Sunday, August 23, 2015

Be in Grand Rapids on Wednesday!

Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs &
Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice !
5920 Second Avenue, Detroit 48202 313-680-5508

For Immediate Release Contact: David Sole 313-680-5508
Demonstration and Press Conference outside Michigan Court of Appeals - 
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Noon
Demand bond pending appeal for racist frame-up victim Reverend Edward Pinkney
State Office Building, 305 Ottawa NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

On August 4 the Michigan Court of Appeals denied bond pending appeal to the Rev. Edward Pinkney. Two of the three judge panel ruled against the bond request. The decision was issued as a one sentence response to a motion filed by Tim Holloway, Rev. Pinkney’s attorney, which included a thorough brief spanning 42 pages.

Rev. Pinkney was charged in 2014 with allegedly altering five dates on a recall petition against Benton Harbor’s mayor. A community leader in the overwhelmingly African American city, Pinkney was tried and convicted before a white judge, white prosecutor and all-white jury. He was sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years in prison on December 15, 2014. The jury had been told “you do not need evidence to convict Rev. Pinkney” and the judge said he was “going to make an example” of him.

Rev. Pinkney’s brief showed that he would most probably win his appeal when it is finally heard in the coming months. In addition to Rev. Pinkney’s community service and the non-violent nature of the charges there were blatant constitutional violations of Pinkney’s rights. 

Prosecutor Sepic hammered all witnesses demanding to know who chaired meetings, who spoke at rallies and who was the press spokesperson for the recall campaign. These constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly issues were used to prejudice the jury against Pinkney. Finally the only evidence offered against Rev. Pinkney was the fact that he led the recall campaign and therefore should be presumed to be the guilty party.

Prosecutor Sepic had made only one argument in his answer to the defendant’s exhaustive brief. He argued that the Court of Appeals could not grant bond pending appeal unless the lower court had “abused its discretion in denying bond.”

On August 11 a motion for reconsideration was file to the Court of Appeals. Since no explanation by the Appeals Court accompanied their denial, the motion argued that “a palpable error occurred if the Court of Appeals accepted the prosecution’s argument...” 

Case law was cited that the Appeals Court had its “own independent judgement and the exercise of its own discretion as to whether bond should be granted” and that “the failure to exercise discretion when called on to do so constitutes an abdication and hence an abuse of discretion” by the Court of Appeals.
Supporters of Rev. Pinkney will organize a protest and press conference outside the Michigan Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids at noon on August 26. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Why is Rev. Edward Pinkney in Prison?

Another case of political persecution.

Message from a visitor to Rev. Pinkney

Rev. Pinkney's energy and optimism after eight months behind bars for a crime he did not commit was amazing, but he was also sober about his situation.

Rev. Pinkney wanted to know, have you ever heard of the First Alabama Cavalry or the name Newton Knight? Not likely. It was a story written by Paul Wilcox. The capitalist media have always promoted stories of “former Confederate soldiers” who loyally served the Confederacy, loved General Robert E. Lee, had no issues with slavery, and so on. But there is another story. A hidden history of poor whites' opposition to the Confederacy and to slavery.

Newton Knight was a poor white farmer who fought the Confederacy with all his might. The First Alabama Cavalry was an anti-slavery, pro-Union cavalry mostly white, but also with Blacks, about 2,000 in total, whose members fought the Confederacy and eventually were escorts for Gen. Sherman during his historic march through Georgia in 1864.

The greatest opposition to slavery came from the enslaved themselves, who always had escape in mind, who aided both the Union Army and Confederate deserters, fought for the right to fight the Confederacy, and heroically struggled for their freedom at every turn. There was also significant opposition to the Confederacy from poor whites in every slave state.

Rev. Pinkney's activism and kindness have won him the respect and admiration of many of the poor white prisoners, along with over 95% of the Black prisoners. We must stand together and fight back, Blacks, whites, poor whites, and all others. It is not just one thing, it is everything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Corruption Rolls On At the Department of Corrections!

For the past two years Lakeland Correctional Facility has been making construction improvements which have been approved by Lansing. Think about this, with all of these improvements that have been going on, the warden's forum constantly gets shut down for anything that would help the prisoners.

