retaliatory prosecution for holding the VA to account. This VA bureaucracy has gone wild. Hopefully, Bob’s lawsuit and the new VA accountability law will help to restore common sense to the VA and ensure our veterans are treated with respect.
The wife of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Jane, is some legal hot water. After learning of reports of a federal criminal investigation of her handling of financial matters for a small Vermont college, our investigators began asking questions under the Vermont open records laws. Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the story on what we found:
Amid a deepening federal investigation of Jane Sanders, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ wife, Judicial Watch has obtained records that paint a rather disturbing personal portrait of a heartless spouse—and longtime political advisor—of the Democratic Socialist candidate for president of the United States. During the Obama administration, the FBI began investigating Jane for falsifying documents to obtain a $10 million loan to expand a now-defunct liberal arts college in a town where her husband once served as mayor while she was the school’s president.
The school, Burlington College, was in a small city with the same name in northwestern Vermont. It’s a quaint town of about 42,000 that sits on the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain and prides itself on having “diverse, forward-thinking citizens” that are “steeped in arts and culture.” Jane was president of the troubled college from 2004 to 2011, and in 2010, she had an ambitious plan to expand the campus by 33 acres, despite low enrollment and financial difficulties. The then-president of Burlington College drastically overstated donation amounts in loan applications, according to the Vermont news website that broke the story, to obtain a $10 million loan. Jane indicated there was $2.6 million in pledged donations, but the school only got $676,000 in four years.
The loan went through, some allege after her husband’s senatorial office pressured the bank to approve it, and Jane masterminded a deal to purchase an undeveloped, 32-acre parcel of land and a 77,000-square-foot facility from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. The purchase included a facility that served as a group home for disabled people and, under the terms of the deal, Jane was supposed to negotiate the transfer of the disabled residents before the school took over the property. Instead Jane tried to kick the disabled people out of their group home, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The records, part of an ongoing Judicial Watch investigation into the Jane Sanders fraud case, include electronic mail exchanges between Jane when she was president of Burlington College and two former mayors of the city of Burlington.
In a lengthy letter to the attorney (Todd Centybear) representing the group home for the disabled Jane indicates that she’s having trouble evicting the 16 residents from their building on the newly purchased property after the college had acquired the land. She writes: “It is simply not fair to expect the College to continue to carry the burden of the expenses associated with housing both your population and ours until February 2012.”
The home for the disabled was being leased from the diocese and Jane was supposed to help relocate the residents, not evict them. The exchange shows not only Jane’s heartlessness but also her incompetence as the college president for not ensuring the negotiated transfer of those disabled people before the school took over the property.
In a separate email to then Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, Jane forwards a laughable press release issued by the college announcing her resignation. “I wanted you to hear it from me,” she writes to the mayor. “It’s a good decision.” The press release announced that, “In honor of her significant accomplishments, the College has given Sanders the title of President Emerita…” It adds that, “The Board credits Sanders with negotiating the acquisition of its beautiful new 32-acre lakefront campus, a transformative achievement for the College.” In reality, the acquisition of that property bankrupted the College, and Sanders is now being investigated for bank fraud by the FBI for misrepresentations she made on loan documents to purchase the land for the campus.
Senator Sanders, who is up for reelection this year, hit the media circuit this week to defend his wife, assuring that she’s the most honest person he knows and that the investigation is politically motivated. “When you go after people’s wives that is really pathetic,” he said in a recent interview, adding that, “it’s fairly pathetic that when people are involved in public life, it’s not only that they get attacked, but it’s their wives and their families that get attacked. That’s what this is about.” The couple lawyered up this week, hiring two prominent attorneys, one in Burlington and the other in Washington D.C. Also, this month Jane launched a nonprofit organization, the Sanders Institute, to “revitalize democracy” with progressive policies aimed at racial and social justice as well as environmental and economic issues.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this investigation as events warrant.
Until next week …