Sunday :: Jan 4, 2004

Catchin' Up With Al Sharpton - Part 2

by pessimist

More articles, mostly post-Christmas, concerning our favorite long-shot candidate.

Sharpton Files For Matching Funds
January 2, 2004, 8:37 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- Presidential candidate Al Sharpton filed with the Federal Election Commission late Friday to receive a $100,000 threshold in matching funds, plus additional funds of between $30,000 and $75,000, said Charles Halloran, his campaign manager. The campaign filed the paperwork. Halloran said Sharpton also qualified Friday to place his name on the primary ballot in New York.

The FEC on Wednesday certified the first checks, totaling $15.4 million, to each of the six candidates participating in the presidential public financing system this year. Wesley Clark will get $3.7 million, followed by $3.6 million for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, $3.4 million for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and $3.1 million for Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich will get $736,000 and perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche will get $839,000.

Front-runner Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won't receive the taxpayer-financed payments because they have opted out of the public financing system, becoming the first Democratic candidates to do so. President Bush also is not accepting public financing.

Sharpton Says He Is Eligible to Collect Federal Funds
January 4, 2004

The Rev. Al Sharpton said that his presidential campaign had raised enough money in enough states to qualify for federal matching funds, which if verified by the Federal Election Commission would funnel more than $100,000 into his campaign with more tax dollars to follow.

It has been a struggle for Mr. Sharpton, operating with a bare-bones organization, to meet the threshold of raising $5,000 in donations — each one under $250 — in 20 states. By the end of September, Mr. Sharpton had raised about $284,000, of which about 80 percent was in large donations, according to an analysis conducted by the Campaign Finance Institute, based in Washington. That made it difficult for Mr. Sharpton to qualify for matching funds, which require a candidate to collect a certain amount of small donations.

Democrats Seek New York’s Media, Money, Votes Through Primary

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The leading Democratic candidates for president met Friday's deadline to be on the New York primary ballot or said they intended to file by the midnight mailing deadline, according to the state Board of Elections. Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Lyndon LaRouche filed petitions with the state Board of Elections to enter New York's Democratic primary on March 2, according to the board. Only U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who already has the support of state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, hadn't filed by Friday afternoon. Board spokesman Lee Daghlian said Lieberman's campaign said they would file by the midnight mailing deadline.

Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun hadn't filed by Friday afternoon and hadn't contacted the board, Daghlian said.

[She also won't qualify for the Delaware Primary - ed]

New York is a key state for Democrats, offering its outsized share of delegates to the national convention as well as its unsurpassed media coverage and its wealth of big campaign contributors. The candidates need 5,000 signatures to make the ballot. Petitions were also submitted this week for delegates to the primary. "We've got great (delegate) slates from around the state and we've got more than enough petitions going in today," said Sharpton spokesman Charles Halloran.

A week ago an ABC News-Washington Post poll found Dean backed by 31 percent of Democrats nationwide and those who lean Democratic with 14 percent undecided. Connecticut Sen. Lieberman and Missouri Rep. Gephardt were at 9 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Kerry at 8 percent, retired Army Gen. Clark at 7 percent, North Carolina Sen. Edwards at 6 percent, activist Sharpton at 5 percent, Ohio Rep. Kucinich at 2 percent and former Illinois Sen. Braun with less than 1 percent.

DEL. primary didn't lure campaigns


On Feb. 3, 336 of the 2,162 delegates needed to nominate the Democratic Party's presidential candidate will be up for grabs. Here's the breakdown of states and their delegate counts:

Arizona, 64 Delaware, 23 Missouri, 88 New Mexico, 37 North Dakota, 22 Oklahoma, 47 South Carolina, 55

About a month from now, Delaware Democrats will vote in the first presidential primary leading to the assignment of delegates to the party's national convention. Party leaders struggled for more than five years to find a way to make the state more prominent in the primary process and bring presidential aspirants to the state to campaign. So far, it hasn't worked out that way, even though leaders agreed last year to move the Delaware voting to Feb. 3 - a week after the New Hampshire primary. That cleared the path for candidates to actively pursue votes in Delaware without upsetting New Hampshire party leaders, who vowed to shun candidates who campaigned in a state with a primary within a week of their traditional first-in-the-nation voting. Delaware's primary had been set for the Saturday following New Hampshire's Tuesday primary.

