REP. WILLIAM WAINWRIGHT, 64, DIES
The deputy Democratic minority leader of the NC House, state Representative William Wainwright, died Tuesday evening after a long illness.
He was 64.
Published reports indicate that Wainwright had been suffering from an illness for the past year. Recently, Wainwright has to be admitted to hospice care.
Wainwright, who served 11 terms in the NC House and formerly served as House speaker pro tem, represented the 12th District of Craven and Lenoir counties. He lived in Havelock, and was a minister.
House Democratic Minority Leader Joe Hackney said, "William Wainwright conducted his business at the General Assembly with as much passion as anyone I encountered during my time in office. He was a talented negotiator motivated only by what was best for the people of his district. He was speaker pro tem during my four years as speaker and deputy minority leader for our caucus for the past two years, but we have been friends for much longer. I will miss him.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
MURDER UP, OVERALL CRIME DOWN IN NC, SAYS ATTORNEY GENERAL
[RALEIGH] The good news the overall crime rate in North Carolina is the lowest it’s been since 1977, according to state Attorney General Roy Cooper. But the bad news is the murder rate rose by six percent in 2011. Still, Cooper called the state’s crime report “encouraging news,” but also cautioned lawmakers against further budget cuts to state law enforcement, which has seen as much as $31 million gone. Cooper warned that with the economy still struggling, crime could easily swing back up again.
OXFORD FIRE CHIEF RESIGNS AFTER DWI ARREST
Oxford Fire Chief Earnest Lee Bess is no longer on the job, thanks to being charged with driving while impaired last month. Bess had been chief since August 2010. Oxford Police Chief John Wolford will continue to serve as interim fire chief until a permanent replace can be found.
IRS DROPS NAVASSA W-2 FINE
[NAVASSA] Thanks to the work of congressmen Brad Miller and Mike McIntyre, the town of Navassa in Brunswick County no longer has to pay a $35,000 fine to the Internal Revenue Service for filing W-2 forms late in 2008. The IRS notified Navassa town officials last January that they were being assessed the penalty because of tardiness in filing. Officials say they were able to show the IRS why they were late, with the help of McIntyre and Miller’s offices.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
BUSES ON THE SHOULDER OF I-40 THIS WEEK
If you’re suck in traffic on I-40 in Durham County this week, and see a Triangle Transit Bus go by on the shoulder, don’t get jealous. This week a new pilot program called “Bus-on-shoulder” began in Durham County, where TT buses, going 35 miles per hour, are allowed take to the shoulder while motorists are stuck on the highway. It is illegal for cars and trucks to use the shoulders. NC DOT is monitoring how well the pilot program works.
MANGUM TO APPEAR IN “WIVES WITH KNIVES” DISCOVERY TV SERIES
The woman made infamous for her Duke Lacrosse rape allegations has given an interview to the Investigation Discovery Channel about how she killed her boyfriend for series titled, “Wives With Knives.” Crystal Magnum, 33, interviewed with a TV production company in June, according to published reports. Magnum is in jail, waiting to stand trial for the April 2011 stabbing death of Reginald Daye. Magnum maintains it was self-defense. The interview is expected to air sometime in November.
FORMER NCCU CHANCELLOR RESIGNS FROM FLORIDA A&M AMID SCANDAL
James Ammons, who served as chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham in 2006 during the Duke Lacrosse alleged rape scandal, has now resigned as president of Florida A&M University in the wake of the alleged hazing death of a school drum major. The trustee board had given Ammons a vote of no confidence per his handling of scandal surrounding the death of marching band member Robert Champion last November. Champion’s parents have sued the university. Ammons’ resignation is effective immediately.-30
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
TOM AND KATE - Yes, you’re reading right. Normally I would care less about a prominent celebrity couple divorcing. But the Tom Cruise - Katie Holmes recent divorce is interesting because, once again, it’s clear that no matter how successful Cruise is at the box office, Hollywood doesn’t like him very much.
Part of it may be Cruise’s legendary arrogance. Part of it is his membership in the religion Scientology.
