The case of Reverend Edward Pinkney, a high profile black leader from Benton Harbor.
Benton Harbor, along with St. Joseph, are Berrien County’s Twin Cities. Benton Harbor is about 93 percent black, while St. Joseph, the County seat, is about 95 percent white. The area has experienced a lot of racial tension for a long period of time, and Pinkney has been deeply involved for years, rubbing a lot of powerful people – including Whirlpool, the blood-sucking corporation, and the judges – the wrong way.
Alfred Butzbaugh, who received the Jackass of the Year award along with Judge Wiley, is a former Berrien County judge, who presided over an election-fraud case involving Pinkney. He was the victim of Pinkney’s fondness for bombastic language in an article written for a Chicago paper. In addition to calling Butzbaugh corrupt, dumb, and a racist, Pinkney wrote: “We must hold all elected officials accountable for their actions and inactions. Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass that all these curses shall come upon you and your family, cursed shalt thou be in the city of St. Joseph, and cursted shalt thou be in the field, curses shall come upon you and your family and overtake thee. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They, the demons, shall pursue thee until thou parish.” This threat, according to Wiley, was a violation of Rev. Pinkney’s probation, saying that Pinkney’s title of “Reverend” gave him a direct line to the Lord, and that a reasonable person would find this to be a serious thread. Wiley sentenced Rev. Edward Pinkney to 3 to 10 years in prison because of the so-called threat’s supposed severity. Pinkney went to prison in June 2008, received an appeal bond in Dec. 2008, and placed under house arrest. He remained there until his sentence was overthrown on appeal.
All across Michigan and the County, thousands and thousands of people and institutions rallied to Pinkney’s defense, including community, labor, religious and other activists, attorneys, and the People’s Tribune, as well as other newspapers and other media. As a result of this fight, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered Pinkney released to house arrest pending a review of his case, and the court eventually overturned Judge Wiley’s decision. Rev. Pinkney spent nearly a year in prison.
We must stand together. Let’s make this struggle a victory for all.