It has been 34 years since nine members of the radical group MOVE were convicted for the 1978 murder of Philadelphia police officer James J. Ramp during a police seizure in Powelton Village, and four years since eight members of the original MOVE 9 — Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Hollaway Africa, Janine Philips Africa, Williams Philips Africa, Delbert Orr Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Charles Sims Africa and Edward Goodman Africa — became eligible for parole.
The ninth member, Merle Austin Africa, died in prison in March 1998.
And depending on who is telling the story, the MOVE 9 are either guilty as charged, or a symbol of an oppressive judicial system hell-bent on silencing its critics and stamping out left-wing revolutionaries.
“Charles Africa’s parole hearing is coming up, and Debbie saw the parole board in June and was denied,” said MOVE spokesperson Ramona Africa. “The issue MOVE has is the demand for MOVE people to ‘take responsibility for the crime.’ MOVE people did not kill Ramp; we were in our own home when we were surrounded by thousands of cops. We didn’t go to [former Mayor Frank] Rizzo’s house, and we didn’t go to [former Police Commissioner Joseph F. O’Neill’s] house; they came to our house and attacked us in warlike fashion.”
Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the head, and all members of the MOVE 9 were convicted of third degree murder.
The August 8, 1978, shooting of Ramp was the culmination of several confrontations MOVE had with the police department, and a chilling precursor to the infamous May 1985 Osage Avenue clash that resulted in a bomb being dropped on MOVE’s Osage Avenue compound, which led to the death of 11 people, including MOVE founder John Africa, and the decimation of several city blocks containing 65 homes.
Ramona Africa contends that “MOVE people didn’t kill anybody,” and believes there are holes in the theory that points to her organization as the culprits.
“If officials really believed MOVE killed Ramp, they wouldn’t have demolished the scene of the crime — but they demolished it within hours,” Africa said. “There should never have even been a trial once [the city] demolished the scene — that’s destroying evidence, leaving MOVE with no way to adequately defend itself.”
Africa contends MOVE 9 opted for a bench trial in front of late trial Judge Edward Malmed because the group didn’t want to appear before a slanted jury. But that decision came at a price.
“The burden was put squarely on the shoulders of Malmed, who is supposed to be learned in the law, objective and sworn to simply follow the legality that dictates procedure,” Africa said. “The judge did not do that, because if he had, he would have dismissed the case because of destruction of evidence.
“After the trial, Malmed convicted nine of my family members of third degree murder and conspiracy,” Africa continued. “And that is a contradiction. If he’s saying they conspired to kill a cop, wouldn’t that be first degree and not third? There are numerous inconsistencies here that clarify that my family was convicted and sentenced to 30 to 100 years, not because they committed any crime or any officials believe they did, but because they are MOVE people and committed revolutionaries.” Africa also contends that MOVE member and current life sentence prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal once asked Malmed to name the person responsible for Ramp’s murder, and Malmed allegedly responded that he hadn’t the faintest idea.
Officials with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole wouldn’t comment further than confirming the hearing dates, and the minimum and maximum time each member must serve. While all remaining MOVE 9 members have been denied parole at their most recent hearing, two were denied parole for curious reasons. Edward Goodman Africa was denied due to a negative recommendation by the Department of Corrections, while Michael Davis Africa was denied due to his “denial of offenses committed,” according to parole board spokesperson Leo Dunn.
“Most people know, if nothing else, that in order to convict someone, whether judge or jury, you have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Africa, who has been denied visitation rights with her incarcerated family members, despite being out of jail herself for 20 years and has had a clean criminal record since her 1992 release. “Judge Malmed, obviously, was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The fallout from the 1985 bombing of MOVE’s compound resulted in former Mayor W. Wilson Goode authorizing a commission to investigate the decision-making of officials involved, and make recommendations on ways to avoid such confrontations in the future.
Africa contends that both the mayor and district attorney’s offices aren’t adhering to the commission’s suggestion of keeping open the lines of communication.
“For a little over a month now, we’ve been trying to get a meeting with [District Attorney] Seth Williams and Mayor Michael Nutter to discuss the issues pertaining to my family,” Africa said. “Nutter is the mayor of this city and needs to know what’s going on. We are not going to allow him to feign ignorance; we want to meet them.
