View Full Version : Woman Faces 15 Years for Cutting Line at Walmart

02-07-2010, 04:54 PM

Posted by Boyce Watkins, PhD

Heather Ellis of Kennett, Mo., has quite a story to tell. It all started nearly three years ago in a local Wal-Mart.

Ellis was shopping in the store with a cousin, and the two temporarily parted ways to find the shortest line. Seeing that the other line was moving faster, Ellis went to get in line with her cousin.

She was accused of cutting the line by a store employee, who then notified the security guard. According to Ellis, she was shoved by another customer, had her items pushed to the side and was shortchanged when she finally checked out. The police affidavit states that Ellis was belligerent, loud, abusive and cursing when she was told to leave the store by the assistant manager.

Ellis' aunt, Lily Blackmon, received a frantic call from her son and claims that when she arrived, her daughter's head was being repeatedly banged against the police car as she told officers that she wasn't resisting arrest. Blackmon, who was a probation officer in the town for 11 years, asked the officers why her niece was getting such rough treatment.

"I said, 'What is going on?' And all [the officer] could say was, 'She cursed,'" said Blackmon.

Ellis was charged with disturbing the peace, trespassing, resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer. She was then offered a plea deal by Dunklin County Prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff. The prosecutor offered to drop the felony counts to one misdemeanor of disturbing the peace, as long as Ellis signed the plea deal. Her aunt claims that the deal was offered so their family wouldn't file a lawsuit.

Ellis refused to take the plea deal, claiming that she wasn't willing to admit to something she didn't do; however, 11 months later, the misdemeanor counts were dropped, which seemed to be good news. The good news, though, was replaced with something even more disturbing.

It turned out that the misdemeanor counts had been replaced by felonies. Ellis now faces 15 years in prison if convicted. When her aunt went to prosecutor Sokoloff to find out what happened, Sokoloff allegedly told her, "Mrs. Ellis, when you get through, I don't care what you say. You may as well take my way out. My way was the plea bargain. If you don't take that way, I can assure you, you'll never win in here."

Ellis claims that her pending convictions have cost her two jobs and the chance to enter medical school, but she still refuses to sign the plea deal. Racism recently entered in to the story when Ellis was handed KKK cards from a Kennett police officer warning her about her actions. The cards stated, "You've just been paid a social visit by the Ku Klux Klan; the next visit will not be social." The officer claims that he only showed the family the cards to make them aware of the situation. Since that time, and after a dramatic plea for support, people have come to help Heather. The site www.SaveHeatherEllis.com (http://www.saveheatherellis.com/) has emerged, and her father appeared on CNN on the 15th of October to tell her story.

Dr. Towanna Freeman, a management consultant, argues that Walmart was to blame for the unfortunate sequence of events: "No matter what angle you take on this case, it all started when Walmart failed a valued customer and it's Wal-Mart that owes Ms. Heather Ellis a written apology."

Dr. Freeman goes on to argue that Walmart should have cleared up the disturbance as soon as it occurred, rather than allowing it to get out of hand.

When it comes to the trial of Heather Ellis, the bottom line is this: This young woman's future should not be in jeopardy over this incident. If the prosecutor's office could drop significant felony counts down to one misdemeanor, then they can drop the charges altogether. This may also be a case of what I call, "You got the wrong black person syndrome," in which police treat a black suspect a certain way because they believe the person is either uneducated or without influence. Most cases of police abuse go unreported or without accountability by the police department. Once they found out that Ellis was a college student, this may have led to the surprisingly generous concessions made in the original plea deal. There appears to be a power trip in this case, in which the prosecutor (like the one in the Jena 6 case) seems to feel that he has the right to destroy this young woman's life over an argument at Wal-Mart. I don't think we should let that happen. Rev. Sharpton and I will have something interesting to talk about this week.

Mumm Ra
02-07-2010, 05:12 PM

02-07-2010, 08:20 PM
This is so old.

She is not facing 15 years anymore. She's on probation.

Sunny I find it interesting you did not post the real article from a dated newspaper.

I find it really interesting.

02-07-2010, 08:37 PM
Nov. 18, 1903: The hazards of photography (http://blogs2.startribune.com/blogs/oldnews/archives/315)

Posted on October 28th, 2009 – 7:10 PM
By Ben Welter


Photographer Hurt While Tak-
Ing Flashlight Picture

F.B. Chapman, photographer, 438 Wabasha street (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=438+Wabasha+street,+st.+paul+mn&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=51.443116,113.994141&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=438+Wabasha+St+N,+St+Paul,+Ramsey,+Minnesota +55102&t=h&z=16&iwloc=A), and Byron Gibbs, his assistant, 228 East Seventh street (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=228+East+Seventh+street+st.+paul+mn&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=60.764775,148.623047&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=228+7th+St+E,+St+Paul,+Ramsey,+Minnesota+551 01&ll=44.950806,-93.088735&spn=0.006743,0.018142&t=h&z=17&iwloc=A), were seriously injured last evening by the explosion of a carbide tank used by Chapman in taking a flash light picture of two bowling teams at Chris Miller’s bowling alley, 221 East Seventh (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=221+East+Seventh,+st.+paul+mn&sll=44.947472,-93.096152&sspn=0.011329,0.027831&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=221+7th+St+E,+St+Paul,+Ramsey,+Minnesota+551 01&ll=44.950646,-93.089132&spn=0.011329,0.027831&t=h&z=16&iwloc=A).
When the tank exploded Chapman held it in his hand and his thumb and fingers were nearly torn off. The injury is considered serious, as the flesh is burned from the palm and the inside of the hand.
Gibbs was struck in the head with a flying piece of tin, and his face was badly cut, the laceration extending from the chin to the forehead. His forehead was laid bare, the tin plowing off three square inches of skin and flesh. Both Chapman and Gibbs were knocked unconscious and remained in that condition for over fifteen minutes.
The tank broke through a wooden partition in the rear of the alley, and after crashing through a window, in the rear of the building, fell in the back yard. It was torn and shattered by the force of the explosion of the contents.
The members of the two bowling clubs posing for the photograph were badly shocked by the explosion, and several were thrown to the floor.
The police ambulance was summoned by telephone, and Dr. G.A. Moore, police surgeon, dressed the wounds of Chapman and Gibbs. They were then able to go to their homes.

Stop Playin With Yourself

02-07-2010, 09:35 PM
I was gonna say this story came out last year.