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Black Minister Wrongfully Winds Up On "Most Wanted" List in Alabama

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

A black minister in Alabama is seeking a public apology after a sheriff's office wrongfully posted his photo on the "Most Wanted" section of its Web site, saying he was charged with a drug crime.

Kenneth Earl Dukes, who is pastor of Holly Grove Baptist Church in Jemison, had an arrest warrant against him for distribution of a controlled substance. Dukes, a school bus driver for the Shelby County School System, found out from church members about his photo on the Web site. When he called the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, he was told to turn himself in. The Sheriff's Office now acknowledges the arrest warrant and photo were done in error.

This is just the latest example of the dangers of being black or a Democrat in heavily Republican Shelby County (courthouse in photo), where I live and where the legal travails described on this blog began. Mrs. Schnauzer and I have a pretty good sense of how Pastor Dukes feels. After all, we had full ownership rights to our house stolen by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and we still are trying to get them back through the federal courts.

Would Kenneth Earl Dukes have had a bogus arrest warrant issued against him, with his picture plastered on the Shelby County Sheriff's Web site, if he had been a white Republican? Not on your life.

In fact, I know of a DUI case where a white Republican--Pelham attorney William E. Swatek--received kid-glove treatment. Swatek is the ethically challenged lawyer who filed the lawsuit that started our legal headaches, on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity. We will be writing much more about the handling of Swatek's DUI case in Shelby County, comparing it to what happened to Pastor Dukes.

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Speaking of Mike McGarity, he committed a felony assault against me in October 2006--in front of at least one eye witness. Here is how we described the attack and the relevant law in an earlier post:

I was the victim of a felony assault in October 2006. My troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity, essentially stalked me and then hit me in the back with a roadside sign, leaving a bleeding abrasion. There was an eye witness to the attack. . . . McGarity used a "dangerous instrument" and caused "physical injury." Under the law, that's a felony.

When I reported the case to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, they claimed it was a misdemeanor and refused to conduct an investigation. In order to pursue a criminal case, I would have had to swear out an arrest warrant, saying the attack was a misdemeanor. In other words, I would have been forced to make a false statement under oath in order for the case to proceed. Under those conditions, I refused to pursue it. (If the case had been correctly classified as a felony, the sheriff's office would have been required to conduct an investigation and any charges would have been brought directly by the district attorney--at least that's what I was told.)

Would Kenneth Earl Dukes receive this kind of softball treatment if he was white like McGarity--or if he worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, as McGarity does (in spite of his lengthy criminal record)? Not a chance.

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(For the record, based on the political signs he puts in his yard, McGarity is a Republican--a status which also helps make him off limits under Shelby County "law.")

How did a preacher/school bus driver come to have his reputation trashed--all apparently because he is black, in Shelby County, Alabama? Here is how The Birmingham News  described it, after Dukes appeared last night  before the Shelby County Commission:

On Monday night, Dukes appeared before the Shelby County Commission and recounted the events from last summer. He said he learned from some members of his church that his picture was in the "most wanted" section, and after contacting the Sheriff's Office, he was told to turn himself in, which Dukes said he did not do.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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