Only two of the nine Democratic contenders have visited Delaware so far and only those two - the Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. - have said they planned to return and campaign in Delaware in earnest this month.

Only two candidates - Lieberman and retired Gen. Wesley Clark - have paid campaign staff in Delaware. Most of the other candidates are relying on volunteer staff in the state and telephone and Internet campaigning from afar.

Most of the major candidates have bypassed Delaware to focus on New Hampshire, Iowa, which holds caucuses Jan. 19, or one of six other states holding primaries or caucuses on Feb. 3. All the candidates acknowledge the importance of the Feb. 3 voting in seven states. Each primary allows a candidate to post a win, which matters symbolically. And 336 delegates will be selected that day, which will put someone at the head of the pack.

"Feb. 3 is the make-or-break day for a lot of candidates," said Donna Brazile, former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign manager. "If they don't do well in Iowa or New Hampshire and do poorly on Feb. 3, there are candidates who are going to have to look at where they are, get out and rally behind one of the other candidates."

But Lieberman and Sharpton have been the main visitors to Delaware and plan to return this month. They both hope early visits will do for them what local campaigning did for magazine publisher Steve Forbes in 1996 and President Bush in 2000 - lead to a win and keep their campaigns alive. Their stops have taken on a New Hampshire-esque air with visits to made-for-TV venues, such as churches, senior centers and shop floors.

Wilmington City Councilman Norman Oliver, who is directing Sharpton's Delaware campaign, said early visits by Lieberman and Sharpton would pay off. "I think the fact that Al Sharpton and Sen. Lieberman came here while everyone else was looking at Iowa and New Hampshire helps them because it shows Delaware means something to them," Oliver said. "Of course, I think it's going to help us more and it's going to surprise a lot of people."

Sharpton opens first South Carolina campaign office
Sat, Jan. 03, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton opened the first of two South Carolina campaign offices Saturday, just 30 days before the primary. Sharpton's visit came one day after filing closed for the first-in-the-South Democratic primary Feb. 3. He will open a second campaign office Sunday in Florence.

While Sharpton's office opening comes months after other candidates, he criticized his competitors for not visiting the state before they launched campaigns. "I've been here when South Carolina has needed me. Many of the candidates have only come here now that they need them in South Carolina," Sharpton said. He also noted his 23 official visits to the state this campaign, and said he has plans to open more offices in the state before Feb. 3.

"I've always been one that's believed in ... energizing your community base - your constituents first - and you open your office to do your methodical follow-up work," Sharpton said. "A lot of people are more interested in having an address before they have people to move in."

Sharpton cited a Dec. 23 American Research Group/Pew Research Center poll that has him trailing former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and running about even with retired Gen. Wesley Clark. "Clearly our work has been effective according to the polls, now it's a 30-day countdown to bring those voters out," he said.

Sharpton said his support may come as a surprise to some. "All over the nation, they felt we couldn't build an infrastructure," he said. "We're on the ballot in every primary, we're up for ... federal matching funds, we're in the top two of the polls in the state. If that ain't infrastructure, my name ain't Al Sharpton."

Helen Taylor, who came out to support Sharpton's ribbon-cutting ceremony, said it's about time Sharpton received support in the state. "He's appealing to the younger population, and that's what going to make it or break it for him," she said. Taylor, who is running for a Richland County Council seat, said she has been out generating support for both her and Sharpton's campaigns.

Presidential Candidate Sharpton Condemns Democrats' Shift to Right

Rev. Al Sharpton, who is running for president, told a gathering of several thousand at Allen Temple Baptist Church that a vote for him "means delegates to the convention that will represent your interests." Sharpton said the more votes he gets the more leverage he can have to build a progressive platform for Democrats, whom he accused of siding with conservatives on issues such as civil rights, immigration, and trade agreements.