“We want to meet with Williams because as district attorney he has authority over any criminal case, and because he gave a negative recommendation as district attorney to the parole board,” Africa continued. “Seth Williams doesn’t even know my family, as he was just a kid in 1978.
“The thing is that commission Wilson Goode put together said the city made a terrible mistake by not meeting with us and keeping lines of communication open — that it never happens again and to keep lines of communication open. The mayor is not doing that, and the district attorney is not doing that.”
District Attorney Spokesperson Tasha Jamerson draws a stark contradiction to Africa’s claims. While not commenting on the merits of the MOVE 9’s conviction and subsequent parole denials, Jamerson did take issue with Africa’s claim of communication misfires.
“The district attorney gets swamped by piles of mail and requests, and anyone who requests to meet, I go over it with [Williams],” Jamerson said, noting the process calls for anyone wishing to meet with Williams to submit a formal written request — something Jamerson said Africa failed to do. “If Ramona Africa sent any kind of request, I would have asked about it. If she asked for a meeting, I think [Williams] would meet with her, but no letter has come, and no phone call has come.”
Jamerson noted that Williams isn’t ducking any confrontation; rather, he and Africa have been in the same building at the same time on numerous occasions, one being at a recent screening and discussion about Tigre Hill’s controversial film, “The Barrel of A Gun,” and said there was a time when Williams tried to approach Africa — only to be shunned.
“There has been some communication back and forth,” Jamerson said. “But I’d point out that before the election in November, Williams was at an event in Old City and wanted to shake her hand and talk to her a little bit.
“She brushed him aside.”
Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesperson Mark McDonald confirmed that Nutter will not meet with Africa, as Nutter has no leverage or dealings in the matter.
“Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison handled the matter, and he says, what he learned from Africa is that her fight is with the parole board, and the mayor has no jurisdiction in this matter,” McDonald said. “Having a meeting for meeting’s sake doesn’t make sense. Ramona Africa has been informed of this some time ago. The mayor is polite and respectful of her, but won’t be meeting.”
In terms of release, Africa doubts her compatriots will ever be released before maxing out, meaning all MOVE 9 members are facing the prospect of dying in prison. And Africa doubts any of the incarcerated MOVE 9 members will ever cop a plea to somehow earn an early release.
“Our aim is not simply to get out of prison. Our aim is to expose and eliminate the rotten system that is the root of such injustices, so they will never say they are guilty. We continue to fight because we know our work is the same, whether we’re on the prison block or street block,” Africa said. “Guilt or innocence is not an issue with parole. What is supposed to determine parole is whether or not you’ve completed any designated programs, and my family has — they’ve even taught lessons. They also need an acceptable home and work plan, …
“None of my family members have bad conduct records,” Africa continued, allowing that one or two of her brothers may have had minor skirmishes while locked up. “Most importantly, their parole sheets don’t include any write-ups for misconduct. MOVE people aren’t going to lie, and more importantly, should not have to lie and say we are guilty if we are not.”
Rodney Ramseur and his girlfriend, Latia Jones, were sitting on the porch of his residence Monday evening, May 14 when an unidentified young Black male walked up to the couple and fired several shots, killing them both.
It’s early in the investigation and so far the actual motive hasn’t been determined, but detectives are speculating that Ramseur was targeted because he was a witness to a 2010 shooting. While that hasn’t been confirmed, it nonetheless has raised the issue of how to best protect witnesses in criminal cases — especially at a time of limited financial resources. Ramseur’s family is saying that he wasn’t protected by the police or the District Attorney’s office.
“We need our witnesses to fight crime and help get criminals off of our streets,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. “And the public should know that witness intimidation doesn’t just involve homicide cases, not anymore. Witnesses in illegal gun cases have been threatened also. But we are able to protect witnesses through our relocation program, and the public should also be aware of the fact that we have never turned anyone away who asked for our help. The police are very adept at determining when someone is being threatened. Any witness in any case who feels threatened would be offered services by both our office and the police department. We would never turn away anyone who asks for our help.”
In Philadelphia, the District Attorney’s office operates a witness relocation program. Witnesses who are going to testify in court can have themselves and their families moved on a moment’s notice to a safe location. No one who has been in the program and followed its protocols, such as staying out of previous neighborhoods, has ever been harmed.