Never have I seen folks cheer a divorcing wife on, as they have Katie Holmes in her legal maneuvering to nail Cruise for everything she wanted.
It’s rather sad to see folks cheering the breakup of a family, but apparently, if we’re to believe what we’re hearing,
Cruise was allegedly an authoritative husband that Holmes had had enough of.
What’s more disheartening is how the breakup is prime fodder for the press. Indeed, Cruise has already threatened to sue the National Enquirer over one story its published already about the divorce, and he’s famous for taking reporters to court for stories that cast shadows over his Scientology membership, and even his sexuality.
Meanwhile, Katie Holmes seems to have planned the divorce down to the last detail, getting full custody of her world famous little daughter, Suri. Both have been seen in and around New York City, and Holmes has recently become a member of a local Catholic church, signaling her gloriously leaving Scientology.
So expect the Tom and Kate story to continue. The yellow press, like Entertainment Tonight and TMZ, will be looking to dig up any dirt they can to prolong the story, and keep the headlines.
JONES SPEAKS OUT - I love actor James Earl Jones. His trademark voice, legendary in the Star Wars trilogy as “Darth Vader,” and “The Lion King” is recognized around the world (if not the solar system). His performances in films like “Claudine” and “Patriot Games” prove that Jones is a singular actor.
Indeed, recently I tracked down and purchased a copy of the 1972 film, “The Man,” starring Jones as the first black president of the United States. It ran as an “ABC Movie of the Week,” in the age of Pres. Obama, is interesting to watch, given all the real first black president is going through.
The one thing I’ve always found unique about James Earl Jones is his bluntness. There are times he’s said things about African-Americans that have made me cringe.
But now, it seems that Brother Jones has seen enough since we’ve elected a black president, and the Republicans have taken over Congress.
Indeed, he’s seen enough to call the right-wing out.
“I think I have figured out the Tea Party,” Jones told Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel Wets on their public radio program last week. “I think I do understand racism because I was taught to be one by my grandmother. My grandmother was part [tribal affiliation] Indian part black, she hated everybody and she taught all of her children and grandchildren to be racist to hate white people and to distrust black people.”
Jones added, “I think I know what racism is better than anyone who has ever been a racist.”
Needless to say, the Tea Party folks weren’t pleased. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest Tea Party groups in the nation, replied that Jones owes the movement an apology, further adding that the actor is, “ playing the politics of division and deceit.”
Well, Mr. Jones, you may have confused the hell out of me in the past, but you’ve come through crystal clear now, my man. May GOD bless you, and watch your back.
ROMNEY AT THE NAACP CONVENTION - To be blunt, I give GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney credit for showing up at the NAACP Convention in Houston, Texas last week. I also give him credit for being gracious, and showing respect where required. Look at his intro and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
But that’s where the credit ends. Clearly Romney wanted to send a message to black America - “It’s either my way or the highway” when it comes to this election. Yes, of course he should promote his policies, and what people should expect from a “President” Romney administration. He has every right to plead his case.
But it was also clear that Romney was, at the very least, insincere about his “concerns” regarding black unemployment and improving education in the black community. And it was for that insincerity that many in the NAACP Convention audience nailed his Bain Capital behind with boos after boos.
So there, Mr. Romney has had his say to Black America. We listened, and we said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
92 percent of us, the polls show, have no intention of voting for the man this November.
But thanks for coming, Mitt. Good luck in the future!
SUPPORT THE W-10 PARDON PROJECT - Support is slowly but surely building for the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project from not only across the nation, but around the world.
For the record, I am the coordinator for the project, which is sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association of Washington, D.C. Support is building, and more people are signing on, asking Gov. Beverly Perdue to declare all ten of the Wilmington Ten actually innocent of the charges they were falsely convicted of forty years ago.
One of the things we’re working on is our online presence. The first is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheWilmingtonTenPardonOfInnocenceProject. There you get history, pictures, videos, comments and links connecting you further to the Wilmington Ten case.
Then there is the online petition that was setup by Susie Kenney Edwards of Cary for the cause. It allows you to add your name to others, urging Gov. Beverly Perdue to “pardon the Wilmington Ten” - https://www.change.org/petitions/nc-governor-bev-perdue-pardon-the-wilmington-10.