Sharpton, who spoke at the East Oakland, CA church earlier this year, returned as part of an ongoing series of forums hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee which allows Democratic presidential candidates a chance to address the Black community and respond to questions. Sharpton was warmly greeted by Lee, Rev. J. Alfred Smith, of Allen Temple and Minister Keith Muhammad of Mosque 26 in Oakland.

The New York City-based civil rights leader was cheered by the mostly African-American audience as he connected on a range of themes. He said "only a movement" can defeat George Bush in November 2004. "Don’t vote for who you like, vote for who represents what you believe in so we will not be ignored at the Democratic Convention," Sharpton said. He said the Bush administration has been waging a civil war that started with the recount in Florida, and continued with the redistricting scandal in Texas and the recall in California. "This election is about what direction the nation and the world will take... what they call nation-building in Iraq is just a new form of neo-colonialism and world domination by the United States.

The Democratic Party has not been moving to the middle, it has been moving to the right and this is why the Republicans have won the last five congressional races. "They say I would take the party too far to the left and kill it. We don’t control the Congress, the White House or the Supreme Court. How can you kill what’s already dead? We need to resuscitate it."

Sharpton said if he is elected he would pull the U.S. out of Iraq. "I am the only candidate who is opposed to the war. The others don’t have a problem with occupation. You can’t speak out of both sides of your mouth. This war is one of the greatest acts of deception ever. We did not ask the UN to go in with us, we asked the UN to go in behind us. We are using our young bodies as fodder for big business."

Sharpton said he wants to repeal the tax cuts to get more money back into the economy. "We need to create jobs by building highways, schools and a speed rail system. We have lost three million jobs under the Bush administration." He also said "the government has an obligation to take care of its citizens. We need a single payer health plan like they have in Canada."

Are Members of the Democratic Party at Each Other's Throats?
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, December 29, 2003 that has been edited for clarity. [editing done by FAUX News - ed]



SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Howard Dean can't stand the heat in the Democratic kitchen, he's going to melt in a minute, once the Republicans start going after him.


VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight the lead Democratic presidential contender is taking shots at the party's chairman, and the other Democratic candidates are escalating the battle. And as you might imagine, Democratic candidate Reverend Al Sharpton has some thoughts about the battle brewing in the Democratic Party. And he joins us in New York. Reverend, what's going on with your party?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm trying to figure that out myself. I think it's very disturbing when I read that candidates are now saying, and particularly [former Vermont] Governor [Howard] Dean is being reported to say that he may not be able to support the nominee of the party. I think that we must all try to argue around policy, and without having seen the platform of who may be the nominee, I don't think it is a responsible thing to do to act as if personalities and egos ought to determine the support of whomever may be the winner. I think we ought to rally around a platform. If there are platform differences, that's what a convention is about.

But I think it's very divisive and arrogant to say you can't transfer support of your supporters to the nominee, without even knowing who the nominee is or what the platform may be. That's what the whole process of primaries are about. I'm very, very disturbed by that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there's been a whole volley of press releases. You've had one. Senator Kerry has had one in response. When you're alone, for instance, with Governor Dean at the debates, what's your relationship like with him?

SHARPTON: It's been very cordial and civil. I think that all of us have been cordial and civil to each other. And that's why I think this is so out of character with the whole spirit of trying to address different segments of the party and unite on a platform in Boston and support whichever one of us is the winner to defeat George Bush. To be sending divisive signals before a vote has even been cast, less known a platform written, I think only helps the opposition.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think about the fact many people are saying that he's got it locked up, the nomination? You don't agree with that?

SHARPTON: No, I think that, first of all, there hasn't been a vote cast. The first votes will be cast January 13 in Washington, and we will go through a long process. How many times have we heard people have things locked up or other people were dead, and then we find out later those that were dead resurrected in the primaries and those that had it locked up ended up locked out? I think the people will make the decision, not the pollsters.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think, if Governor Dean does become the nominee for the Democratic Party, can he beat President Bush? Is he the best Democrat to beat President Bush, in your opinion, in November?

