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End the hypocrisy

3/3/2009, 8:50 a.m.
“Free Chuck! Free Chuck!”

End the hypocrisy

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has now request the federal court to impose restrictions on City Councilor Chuck Turner’s right to comment publicly on the evidence against him in his corruption case. This seems like a one-sided effort to require a standard of decorum from Turner that the feds failed to observe themselves.

When a suspected criminal offender is deemed nonviolent and unlikely to flee, the usual procedure is to request that he surrender for an arraignment. This approach makes sense because such a defendant will most likely then be released on his own recognizance pending future proceedings.

This is not what happened in the Turner case. FBI agents made an early morning raid at his home. When they discovered that he was at his City Council office, they descended on City Hall and marched Turner out in handcuffs. The press was in attendance, at the invitation of the FBI, to record the raid for television. Not to discriminate against print media, the feds then distributed photographs to the press that allegedly showed Turner accepting a $1,000 bribe from Ron Wilburn, the FBI’s undercover agent.

There is no question that this well-publicized event was damaging to Turner’s reputation. However, his public protest has raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the charges against him. Wilburn has now asserted that Turner never demanded payment for services. It appears that the extortion complaint against Turner cannot be sustained. Nonetheless, the feds have not indicated a willingness to drop the charges.

Confronted with such an ephemeral case, Turner has every right to defend his reputation. In fact, he had better do so, because the bad publicity generated by the feds has undoubtedly contaminated the prospective jury pool. Citizens have a hostile attitude toward corrupt public officials. Turner must overcome this perception of him if he is to have a fair trial.

Even without this burden Turner would have a difficult time at trial, because he is so unconventional. He has been identified with causes that do not have much support, even in the African American community. But few who know Turner would believe that political extortion is consistent with his character.

Justice requires that the court impose no constraints on Turner’s efforts to clear his name.

Time to take note

Did the election of Barack Obama as president resolve the question of racial discrimination in America, or does the problem persist? Attorney General Eric Holder recently brought this issue to the forefront when he said, “… In things racial, we have always been, and … continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

Black militants were delighted to hear these words because they are aware that despite the historic election of Obama, many whites are still afflicted with negative attitudes toward blacks. And there are some blacks who believe that their status has not significantly improved from 60 years ago, before the changes brought by the civil rights movement.

Despite the surviving vestiges of bigotry, Obama’s election as the nation’s 44th president offers an extraordinary lesson. Talent, hard work, discipline and a well-conceived plan can overcome racial discrimination. It is now more advisable to be the best at what you do than to worry about the racial hostility of others.

There will always be haters. It is inadvisable for African Americans to let that stand in the way of progress.