It has often been said by numerous law enforcement officials and legislators that witness intimidation tears away at the very structure of the criminal justice system. When a crime has been committed and witnesses refuse to testify — either out of fear or the twisted code of ‘no snitching’ — cases can and often do get dismissed and criminals go free. On the federal level, witness protection has saved the lives of many people by providing not just relocation to another state but new identities as well. Of course, the witness takes considerable risks if they ever return to their old haunts — which is what happened to 23-year-old Chante Wright in 2008.
In January of that year, Wright returned to Philadelphia to see a relative who was gravely ill. She had been in federal witness protection after testifying against alleged drug dealer Hakim Bey in connection with the murder of Moses Williams in 2000. Bey is a relative of Dawud Bey, an associate of convicted drug dealer Kaboni Savage, who will be coming up for federal prosecution again in the case of the Coleman Family murders — a case where a family was killed in retaliation against a witness.
Wright had been in Philadelphia for only seven hours before she and her friend Octavia Green were both gunned down in the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia, allegedly by Laquaille Bryant, an associate of Bey, who is now serving a life sentence for both murders. Wright was the second witness in the Moses Williams murder case, being killed after Omar Morris, who was shot to death on Christmas morning 2002.
“Witness intimidation affects many violent crime cases,” said Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams recently when he went before City Council to ask for additional funding to hire 13 additional assistant district attorneys. “The grim reality is that witness intimidation negatively affects virtually every homicide, and has been more and more of a factor in our non-fatal shootings as well. When there is witness intimidation, my assistant district attorneys must dedicate more time to the underlying cases, trying to ensure that victims and witnesses continue to cooperate and testify at trial. What we know is that the District Attorney’s Office is underfunded. I have said this during each of my prior two budget hearings. When you compare us to other prosecutors’ offices in the largest counties in the country, we now have the second lowest funding.”
One of the most notorious cases of retaliation against a witness in the city was the murders of the family of Eugene Coleman. Coleman, an associate of drug dealer Kaboni Savage, agreed with federal prosecutors to testify against Savage. In response, Savage allegedly ordered the deaths of Coleman’s family, who perished when their house was firebombed on October 9, 2004. The victims were Marcella Coleman, 54; Coleman’s infant son, Damir Jenkins, 15 months old; Marcella Coleman’s niece, Tameka Nash, 34; her daughter, Khadjah Nash, 10; Marcella Coleman’s grandson Tahj Porchea, 12; and a family friend, Sean Rodriguez, 15.
“Witness intimidation pervades our society, even in cases where it’s just perceived — that people just think they may be threatened,” said Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross. “It’s a problem across the country and in every criminal case and because of it, whether actual or just perceived, witnesses can be reluctant to come forward — and this is exactly what criminals want. It starts on the street with people who may have seen something and are told that if they say anything then something bad will happen. Now most of these guys don’t have the means to actually carry out a threat, but just the perception is often enough to deter witnesses. It ties our hands and emboldens criminals. But factually speaking it’s not as widespread as it is perceived to be — in the lion’s share of homicide cases it’s not an issue. Does it happen? Yes, but not nearly as often as people think it does.”
As the investigation into the murders of Ramseur and Jones continues, as of Tribune press time no suspects have been named. Ramseur had been a witness to the May 3, 2010, shooting of Savoeun Ning and had testified against the suspect, Garland Doughty on May 8. Doughty is now being held at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
Eyewitnesses of the shooting described the suspect as a Black male who was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, who fled the scene down Third Street in the direction of Godfrey Avenue. Ramseur, who originally gave a statement against Doughty, recanted his earlier testimony during the May 8 hearing. Ramseur was known to police, who continue to investigate to determine the exact motive in his killing.
“We have to look at every possibility, especially in a case like this,” Ross said.
Chante Wright. Octavia Green. Omar Morris. Marcella Coleman. Damir Jenkins. Tameka Nash. Khadjah Nash. Tahj Porchea. Sean Rodriguez. Rodney Ramseur. Latia Jones.
If these names aren’t familiar to you, take another look at them. This is only a partial list of Philadelphians killed in the last few years because they witnessed a crime, or someone close to them did.