SHARPTON: I think that Governor Dean or any of the nine of us could beat George Bush if we unite and galvanize our communities, our bases and our constituencies. I don't think that Governor Dean is unelectable. I don't think any of the nine are unelectable, if we don't run on personality, but if we run on platform and speak to the needs of the American people. That's why these statements are not helpful for the long-term goal of the defeat of George Bush.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's talk about the upcoming caucus and primary. How do you expect to do, or what's your strategy in Iowa?

SHARPTON: Well, we've concentrated a lot first in Washington, D.C., and I keep stressing that because I think people should not be disenfranchised there. We've been in Iowa. I will be going back to New Hampshire. We have a lot of effort in South Carolina, as well as Delaware and Missouri, which comes on February 3, as well as Arizona. I think some primaries, some caucuses, you concentrate on more than others because you already have a constituency base there that sort of galvanizes for you, but I intend to participate in all of them. I wish all of them would participate in Washington, D.C., so we can make it clear we can't have a nation where the nation's capital is ignored.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You may correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that General Clark is the first person to put former president Clinton in any ad or to promote him in terms of a campaign. He has a new ad out in New Hampshire where President Clinton is seen giving him a medal. Are you intending to use President Clinton or any of the other Democratic candidates?

SHARPTON: Well, I don't, at this point, know who all we will use. We have a broad cross-section of supporters, from the mayor of Newark to the former mayor of Atlanta to rap stars. I may not use any one. You know, usually people that need co-signers have bad credit. I intend to run on my own credentials.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Reverend, what's the best reason for casting a vote for you?

SHARPTON: Because I represent a new direction to the party that represents working-class people, labor, and those that have been disenfranchised by this administration. I'm also the one that has fought the hardest against what I felt was a travesty of democracy in 2000. We must restore and protect the right to vote, and that is paramount. This is the first national election since Florida. We need to come out in huge numbers and bring people that don't normally come out to vote. I'm the candidate, I think, that has shown the most attractions to those segments.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so here's the natural next question, and my last question. What's your weak suit?

SHARPTON: What's my weak suit?


SHARPTON: I do your show a lot, and a lot of times people, think that I do too many talk shows rather than continue just campaigning.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's your weak suit?

SHARPTON: No, that's -- well, that's my assessment. I'm sure my critics will have others.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. How about -- do you -- have you thought in your mind yet who would be the perfect vice president for you, if you are the nominee?

SHARPTON: Well, no. I think that is decided at the convention. I think I would want someone that agrees with me on policy. Again, we must come to this country with policy and platform, not just personality. It should not be based on where they come from, it should be based on what they stand for, so we can return America back to the people, rather than these back-room deals.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And we're out of time, so I don't get to ask you about your specific platform, but I cut you off, so you didn't get to do it. Next time, I'm going to ask you about your specific platform, Reverend. Thank you for joining me, as always.

SHARPTON: I'm looking forward to it. Happy New Year, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Happy New Year to you, sir.

Decision 2004: ABD vs. ABBA
December 30, 2003

Howard Dean’s powerful momentum has made him the person to beat for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. As a result Dean has become "The Target," attacked from all directions with verbal body blows, karate chops, kicks to the groin and an occasional wild haymaker. Most of the attacks on Dean have come from what can be called the Anybody But Dean (ABD) party led by other Democratic candidates, notably Joseph Lieberman, Al Sharpton, Richard Gephardt and John Kerry.

Al Sharpton has attacked Dean on race issues. Sharpton, for example, made the hard-to-grasp charge that former Vice President Al Gore’s endorsement of Dean smacked of "bossism." He also said that "Dean is anti-black" and strongly implied that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is an "Uncle Tom." Black Commentary reported that at the time, Sharpton "was in meltdown, furious that Jesse Jackson Jr. had endorsed Howard Dean and that many black Democrats were supporting other candidates."

In their increasingly desperate effort to derail the Dean candidacy, Dean’s opponents have escalated their attacks to a level that could hand the Bush campaign powerful tools for victory in 2004, should Dean be the nominee. The vociferous and seemingly coordinated nature of the attacks on Dean, and the absence of any intervention by the Democratic establishment, are raising questions as to what exactly is at play behind the scenes. Is it that some of the Democratic candidates would rather see a second term for Bush than Howard Dean in the White House?

