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May 2012


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Archive for May, 2012

Belated Honors for Federal Agent Lynched in Post-Reconstruction Mississippi

William Henderson Foote, photo ATF

Shoshanna Utchenik

It took a while — a very long while.

The first African-American federal law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty after Reconstruction was in 1883. He was lynched by a bloodthirsty mob of 200 townspeople in Mississippi.

Now,   more than a century later, the life and service of William Henderson Foote is being celebrated.

The Washington Post tells the tragic story of William Henderson Foote, a “revenuer,” or deputy tax collector, with the Treasury’s Bureau of Internal Revenue, a predecessor to the ATF.

Though Foote’s agency at the time apparently did nothing to protect him from the lynch mob nor even acknowledge his death, the current ATF did unveil his name on its Memorial Wall during a celebration of his life Monday. As part of National Police Week, his name has also been unveiled on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Foot was also a civil rights leader, state legislator and local constable. A few days before his murder on Christmas eve of 1883, “with total disregard for his own life, but carrying the inherent responsibility of someone who has been known as a man of the law,” he tried to stop a white “whipping party” intent on lynching a black man, reports the Washington Post, quoting ATF historian Barbara Osteika. A chaotic shoot-out occurred, resulting in the deaths of 3 white men, for which Foote and 10 other black men were arrested.

The white community was not satisfied with the justice system and took vengeance into its own hands, breaking into the prison with a battering ram and dragging Foote and the others to a brutal attack.

Last year, the ATF presented Foote’s great-niece Bettye Gardner with a Gold Star Medal to honor Foote, and great-granddaughter Mattie Patricia Nolcox received one this week.

As the memorial efforts of the ATF and National Police Week attest, it is never too late to heal the wounds of history.

To read more click here.


Ex-Hip Hop Mayor’s Presence Felt in Buddy’s Detroit Trial

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick/official photo

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Ex-Hip hop Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t on trial. He wasn’t in the gallery.

But his presence Tuesday was undeniable. His good buddy, contractor Bobby Ferguson, went on trial in downtown Detroit in a $12-million bid-rigging case involving a low-income housing project and allegations about money laundering and hidden safes flush with cash.

If it weren’t for Kwame, why else would the U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade have bothered to sit in on the opening statements? Why else would it generate intense press interest? Allegations against an ordinary businessman; who would pay that much attention?

Ferguson is no Bernie Madoff. He’s no Jeff Skilling, the CEO of Enron.

But he is FOK (Friend of Kwame), and in this town that’s big. Plus, it reminds us of the very shady, ugly dealings of the Kilpatrick administration and the lengthy FBI probe into city hall corruption.

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Wife Makes Plea to Missing Calif. FBI Agent

FBI Considering Hate Crime Charges Against George Zimmerman

Shoshanna Utchenik

George Zimmerman may face federal hate crime charges in a case that has stirred controversy and debate over race and guns.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin as he returned home from the corner store with a bag of candy in a Florida gated community last February. Now, ABC Action News reports, the FBI is considering adding hate crime charges to Zimmerman’s bill of reckoning.

Martin, a 17 year old African-American, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was killed. His death, and local authorities’ initial lack of response, triggered a national outcry on behalf of the Martin family and young black men, many who say they face daily discrimination.

A social media campaign lit up the web with photos of people across the country wearing ‘hoodies’ like Martin’s in support of his family and the right of young men to be safe on the street,  regardless of skin color or fashion choice.

Zimmerman could face up to life in prison if convicted.

To read more click here.

It’s a Family Affair: John Edwards’ Daughter Slated to Testify

John Edwards

Shoshanna Utchenik

The corruption trial of former presidential-hopeful John Edwards continues in North Carolina, with his daughter slated to testify Tuesday, reports CBS News.

Just as Edwards’ defense began shifting attention from the affair and the cash spent to cover it up to  campaign finance law.

But the  gavel came down hard. CBS News relays that Judge Catherine Eagles threw out most of the proposed testimony from former Federal Election Commission Chairman Scott Thomas, upholding the prosecutions’ objections that past FEC rulings are irrelevant in the Edward’s case.

Maybe Edwards’ defense would be better off focusing on the affair.

To read more click here.

Missing FBI Agent Still Missing, 5 Days Later

Stephen Ivens/police photo

Shoshanna Utchenik

FBI Agent Stephen Ivens, 35, has been missing for five days, and officials, concerned he may be suicidal, are calling the search to find him “urgent” reports the LA Times.

Authorities followed bloodhounds trailing a scent to the rugged Californian Verdugo Mountains near Ivens’ home, where he was last seen leaving on foot, seemingly with no personal belongings other than his handgun. This information and his reportedly distraught state have added a sense of urgency to the search.

Authorities don’t believe the agent to be a threat to anyone but himself, and urge anyone who sees him to call authorities rather than approach him.

To read more click here.


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Column: Does Race Matter in Jury Selection? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit

DETROIT –– Does race matter when it comes to jury selection?

Yes, yes, yes.

I can say so, at least from my first-hand experience as a juror.

But before I go there, let me explain why I bring this up.

Last week, during jury selection in the high-profile federal corruption trial in Detroit of Bobby Ferguson, a pal of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the defense filed a motion asking that the judge do the jury selection all over again because there weren’t enough African-Americans on the panel. The judge has yet to rule on the matter and jury selection continued on Monday.

At the same time, a prospective juror told the Detroit News that she thought she was bounced from the jury pool because she was black and her appearance (she had tattoos).

It reminded of me when I served on a jury in D.C. Superior Court in 1999.

I was a reporter at the Washington Post at the time, covering crime. The jury was composed of six blacks and six whites, all residents of D.C.

Top read more click here.