JUDGE JAMES R. SPENCER: HE PROVES IT WILL NEVER BE BEYOND THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN!
Governor Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen
Page 1 headline story in the Washington Post on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 read, “A Federal judge sentenced former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell to two years in prison Tuesday–an unexpectedly lenient punishment for a man who was convicted of selling the influence of his office to a wealthy benefactor for sweetheart loans, luxury vacations and even a Rolex watch. Unless his case is overturned on appeal, McDonnell (R), who was once mentioned as a presidential contender, will become the first Virginia governor to go to prison.”
Judge James R. Spencer was the presiding judge in the historical trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell was facing felony charges stemming from his misuse of office. He and his wife accepted bribes from a Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams a wealthy dietary supplement company executive. The loans totaled $177, 000 (depending on who was counting). Spencer sentenced McDonnell to 2 years, something is wrong with this picture.
“Here Comes the Judge” took on a whole new meaning in Richmond, Virginia on January 6, 2015. It was Comedian Pigmeat Markam who coined the phrase ‘Here comes the Judge.’ He used it in his comedy routine in the 50s, 60s and 70s. U. S. Supreme Court Judge Thurgood Marshall, DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore and the late “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry must have all turned over in their graves when they heard the sentence.
In the meantime, in Williamsburg, Virginia a black man was recently arrested after stealing 3 pairs of sunglasses. The store got its merchandise back. The man was convicted in a Circuit Court (state) and he is now awaiting a sentence of up to 20 years for the theft of 3 pairs of sunglasses.
When some judges cared:
L-R Luke C. Moore and Larry Wright (NBA), Eugene Hamilton and Adrian Dantley (NBA), Harry Alexander and Kermit Washington (NBA), Luke, HB and HB, Ted Newman, Harry T, Larry Brown (NFL) and Hamilton, Luke, HB, Roy Jefferson (NFL) Ted Newman, Henry Kennedy, Jr.
I first met The Honorable Rev. Judge R. Spencer in 1990 at The First Baptist Church of Arlington, Virginia. He was the pulpit guest speaker. His sermon, “Role Models and Heroes.” This sermon came shortly after Marion was caught on tape smoking crack cocaine in a DC hotel room with a former girl friend. Much like the game of Monopoly, Marion went straight to jail. The sermon was one of the most powerful and inspiring I have ever heard coming out of a pulpit.
One weekend in 1991 while I was in Richmond attending the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament, I decided to take Rev. Spencer up on his invitation to have lunch and a game of tennis. He was also a competitor on the tennis court. I kept the game close like most competitive athletes I didn’t want to bruise his ego so I won the only set we played 7-5. He walked away saying, “I will get you next time.” I loved his dialogue during our lunch on what it meant to be a black man in America and the obstacles that lay ahead for us.
These two encounters left me totally confused and disappointed by the slap on the wrist he gave Gov. McDonnell. If you are asking the question “Why are you so confused?” First, the prosecutors recommended jail time of 10 to 12 years and I find it very puzzling how Judge Spencer’s math and sentencing guild lines equaled 2 years?
Especially, after I had heard his “Brim and Fire Stone” sermon as it related to ‘Heroes and Role Models.’ My meeting with him the following year in Richmond convinced me he was the real deal.
When I heard that he was the presiding judge (a media best kept secret) I was convinced that Gov. McDonnell would serve at least 3-5 years. In my community there is an old saying, “If you cannot do the time don’t do the crime.” Evidently, Judge Spencer and I grew up on different sides of the tracks. I am sure you will also be confused once you hear his sermon in Arlington in 1990 (see link below).
Judge Spencer is not the only black Federal Judge I have seen and broken bread with Up Close and Personal.
I read a recent response in a interview Professor Randy Kennedy of the Harvard School of law. Randy grew here in DC and his father the late Henry Kennedy Sr. was a dear friend of mind. Randy was interviewed in a magazine article and it touched a nerve as it relates to Anthony Jo Jo Hunter and the minority population in prisons around this country. Jo Jo spend 17 years in jail for armed robbery without bodily harm.
The interviewer asked Randy: “What might you do differently if you were starting to write Race, Crime and the Law today (his best selling and highly acclaimed book)?” His response: ‘I should have devoted more attention to prisons. I discuss prisons to some extent. Given their unfortunate significance in society, particularly American society (he should have added the black community), I should have had a more elaborate analysis of their functions and failings.’