In fact, as the New York Times reported on December 26, the Bush team believes that Dr. Dean’s rivals are "doing a great job" for the current President's re-election campaign. Republican strategists say that if Dean is nominated, they will portray him as "reckless, angry and pessimistic," while keeping the President's message upbeat. "They plan to use the Democrats' words to attack Dean in their ads, meanwhile keeping Bush personally above the fray."

Dr. Dean is the front runner because he has been able to establish himself as the candidate of change, and it has made him a lightning rod. How seriously the relentless attacks will weaken him has become a big question for the Democrats and independents who are more concerned about dumping Bush than about backing or blocking any individual Democrat. This is the ABBA Party -- as in Anyone But Bush Again.

As Robert Greenwald, producer and director of the acclaimed documentary "Uncovered; The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," put it, "I do worry that the Democrats are not thinking about the big picture and November in their aggressive efforts to really nail Dean." Some worry that the oft-repeated charges among Democrats that Dean is too liberal, too impulsive, or otherwise hard to elect will create a defeatist, self-fulfilling prophecy. Democratic candidates seem to have joined a number of pundits in working to establish a caricatured image of Dean that might be hard to overcome in November.

With the democratic establishment letting the Dean pummeling go forward, it may take a grassroots effort to halt the bloodbath. While the "regime change movement" led by, the Sierra Club, union-funded groups and others, is loath to take the side of any candidate, they may be left with a badly wounded candidate when they are ready to swing into action. The message to the other candidates can be: focus your attacks on Bush, and offer a positive vision of how you will be an alternative to the current administration. Coincidentally, this actually seems to be what the voters want, at least the Democratic primary voters.

Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi suggests that the broadsides against Dean do not appear to be sticking so far. Trippi reminded the Times that the attacks on Dean supposedly planned by the Bush team may backfire. He notes that they haven't worked so well for Dean's Democratic rivals: "Where have we gone? From zero to 31 percent in the latest ABC poll." Dean himself said in late December that the attacks won't help in the long run, since Bush will eventually use the criticisms in his ads. "But in the short run I think it makes them (the other candidates) look smaller."

HOWARD Dean Signifies New Tack on Race for US Politics

For four decades, the primary political project of the Republican Party has been to transform itself into the White Man’s Party.

Not only in the Deep South, but also nationally, the GOP seeks to secure a majority popular base for corporate governance through coded appeals to white racism. The success of this GOP project has been the central fact of American politics for two generations – reaching its fullest expression in the Bush presidency. Yet a corporate covenant with both political parties has prohibited the mere mention of America’s core contemporary political reality: the constant, routine mobilization of white voters through the imagery and language of race.

On Dec. 7, Howard Dean broke that covenant, saying:

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House. He did it in a shameful way – by dividing Americans against one another, stirring up racial prejudices and bringing out the worst in people. They called it the "Southern Strategy," and the Republicans have been using it ever since. Nixon pioneered it, and Ronald Reagan perfected it, using phrases like "racial quotas" and "welfare queens" to convince white Americans that minorities were to blame for all of America's problems. The Republican Party would never win elections if they came out and said their core agenda was about selling America piece by piece to their campaign contributors and making sure that wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a few. To distract people from their real agenda, they run elections based on race, dividing us, instead of uniting us.

The December 7 speech is a clear and definitive break from the lethal grip of the Democratic Leadership Council, the southern-born, corporate-mouthpiece faction of the party. The DLC’s favored presidential candidate is Senator Joe Lieberman, it’s most illustrious personality is Bill Clinton, and it’s most prestigious founding member is none other than – Al Gore. Gore’s endorsement of Dean should be viewed as head-swiveling proof of the bankruptcy of the DLC’s white "swing voter" strategy. The DLC-Emeritus has effectively jumped ship.

Where does this leave Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich? Exactly as they are, preaching the same social democratic, anti-racist, pro-peace message as before, for as long as their energies can sustain them.

