Monday, April 24, 2017

Back Down Memory Lane: Happy Birthday, Dorothy Pinkney!

Today, April 24, is a very special day. This is Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney's birthday. We are asking everyone to join in this celebration of a courageous Black woman who has steadfastly supported her husband, Reverend Pinkney, in his efforts for justice and demanding accountability of the politicians in Benton Harbor and the State of Michigan.

Rev. Pinkney and others have spoken out about the takeover by Whirlpool Corporation and Harbor Shores, part of the conglomerate of Whirlpool--a manufacturing company that makes 21 billion dollars a year globally. Whirlpool with their corporate greed took over Benton Harbor to turn this poor, 90 percent impoverished Black town into a goldmine for the rich.

Rev. Pinkney was a threat to the forces that be. Corporate takeover is common across this country with the help of crooked politicians lobbying for the interest of the billionaires to keep their wealth, and not giving back to the community. Whirlpool is not providing jobs for communities that need them so desperately, and withholds revenue they would owe if they paid taxes. In 2013, Mayor James Hightower of Benton Harbor supported the corporation in not paying taxes, and shifted the tax burden on the poorest of citizens. Rev. Pinkney and others decided to fight back and demanded Mayor James Hightower be recalled. In 2013, the wheels were set in motion to start a campaign to remove Hightower from office.

On April 24, 2014, Dorothy Pinkney's birthday, they went out celebrating. It was a joyous occasion for this happy couple until they got word through numerous telephone calls from residents that a S.W.A.T. team surrounded their home. The Sheriff's Department, along with other law enforcement agencies, blocked the street as if a murderer was on the loose. They were ready to kill Rev. Pinkney! How dare he go against their puppet for Whirlpool, James Hightower. No, those white racists weren't going to have that.

Yes, today is Mrs. Pinkney's birthday--the other half that drives a man to greatness. Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, a strong Black woman of faith and a prayerful activist, continues to support her husband. Yes, Rev. Pinkney's slave chains will soon be broken, and Rev. Pinkney will be reunited with the love of his life. Together they stand in the quest for justice for all, the struggle is one.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Pinkney, a Black Nubian Queen, a well-deserved celebration. Love and peace in the fight for equality.

Rev. Pinkney was charged and convicted with no evidence of election fraud and sentenced by Judge Sterling Schrock to 2-1/2 years to 10 years in prison in December 2014.

The Blindfolded Lady with the Balance Scales of Justice Does Not Exist in Berrien County's Sheriff's Department

The corruption continues in Berrien county. County Commissioner Robert Wooley stole almost a million dollars from the senior citizens and received a slap on the wrist. Then there's the murder of Martell Hadley by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department. The sex to play by the Berrien County Sheriff's office. The falsifying of evidence, lying on the stand--the list goes on and on.

A Berrien County Sheriff Department Lieutenant, Trent Babcock, a known racist, is on administrative leave after pleading guilty to charges related to shoplifting groceries from the Niles Wal-Mart. Lt. Trent Babcock, 41 year old of Walling LAne in Niles, is an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department and is assigned to the Niles Township substation. Lt. Babcock pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, a misdemeanor charge of third degree retail fraud Friday in Berrien County corrupt trial court and was ordered to pay only $435 in fines and costs by the judge and prosecutor.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said that he placed Babcock on administrative leave with pay. A paid vacation. He said Babcock will remain on paid vacation until an internal investigation is complete.

The police report of the incident indicates that a Wal-Mart store video from Feb. 7 showed Babcock loading up a shopping cart with groceries. Lt. Babcock then placed the items in a blue plastic tote and other groceries in two black bags, all while still in the store. Lt. Babcock, obviously this is not the first time. Babcock is then seen exiting through a closed checkout lane and leaving the store without paying for the items. Lt. Babcock was confronted by a Wal-Mart asset protection manager the very next day and admitted to taking the items, after it was revealed a video of him was on record, according to the report.

The value of the groceries taken was put at $184. Of that amount, Lt. Babcock returned $172 worth of groceries on Feb. 8, turning the stolen items over to his good friend Det. Lt. Greg Sanders of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Paul Bailey, who has a long history of corruption, said the investigation of the criminal case was conducted by an Allegan County Sheriff's Department Detective. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic said his office handled the case and did not send out the case to another county, because Babcock was his friend who he had worked with for many years. There was a conflict of interest. The Berrien County trial court along with prosecutor Mike Sepic take care of their friends. We must confront the corruption inside Berrien County!

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Taxpayer's Dollars Misused by Whirlpool Corporation and Berrien County Commissioners

One Berrien County commissioner, Debra Panozzo, was in office when Whirlpool Corp. was given $1 million, part of which the federal government wants back. The residents said at a meeting that Whirlpool should be told to repay the money rather than having the taxpayers pay the money that Whirlpool received from the Berrien County commissioners.