Witness intimidation, and even murder, is not the product of a Hollywood screenwriter’s active imagination — in Philadelphia it is a fact, a reality of modern urban America that strikes at the very heart of our quality of life.
Make no mistake, when witnesses to a crime are intimidated into silence — whether that intimidation is real or perceived — criminals go free. There are murderers walking the streets of Philadelphia right now who should be in prison for a very long time, if not for the fact that those citizens who saw what they did were afraid to come forward. Those murderers, now emboldened by getting away with their crimes, are likely to kill again.
It’s too easy to blame witnesses’ real fears on some “no snitching” culture, or dismiss their reluctance as a “thug life” by-product — these are decent people who otherwise would do the right thing, but who fear the retaliation of the thugs who would not hesitate to go after their families, even their children.
“The police are very adept at determining when someone is being threatened,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to Tribune crime reporter Larry Miller. “Any witness in any case who feels threatened would be offered services by both our office and the police department. We would never turn away anyone who asks for our help.”
District Attorney Seth Williams has asked City Council for a budget increase, partly to preserve and expand Philadelphia’s witness protection services, which even he admits are inadequate at present. We applaud the District Attorney’s efforts, and appreciate his clear acknowledgement that more needs to be done — and sooner rather than later.
The District Attoney’s office and the police department should not wait to be asked, and witnesses and their families shouldn’t be forced to live in fear while waiting for services that could save their lives. A blanket of city protection should cover these witnesses from the minute they agree to tell what they know, not when they’re already in danger — when it may be too late.
The dead witnesses whose names are listed at the top of this column cry out for justice — and demand that we prioritize not only the punishment of the guilty, but the protection of the truly innocent.
With the passing of the controversial Voter Photo ID bill by the state legislature last week and its immediate signing into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, opponents are gearing up for a massive public education campaign, so voters know their rights.
Ostensibly, supporters of the new legislation say it will prevent voter identification fraud, but just how pervasive is voter ID fraud in Philadelphia? Experts say it’s not a real problem at all — and that the legislation is meant to stack the deck against Democrats in the November presidential elections.
“It’s really not an issue for us at all,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. “As you know, the DA’s officers monitor elections and in the last five years we haven’t had one arrest, or prosecuted any defendant for voter identification fraud. The District Attorney, like many other officials in Philadelphia, believes this is a bad law. It is a solution in search of a problem. And the use of provisional ballots in cases where there are questions about the validity of a voter is more than adequate to address any potential voter identification issues. There are also questions about the enforcement of this new law, and we are planning on meeting with City Commissioners in the next week to review any issues or questions that might arise from the law.”
The new law, which is now in effect, requires every resident of Pennsylvania to produce some form of photo identification when they vote. Corbett signed off on the measure because he said it would protect the integrity of the state’s elections.
The photo ID will not be required for the primary elections in April. However, voters will be reminded at that time that a photo ID will be required for November’s general election.
“This is nothing but a national horror by Republican hooligans to disenfranchise voters who might vote Democratic in the upcoming November presidential elections,” said J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP. The NAACP is part of a growing coalition of opponents to the new law. On Wednesday, people who need state issued non-drivers license identification can obtain one free by showing up at their nearest PennDot center. The main center is at 801 Arch Street.
“People will need their birth certificates or employee identification or student identification to get the photo ID cards,” said Mondesire. “It’s clear what the motivation is: They want to frustrate potential voters who would vote Democratic in November. They run the governor’s office, they control the House and Senate and they think they can get away with this. We’re preparing legal challenges against this even as we speak.”
Two teens were sentenced to four years in juvenile detention this week for their involvement in the brutal and unprovoked on a Vietnam veteran last month.
The defendants, whose names have not been released because of their ages, pleaded guilty to the charges of aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy for the Jan. 17 attack on Edward Schaefer, 64. Philadelphia district attorney sources said Schaefer was walking to a bus stop in the 5000 block of North Fifth Street in his Olney neighborhood to meet his wife when the defendants attacked him. He was repeatedly kicked and punched and is still recovering from the assault, having suffered a fractured skull and numerous broken bones.
During the hearing in Family Court, Judge Kevin Dougherty found the defendants guilty and adjudicated them delinquent. Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the four-year sentence was the maximum term authorized by the Juvenile Act.