Dean’s political leap would not have been possible in the absence of Sharpton’s energetic Black candidacy and Kucinich’s principled, progressive white voice from the Left. At this historic juncture they dare not go anywhere. Dean has picked up the torch that Sharpton and Kucinich have been carrying and they must stay in the race to make sure he doesn’t set it down. By persevering in pressing the Left edges of the Democratic envelope, the "Two Civilized Men" created the political space for Dean to make his historic break.

Although we cannot expect either candidate to rejoice in the front runner's actions, Dean’s leftward march is also their victory over the DLC, and they must defend it – against Dean himself and his newfound allies, if need be.

On the anti-war front, Dean continues to waffle on the nature and length of the Iraq occupation, which makes him an apologist for American Manifest Destiny. Kucinich and Sharpton are the only candidates who call for unequivocal withdrawal. Their job is by no means over.

Sharpton’s singular mission remains the same as when he first declared for the presidency: to present himself as the Black candidate. African Americans are sophisticated, and understand the value of a demonstration; many will vote for Sharpton as a way to make the weight of their electoral presence unmistakably felt. A substantial proportion of Black primary voters will choose Sharpton over any white man, including one with a progressive racial platform – a good result under present circumstances, and one we expect in South Carolina, February 3. (South Carolina Black Rep. James Clyburn has endorsed his congressional colleague, Dick Gephardt.)

Only two people can shut the window that Howard Dean threw open for the national Democratic Party, last Sunday: Dean and Al Sharpton. Dean’s Black advisors, especially Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., must caution the former Vermont Governor that their presence in his camp does not convey Blackness to the candidate. He must respect and acclimate himself to Sharpton’s mission.

Sharpton must remember that he is not running for King of the Blacks, but is essentially acting as the lead Black organizer in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Dean’s December 7 statement would certainly not have been written without Sharpton in the race. That is a great victory of the Sharpton campaign, one that may shape the future of the nation.

Indeed, Sharpton could have vetted Dean’s speech, which reads very much like the distilled product of A More Perfect Union, the book written by Rep. Jackson and Frank Watkins, Sharpton’s former campaign manager. The same river runs through it, the historical currents that also informed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s speech to South Carolina State University at Orangeburg, last week.

"The big fight in this state should be trade policy and the Wal-Martization of our economy," said Jackson, the local Times and Democrat reported. "The challenge is to get South Carolina to vote its economic hopes and not its racial fears." Most low-income Americans are white and "they work every day. They work at Wal-Mart without insurance. They work at fast-food places. They work at hospitals where no job is beneath them, where they don't have insurance, so they can't afford to lay in the beds they make…

"The challenge for South Carolina is to move from racial battleground to economic common ground to moral high ground."

Those sentiments spring from the Black Political Consensus. Howard Dean is attempting to get the Democratic Party – and himself – in step. That’s how history is made.

EDGE in Iowa Rests in Senator's Hands Los Angeles Times (subscription)

Harkin, who hosted public forums in Iowa for each of the candidates last year to help them raise their visibility, has praise even for the long shots in the race, like the Rev. Al Sharpton. "I think it's a foregone conclusion that Al Sharpton will probably not get the nomination," Harkin said, "but whoever does ought to hire him for their speech writer. This guy's got some of the best lines, and I like the guy…. I was quite taken by him."

[I include the following article to show that racism is alive and well in America, which is why Al Sharpton gets so much attention - ed]

Justice Takes Its Time
Published: January 2, 2004


Darryl Hunt heard the door to his prison cell open. He looked up and saw a captain of the guard. "You need to pack your stuff," the captain said. "You're being released in a few minutes." It was Christmas Eve. After 19 years, two murder convictions, a number of attempts on his life and some of the deepest disappointments he could ever have imagined, Mr. Hunt, once a free-spirited youngster and now a soft-spoken, deeply religious man, was finally being allowed to walk out of prison. DNA had come to his rescue.

Nearly two decades ago, on the morning of Aug. 10, 1984, a 25-year-old white woman named Deborah Sykes was attacked on her way to work in downtown Winston-Salem. The assailant was a black man, and the crime was incredibly violent. Ms. Sykes was beaten, raped, sodomized and stabbed 16 times. Her body was found sprawled on the grass in a small rundown park.

