A pregnant Michigan woman is looking at a very unhappy Mother’s Day while she sits in prison after being convicted of assault and felony firearms – a term alluding to the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony – in a case from 2017 that has fired up gun rights advocates, but the National Review suggests suffers from muddy waters.
Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan M. Gottlieb said the other day that the likelihood Siwatu-Salama Ra will deliver her second child behind bars is “barbaric.” The National Rifle Association has tweeted that “No one should be imprisoned for exercising their right to self-defense.” A columnist and editor with the Detroit News wrote about her plight.
Even at age 26, Ra is a veteran environmental activist who represented Detroit at the Paris Climate Summit. She is/was licensed to carry in Michigan. Depending upon one’s perspective, she acted as any armed private citizen might, facing the same circumstances, knowing what she knew at the time, or she acted like a trigger-happy extremist. Her plight has sparked a movement: freesiwatu.org. Democracy Now! has posted a report on YouTube.
The facts of this case are in dispute. So much so, apparently, that the National Review noted, “But a lot of the media coverage has been incredibly slanted, sometimes to the point of not even explaining the other side of the story, and confusing on a factual level to boot.”
This is what is known:
Last summer, a dispute arose between Ra, her mother and the mother of a girl visiting Ra’s 14-year-old niece at Ra’s mother’s home in Detroit. The two girls had been in a previous altercation, but reportedly had settled their differences and were friends once again.
However, Ra reportedly decided the other girl couldn’t stay. When her mom – identified as Chanell Harvey – showed up to take her daughter home, the real trouble began, and the accounts of what actually happened become markedly different.
Ra alleged that Harvey became angry, rammed her car into Ra’s car in which Ra’s 2-year-old daughter was playing, and then moved her car back and forth in a threatening and potentially harmful manner. Ra retrieved her unloaded, legally-owned and licensed handgun from the glove box and aimed it at Harvey’s car, in which Harvey and her daughter were seated. Harvey, before leaving, apparently snapped images of Ra, concealing the gun behind her back, and then went to the police station to file a report. However, Ra waited before contacting police to file a report.
The other version is that Ra reached for the gun and Harvey accidentally hit Ra’s car in an attempt to leave.
Not that this matters, perhaps, but Harvey reportedly was on probation for an assault charge at the time.
But this does matter: Harvey would have no way of knowing that Ra’s handgun was unloaded. (Police have been cleared of wrongdoing if they shoot someone in self-defense, if they were armed with unloaded or toy guns, or something that only looked like a gun.)
The National Review attempts to put to rest an apparent misconception that Detroit Police consider the first report to be filed by the victim. Not so, say police. There was a thorough investigation, they told the National Review. Charges were filed and there was a conviction. There is reportedly an effort to correct the impression about how Detroit police take reports and decide between who is the victim and the suspect.
But there was also a weather factor. As the National Review noted, “Also, there was a snowstorm coming during the deliberations, and the jury was not told that the gun charge came with a two-year mandatory minimum.”
So, did the jury act hastily, without all pertinent information, perhaps in a rush to beat the weather?
Michigan is a Stand-Your-Ground state. Ra had no duty to retreat and, if her version is accurate, could legally act in her own defense as well as that of her toddler and her mother.
There is reportedly an appeal in progress. But appeals take time, and Ra is due to deliver her baby next month.
For his part, SAF’s Gottlieb summed up the case this way:
“What is happening to Siwatu-Salama Ra isn’t just questionable, it might even fall under cruel and unusual punishment. This case certainly calls into question the way Michigan’s mandatory sentencing requirement is being enforced.
“This appears to be a case where a law is being strictly enforced,” he said, “but it’s not so certain we’re seeing justice.”