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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

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

Shelby County Courthouse

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, 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.

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.

(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.

He said after he found out his picture was on the most wanted website, it took four days for him to get it taken down.

Dukes told commissioners that the situation had hurt his reputation in the community and caused his children to be ridiculed.

He acknowledged that Sheriff Chris Curry and Lt. Chris George personally came to his church last summer and apologized to his congregation.

Curry is the sheriff responsible for the unlawful auction of our house, which we captured live on video for our Legal Schnauzer readers back in May 2008, about the same time I was being cheated out of my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for writing on this blog about justice issues in Shelby County and beyond. You can check out the video at the link below. It provides an up-close look at how "justice" really is practiced in Alabama's fastest growing county:

Showdown in Shelby County, Part II

How did Chris Curry and his henchmen come to heap abuse upon Kenneth Earl Dukes? From The Birmingham News:

Dukes gave commissioners an undated letter signed by Curry, Task Force Commander George and Chief Deputy John Samaniego.

In the letter, George outlined how a warrant was issued for Dukes after a confidential drug informant picked Dukes' photo out of a photo lineup as part of a drug crackdown in the Almont community. 
The letter states that the task force generates lineups from databases that include the Alabama Department of Public Safety, which issues driver licenses. "On June 22, 2010, the SCDETF discovered (a) warrant had been issued in error based on an incorrect identification of Kenneth Earl Dukes," George wrote. "The actual subject who sold the marijuana has a strong resemblance to Mr. Dukes."

"Immediately, the SCDETF recalled the warrant from the clerk's office, removed the information from the National Crime Information Center, removed any information related to the case from our 'Most-Wanted site', and informed the prosecutor of the mistake involving the confidential informant with the request that we review previous cases made by the confidential informant."

The actual subject who sold the marijuana has a strong resemblance to Mr. Dukes? Hey, you know they all look alike. By the way, Bill Swatek has a strong resemblance to a drunk driver, and Mike McGarity has a strong resemblance to a felony assaulter. Were these white Republicans held accountable in Shelby County? No way.

It will be interesting to see if the Shelby County Commission takes any action in the Dukes case. Just last week, I spoke via phone with Lindsey Allison, a lawyer who is my representative on the commission. I gave her a very brief version of what my wife and I have experienced at the hands of corrupt lawyers, judges, and sheriff officials in Shelby County.

Ms. Allison indicated to me that justice issues weren't her concern, and she had better things to do than assist constituents who have repeatedly been cheated by the Shelby County "justice" system. When I mentioned Bill Swatek's name and asked if she was aware of his sleazy background, Ms. Allison pretty much hung up on me.

In light of what has happened to Kenneth Earl Dukes, we plan to give Lindsey Allison another opportunity to respond to questions about justice issues in Shelby County. We'll see if she blows me off this time.

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