Pinkney lawyers say
they have a good first amendment case
Now on hunger strike - taking only fluids
BlackCommentator.com acquires copy of arrest warrant
Judge Orders Hearing Wednesday Morning (Dec 19)
1:30 pm Friday, December 14, 2007 Eastern time the Sheriff's
Department in Berrien County Michigan arrested Rev. Edward
Pinkney and took him to the Berrien County Jail in St.
Joseph (the adjoining township to Benton Harbor, Michigan).
The sheriff also seized/confiscated Rev. Pinkney's computer
when he was arrested.
Pinkney's wife Dorothy tells BlackCommentator.com the sheriff's
deputies presented a bench warrant that stated Pinkney was
being arrested for violating the 15th condition of his probation
by writing the following words about a white Berrien judge
in an article published in the Peoples
"The corruption and the deceitfulness
continues in Berrien County Courthouse. Judge Butzbaugh
has violated his
oath. I support the constitution of the United States and
the State of Michigan; we are still waiting on this racist
corrupt judge to do the same. Judge Butzbaugh has failed
the people, the community, his duties and his office."
here to view the arrest warrant acquired by BC.
Dorothy Pinkney tells BC her
husband and his lawyer were completely unaware of any condition
probation prohibiting "inflammatory behavior". Ms.
Pinkney also tells BC that her husband feels
he has the authorities in Benton
Harbor, Michigan exactly where he wants them and the
situation is in his favor because there is now undeniable proof
of the existence of the injustice he has been protesting.
On Saturday, Dec 15th, Rev Pinkney went
on a hunger strike and is consuming only fluids. Pinkney's
wife, Dorothy, visited him in jail and tells BC, her
husband is in good spirites, looks okay although weak.
team of attorneys representing Rev. Pinkney believes
they have a good first amendment case. The National
Lawyers Guild team is moving for a hearing as soon
as possible this week to challenge the arrest, challenge
the terms of the probation and ask the court to modify
the conditions of probation. Hugh M. Davis, one member
the three-lawyer Pinkney legal team told BC they would
argue in court that the seizing of Pinkney’s computer
and prohibition of the use of a cell phone was illegal. Additionally
they will argue that the terms of condition 15 of the
probation document are overbroad and vague. The National
Lawyers Guild team is hoping to get Pinkney released
on bail while awaiting an appeal of the case.
Tuesday evening (Dec 18) Judge Butzbaugh
ordered Rev. Pinkney to be in court Wednesday (Dec 19)
at 8:30am. The Judge could decide to "free" Pinkney
on bond. (The public is welcome to attend his court appearance.)
However, the hearing was rescheduled for 4pm Thursday
BC will update this report
when there are new developments.
What follows is more about the Pinkney case in the Color of
Law column by David A. Love that was published on Thursday,
December 13, 2007.
Urgent - Please HELP!!!
We are closing in on
the end of our year and we are facing a $15,000 shortfall.
Now is the time for you to help if possible. Any amount will
help. Please become a BC
Paid Subscriber, or send what you can as a BC
Contributor. Already a BC Paid Subscriber? Login to
see if it's time to renew or if you can contribute a little
Here! Thank you for helping to keep BlackCommentator
online for you.
The current issue
is always free to everyone
you need the access available to a
and cannot afford the $24.95 subscription price, request a complimentary subscripition here.
In Benton Harbor, Michigan,
the injustice against Rev. Edward Pinkney continues.
An outspoken leader in the
fight against racial injustice, poverty, corruption and corporate
greed, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to jail by an all White jury
for voter fraud. His crime was leading a successful effort
to unseat a city powerbroker, and resisting corporate development
of his poor Black community. In a May 10, 2007 commentary, Benton
Harbor 2007: A Case Study of State Sanctioned Suppression of
Voting Rights, Black Commentator editorial board member
Larry Pinkney (no relation) sets the stage by providing an
insightful analysis of the situation in Benton Harbor.
Benton Harbor is a mostly
poor (90 percent), mostly unemployed (70 percent) and mostly
Black (94 percent) town of 11,000 people, located 100 miles
east of Chicago. In fact, it is the poorest place in Michigan,
and was called “the worst place to live in the nation” by Money magazine
in 1989. Today, foreclosures abound and families are being
decimated in Benton Harbor, while its residents are intimidated
by police brutality and controlled by an unfair criminal justice
At the same time, Benton
Harbor rests on prime waterfront property on Lake Michigan,
adjacent to the predominantly White and affluent town of St.