Berrien County commissioner Panozzo said: I wish I knew then what I know now.

Debra, you did know, you just got caught. You should go to prison.

Panozo said she doesn't remember being as prepared on the issue of the taxpayer money as she is now. The Berrien County commissioners voted 10-0 to repay the money that was given to Whirlpool Corp. in violation of federal laws.

The agency explained that the grant was for loans that were to be paid back, not a forgiven or a forgiveable loan provided to Whirlpool. By not getting the money returned, Berrien County officials depleted their revolving loan fund, the letter from the federal government stated.

The loan exceeded the maximum $200,000 allowed. The federal government further said it was used for Whirlpool Corp. and it was also used to lure jobs from Ohio to Michigan, another violation of the law. A $75,000 loan given in 2004 to Harbor Town, which is part of Whirlpool Corp., was used for residential development when the grant money should have been used for manufacturing. This was against the federal law.

The Lincoln Township residents should stand up and have the Berrien County commissioners held accountable for their actions.

If the loan was illegal, the matter should be investigated by the federal government. The county should have a legal obligation to force Whirlpool Corp. to return the illegally transferred money. It has a moral obligation to do so.

Berrien County commissioners represent the taxpayer, not Whirlpool Corp. The taxpayers need the money to repair roads, schools, and provide better service for the residents.

Whirlpool Corp. is protected by the United States Representative Fred Upton. It is okay for the Berrien County commissioners and Whirlpool Corp., along with Harbor Shores, to break the law and misuse taxpayer money.

The question is how long the Berrien County commissioners and Whirlpool Corp. and others have been misusing taxpayer monies. The Herald Palladium newspaper has protected Berrien County commisioners and Whirlpool Corp. Fascism is here.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brokenness but still winning the war

Brokenness but still winning the war

Rev. Edward Pinkney and his wife Dorothy outside the courthouse in St. Joseph, MI. In spite of the severe punishment handed down by the government to Rev. Pinkney for his leadership in his community’s fight against Whirlpool/corporate power, he continues the fight for a better future for all of America.

BROOKS FREMONT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, MI — I read Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy,” and the story seems very similar to mine. I would like to quote you from his book. “My main years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression and injustice has finally revealed something to me about myself.  Being close to suffering death [and the cruel and unusual punishment inside the prison system] did not just illuminate the brokenness of others in a moment of anguish and heartbreak. It also exposed my own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression or injustice and not be broken by it. . . We are all broken by something; we have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the conditions of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken nature and the compassion that remains . . . Or we can deny our brokenness, our compassion and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”
I definitely wanted mercy for the residents of Benton Harbor, MI, and would have done anything to create justice for my fellow brothers and sisters, Black, White Brown, Red, Yellow and all others. I cannot pretend that the people’s struggle was disconnected from my own. We have choices. We all owe the people who have fought inequality and oppression and for justice.
I have been threatened, terrorized, wrongly accused wrongly, condemned, but I never gave up. I survived the humiliation of three trials and several different charges against me. I survived two guilty verdicts and several wrongful condemnations by the State of Michigan, and while I didn’t survive without injury or trauma, I still came out with my dignity.
I told people that I have overcome what fear, ignorance and bigotry and oppression has done to me. I stood strong in the face of injustice; this made the rest of us a little safer, slightly more protected from the abuse of power oppression and the false accusation that almost killed me.
I suggest to my friends and family that my strength, resistance and perseverance were a victory worth celebrating, an occasion to be remembered. The establishment tortured me but I am still standing. The establishment lied on me but I am still standing. The establishment sent me to prison with absolutely no evidence to convict but I am still standing. The establishment gave me 30 months, which would be a death penalty for a 66-year-old man, but I am still standing. The all white jury was motivated by something other than the truth but I am still standing.
Let’s make this struggle a victory for us all who in the struggle against the oppressor, and the corrupt criminal justice system, in every town and city in America.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The Residents of Benton Harbor Want Just Mercy!

The courtroom is a place where justice is supposed to be served, more and more, however Berrien County courtrooms are becoming crime scenes. Innocent people are being kidnapped and held captive. The hypocrisy of Berrien County has no limits. The blindfolded lady with the balanced scales of justice no longer exists in Berrien County courtroom.

In Benton Harbor on Feb. 28, 2017, many people at the forum billed as an explanation of how criminal cases get charged proved to be more concerned about the injustices in the Berrien County court system.

A member from the audience told the prosecutor Mike Sepic, who has a history of corruption: You cannot sit here and tell us that if a kid from St. Joseph and a kid from Benton Harbor commit the very same crime, the kid from St. Joseph won't get a lighter sentence. The prosecutor Mike Sepic said he would need to know what cases the man was talking about before he could comment on them. It is so many cases--over fifty. It is so hard to count them all.