We have a very small visiting room, by this administration's estimate, 20-25 seats holding only 40 people for a facility with over 1400 prisoners. The administration states that it would be too costly to expand and quotes us an outrageous figure that the warden knows that Lansing would never approve.

If we do a fundraiser we must give the city of Coldwater, Michigan, 25% of the money.

We are asking for your help to put some real outside pressure on this administration. When this facility opened up, it was designed to hold a little over 700 inmates. Since then the population has doubled in size to over 1,400 prisoners.

New windows and fire alarm systems have been installed to all the housing units on the east side of the facility, costing over $2 million and still counting. Numerous concrete projects have been added to all westside units including eastside recreation entrances (including sidewalks to keep the deputy warden's heels from sinking in the mud).

The deputy's suite is getting construction improvements as well as a private 240 foot concrete walkway for the administration to use. Over $5 million has been spent at Lakeland Correctional Facility and the facility is scheduled to be torn town.

It is difficult to make sense of all these “improvements,” when our family and loved ones come up to see us and are constantly reminded by staff that their visit may be terminated per policy if there is overcrowding. This is very discouraging to our loved ones (who pay taxes and pay their salaries). I am asking for your help to make our concerns heard, spread the word.

We cannot allow the corrupt Department of Corrections to continue to misuse the taxpayers' money. We need the help of the people. The hypocrisy has no limits inside the Department of Corrections.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

They Think They Are Above the Law

A letter from Anthony L. Johnson

Berrien County trial court Judge Charles LaSata believes he is above the law. Judge Douglas J. Shapiro would grant the application for leave to appeal as this case raises an issue that merits plenary review on the grounds presented.

I am 62 years old and I have been in prison for nearly 40 years for the crime of second degree murder. It is not a question of guilt or innocence, I was found guilty by a jury of my peers of second degree. Since coming to prison I have received many certificates of completion in academic and vocational programs ranging from an apprenticeship Chef program through the US Department of Labor and an Associates Degree in Dietary and Food Technology from Northern Michigan University, as well as many letters of recommendation for parole by the very correctional professionals that the taxpayers have hired to work with prisoners.

I admit my guilt and express from the innermost part of my heart my sincerest apologies and sorrows for the victim and his family members for the pain and suffering I have put them through, as well as my own family for the pain and embarrassment that I have put them through. If there was some way I could turn back the clock and give the victim his life back I would have done so back in 1973 when I committed the crime.

Every attempt by the parole board to release me on at least 3 occasions has been met by opposition from Berrien County trial court successor Judge Charles LaSata, former Berrien County prosecutor Arthur Cotter (now a trial court judge), and the victim's family. I understand the anger of the victim's family, but not the anger of the judge and the prosecutor. Cotter even attended a public hearing in 2009 and stated on the record that if I was paroled, it would be justice for the victim's family to murder me and that he did not understand why there aren't more crime victims taking justice into their own hands. At that time Cotter was the chief law enforcement officer of Berrien County and although he has freedom of speech, he had no right to violate my civil rights and suggest that someone murder me. It is a crime if John Q. Citizen made that statement and he would have been prosecuted.

Judge LaSata has vetoed my release several times and when I brought a legal challenge to his biased decisions he has tried to justify his decisions by first stating that when the original sentencing judge (William S. White) sentenced me to natural life, that was an indication that he never intended for me to be released, or that I could not accomplish anything in prison that would allow him to allow the parole board jurisdiction to parole me.

In any case, I filed in the trial court a request before the Chief Judge of Berrien County, Thomas Nelson, and he agreed with LaSata's explanation as to why he was constantly vetoing my release. I found that LaSata and Nelson both knew or should have known that it is an illegal sentence for anyone to be sentenced to prison for the rest of their natural life for second degree murder. That is just ane xcuse they gave for the criminal acts they are committing against me. When I complained about the conflict of interest in the case between Judge LaSata and a member of the victim's family being friends, Judge Nelson referred to the victim's family member as “a young lady who no longer works in the Berrien County court system.” I later found out that she worked under the direct supervision of the Berrien County prosecutor Arthur Cotter and she also worked in the court with Judge Nelson for several years prior to resigning her position in Berrien County and relocating to Cass County. 

