A former Dallas official who claimed the Bush Justice Department targeted him for prosecution because he is an African-American Democrat was convicted on bribery charges Monday.
Former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and others were found guilty on charges of pushing through low-income housing projects in a bribery and extortion scheme, according to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas James T. Jacks. Also convicted was Hill’s wife, Shelia Farrington Hill; Hill’s appointee to the Dallas Plan Commission, D’Angelo Lee; Chairman and CEO of the Black State Employees Association Darren L. Reagan and businessman Rickey Robertson. U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn has yet to schedule a sentencing date.
The Justice Department alleged that, beginning in 2004, the defendants entered into an association in which thousands of dollars in bribes disguised as business contracts were paid by co-defendants Brian L. Potashnik and his wife Cheryl L. Potashnik, owners of Southwest Housing Development Company, Inc. The government also charged that Hill and Lee were involved in illegally soliciting developers for financial benefit.
Jacks released the following statement:
“At the end of the day, the citizens of a community are the ones that ultimately decide what type of government they will have in that community. Whether at the ballot box or, as in this case, through its verdict as a jury, the citizens decide what is expected of their elected officials. Through this lengthy investigation and subsequent trial, the government presented compelling evidence showing that an elected official and many of those non-elected officials working around him, sought to use that position as a means to line their own pockets at the expense of the public. The jury’s verdict today shows that the citizens of this community do not want a government where the game is rigged and the people in positions of power seek to further their own interests before that of the citizens they are supposed to be serving.”
Michael P. Lahey, Dallas Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, released the following statement:
“The citizens of this community are truly the victims of this crime. They must believe that they can trust the officials they elect to do what is right and this verdict is a validation of that principle. Part of IRS-CI’s mission is to assure these honest taxpayers that everyone must comply with the same laws.”
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U.S. Attorney recommendations for the Northern District of Georgia were submitted months ago, but one of the candidates has run into a few bumps, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last weekend.
Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Yates “apparently was on the short list, then off, then on again,” The Journal-Constitution said.
In April, a state screening panel told the Democratic members of Georgia’s congressional delegation that Yates, Atlanta lawyer Jeffrey Berhold and Rome, Ga., lawyer Christopher Twyman were its top choices to succeed U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, who resigned to take a seat on the Georgia supreme court. Because Georgia’s two U.S. senators are Republicans, the Democratic House members get to advise President Obama on the position.
But then, Yates mysteriously disappeared from the list of recommended candidates that the members of Congress sent to the White House in May, the newspaper reported. The lawmakers replaced her with another, unidentified candidate who was not recommended by the screening panel, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The White House then asked the Georgia Democrats to put Yates back on the list. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the senior Democrat in Georgia’s delegation, resubmitted her name this summer for consideration, according to The Journal-Constitution.
Former Rep. George “Buddy” Darden (D-Ga.), who chaired the screening panel, told the newspaper that “there is nothing unique” about the back-and-forth over the Yates recommendation.
Yates’ prosecution of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell in a public corruption case could be the source of some of her problems, according to the newspaper. Campbell once submitted a complaint about Yates to the Justice Department. The ex-mayor said the prosecutor was seeking revenge against him because he did not endorse her husband, Comer Yates, in a Democratic primary. The Justice Department did not find any evidence that Yates was trying to retaliate against Campbell, who was convicted on tax evasion charges.
The Journal-Constitution also speculated that Yates’s failure to donate to Obama’s presidential campaign might have hurt her chances. This doesn’t sound likely to us, since prosecutors are not supposed to appear partisan, and Yates’s husband more than made up for it by giving Obama $2,300. Twyman and his wife, by contrast, donated only $500 each. Berhold gave $2,000 to Obama, along with thousands of dollars to Georgia Democrats.
The White House could announce a nominee as early as this week, people close to the process told WABE News, the public broadcaster in Atlanta.
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House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Reps. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether a handful of American Indian tribes require the segregation of “freedmen,” the descendants of former tribal slaves, The Associated Press reported this afternoon.
The Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Creek and Chickasaw tribes have reportedly stripped freedmen of their tribal membership or made them second-class members with few rights including the right to vote, the members of Congress said in a letter to Holder last week obtained by The Associated Press.
“Over 40 years after enactment of the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, there is a place in the United States that African Americans cannot vote or receive federal benefits as a matter of law,” the letter states. “They are called freedmen, but they are anything but free.”
Tribal leaders have said tribal ancestry is the basis for their decisions, and they do not discriminate, The Associated Press reported.
This issue of freedman discrimination is not new on Capitol Hill, according to The Associated Press. Watson spearheaded an attempt to take away some of the Cherokee’s federal funding when the nation took 2,800 freedmen and other non-Indians off its membership roster, The Associated Press said.