Pinkney, an African-American preacher, was acquitted in his first trial, but forced to stand trial again, last month, as those who prosecuted him contend that he got off because there were too many blacks on the jury, two. They prevailed, and Rev. Pinkney stood trial a second time, only this time all the jurors were white, and he was convicted.
The charges for which this preacher, and community leader, who has been active in trying to improve living conditions, employment, housing, and education in his hometown of Benton Harbor, a city of fewer than 15,000 residents, which is more than 90% black and largely impoverished, has been convicted are strictly little league iwhen compared with this administration's attempts at polling place purge, and the systematic disenfranchisement of thousands of minority, indigent, and largely Democratic, voters as disclosed by former Justice Department lawyers. As you know, several of those fired U.S. attorneys were terminated for refusing to participate in voter fraud cases, like that of Rev. Pinkney's, in key Republican strongholds, Michigan being among them.
While an administration spokesperson insists that every effort has been made to protect and preserve voter integrity, as guaranteed by the 1965 Voter Authorization Bill, reauthorized last fall, the president's first attorney-general, John Ashcroft, with his "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity initiative," in 2001, paved the way for the Civil Rights Division to pursue more virile prosecution of alleged voter fraud cases. And, no surprise, the focus of the division's energies were those states where Republicans led by only a narrow margin: Florida, Ohio, and Michigan among them.
So, taken in context then, it should come as no surprise that an all-white jury found a prominent African-American minister, one beloved by his community, guilty of such "irregularities" as "handling" an absentee ballot, for which he may be sentenced to five years in prison, and allegedly paying people $5,00 to vote in a 2005 election.(BANCO) In fact, Rev . Pinkney supporters contend that all he did was ask a local woman to recruit people to hand out leaflets in return for five bucks, which is perfectly legal. Interestingly, that same year, 2005, a young man claimed that Mr. Yarborough himself paid him $10.00 to accuse Pinkney of giving him $5.00 to vote. Somebody wants to see Rev. Pinkney behind bars, and it's not likely to be those disenfranchised, unemployed, undereducated, and uninsured in this small midwest community who he so honorably has served.
Consider the irony, and egregious injustice of holding a man under house arrest, as well as the absurdity of having him face as many as twenty years in prison on such charges as improperly touching an absentee ballot. This is an effront to every thinking man and woman, as well as irrefutable evidence that there is not merely a monied class, but a ruling class in America.
Is this why our esteemed forefathers boarded the Mayflower to escape religious intolerance, economic exclusion , class rigidity, and divine right of kings to have their elections stolen by people who want to enact voter ID laws in order to fix the vote, preserve their job security, and silence the growing discontent of the impoverished, and minorities?
When the Bush administration, in the past, has flagrantly disqualifed new voting registrants whose I.D. didn't match what was in the computer database, thereby resulting in turning away "tens of thousands" of eligible voters, (BANCO) how can any rational person opt to sentence Rev. Pinkney to spend even one night in prison for anything he was convicted for having done?
They got the wrong guy. If anyone should face sentencing for voter fraud, it's Karl Rove and his boss. But, in this land of the free, home of the brave, we're not going to see Rove, Gonzales, Bush, Cheney, or any other empire rogue rat, stand trial for election "irregularities." Instead, on May 14th, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a judge will have the awesome duty of considering whether or not to sentence a courageous community leader to four consecutive five year terms, a black man convicted by an all-white jury, for little more than working to ensure inclusion in a process that has become increasingly exclusive, the right to vote, in America, which, if some have their way, will soon be a matter of privilege. One can only hope that the judge will make the only sane decision.