Thus far, we have over 440 signatures. We are working towards 100,000, if not more.
Please visit these sites, join the team, and let’s all stand for justice. Forty years is too long for injustice to reign.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.
DEMOCRATS WEIGH STATE OF NC PRESIDENTIAL RACE
By Cash Michaels
Just four months out from the crucial November 6th presidential race, and less than two months from the historic Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the NC Democratic Party, embroiled in turmoil in recent months with poor fundraising, a sex scandal and leadership controversies, says there’s a ray of hope in the top of the ticket race between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, the state Republican Party maintains in a new video that Pres. Obama and Gov. Beverly Perdue are responsible for North Carolina’s poor employment picture, and predict that voters here will elect Romney as the next president, and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory as the new governor.
North Carolina is considered a key swing state for both the Obama and Romney campaigns, most political observers agree. In 2008 during his first presidential campaign, then Sen. Barack Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 over Republican Sen. John McCain, going on to win the presidency.
According to a recent memo by Walter Robinson, Communications Director for the NC Democratic Party, despite a bad economy and struggling jobs picture, Pres. Obama is still very much in the hunt to win the Tar Heel state.
“After a slight shift in public opinion toward Governor Romney following his emergence as his party’s consensus nominee, several recent polls have shown a shift back toward President Obama, including a Public Policy Polling poll (7/5-7/8) that found the president with a one-point lead; an NBC News/Marist poll (6/24-6/25) that found the president leading Romney by two points; and even a Rasmussen poll (6/25) that found a five-point decline for Romney from the previous month,” writes Robinson. “In fact, the stability of the head-to-head matchup in our state has been remarkable - in the 22 two-way polls conducted by Public Policy Polling since November 2010, neither candidate has led by more than five points.”
In Democrat Robinson’s view, “…these numbers expose the frailty of Romney’s campaign strategy in North Carolina.”
“Instead of building a grassroots organization from the bottom up, the Romney campaign has employed a primary-style strategy of carpet-bombing voters from above with paid media, the majority of it financed by Super PACs (Political Action Committees) such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity,” Robinson says.
“A recent analysis by the National Journal found that Romney and his allies spent over $10.25 million in North Carolina between May 1 and June 20—about 60 percent of it by Super PACs. By comparison, the Obama campaign spent just $8.1 million in the state over the same period, all of it from official accounts,” says Robinson.
“The fact that the race remains deadlocked despite this barrage of paid media should be cause for concern within the Romney camp,” Robinson continues. “While Romney has relied on a Super PAC-funded airwaves blitz, the President has been building an unprecedented statewide organization of volunteers and staff who are working to expand the electorate, talk to voters, and prepare for an aggressive voter turnout operation. Already, Obama for America-NC has opened offices in every region of the state that are fully staffed with field staff and volunteers.”
“In contrast,” Robinson says, “the RNC has just recently opened offices in conjunction with Romney campaign. They appear to be minimally staffed and their field operations have been minimal to nonexistent. In a race that will be won in the margins, OFA-NC has been building an organization that will out-perform a top-heavy, sluggish Republican campaign.”
Robinson also states that what’s seen by some as Republican Romney’s one possible advantage over Pres. Obama, apparently isn’t working in North Carolina.
“Recent polls …demonstrate that Romney’s core message—that his business experience qualifies him to be President—isn’t sticking with North Carolina voters,” says Robinson. “After losing thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent decades, voters react especially strongly when they learn about Romney’s record as an outsourcing pioneer at Bain Capital. Tuesday’s PPP poll showed 29% of voters think Romney's work at Bain is a positive, while 40% of voters react negatively. That’s an 11-point net negative on the central feature of Romney’s resume.”
Robinson notes that beyond the campaign dynamics, North Carolina’s changing demographics seem to favor the president.
“As a recent article in The New Republic points out, the number of eligible minority voters has increased in the state, while white voters (both college and non-college) have declined,” writes Robinson. “Couple this with the enthusiasm gap the Republicans are facing over their lackluster nominee, and the president’s grassroots campaign has an electoral advantage for what is widely expected be another in-the-margins election.”