In an unrelated criminal investigation, the trial of 19-year old Corey Conaway began this week at the Criminal Justice Center. Conaway is accused of beating 68-year-old Ellen Walton to death with a frying pan on Jan. 8, 2010. The victim had known the defendant since childhood.
Homicide detectives said on the date in question, Conaway was burglarizing Walton’s home in the 6300 block of Magnolia Street when she returned home and surprised him. His reaction, they said, was to beat her to death, since she knew who he was. Conaway allegedly took television sets, some jewelry and her 2005 Toyota SUV, which he later abandoned.
“My mother didn’t have any enemies,” said the victim’s only son, Damon Walton, in a previous interview with the Tribune. “She was a retired caseworker for the state and basically just tried to make the world a better place. For someone to do this to her is just heartbreaking. And it was the way they did it that’s even more disturbing. She was always putting others first. That’s the kind of person she was.”
In another unrelated criminal prosecution, a former Philadelphia police officer accused of stealing pleaded guilty to charges of theft, obstruction of justice and official oppression.
Kevin Workman pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing $352 from a panhandler on Sept. 30, 2011. The panhandler was actually an undercover police officer. Workman received 36 months’ probation and was ordered to pay $1875 in restitution. The police department’s Internal Affairs unit conducted the undercover integrity test of Workman after receiving complaints about him from two other victims.
Mentally disabled held captive in basement of Northeast apartment building
A preliminary hearing was held on Monday for the four co-defendants in the Tacony kidnapping case in which several mentally disabled people were held captive in a filthy sub-basement of an apartment building.
Linda Weston, 51, her daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32, Weston’s boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie Wright, 50, have been charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault, conspiracy, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
The charges also include eight children, found later in several residences. The hearing was a lengthy proceeding and has been scheduled to resume Tuesday.
“There was just so much evidence in this case,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. Jamerson also said that none of the defendants have entered pleas. She added that any pleas would not come until after the formal arraignment, which would be after the preliminary hearing has concluded.
The horrible case came to light on Oct. 15 when authorities discovered four victims huddled in the subbasement of an apartment building in the 4700 block of Longshore Avenue.
The four, who according to authorities have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, have been identified as Derwin McLemire, 41, of North Carolina; Herbert Knowles, 40, of Norfolk, Va.; and Tamara Breeden, 29, and Edwin Sanabria, 31, both of Philadelphia. Investigators said they were all malnourished and that when police found them, Knowles had been chained to a boiler unit.
The four victims have related horrific accounts of how they were allegedly treated. Their statements include incidents of being burned with heated spoons and lit cigarettes.
They were held in filthy conditions and never given enough to eat or drink. One of the victims was Weston’s own niece, 19-year old Beatrice Weston. Investigators allege that Weston and the others held their captives for their Social Security benefit checks.
Since the case came to light, authorities have been working hard to unravel the extent of the co-defendants’ criminal enterprise. When Weston was arrested, police confiscated more than 50 Social Security identification cards and documents of power of attorney.
Weston, the alleged mastermind behind the scheme, is no stranger to law enforcement. Court documents reveal that she served four years in prison following a 1983 conviction for third degree manslaughter. In that case, the victim, 25-year old Bernardo Ramos, the alleged boyfriend of Weston’s sister, Venus Weston, was also locked in a closet and slowly starved to death.
Law enforcement officials said that on October 15, police received a call from a resident of the apartment building on Longshore Avenue.
The resident reported hearing screams, and responding officers were met by the property owner, Turgut Gozleveli. Gozleveli also reported that residents had told him they had observed suspicious activity around the building the previous Thursday.
Gozleveli said he checked out the basement and found some things out of place, but nothing suspicious at the time. On October 15, he heard a dog barking and went into the building’s sub-basement. Inside he found a door that had been chained shut. He opened it and saw a dog and four adults. He immediately called police.
The investigation is continuing and involves the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as the police agencies in Texas and Florida, states where authorities believe the victims had been trafficked.
A Colwyn Borough, Delaware County police officer has been placed under arrest as a result of an ongoing investigation into an incident in which a suspect in custody was tasered.
Cpl. Trevor Parham was arrested and charged with simple assault and related offenses for allegedly tasering a teenage suspect who was in a holding cell on April 24.