Randy Kennedy and his kind are the best examples, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” He lacks an important ingredient that made his father such a great human being, “Street sense and common sense.” It is clear why Dr. Ben Carson asked at a Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC “What ever happen to common sense?”
I recently e-mailed Ted Newman (retired Chief Federal Judge) and asked him to write a letter to the Parole Board asking them to grant a parole to Jo Jo and give him a second chance to live his life to its fullest! His response “Harold I am bind by Canon’s rules of judicial behavior. Sorry but I can’t.” I was floored by his response because I have always thought he was a part of the solution when he was actually a part of the problem!
He fooled me by walking around wearing dashikis’ after court, hanging out at the local bars and showing up to support my community programs. I understand there are laws and rules that must be followed to maintain a sense of order. But when do we say “These laws and rules were written without any sense of protecting black people and they are changed when ever the mood strikes the writers?”
The rule the judge was referring to was written in 1887 by the Alabama Bar Association. This the same state that gave us Bull Connor, fire hoses, vicious dogs, KKK assassination of Civil Rights Leader Megar Evers and four little black girls blown up in a church while they were in Sunday School. Something is wrong with this picture. Why are we the only ones who insist on playing fair?
The one thing that bothered me about the judge’s response—he never even suggested an alternative! Which makes me think that he is happy with Jo Jo serving the entire 50 years!
Someone once said “The world is a dangerous place not because of people who do bad things, but it is dangerous because of people who sit around and do nothing.”
Judge Newman is on the left at a fund raiser for KIT at Georgetown University
See link below to Judge Mathis’ comment on the execution of Troy Davis
My former friend and associate Alex Williams a U. S. Federal Judge is another who forgot who he is and where he came from. His home base before he retired was the U. S. Federal Court in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Former Federal Judge Alex Williams (ret.) and H Bell at Kids In Trouble, Inc Youth Violence Forum back in the day. Alex standing at the piano 2nd from the right after accepting the Kids In Trouble, Inc Life Achievement Award.
Alex is another benefactor of Inside Sports and Kids In Trouble, Inc. and then there is former Judge William Missouri. He was the Chief Administrate Judge of the Upper Marlboro Courthouse in the 80s and 90s. He and I attended Spingarn High School and grew up in NE DC. He was known as “The Hanging Judge” in the black community in Prince Georges County. If you were black and appeared in his courtroom your goose was cooked. The two judges have served as panelist for several of my conferences on Youth Violence. Williams’ mentor was Judge Moore and Missouri worked at the U. S. Post office with Luke but the similarities end there. This is a sad commentary when you see black men who have become successful in the criminal justice system where they can make a difference. But suddenly have forgotten what it was once like to be black in America.
Today a Black man or woman who has to face a judge in Prince George’s County or in the DC Superior Court and the same probably holds true in Richmond, Virginia has the deck stacked against them. Every courtroom in America has a joker in a Black Robe and in Black Face.
Black faces may be out front in the Upper Marlboro, DC and Richmond courtrooms but there is a hint of who is in charge, the KKK aka the “Tea Party” still runs the court system in America.
How can we forget the law enforcement person or persons who murdered the black youth Ronnie White in his jail cell in Upper Marlboro in Prince Georges County, Maryland in 2008? This all happened on the watch of a Black State’s Attorney, a Black Chief of Police and a Black Federal Judge? White was charged with murder for fleeing the scene in a stolen car and the hit and run death of a Prince Georges County police officer. He was being held in the Prince Georges County Upper Marlboro jail waiting for his day in court when he was found hung by his neck in his protected jail cell. This sounds like a scene out of a Mississippi jail or some backwoods city in the deep in the south in the early 1900s. But no this happen in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol in 2008.
It is now 6 years later and the FBI and the Justice Department on Civil Rights violations have not found the guilty party or guilty parties responsible for this hideous crime. But they have found a “Fall Guy and Scapegoat” in a black jail guard, Anthony McIntosh.
McIntosh was 48 years old at the time White was found hung in his jail cell on his watch. And according to the Washington Post in a published story written February 1, 2013, “McIntosh was charged with deprivation of rights under color of law, a civil rights violation, in connection with White’s death at the County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro.
McIntosh allegedly found White unresponsive and didn’t get him the proper care, the Justice Department said in a news release.
According to the Washington Post, “Ronnie White was found in his cell ASPHYXIATED (hung by his neck). The newspaper was hoping by using the word asphyxiated many black folks would not have a clue to how the young man died.