Robinson looks ahead for the next four months, and makes a prediction.
“The election will not be won or lost on paid media. Despite Romney and his SuperPAC allies outspending the President’s campaign in the state, Romney’s poll numbers continue to slide. And once both campaigns reach the saturation point, the contest will become one of earned media and field organization. North Carolina voters will look to trusted validators to help guide their decision—to neighbors, friends, community leaders, and local newspapers and television news. With the extensive grassroots organization the president’s campaign has built as well as the aggressive earned media program that both the Democratic Party and OFA-NC have run over the past months and years, this is a fight that [Democrats] are prepared to have.”
“This leads to my final point,” writes Robinson. “The President remains in a strong position to win North Carolina. Winning isn’t going to be easy and will require weathering an unprecedented barrage of third party support for Romney between now and Election Day. But, as this campaign enters its final months, we remain confident in the groundwork that’s been laid since the 2008 election, and both the North Carolina Democratic Party and OFA-NC will continue working to keep North Carolina blue in 2012.”
The NC Republican Party begs to differ.
NC GOP Chairman Robin Hayes says on the party website, “President Obama and Governor Perdue have failed North Carolina since their election in 2008. They support raising taxes, bigger government, and have both been plagued by numerous scandals. This November, voters in North Carolina will choose to make President Obama a one-term President, and they won’t elect Walter ‘Bev Part 2’ Dalton [s governor].
Chairman Hayes continued, “North Carolina has a long and proud tradition of making champions. We will elect leaders like Mitt Romney, Pat McCrory, and Republicans up and down the ticket who will champion job creation and economic growth. This November, we look forward to coloring North Carolina Republican Red on the electoral map.”
THE WILMINGTON TEN: 40 YEARS OF LOSS AND STRUGGLE - PART 1
By Cash Michaels
Editor’s note - There is no question that the false prosecution forty years of the nine young black men and one white woman who would become widely known as the “Wilmington Ten,” dramatically impacted their lives, as well as those of their families and loved ones.
Most of the defendants were young, some barely in their twenties, when they were convicted in 1972 of crimes they didn’t commit.
Some were still in high school, and living with their parents.
At least one, Anne Shepard, was raising three young children at the time.
Most of them had dreams of bright, hope-filled futures. Some wanted to practice law. Some wanted to play professional sports.
And some were already musicians, looking for their first really big break.
Their only collective “crime,”they each individually say, was their willingness to openly, but peacefully, challenge the New Hanover County Public School System in the early 1970s when it declined to provide an equal, quality education to black students.
Because of their individual courage, and commitment to equality, the Wilmington Ten suffered false prosecution, years of imprisonment and great personal hardships for themselves and their families. The collective impact for all of them has extended decades beyond their release from prison, and well after a federal appellate court overturned their convictions.
Three of the Wilmington Ten - Jerry Jacobs, William Joseph Wright and Anne Shepard - have died, their dreams unfulfilled, according to their bereaved families.
In all, the lives of the Wilmington Ten have been marked by struggle, hardship and indignities they otherwise would not have experienced if the state of North Carolina, forty years ago, had not sought to punish them for their political activism, and willingness to demand social change.
Today, forty years later, the Wilmington Ten and their families seek individual pardons of innocence from the State of North Carolina for crimes they didn’t commit. But even pardons cannot erase the pain and struggle they’ve all endured.
In part 1 of this three-part series, we look at the lives of Jerry Jacobs, William “Joe” Wright, Jr. and Willie “Earl” Vereen.
According to his mother, Mrs. Margaret Jacobs of Wilmington, Jerry, age 19 at the time of his arrest in the Wilmington Ten case, was a happy, “real lovable” person who got along with everyone, and never got into trouble.
He was a good student at Williston High - the all-black school that was closed in 1968 amid protests - and had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player, and a doctor. “My phone would ring off the hook with doctors looking to play tennis with him,” Ms. Jacobs recalls.
When Williston was closed, Jerry was, as were many other black students, “very upset,” his mother recalls. He joined the protests.