It was a sensational local story, and the racial angle was pushed to the max. A great deal was made of the fact that Ms. Sykes was not just white, but tall and good-looking as well. A former Ku Klux Klansman reported seeing her with a black man in the moments before the attack, but said he hadn't realized the woman was in trouble. When he learned what had happened, he wept.

Winston-Salem was in an uproar. A black man had to be found. The first candidate was named Terry Thomas. He was identified by an alleged eyewitness. A murder warrant was ordered, and a celebratory press announcement was readied. The authorities had their man. Capital murder would be the charge.

Except for one thing. Terry Thomas couldn't possibly have done it. He was in jail when Deborah Sykes was murdered.

So the search resumed. And the events that followed were clear manifestations of the cancers that have been allowed to spread throughout the criminal justice system in the U.S. The Hunt case is a tragic two-decade study of incompetence, misconduct and racism by law enforcement officials at every level, up to and including the judiciary.

After Terry Thomas, Darryl Hunt became a suspect. He didn't fit the initial descriptions given to the police, or look like the composite drawings being circulated. But he was 19 and black, which was enough. The former Klansman — who was mentally disturbed and was paid a reward for his information — said yes indeed, Mr. Hunt was the man he had seen with Ms. Sykes. And the alleged eyewitness who had fingered Terry Thomas with such certainty now claimed to be equally certain about Darryl Hunt.

Mr. Hunt said he was innocent. There was no physical evidence of any kind linking him to the crime. And there were no reliable witnesses. ("For God's sake," his lawyer, Mark Rabil, exclaimed to me this week, "a Klansman was their main witness!") But Mr. Hunt was charged, and the state sought the death penalty. Prosecutors told the jury that Mr. Hunt, and Mr. Hunt alone, had attacked, raped and killed Ms. Sykes. He was convicted in June 1985. But the jury, unsure of what had really happened, refused to impose the death penalty. Mr. Hunt was sentenced to life in prison.

Errors by the prosecution led to a new trial in 1990. This time the prosecution's story changed. Mr. Hunt had accomplices, prosecutors said — at least one, maybe two. (The alleged accomplices were never tried.) Mr. Hunt was convicted again, and again sentenced to life.

By the early 90's it had become possible to do reliable DNA tests on the semen collected from Ms. Sykes's body. Mr. Hunt was eager to have the semen analyzed. The state was not. A judge ordered the tests, which showed that the semen could not have come from Mr. Hunt — or from the two alleged accomplices. Incredibly, that didn't matter. The judge refused to order a new trial. There was obviously a fourth man, the judge said, and he may have been an accomplice of Mr. Hunt's as well. The state liked that idea, and adopted it as its own.

Another, even weirder idea was advanced by a federal magistrate who reviewed the case. He said he couldn't exclude the possibility that "an alleged sexual pervert" had deposited the sperm after Ms. Sykes had been killed.

The authorities did not want to release Darryl Hunt under any circumstances.

On A Lighter Note

[Al's something of a dark horse, but I'll bet he wishes he could match this horse's record! - ed]


United States Presidential hopeful, Al Sharpton, would surely like to emulate the winning consistency of Phillip Beliawsky’s aptly named pacer, Al For President. On New Years Eve the 8-Year-Old altered son of Presidential Ball will seek his eighth consecutive victory and is closing in on the Monticello Raceway track record of 9 in a row set by pacer Don Torpid in 1983.

Ever since Beliawsky claimed Al For President on October 22 the veteran pacer has yet to taste defeat. Even with a two week layoff last week win number seven was another wire to wire romp for Al For President. He scored an eased up three length triumph in 2.04 for regular driver Gary Messenger. On his win skein Al For President’s fastest clocking was a 2.01.1 unusual come from behind victory on November 23.

But what does not show on the official race program is the two separate times others have tried to claim the pacer from Beliawsky only to have their claims voided by the presiding judge. This was because of inaccuracies in New York State racing regulations. However, Al For President is still competing in $2500 claiming events like he was when Beliawsky claimed him two months ago.

Courtesy Of John Manzi, Publicity Director, Monticello Raceway

Copyrighted source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.


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