Furthermore, Judge LaSata stated to the parole board in an explanation as to why he was vetoing my release that he had talked to the prosecutor and the other people who remember the case and found that there was nothing stated that would change his mind about my release. I found that reasoning to be highly erroneous, a miscarriage of justice and an abuse of discretion and power because the parole process is about my parole, but LaSata never attempted to contact the Corrections Department and request my prison files to see what I have accomplished. Instead he talked with members of the victim's family and the prosecutor and other people without the benefit of me being present, and I know that he did not talk with any of those people with the benefit of my attorney being present, because I don't have an attorney. I have been told that this is what they call in legal terms ex parte communication which is something that is never supposed to occur. Later, after I brought all my accomplishments to Judge LaSata's attention he changed his opinion from having made “some progress” to stating that he felt that I should not have to participate in any “further programming” in prison because I had obviously done enough, but he still would not change his decisions to back my release.

I believe there is something wrong with this type of justice where the victim's family has gone directly to the deciding judge and prosecutor to voice their opposition, especially where there is a law that allows them to come to a public hearing and voice their opposition. That is what the public hearing is for, and the law even provides for the family of the victim to be represented by the office of the Attorney General and not the office of the Berrien County Prosecutor. Money, time and resources were wasted to do a job that Cotter is not required or designated to do by law and the taxpayers of Berrien County paid his salary while the taxpayers of the state paid the salary of the Assistant Attorney General to do the same job. It seems to me there is something wrong with that picture also.

For 40 years I never wanted to play the race card even though I know that racism exists within the Berrien County criminal justice system. But in my case it is quite evident that I am being discriminated against because the victim in my case was white. There are cases where a prisoner was convicted in Berrien County of conspiracy to commit murder and was given a life sentence. In one case an African American mother and her 6-year-old son were gunned down by a hired assassin with a sawed-off shotgun for insurance money, and in another case a man gunned down his black victim with a shotgun as he laid-in-wait to murder him. In my case, I (along with three others) was attempting to pawn a shotgun to the victim and while showing him the gun it accidentally discharged and we panicked and ran away from the scene of the shooting and did not call for an ambulance or the police or any other help for the victim. 

Judge LaSata speaks about my case as brutal, but aren't those other cases far more brutal? The difference is whether the victim was black or white. In one of the other cases, we shared the same trial and sentencing judge, trial by jury, both had shotguns as weapons, and were both sentenced to a parolable life sentence. He served 16 years and paroled and I have served nearly 40 years and no parole in sight. His victim was an African American and mine was white. I have committed a serious crime that can never be changed, but there has been a serious transformation in my life. A judge is supposed to be fair and impartial and not act as an executioner for the victims.

To complicate things even more, a paralegal in the Office of the Attorney General retrieved false and inaccurate information from a dead file that was ordered expunged by a federal judge and attached that information to my commutation recommendation that was made by the parole board at the eleventh hour so that the Governor would deny my commutation request. I am not suggesting (without proof) that Cotter and/or LaSata were responsible for that criminal act, but I do not ignore the possibility.

Anyone wishing to offer comments or assistance of any kind to reverse the above acts of abuse and chains of bondage and hatred can do so by writing to me at:
Anthony L. Johnson, #125208, Lakeland Correctional Facility, 141 First Street, Coldwater, MI 49036, or log onto J-Pay and send me a letter by email. I thank you in advance for your concerns.

-Anthony L. Johnson

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why is Rev. Edward Pinkney in Prison? Includes a timeline of Pinkney's activism

Another Case of Political Persecution

by Jacquelyn Miller

Why is Rev. Edward Pinkney in prison?

One answer comes to mind from my very first meeting with Pinkney in 2003. I drove from Lansing to Benton Harbor in southwest Michigan to witness a Berrien County Commissioners meeting soon after the Benton Harbor uprising. At that eye-opening introduction, white commissioners literally laughed at Black community members’ desperate appeals for justice for their young Black men, incarcerated or killed with impunity at a sickening rate. From this vignette straight out of the Jim Crow South, I left 90% white St. Joseph and crossed the bridge to Benton Harbor where well over 90% of the residents are Black and nearly half live in poverty according to census data.