It has often been said “If you want to hide something from a black person put it in a book.” Their thinking, a dictionary was out of the question or reading the Washington Post.
There maybe help on the way on January 19, 2015 the New York City correction commissioner announced he was firing a captain and five Rikers Island guards who hogtied an inmate and then, and then while his hands were still cuffed behind him and his ankles shackled, savagely beat him in April 2012. The decision by the commissioner, Joseph Ponte, followed an unusually forceful ruling by an administrative law judge in 2014, who wrote that she was recommending the dismissal of all six in hopes that it would send a message that “silence and collusion” (Code of Silence and Blue Wall) among officers would not be tolerated. Usually, in past brutality cases, officers were given suspensions and then returned to work.The silence and collusion referred to by the administrative judge is a “Code of Silence and Blue Wall” known and used in police departments across America. These same cowards and bullies found at Rikers Island are wannabe New York City cops. For one reason or another they didn’t make the cut. The only other job similar was being a jail guard where they could play out their fantasy of being a New York cop with all the privileges of having a Code of Silence (speak no evil, see no evil or hear no evil). Kudos to the Administrative Law Judge who said “Enough is enough.”
What is the difference in the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emit Till in Mississippi and the 2008 lynching of 24-year-old Ronnie White in a Prince George’s County jail cell? Only the dates and ages have changed the color remains the same. Sixty-six years later blacks are still talking about marching? The new updated lynching in America–being killed by a white cop while walking or driving black and unarmed.
McIntosh was also charged with covering up his role in White’s death. He falsified an incident report and witness statement, according to the Justice Department.
The other charges include, two counts of destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation.
McIntosh faced life in prison for the civil rights offense, authorities said, and further prison time for the others.”
On June 2, 2013 Justice & Just-Us raised its ugly head in another American courtroom——Greenbelt, Md.
Let me fast forward to an old friend and associate the presiding judge, U. S. District Court Judge Alex Williams Jr. I would like to focus on his comments during the sentencing of McIntosh. He said, “It remains unclear whether Ronnie White was murdered or took his own life.”
My question, where is the video that was suppose be on and running in facilities like these—suddenly Big Brother is no longer watching? First, White’s death was correctly ruled a homicide. Later “The Good Old Boys” got their heads together and convinced the coroner to change his mind to say it also could have been suicide!
I had to take a deep breath and my heart sunk after reading Alex’s statement. The Alex Williams I once knew knows better, but I am willing to conceive this is not the same Alex Williams I once knew (a member of the Board of Directors of Kids In Trouble, Inc). He used my Inside Sports radio talk show to campaign for office.
I have to agree with the legendary neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson when he spoke several years ago at a National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama in attendance, he said “Whatever happen to common sense?” I would like to ask Judge Alex Williams the exact same question.
During the trial the jail guard McIntosh spoke for the first time on the White hanging. He said, “I often think of how I should have done things differently, I should have been honest…no excuses.” He left little doubt he was a part of the conspiracy in the murder of Ronnie White.
Alex tried to clean up his act later when he said, “In a county with a long history of corruption, your awful lie did broader damage, furthering a perception that there is cause for residents to be distrustful of authorities. “Law enforcement officers and correctional officers are the glue that holds society together. What has happened here is this lie. . . has inflamed and fueled the skepticism of the public that something fishy took place.”
Alex, too late the damage has already been done.
My Interpretation of McIntosh’s response to Judge Williams; “With this payout I can do 2 years standing on my head.” Checkout his release in 2015 and follow the Yellow Brick Road to a life of leisure and comfort.
White’s family members to their credit used the courtroom to go further, White’s mother and stepfather said in court that they did not accept the explanation that White committed suicide. Lonnie Gray, White’s stepfather, said, “I think the county police killed Ronnie.” He called McIntosh a “scapegoat” in a larger conspiracy.
Alex countered with, “I cannot blame Mr. Gray for the accusation.”
“The father, the family, is expressing the view that is out there that something occurred that has never been resolved.” He added, ‘I not sure. No one clearly knows whether the death was a suicide or a homicide.’
Alex sounds like the Trayvon Martin jury “The killer was only standing his ground.”
The family has been paid off, McIntosh was paid off and Alex??? This is a very scary situation for Prince Georges County residents in 2015 and beyond. The county has fast become a “Police State.” Alex and his neighbors don’t have to live in fear so far, but it is coming to his neighborhood sooner than he thinks.