Joseph, home of the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest company
in the area. Both communities are located in Berrien County,
Michigan, which is less than 16 percent Black and has transitioned
from an industrial economy to a tourist, service and real estate
economy. Whirlpool has had machinations regarding its poor,
isolated and economically depressed Black neighbor. It bought
465 acres of Benton Harbor’s prime real estate for $1 million
- a modern-day equivalent of beads and trinkets - in order
to pave the way for a $750 million to $1 billion private development
project called Harbor Shores. The resort development will
include two hotels, 880 luxury housing units, a marina and
a Jack Nicklaus golf course. The project is of no benefit
to the predominantly Black Benton Harbor residents. Pinkney
and his organization, BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community
Organization) waged a recall election battle in 2005 to unseat
Glen Yarborough, the powerful City Commissioner who was instrumental
in making the land steal, or rather, land deal, happen.
Yarborough lost by 54 votes. A
local judge, Hon. Paul Maloney, said there was fraud, threw
out the election and ordered a new one, in which Yarborough
won by 40 votes and was reinstated.
Maloney, who, as an election
commissioner had voted against authorizing the language in
BANCO’s recall petition, and had alleged ties to the Harbor
Shores project, should have recused himself. But President
Bush rewarded Maloney with a seat on the federal bench in the
Western District of Michigan. This makes sense, given the
energy spent by the Bush Justice Department on the manufactured
issue of voter fraud - a pretext for the elimination of voting
rights for Black, Brown and poor people, in order to facilitate
Republican electoral victories across the nation.
Meanwhile, Yarborough sought
payback. Pinkney was arrested and charged with voter fraud,
amid sketchy allegations that Pinkney paid voters to vote against
Yarborough, and that Pinkney handled absentee ballots. The
prosecutor made use of a 1995 state law that makes it a felony
to handle an absentee ballot of a person not a family member,
even without evidence of ballot tampering or criminal intent. Pinkney
provided poor Benton Harbor residents with address labels and
postage stamps, but asserted that he did not handle the ballots.
Pinkney’s first trial in
March, 2006, had two Black jurors. Witnesses were allegedly
intimidated. There was a hung jury on all five counts against
him. The prosecution called for another trial. This time,
the National Lawyers Guild provided Pinkney’s defense. The
second jury was all White, not surprising, given the county’s
history of excluding African Americans from juries, a condition
Rev. Pinkney spoke against for years. On March 21, 2007, the
jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to a year in jail
and five years probation. He was placed under house arrest.
The selective prosecution
of Black men is nothing new in America. Nor is the targeting
of truth tellers and change agents. As hate crimes go unpunished,
and as politicians and lawmakers commit criminal offenses against
humanity, with impunity and without penalty, and pay no price
for making deceitful decisions that cost thousands of lives,
the Reverend Edward Pinkneys among us are fair game for prosecutors
with lots of spare time, warped priorities, secrets to hide
and interests to protect.
And surely, they believe
that a community leader who fights against poverty and racial
injustice, exposes corruption and unseats the powerful, poses
a great threat to the status quo and must be silenced. This
gives the impression, firmly grounded in reality, that this
is not our justice system. “There is a problem here,” says
Rev. Pinkney. “They are like gangsters here. They’re pushing
them out of the community.”
Although it is easy to conclude
that hicktown justice is limited to the deep South, one could
say that Benton Harbor and Berrien County, Michigan are little
more than Jena, Louisiana North. The case of Rev. Pinkney
is proof that these things still happen, and the struggle continues. His
fight is everyone’s fight, and how the story ends is up to
ordinary, everyday people. Rev. Pinkney deserves clemency
from the Governor of Michigan, and must be made whole for the
injustices perpetrated against him. And Whirlpool products--including
Maytag, KitchenAid, Magic Chef, Amana, Jenn-Air, Gladiator,
GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Acros, Supermatic, Bauknecht,
Brastemp, Consul, and Eslabon de Lujo - deserve a boycott by