Jerry never got into trouble (”I was very strict on that”), and didn’t believe in violence. So when he was arrested at home (“The police came and got him out of bed,” Ms. Jacobs recalls when her son was arrested in front of her) and accused in the Wilmington Ten case, Ms. Jacobs, knowing that he was innocent, was “very worried.”
So worried, in fact, that she became ill (“It tore me apart), which became a heavy burden on Jerry.
Mrs. Jacobs was increasingly upset when she attended the trial, saw the majority white jury, and heard the later recanted testimony of Allen Hall and other state’s witnesses.
The whole experience was very troubling, she said, not only for herself, but for Jerry’s siblings as well. “It affected them real bad,” she said. “Jerry had never been in trouble.”
Jerry Jacobs was sentenced to 29 years in prison. The Wilmington Ten experience interrupted his education.
“It turned his world upside down when he couldn’t graduate,” Mrs. Jacobs said. “I have seven children, and he’s the only one who didn’t graduate from high school because of the Wilmington Ten situation. Jerry’s love for tennis disappeared as well.”
“His whole world just came tumbling down,” she says.
During his time in prison, Jerry would write his mother letters, and when he could, call her on the telephone.
It was difficult for Mrs. Jacobs to travel the many miles to see her son because with six other children to raise on her own, she was working three jobs to survive. But when she did make it to see Jerry, he was very happy.
“Oh, he would grab me and wouldn’t let go,” she recalls. “And we both just cried and cried.”
After Jerry was early released from prison and went back home to Wilmington, he couldn’t find a job, and was shunned by the community, so much so that he felt his life was in danger. He left to live in New York City.
But Jerry didn’t stay long, his mother says. Jerry got mixed up with the wrong crowd, began taking drugs. He came back to Wilmington in bad shape, arm swollen and strung out. Mrs. Jacobs said Jerry later had a stroke. At the hospital, doctors told his mother he had also contracted the AIDS virus because of bad needlesUNI.
“That’s what killed him,” she says sadly of Jerry’s death in 1989. “That’s what destroyed him.”
If Margaret Jacobs could speak to Gov. Beverly Perdue face-to-face, and tell her why her son, Jerry Jacobs, deserves a pardon of innocence posthumously from the state of North Carolina, she would say, “I don’t think he was guilty.” Mrs. Jacobs would tell the governor of the hardships Jerry went through, and that when he died, he was a “hurt man, never the same,” and the false prosecution by the state changed Jerry’s life forever.
“Yes it did,” Mrs. Jacobs laments. “Yes it did. He probably would have been living today.”
WILLIAM “JOE” WRIGHT, JR.
William Gibbs remembers his late brother, Joe Wright, as a “very, very congenial fellow who brought people to common understanding, and very much a young leader.”
Gibbs says the conspiracy charges leveled against Joe and the other members of the Wilmington Ten were “totally out of character” for them. “Joe and a lot of those guys wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Gibbs says. The 17 year-old Wright wanted to grow up to become a lawyer, and was willing to put in the hard work to make that happen.
Gregory Congregational United Church of Christ was right in the neighborhood, so it was nothing for Joe, his friends and family to frequent there from time to time. And when it became the center of black student activism against the heavy-handed ways of the New Hanover Board of Education and the city of Wilmington, Joe was right there, learning how to protest and demonstrate forcefully, but peacefully. And he looked up to Rev. Ben Chavis when he arrived.
Joe had nothing to do with the events of Feb. 6, 1971, William Gibb maintains, but a year later, when authorities began arresting people and charging them with the firebombing of Mike’s Grocery, Joe was not surprised, because of his activism, that he was among them.
But his family was surprised, and worried. They knew Joe didn’t even know how to fire a gun, Gibbs said, let alone burn down a building.
Joe was arrested “because he was listed as a leader,” his brother says.
When the case went to trial, Gibbs says it was very clear that all of the Wilmington Ten were being set up. “We knew what was coming down the pike,” Gibbs said, having attended the trial. The family was distraught, knowing that it wouldn’t end well, and Joe would be sent to prison. He was sentenced to 29 years.