In Judge Sterling Schrock's courtroom a few years ago, a white 16 year old boy told his group of friends he was going into his house to kill his stepfather and he beat him to death. The white boy was given probation. A black kid under 17 years of age hit a white person with a pipe once and the person died. The black boy was given life without the possibility of parole, plus another 15 years. The judge Sterling Schrock stated that prison would do the white kid no good. He murdered his stepfather. But life without parole, plus 15 years, would be ok for the black kid. Both were sentenced on the same day, both under 17 years old.

Prosecutor Mike Sepic said it is the judges who impose the sentence, not the prosecutor. Prosecutor Mike Sepic is the prosecutor who was on most of the cases that we are talking about. The prosecutor recommends the sentence and the judge upholds it.

After the forum ALPACT member Lisa Peeples Hurst said the meeting opened a dialogue that needs to be continued. We need to have discussions about those instances where citizens or most of the community feel like there is a disparity in sentencing in charges and in all of those things related to criminal cases. Hurst said: Several people asked Sepic about the percentage of people from the 49022 zip code in the court system versus the rest of Berrien County. That zip code covers Benton Harbor and Benton Township, along with part of Sodus and St. Joseph Township. I think that people are really asking about citizens in Benton Harbor. Is there disparity between Benton Harbor citizens and other folks in the county, and I think that's a valid question. She continued: Many people believe that people of color receive harsher treatment from law enforcement and the court system than white people.

Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves that helps explain the obliviousness of our generation to inequity today in Berrien County's courtroom. We need to wake up and start investigating the corrupt criminal justice system.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Monday, April 03, 2017

US Rep. Fred Upton Saved Whirlpool and Berrien County Commissioners from Jail!

Berrien County officials may be downplaying their misuse of $685,000 in federal revolving loan funds, but the residents of Berrien County should be outraged, sick, and tired of the help that the county gives to Whirlpool at the expense of the taxpayer.

The Federal Economic Development Administration had given the county money to use in a revolving loan fund to help local businesses. The money, of course, came with clearly defined rules on how it should be used, among them:

  • The loans should be repaid so that the money could later be loaned to other businesses--thus, the name revolving. 
  • Loans should never be given to lure jobs from one state to another.
  • The loan to an individual business should never exceed $200,000, but Whirlpool Corp. received $610,000.
The county violated three laws, in a $610,000 loan to a company, Whirlpool Corp., that did not need the money, and violated two more laws in a $75,000 loan to the Harbor Town housing redevelopment with the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The money to Whirlpool Corp. and Harbor Town broke federal laws in reference to the loan money.

The county agreed to forgive both loans and they became grants, depleting the revolving loan fund and depriving future businesses the opportunity to receive low-interest loans for economic development. Yet the county gave loans to a multi-billion dollar corporation, Whirlpool, and to Harbor Town.

It took a number of years for the federal government to catch Berrien County and Whirlpool. The federal government discovered the county's revolving loan fund no longer existed, and it insisted the county pay the money back.

Somebody should go to jail! The scope of the county's violations of the federal loan law states either a bold, deliberate act or gross negligence.

Berrien County believes that they are above the law. I am very disappointed that Berrien County still believes today that the law is not for them, but only for Benton Harbor residents.

It seems county officials are not sorry that the county violated the federal law. They are just sorry the county got caught, because they believed they had US Representative and heir to Whirlpool, Fred Upton, on their side.

This is a terrible message coming from government officials, who certainly expect citizens and county employees to follow the law, rules, and ordinances they enact.

My complaint is the county helped Whirlpool, a company that did not need help. The Berrien County officials should not try to defend it. And you should give the taxpayers a complete history of the Federal Economic Development Act taxpayer dollars. We must confront them. Let's take control of this country away from the corporations and build a society where the people, not the corporations, make the decisions.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Monday, March 20, 2017

