Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Prisoner's Voice is Heard

Former Mississippi state judge Wes Teel is not the only federal prisoner in Atlanta whose voice is being heard.

Gregory Clarke, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Birmingham, is serving a 21-month sentence for tax evasion involving $36,000. In a column titled "Bush-Whacked: The Untold Story" in the Birmingham Times, Clarke takes us on a journey that led from one of Birmingham's most prominent inner-city churches to a federal prison.

It is a compelling read, and again raises serious questions about the conduct of the Bush Justice Department, particularly Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

I don't know a lot about the facts of Clarke's case. But he makes a strong case for the idea that he was the victim of a political prosecution, driven largely by his friendship with former Governor Don Siegelman:

I was Bush-Whacked! But why? Could it be as simple as these “unreported facts” that I gave to the Birmingham News:

• Clarke prayed the inaugural prayer for Governor Siegleman at the Governor’s Manor, 1999

• Clarke was appointed to the Governor’s Commission for Community Service by Governor Siegleman

• Clarke’s Choir was featured on the Governor’s State of Alabama Christmas Cards for performing in the Rotunda of the Governor’s Mansion

• Governor Siegleman and Family often visited New Hope Baptist Church even when he was not campaigning

• Clarke has personally and financially supported Don Siegleman in his political campaigns for Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor (twice)

• Clarke was asked by Lt. Governor Siegleman to open the Senate Session with prayer

• Pastor Clarke personally wrote a support letter to Judge Fuller on Gov. Siegleman’s behalf, and financially contributed to the Siegleman’s Legal Defense Fund

• Clarke and Gov. Siegleman maintained communication via mail while Siegleman was in custody in Oakdale, Louisiana

• Clarke and Siegleman are friends.

Clarke follows up with this alarming scenario, which certainly raises questions about Alice Martin and her motives:

Yes, I remember standing at the top of the stairway after the inaugural prayer, taking pictures with the Governor and his wife. The official photographer of that event was another strong Democratic Leader, Commissioner Chris McNair. Hmmmm! Who would have imagined that two of the four people in the picture and the person taking the picture would all be indicted by the same U.S. Attorney, Alice Martin.

I was a “three-fer”: 1. A strong and influential Democratic Supporter; 2. A Black Church Leader provides inroads for the IRS; 3. A Non-Profit Administrator that brought a lot of government money to the other side of the tracks. And it couldn’t hurt to prosecute me for taxes because it would scare away other clergy supporters so they wouldn’t support me like they did Richard Scrushy. Wow . . . Bush-Whacked and Martinized!

Clarke concludes with a passionate plea for his country to look skeptically at Alice Martin and country. As someone who has lost his job, almost certainly because of pressure connected to Alice Martin, I put serious stock in Clarke's words. I hope the public will listen to what he has to say:

Someone has to tell the story, that the biggest culprit of “Identify Theft” is the U.S. Government using unjust prosecutions and relentless persecutions to steal a person’s integrity, influence and income. Someone has to tell the story that the biggest terrorist threat to America is systematic elimination of political adversaries, community leaders and pastors. The perpetrators are masters of illusion and hide behind “executive privilege”, “judicial conspiracy” and “presidential pardons.” At the same time, victims like me, not as well known as Governor Siegelman or Richard Scrushy, are well “spent.” Some have or will spend time in prison, some spend most, if not all, of their life’s savings for legal defense and appeals, but we all will spend the rest of our lives trying to regain passion to do what we once did, for a country we loved. Someone has to tell the story.

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