And when Joe got to prison in Northhampton County, Gibbs is amazed how he was able to survive, but Joe did so by “keeping his head up, knowing that one day, the truth will be shown, and one day, they would all get out.”
The family made the long trek from Wilmington to Northhampton County as much as they could. Joe was always pleased to see them, and assured them that they would be all together again back home.
The ordeal took a toll on their mother, Gibbs said. Even though she was a strong woman raising five children, the worry about Joe was heavy.
Joe’s time in prison “definitely cost him,” Gibbs says. But Joe also used that time to be productive, taking classes to prepare for the day when he would leave, and work towards getting his law degree.
“You never heard him cry,” Gibbs says.
When Joe Wright was finally released early in 1978, unlike several other members of the Wilmington Ten, he was relatively accepted back. He was able to return to school, find work, and even get a job with a United States congressman in Washington, D.C..
Joe was working diligently towards his goal of going to law school, when suddenly, he became ill.
He had contracted a debilitating disease that attached itself to his lungs while he was in prison. As Joe got older, the disease got worse.
William “Joe” Wright died in 1991.
A week before his death, Joe was accepted to Campbell Law School. There is no question in William Gibbs’ mind that his brother would have lived to see his dream of practicing law into fruition, had it not been for the Wilmington Ten case.
The death was a tremendous shock to the family, Gibbs agrees.
After all he had been through, Joe Wright still had promise, and was still willing to make a positive contribution.
If William Gibbs could speak to Gov. Perdue about why his late brother deserves a pardon of innocence from the state of North Carolina, beyond the fact that Joe Wright was innocent, Gibbs would say, “ I believe you [Gov. Perdue] to be a fair and just citizen of this state. And if this had happened to a member of your family, especially a close member, a brother…and he was wrongly accused and had gone through what [Joe] had gone through, to the point of something that led to his death, you would want this for [him].”
Gibbs added, “It would be the right thing to do.”
WILLIE EARL VEREEN
Willie Vereen was a young 17-year-old musician, playing in a rhythm & blues band. He told his family he wanted to be lawyer or a doctor. His older sister was the political one, not him. He grew up in Jervay Projects in Wilmington, which meant Willie hung out with his friends late, “drank a little wine,” and basically just had fun.
So how did Willie Vereen not only get involved with the black student movement, but ultimately fingered as a co-conspirator in a serious crime that he did not commit?
A student of Hoggard High - one of the integrated schools where African-American students wer being mistreated after all-black Williston High was closed - Vereen found himself in the midst of a black student boycott one day. That boycott led to him joining other students who met and strategized at Gregory Church. Willie understood what the boycott was about, but he was mainly there “because of the girls,” testament that the farthest thing on his young mind was shooting or firebombing.
Indeed, when the authorities came looking for a “W. Vereen,” Willie believes they were looking for his activist sister, Wanda, instead of him. Thus, the shock upon shock when authorities arrested him a year after the Mike’s Grocery fire, and charged him as a conspirator.
In fact, Vereen was so far removed from the student activists, that when police arrested him and asked about Ben Chavis, Vereen couldn’t tell them much.
He didn’t know Chavis well at all.
Vereen’s father was stunned by the arrest. His mother couldn’t understand what was going on. Both were very hurt, but believed Willie when he told them he was innocent of the charges.
And when the trial began, his sister Wanda “cried real hard,” because she knew he wasn’t politically active.
Vereen was tried and convicted, partly because tainted witness Allen Hall fingered him, and partly because Vereen refused to lie about Ben Chavis as the police wanted him too.
Watching the trial, while Vereen could see the deck was being stacked against him by the prosecutors, Willie still held out hope that all he had been taught about trusting authority figures, and trusting government, would save him and fellow Wilmington Ten defendant James McKoy in the end.
Why McKoy? Because on the night that Mike’s Grocery had been firebombed, both teens were at the same club, at the same time, outside of Wilmington, performing in a band.
When they were all convicted, Vereen says he immediately lost that faith in government, because authorities, he saw, didn’t even bother to seek the truth.
Vereen was sentenced to a total of 29 years.