According to reports, the victim, identified as Da-Qwaun Jackson, 17, was handcuffed and shackled to a chair when Parham used his taser. Jackson was allegedly kicking the walls of his cell and being unruly.
Parham is free on bail and the investigation into the incident, which was allegedly covered up by fellow officers, continues.
In an unrelated criminal investigation, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said that a man prosecuted for straw purchasing handguns for criminals was sentenced to 4 to 24 years in prison.
According to Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the Philadelphia D.A.’s Office, Jose Cruz waived his preliminary hearing before Judge Earl W. Trent on Monday and entered an open guilty plea of eight counts of purchasing handguns for various criminals. Of the eight guns, five still remain on the streets. Cruz was arrested by agents of the Gun Violence Task Force after one of the guns he purchased was found in a drug house by Philadelphia Police. In exchange for acting as a straw purchaser, Cruz was paid a total of $1,900 for the guns.
In another unrelated investigation, police have not released the identity of a man who was stabbed to death early Thursday morning. The victim, a 52-year-old African-American male, was found on the ground by responding officers suffering from a stab wound to the chest in the 5600 block of Arch Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene and as of Tribune press time, police were still determining a motive.
During the days of Jim Crow laws, voter intimidation was a very real fact of life for African-American voters, especially in Southern states, where exercising Constitutional rights could and often did mean lethal retaliation.
In Philadelphia in 2012, however, there were no complaints of voter intimidation at all, according to Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. She said that a rumor about the so-called New Black Panther Party having a presence at a polling location was a total fabrication.
“There were none, none at all, no complaints from any polling locations in the city,” Jamerson said. “As a citizen, a person is allowed to be at the polls as long as they’re not engaged in any unlawful behavior. As for the news reports regarding the New Black Panther Party, they were totally without credence. All of that started in the 2008 presidential election, when Fox News did a story about them at a polling location and it blew up. Our office got inundated with calls at the time, but here’s the thing – none of them were local complaints. People were calling from Georgia and D.C. – places way out of state. This time there was one lone guy that Fox News happened to find, and he wasn’t doing anything. The story about the New Black Panthers intimidating voters was all a fabrication by Fox News. Again, we took no calls of complaints about voter intimidation in Philadelphia at all.”
The Committee of Seventy, which had about 800 trained volunteers around the city and surrounding counties monitoring the polls, received a report that the group had shown up at 11th and Germantown Avenue – a report that was without credence. Fox News ran a picture of a single member of the group who turned out to be a poll watcher at 1221 Fairmount Ave., in the city’s 14th Ward.
At one point Republican election inspectors were being denied access to different locations. Judge John M. Younge issued a court order allowing all certified minority inspectors into Philadelphia polling places, and deputies from the sheriff’s department were dispatched to enforce the order. The Committee of Seventy handled a report of alleged electioneering inside some polls in Conshohocken. And there were rumors floating around that if a person voted straight Democratic, a choice for Barack Obama would not be registered. That rumor, too, was totally false.
“We understand that there may be some confusion this year with the new voter ID law that is now in place, and we want to make sure that no one is discouraged about going to the polls on Tuesday because of that confusion,” said District Attorney Seth Williams on Election Day. “We always want to encourage all registered voters in the city to get out and exercise the privilege of casting their votes, but that being said, we want to stress that we will go after any criminal activity and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.”
Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, also confirmed there were no credible reports or complaints of voter intimidation. He said this rarely happens during a presidential election.
“It’s something we see more of during local elections, where the candidates have much more at stake,” Stalberg said. “We heard very little – although we got some reports of body language that seemed threatening to some people – but nothing overt. We took in several thousand calls, but you’d be hard-pressed to say there were complaints of voter intimidation. Regarding the New Black Panthers, we had people out twice looking for that guy and didn’t find him. There were reports that he was handing out literature, but he was well behaved.”
Stalberg said most of the election issues were related to registration problems, where people’s names had fallen off the books, something that was discussed at the City commissioners’ meeting Wednesday morning.
“There was some confusion over voter ID, but not so much in the city, where I think most people understood it. Most of the questions came from outside the city, and the farther outside the city, the more questions we handled,” Stalberg said.