Molly Redden

Molly Redden

Reporter

Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

Full Bio | Get my RSS |

Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Christie Administration's Bridge Lane Closure Slowed Search for Missing 4-Year-Old, Says Official

| Wed Jan. 8, 2014 1:41 PM EST

Private messages released on Wednesday strongly suggest that a top adviser to Republican Gov. Chris Christie orchestrated a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as political retaliation against the city's Democratic mayor.

Calling the messages "astonishing" and "unconscionable," members of the Fort Lee borough council described the mid-September traffic disaster, caused when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey unexpectedly closed two of the town's access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, as having dire consequences.

"There was a missing child that day. The police had trouble conducting that search because they were tied up directing traffic," says Jan Goldberg, a Fort Lee councilman who works with local emergency personnel. Police found the missing child, a four-year-old. "But with the streets in the condition they were, I would venture to say that the search took longer," Goldberg says.

Ila Kasofsky, a Fort Lee councilwoman, tells Mother Jones that ambulances and other emergency vehicles could not get through the gridlock. In the aftermath of the lane closures, Kasofsky says she spoke with a Fort Lee resident who couldn't get over the bridge to support her husband through major surgery. Another Fort Lee woman was unable to pick up her son after his dialysis session.

Police Chief Keith Bendul cited these problems when he spoke to New Jersey press in September. "On Monday, while all this was going on, we had to contend with a missing four-year-old, a cardiac arrest requiring an ambulance, and a car running up against a building," he said. "What would happen if there was a very serious accident?"

Christie aides appear to have considered the potential public safety ramifications of the traffic jam. In one exchange released on Wednesday, Port Authority appointee David Wildstein waved away complaints from the Fort Lee mayor that school buses filled with children were stuck in traffic. "Bottom line is he didn't say safety," Wildstein wrote.

Goldberg called the messages revealed on Wednesday "outrageous," saying, "It's unimaginable that they could stoop to that level."

"I was furious," adds Kasofsky. "To affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people, their safety, their basic quality of life—how could anybody do such a horrible thing?"

NYC's Unsolved Murder Victims Are Disproportionately Minorities

| Mon Jan. 6, 2014 11:24 AM EST

Justice comes slower for homicide victims killed in New York's poorer outer boroughs than it does for the denizens of rich, relatively homicide-free Manhattan.

That's according to a New York Daily News investigation analyzing the number of homicide detectives the city assigns to assist local precincts during the critical first hours following a murder. The investigation also looked at how the city allocates the scarce resources of its cold case squad. Reporters found that there are 10 homicides detectives serving Manhattan South, an area where only 10 murders were reported in all of 2013—one homicide detective per case. By contrast, Brooklyn North, where 86 New Yorkers were murdered in 2013, has 17 homicide detectives—each handling an average of five cases.

The result is a staggering number of unsolved murders in Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx precincts, the majority of which involve Latino or black victims. The News tallied 77 open murder investigations in Brooklyn, 39 in the Bronx, 26 in Queens, 15 in Manhattan, and two in Staten Island. The precincts with the most open murder cases are in Brookyln's East Flatbush (10 out of 12 unsolved), Crown Heights, (nine out of 13 unsolved), and East New York (eight out of 17 unsolved) neighborhoods. The News found that 86 percent of last year's homicides involving a white victim have been solved, compared with 45 percent of murders with a black victim and 56 percent of murders involving a Hispanic victim.

It's not hard to figure out why such a disparity exists. "Manhattan is treated differently than the outer boroughs because that's where the money is," Joseph Giacalone, who retired last year as commanding officer of the Bronx Cold Case squad, told The News.

The scarcity of resources for murder investigations is partly explained by cuts and retirements that greatly reduced the number of detectives serving New York's homicide and cold case squads. For example, there are roughly 1,500 unsolved homicides on the books in New York City. But the number of detectives working to make arrests in cold cases has plummeted, from 50 when the squad formed in 1996 to just eight today.

Still, the city's clearance rate—the number of homicide arrests detectives make each year compared with the number of new homicides reported in the same time period—has averaged about 70 percent since the 1990s. Yet it's the precincts in the poorer areas of outer boroughs have lagged behind badly. Manhattan homicides, Giacalone said, "get probably double the amount of cops that you see in Brooklyn…It’s just part of the deal."

That is cold comfort to a person like Donna Rayside, whose son, Dustin Yeates, was killed in May in Brooklyn's Flatland neighborhood. Police in that precinct, the 63rd, have not made an arrest in his case. "With eight killings in 2013, the [63rd] precinct has among the fewest detectives per homicide in the entire city at 1.5, compared to most Manhattan precincts that have anywhere from five to 26 detectives per murder," The News explains.

"It just seems like his case got swept under the rug," Rayside told the Daily News. She is offering $8,000 of her own money for information that leads to the arrest of her son's killer—as she fears police have dismissed her son's slaying as merely "one black guy against another."

The Outrage Continues: An Alabama Man Who Raped a Teen Still Won't Do Prison Time Under His New Sentence

| Fri Dec. 27, 2013 7:00 AM EST

The Alabama man who was allowed to walk free after being convicted of rape has had his probation extended by two years, but he still won't have to serve prison time under a new, supposedly stiffer sentence handed down this week.

In September, a jury in Limestone County, Alabama found 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem guilty of raping his teenaged neighbor, Courtney Andrews, three times—twice when she was 14, and once when was she was 18. County Judge James Woodroof theoretically sentenced Clem to 40 years in prison. But Woodroof structured the sentence so that Clem would only serve three years probation, plus two years in the Limestone County corrections program for nonviolent criminals, which would allow Clem to work and live in the community. Only if Clem violated his probation would he be required to serve the prison time.

Clem's lenient sentence touched off a national outcry, and Andrews eventually appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show to call for tougher punishment. In early December, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found that the sentence was illegal and ordered Woodroof to mete out a stiffer penalty. But Clem's new sentence, which Woodroof handed down Monday, only extends Clem's probation from three to five years. And if Clem violates the terms of his probation, he will only have to serve 35 years in prison—less than he would have under his initial sentence.

Mon Mar. 3, 2014 11:05 AM EST
Mon Dec. 2, 2013 9:45 AM EST
Mon Nov. 25, 2013 7:00 AM EST