Standing outside City Hall, Pinkney said to me, “You know, they offered me a Cadillac. I said, no, thank you.” The power elite in the county tried to buy him off to shut him up. It didn’t work. This is one reason he sits in Lakeland state prison today.

Read more at Counterpunch...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

URGENT! Send letters to Court of Appeals IMMEDIATELY!

On August 4th, a 3-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals in District III (Grand Rapids) issued a 2-1 decision denying Rev. Edward Pinkney bond pending appeal.

This outrageous decision by two of the judges keeps Rev. Pinkney locked behind bars for even longer than the 8 months he's already served. The entire appeals process could take many months more. The ACLU of Michigan wrote in a brief supporting bond pending appeal that the trial court conviction against Rev. Pinkney is “almost certain” to be reversed on appeal. That means he's “paying a debt to society” he doesn't owe.

We know that the Berrien County trial court is a corrupt and racist institution. We had higher hopes for the state Court of Appeals! Yesterday Rev. Pinkney's attorney filed a motion to the Court of Appeals for “Reconsideration” of their decision. The Reconsideration motion points out that the prosecution made a false legal argument regarding the appeal bond issue that may have misled two of the judges to make the wrong decision.


We need you to write letters immediately to the three Court of Appeals judges regarding the Reconsideration decision. Please mail a separate letter to each judge at the District III address listed below. If you only have time to write two judges, focus on Judges Hoekstra and Sawyer, the two who decided against bond pending appeal for Rev. Pinkney.

Below is a sample letter. Copy it to three separate blank documents, add the appropriate name for each judge, print, and sign. If you wish, personalize it with your own voice and thoughts.

Letters must be mailed AS SOON AS POSSIBLE in order to reach the judges before they decide. Ask your friends and family to send letters right away too.


Background information:
Legacy of Racism and National Oppression in Michigan by Abayomi Azikiwe
No Justice For Rev. Pinkney—Again! by Philip A. Bassett

Names of the three judges:
Hon. Joel P. Hoekstra (decided against bond pending appeal)
Hon. David H. Sawyer (decided against bond pending appeal)
Hon. Douglas B. Shapiro (would have granted bond pending appeal)

Sample letter text:


Hon. [judge's name]
Michigan Court of Appeals, District III
State Office Building
350 Ottawa NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2349

Re: People of MI v. Edward Pinkney, COA Case Number: 325856

Dear Judge [judge's name]:

On August 11th, defendant Rev. Edward Pinkney filed a “Motion for Reconsideration of the August 4, 2015, Order That Denied Bond Pending Appeal.”

I am writing to respectfully request that, in reconsideration, the Court exercise its discretion and grant Rev. Pinkney bond pending appeal.

Like many in his community and across the state, I believe that Rev. Pinkney is innocent of the charges and that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. The ACLU of Michigan filed an amicus curiae brief in which they write that his conviction is “almost certain” to be reversed on appeal. He is paying a debt to society that he does not owe. He is 66 years old and has already spent eight months in prison. The trial court judge agreed that Pinkney has significant ties to the community and poses no harm to the community.

For these reasons, I believe that anything short of granting bond pending appeal will be a miscarriage of justice. If the Court denies bond pending appeal for a second time, I believe that Rev. Pinkney should and must appeal that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.


[your signature, name, and address]

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Boycott Whirlpool and Major League Baseball's "Filthiest Play"

Whirlpool Corporation (Maytag brand) partners with Major League Baseball on "Filthiest Plays of the Week" promotion while it's known for openly practicing racism in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and around the world. Whirlpool will join Major League Baseball to encourage racism and encourage unrevealed deeply-held prejudices against people of color.

Maytag, owned by Whirlpool Corporation, is corrupting Major League Baseball through its "Filthiest Plays of the Week" promotion. They have enlisted 12 time all-star Barry Larkin as spokesman for the campaign. Barry Larkin does not have a clue who Whirlpool Corporation really represents.