According to the Justice Department the Ronnie White case is now closed and they will not look any further for his murders. When is a murder case ever closed, what ever happen to “The Cold Case File?”
Add to Alex’s slap on the wrist to McIntosh, this now means that Prince Georges County residents are playing Russian roulette with their lives every time they leave home. You will never know when the next Prince Georges County cop car pulls you over and behind the wheel, sits one of Ronnie White’s killers.
There are police officers in PG County who will say that Ronnie White was murdered, but only off the record.
My brother Earl and I talked about this case before he died and he said, “The cops hung that brother.” As we read the outcome and verdict in the Washington Post, he said ‘What did you expect?’ I expected better because my friend Alex Williams was the judge on record—but what did I know and when did I not know it?
Remember, the Washington Post in an early report said, “McIntosh faces additional charges for the civil rights offense, and can get life in prison, authorities said.” How did we get life in prison down to 2 years? Alex missed an opportunity to send a message to the Fraternal Order of Police and their kind but instead he went along to get along.
The same Justice and vigilante acts that have been a part of Prince Georges County for decades are still in play and now with black faces in leadership positions it has gotten worst instead of better (Plantation Mentality).
If you don’t think the Plantation Mentality still exist, just ask Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and the residents living in the Nation’s Capitol of Washington, DC. They still have no rights that a white man has to respect!
Clarence Thomas, Spencer, Williams and Missouri all benefited from the Civil Rights movement but it seems like they have forgotten.
The Prince George’s County Police Chief Melvin High retired during the murder investigation but re-surfaced as a candidate for the Prince Georges’ County Sheriff’s Office! He runs away from doing his job as the Chief of Police but is voted back into a similar job as Chief in the Sheriff’s Office in the same county. His PR person Barbra Hamm saw what was happening, County Executive and his cronies were running the department. She left the department before total chaos erupted and went back home to Norfolk, Virginia. We cannot blame Chief High on white folks in what is now called the most affluent black county in the United States. Once again, “What ever happen to common sense?”
Glenn Ivey the State’s Attorney didn’t have a clue when he took the office. I met Ivey at a Minister’s Prayer Breakfast shortly after I had written a column in the Washington Post questioning his and Chief High’s investigation tactics and lack of involvement into youth violence at nearby Suitland High School. The school was then known as “The Black Board Jungle” of the school system.
Ivey took offense to my commentary but agreed to meet with me and other community advocates in his Upper Marlboro Office to discuss solutions. I invited members of the clergy, ex-law enforcement officers, ex-cons and other well known community advocates to the meeting. We tried to come up with some solutions to youth violence in our community. To make a long story short, the meeting was a waste of our time. Ivey had surrounded himself with a staff that was as clueless as himself—it was the blind leading the blind. There have been several senseless murders at Suitland High School since I last met with Glenn Ivey. He was a total disaster and has since retired but thanks to him and his kind the beat goes on. The violence continues in our schools and community.
Kids In Trouble,Inc. Youth Violence Conference in Washington, DC in 1995. Co-Chairs, Jim Brown (NFL) and Congressman Tom Davis (R-Vir). Gang members and crews from the east coast and as far away as the west coast were in attendance. Davis was just another politician looking for a photo opportunity with Jim Brown. After the forum Davis disappeared without a trace.
One of the reasons Justice has become so elusive and its Just-Us in America’s courtrooms, it is because the Black jurist sitting on the bench have forgotten who they are and where they came from. Judge James R. Spencer is just the latest. They are so busy trying to play fair but fail to realize that black folks are the only ones playing fair. The wake-up call should have been when the Supreme Court passed a bill saying, “Donors to political campaigns can give unlimited amounts of cash to their favorite politicians.” Does that Supreme Court act sound like or spell F-A-I-R? How can that be fair when 1% of the country controls all the wealth and now they will continue to control the office of the President and the House and the Senate.
Before his appointment to the bench Judge Luke C. Moore was the first black since Reconstruction to head the U. S. Marshall Service (President Lyndon Baines Johnson). Shakespeare once said “Kill all the lawyers,” I now understand his shout out, but Judge Luke Moore and Thurgood Marshall were keepers.
