Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina Updates

Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Weekend has raised $ 1,198,109 in contributions so far.

Thank you, everybody!!!

Meanwhile, the whole looting vs. finding issue has taken a new twist, with this news from Houston. Excerpt:
In an extreme act of looting, one group actually stole a bus to escape ravaged areas in Louisiana.

About 100 people packed into the stolen bus. They were the first to enter the Houston Astrodome, but they weren't exactly welcomed.

The big yellow school bus wasn't expected or approved to pass through the stadium's gates. Randy Nathan, who was on the bus, said they were desperate to get out of town.

"If it werent for him right there," he said, "we'd still be in New Orleans underwater. He got the bus for us."

Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.

"I just took the bus and drove all the way hours straight,' Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus."

The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston. He beat thousands of evacuees slated to arrive there.

Boing Boing has a link to the video.

The whole net is buzzing at the idea this kid could be charged with a felony instead of proclaimed a hero.

A follow-up from the Houston Chronicle corrects his name and age, and wisely refrains from using the l-word, as it appears the police told him he could take the bus:
The first busload of New Orleans refugees to reach the Reliant Astrodome overnight was a group of people who commandeered a school bus in the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and drove to Houston looking for shelter.

Jabbar Gibson, 20, said police in New Orleans told him and others to take the school bus and try to get out of the flooded city.

It should also be noted that his actions don't appear to fit the LA definition of theft, because there's no evidence he intended to deprive the city of the bus:

§67. Theft
A. Theft is the misappropriation or taking of anything of value which belongs to another, either without the consent of the other to the misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practices, or representations. An intent to deprive the other permanently of whatever may be the subject of the misappropriation or taking is essential.
B.(1) Whoever commits the crime of theft when the misappropriation or taking amounts to a value of five hundred dollars or more shall be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years, or may be fined not more than three thousand dollars, or both.

It does appear that if they got nasty, they could charge him with possession of a stolen vehicle, if they can prove he knew it was "unlawfully taken." I'd argue under these circumstances that the mens rea is absent.
§724. Transfer and possession of stolen vehicles
Any person who, with intent to procure or pass title to a vehicle which he knows or has reason to believe has been stolen or unlawfully taken, received, or transfers possession of the same from one to another, or who has in his possession any vehicle which he knows or has reason to believe has been stolen or unlawfully taken, and who is not an officer of the law engaged at the time in the performance of his duty as such officer, is guilty of a felony.
Acts 1950, No. 342, §27.

(Odd things you learn with legal research: Louisiana has a specific statute covering theft of an alligator. I guess general statutes just wouldn't do for that one.)

It seems the major levee break has been plugged, and the cleanup effort is slowly getting underway.
Mayor Ray Nagin said after an aerial tour that about 60 percent of the city was under water, down from 80 percent during the darkest hours last week.

"We are starting to see some significant progress. I'm starting to see rays of light," he said.

Nagin said it would take three weeks to remove the water and another few weeks to clear the debris. It could also take up to eight weeks to get the electricity back on.

Still, he warned that what awaits authorities below the toxic muck would be gruesome. A day earlier, he said the death toll in New Orleans could reach 10,000.

NOLA is still posting pleas for rescue, and has added an "I'm Okay" forum, and a section where you can ask "what happened to my neighborhood?"

An excerpt from an email I received from my friends Danette and Mark:
We are very grateful to be alive and happy that we got out. However, we are shocked, and deeply saddened by everything that is happening in New Orleans. We only lived there for 6 years, but feel very connected. We miss our many brave friends going through all of this, too. We hope to find out the status of our house soon.

I cannot tell you how touched we have been by people's generosity. A complete stranger paid for our hotel room in Wichita, KS. We did not even know that they paid until after they were gone. Many others have donated clothes and toys for the girls. Anyways, please keep in touch and I will let you all know where we are headed.

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