Ferdinando Imposimato is the Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy and former candidate for the President of the Italian Republic:
I have seen the beginnings in Italy of that same process of urban degradation and economic impoverishment which has ruined the city of Benton Harbor. In recent years, Whirlpool has bought up large chunks of our splendid Italian appliance industry, including especially the appliance manufacturer Indesit. Now, Whirlpool executives have issued a proclamation from Benton Harbor announcing with absolute arrogance that they intend to wipe out about 2,000 jobs, which means more than a third of the current personnel of the Italian branch of Whirlpool. This mass firing would be a devastating blow for Varese, Caserta, Turin, Naples, Siena, and the other Italian cities which Whirlpool is targeting.

We have to ask ourselves if Whirlpool is trying to drive these Italian cities down to the same level of plantations of despair which we observe today in Benton Harbor.
I therefore call on the Italian government to intervene to protect these jobs in our country. The Italian government should call in the American ambassador in Rome and demand explanations about the Pinkney case, emphatically reminding him that the United States, as signatories along with Italy of the Final Act of the Helsinki Treaty (1975) are required to respect human rights and civil rights, with voting rights at the top of the list — meaning exactly the right which Reverend Pinckney was attempting to exercise.
Whirlpool hypocrisy has no limits. I, Rev. Edward Pinkney, speak out against Whirlpool and Major League Baseball not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with passionate desire to see our country stand as a moral example to the world. If there is any one thing that we must see today, it is that these are revolutionary times.

We must move from words to deeds. We must go back to our communities and organize against gentrification all around the country, against Whirlpool Corporation (including Maytag), against poverty, against racism. We must begin to organize the ghettos for control by the people against exploitation. Exploitation and racism do not only exist in this nation's foreign policy, but right here in the streets of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

It is up to you! It is up to the people here today to make your neighbors see this other side of Whirlpool. We must have mass protests at every Major League Baseball park in the country to protest against poverty, job loss, and racism. Let's stand together.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

The vicious, cowardly attack on democracy in Benton Harbor

“Build a society where the people, not corporations, make the decisions”

Rev. Pinkney and supporters outside Berrrien County Courthouse on the day of his sentencing. Left to right: Marcina Cole, Pati Heinz, Rev. Pinkney, Dorothy Pinkney. PHOTO/MARCINA COLE
Rev. Pinkney and supporters outside Berrrien County Courthouse on the day of his sentencing. Left to right: Marcina Cole, Pati Heinz, Rev. Pinkney, Dorothy Pinkney.
COLDWATER, MI — The vicious, cowardly attack on democracy in Benton Harbor, Michigan, shows that the corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone that stands in its way. The Whirlpool Corporation and government joined together to destroy the people of Benton Harbor. We call it fascism. It is part of the process underway across America in various forms. The once stable working class of Benton Harbor was devastated by automation and globalization and the community began to resist. They have to contain the struggle.
We live in a failed system. Capitalism has no solution to poverty. It does not permit an even flow of economic resources. A small privileged few are rich beyond one’s imagination, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at the same level. It is rich against the poor, the haves against the have-nots, and them, the rich, against the rest of the world. The time is revolution.
But like Rip Van Winkle who (so the story goes) slept though the American Revolution, today there are those among us who are sleeping through today’s revolution. There are those among us who are missing in action. We have to wake up! Today’s revolution is for human rights, freedom, justice and to do away with poverty. Any system that will not feed, clothe and house its people must be overthrown. It is like a monstrous octopus, spreading its nagging tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Over 2/3 of the people of the world will go to bed hungry tonight; they are ill housed and ill nourished, without shoes and shoddily clothed. It is in Latin America, Africa, Asia and right here at home in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
We are demanding that America be true to the huge promissory note it signed years ago. The revolution will not wait. It will not slow down because some claim that progressives like Rev. E. Pinkney are “moving too quickly.” I am here to tell you we can win and will win.
Let’s make this struggle a victory for all who are victims of the economic crisis in every city and town in America. Let’s make the invisible visible: the poor—whether Black, white, red, brown, yellow, and all other people. Let’s take control of this country away from the corporations and build a society where the people, not the corporations make the decisions. The revolution is now. We can win.
We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2015 People's Tribune. Visit us at