Justice in most American courts and Grand Jury rooms still seem to lean in the direction of Just-Us when it comes to people of color. Most of the good lawyers/jurist I know are dead, Thurgood Marshall, Johnnie Cochran, Luke C. Moore, Harry T. Alexander, Kenneth Munday, Warren Copeland and Charlie Schultz. Mr. Schultz drowned in a swimming accident in Florida several years ago trying to save a child. He died trying to help someone else, which was reflective of his courtroom demeanor.
Despite Barack Obama residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the country’s first Black President racism is alive and well in America. The American Court system is still one of racism’s main thoroughfares. Black men are being jailed and murdered in record numbers. America houses more prisoners then anyone else in the world. Prisons are big business and are on the Wall Street stock market–men of color are it biggest commodity.
The latest outcry in police departments around this country of “Us Against Them” is ridiculous. Blaming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for the death of 2 New York City police officers ambushed in their patrol car is a cope out. This is nothing but a smoke screen for the embedded racism found in departments across America. They are hiding behind a Code of Silence and The Blue Wall that protects crooked and corrupt cops.
Eric Holder the U. S. Attorney General was right on the one when he said, “We have become a country of cowards!”
I am out of a cop family, 2 of 3 of my brothers served. My older brother Bobby was a U. S. Marshall for 20 years and my younger brother Earl was a DC cop for 13 years before he became a victim of The Code of Silence! I have spent 50 years working in the inner-city with youth gangs and at-risk children and I have seen the Good, Bad and Ugly when it comes to law enforcement.
Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Raspberry examines Police Community Relations efforts in DC. He takes a look at the non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc. in the Cardozo U Street corridor in the 60s and 70s. He found it was the police that strayed and not the community.
There are some good cops out there trying to do the right thing but they are outnumbered by the cowards and bullies. Cameras are just a part of the answer. They will only slow down the corrupt and crooked cops for a minute.
The answer, change the mentality of law enforcement, especially, Dave Clark the black Chief of the Wisconsin, Milwaukee Sheriff’s Department. He is in need of a crash course not only in Black History but American History. I found his interview with CNN’s Brooks Baldwin on Tuesday January 6, 2015 not only disturbing but also embarrassing and offensive.
In 1967 President Lyndon Johnson commissioned a panel to study racism in America. The panel’s conclusion, “The country was headed in the direction of two Americas, one Black and one White.”
In 2015 the Republicans and Democrats with a little help from the likes of David Clark have made that prediction a reality.
In 1970 I found the first ever half-way house established for juvenile delinquents on a military installation on Bolling Air Force Base in DC. Chief Judge Harold Green and Judges Harry T. Alexander and Luke C. Moore were in attendance to cut the ribbon for this historical moment. Judges putting their mouths where their money was, back in the community.
One of the most impressive things to me about the judges of the DC Superior Court back in the day was when they gave you their word, you could carry it to the bank.
Judges Moore and Alexander’s community involvement attracted other judges, athletes and media personalities to encourage the growth of inner-city children .
This is a sad commentary because Black Judges like James Spencer and Alex Williams stand on the shoulders of men like Thurgood Marshall and Luke C. Moore. If I had to walk down a dark alley in one of the worst crime ridden sections of DC, it would be NE Trinidad. And I needed someone to protect my back and I had my choices Judges to select between, Spencer, Missouri, Williams and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. My choice would be Thomas. At least he has been honest and up front as it relates to his position on his racial preferences and his state of mind as it relates to racial progress in America . The others have played both sides of the fence, jumping to one side or the other when it enhanced their agendas. They have gone along to get along and that is the problem in our community–no one takes a stand for what is right.
Can you imagine what the black man sitting in that jail cell in Williamsburg is saying to himself while awaiting a sentence of up to 20 years for stealing 3 pairs of sunglasses? How about “Judge Spencer can you give a brother a little help?”
Pastor John Jenkins and First Baptist Church of Glenn Arden, Maryland are scheduled to have a Town Hall Meeting titled “Beyond the Color of Our Skin.” They must be kidding, it is never going to be beyond the color of our skin in America–not in our life time. It is often said, “Justice is Blind” so is the leadership in our courtrooms Monday through Friday, in our Pulpits on Sunday mornings to the close of business on Capitol Hill on Sunday nights. The problem–we are still looking for love in all the wrong places.
Governor McDonnell will be home for the 2016 New Year but the black man sitting in a jail cell in Williamsburg facing 20 years has little hope of seeing a New Year anytime soon in the near future. The more things change the more they remain the same.
The link below is for the folks who are always asking “Why don’t you get over it?”