A friend of Rev. Pinkney, Lynne Stewart, 1939-2017

The Extraordinary Lynne Stewart

Two incidents serve well to highlight peoples’ attorney Lynne Stewart’s extraordinary life in the service of humanity.
Charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” Lynne took the witness stand in early 2005 at the close of her nine-month frame-up trial presided over by Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl in New York City. Stewart was asked by her attorney, Michael Tigar, why she had issued a press release on behalf of her client, the “blind” Sheik and Egyptian cleric, Omar Abdel Rahman, when she knew that doing so was a violation of a Special Administrative Order (SAM) that prohibited Rahman from engaging in contact with anyone, anywhere, other than his attorneys. Rahman had been falsely convicted in 1995 of participating in a New York City terrorist conspiracy and was serving a life-sentence in Rochester, Minn.
The answer to that question, put to Stewart full square, stood at the core of her case. “Why not just appeal the SAM’s restrictions to a higher court?” Tigar continued.
The remainder of her life in prison rested on Lynne’s answer. The jury, 12 New Yorkers, sequestered during a trial in the same courtroom where in 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to execution at the height of the McCarthy era, listened more than intently. The stakes were high. The prosecution was demanding a 30-year jail sentence.
Lynne’s sensational trial had all the earmarks of a government, in the name of its “war on terrorism,” preparing to shred whatever semblance of fair play remained in the criminal “justice” system. To put an attorney in jail for diligently representing her client was close to unprecedented—“a chill on the bar,” significant parts of the legal profession proclaimed.
The obliging Judge Koeltl, undoubtedly aware that government prosecutors aimed to directly link Lynne to terrorism, by hook or by crook, allowed the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, Twin Towers terrorist bombings to enter and pervade his courtroom. He chose to base his heinous decision on the findings of an FBI search of Lynne’s law offices, where photos of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists around the world were found. The judge disregarded the fact that all the photos and related files on worldwide terrorist activities belonged to one of Lynne’s co-defendants, her professional Arabic translator, Mohamed Yousry, whose NYU Ph.D. thesis and associated research on terrorism had been approved by his faculty adviser.
Lynne’s attorney, Michael Tigar, objected to the introduction of this material as hearsay—that is, as having no connection to Lynne or to the case at hand. In U.S. law the introduction of hearsay “evidence” is virtually banned. But Tigar’s motion was essentially circumvented by Koeltl with a deadly twist. He agreed that the material was hearsay and instructed the jury that it was not to be considered as fact or having any relation to the charges against Stewart. Yet he nevertheless allowed its introduction to, as he explained,“enable the jury to learn about the mind of the defendant.” I will never forget Koeltl’s vicious and duplicitous words.
His decision squared with the prosecution’s objective to link Stewart and her two co-defendants to terrorist activities everywhere. Delighted, the terrorist show trial was on as prosecutors proceeded to flood the walls of the courtroom, replete with giant and multiple theater-sized screens, with photos of terrorist activities—all aimed at associating Lynne with the government’s conception of an ongoing “worldwide terrorist conspiracy.”
In the end, some 90 percent or more of Lynne’s nine-month trial focused on this hearsay evidence, while the prosecution presented just a single witness to state that he had issued the SAM to Lynne. Not a single witness testified that Lynne had any connection to any terrorist activities anywhere.
Thus, Lynne’s answer to the question as to why she didn’t appeal this SAM to a higher court was crucial to her life itself. She might have argued that the SAM itself was ambiguous, that in the normal course of events when an attorney violates a SAM they are reprimanded or punished by being denied contact with their client for three months, and/or required to sign a new SAM.
I paraphrase Lynne’s remarks as I remember them in that rapt courtroom. I was astonished when she stated, “I have a friend in prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal. He filed a lawsuit to prevent his prosecutors from opening his mail, including from his attorneys.” Lynne continued, “Mumia Abu-Jamal won that suit but it took him some five years. My duty to my client required that under such circumstances, we not wait five years with regard to a harmless press release.”
Here was Lynne, at her personal, uninhibited, spontaneous best andcraziest. With her life on the line she decided to bring the case of a dear friend and a convicted world-renowned “cop-killer,” Mumia Abu-Jamal, to the attention of the New York jury. No serious attorney would have recommended it. But Lynne, cut from another cloth, believed that Mumia’s case needed to be once again brought to public attention.
Her remarks were not scripted, not carefully presented to evoke sympathy, not offered to mitigate her SAM violation, but only to tell the jury, and the world, who she was—a human being who stood by Mumia to the end. This single incident tells us precisely what Lynne’s life and record as a people’s lawyer for the poor and oppressed was all about.
The final question asked to Lynne by her attorney was the clincher. “Lynne,” said Tigar, “if you had to do it all over again, would you have issued that press release?” I was within some 15 feet of Lynne and holding my breath for her answer. Lynne, once again, had a choice, the easy road of contrition, apology, and a plea for forgiveness, or the road to hell—in Lynne’s mind to socialist heaven—paved only with Lynne’s life-long humanistic and loving intentions and faith that she could penetrate the hearts and minds of the jury.
She responded, as her eyes welled up with tears, “I would hope,” she began and then paused. “I would hope that I had the courage to do it again.” She paused again, unable to speak—momentarily overcome by her emotions. She continued, “I would do it again!”
No apologies from Lynne Stewart. No legal or self-serving pleas to the jury that she had a made a mistake and should have taken the SAM to the courts. Lynne’s response evoked the passion of a movement fighter, of a champion of all that is beautiful in the human soul. Lynne Stewart, for whom the truth was required to preserve her very being, put it on the line that day, perhaps never stopping to think of the consequences. Would it be that we all had that courage and expressed it collectively in the kind of mass struggles that are capable of bringing this damn racist, sexist, imperialist system down forever. And when we do this, our martyrs will be resurrected in their full stature.
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