“ I felt like something was taken out of me,” Vereen remembers now. “I felt like I was lost. Like a man without a country.”
His family screamed in the courtroom. “They were infuriated,” Vereen recalls.
The ordeal changed the course of history for young Willie. Dreams of his grandmother paying his way through college so he could become a doctor or lawyer were now dust. He had to figure out how to survive incarceration for the next thirty years.
In prison, Vereen joined the Nation of Islam after converting to Islam. “It took a lot of anger away from me,” he recalls.
Thanks to mounting pressure on then Gov. Jim Hunt to reduce the sentences of the Wilmington Ten, Vereen spent a total of five years in prison before he was released early, but he was not received very well when he went back home.
When it came to applying for jobs, Vereen would get the work, only to have someone recognize him as a member of the Ten, and get him fired. Old friends wanted nothing to do with him. The church he attended felt that Vereen was guilty, he says.
Vereen did go to school for journalism, and was able to do well in that environment, but it was a rare oasis amid everything else he faced.
There is no question that the Wilmington Ten case turned his life around for the bad, Vereen says. He’s “mostly paranoid now, and mostly stays at home.” His fiancée’, Gail, watches out for him now.
Willie Earl Vereen says if given the opportunity to speak with Gov. Perdue face-to-face, and tell her why he deserves a pardon of innocence from the state of North Carolina, he would tell her, “ I deserve a pardon because my life was conspired against. I was charged, tried, convicted for crimes that I did not commit. Read the transcript, and you will see.”
“Out of all love, and respect, I feel that we deserve a pardon, and compensation,” says Vereen.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REACHES SETTLEMENT WITHRESULTING IN MORE THAN $175 MILLION IN RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS TO RESOLVE FAIR LENDING CLAIMS
African-American and Hispanic Borrowers Who Qualified for Loans and Were Charged Higher Fees or Rates or Were Improperly Placed into
Are Eligible for Compensation
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today filed the second largest fair lending settlement in the department’s history to resolve allegations that Wells Fargo Bank, the largest residential home mortgage originator in the United States, engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in its mortgage lending from 2004 through 2009.
The settlement provides $125 million in compensation for wholesale borrowers who were steered into subprime mortgages or who paid higher fees and rates than white borrowers because of their race or national origin. Wells Fargo will also provide $50 million in direct down payment assistance to borrowers in communities around the country where the department identified large numbers of discrimination victims and which were hard hit by the housing crisis.
Additionally, Wells Fargo has agreed to conduct an internal review of its retail mortgage lending and will compensate African-American and Hispanic retail borrowers who were placed into subprime loans when similarly qualified white retail borrowers received prime loans. Compensation paid to any retail borrowers identified in the review process will be in addition to the $125 million to compensate wholesale borrowers who were victims of discrimination.
“The department’s action makes clear that we will hold financial institutions accountable, including some of the nation’s largest, for lending discrimination,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “An applicant’s creditworthiness, and not the color of his or her skin, should determine what loans a borrower qualifies for. With today’s settlement, the federal government will ensure that African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against will be entitled to compensation and borrowers in communities hit hard by this housing crisis will have an opportunity to access homeownership.”
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in conjunction with the department’s complaint, which alleges that between 2004 and 2008, Wells Fargo discriminated by steering approximately 4,000 African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers, as well as additional retail borrowers, into subprime mortgages when non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans. All the borrowers who were allegedly discriminated against were qualified for Wells Fargo mortgage loans according to Well Fargo’s own underwriting criteria.
The United States also alleges that, between 2004 and 2009, Wells Fargo discriminated by charging approximately 30,000 African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers higher fees and rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers because of their race or national origin rather than the borrowers’ credit worthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk.
“By reaching a settlement in this case, African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers who received subprime loans when they should have received prime loans or who paid more for their loans will get swift and meaningful relief,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “As one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country, Wells Fargo’s commitment to conduct an internal review of its retail lending and compensate African American and Hispanic retail borrowers who may have been improperly placed in subprime loans is significant. We will continue to work aggressively to ensure that all qualified borrowers have access to credit on an equal basis.”
The United States’ complaint alleges that African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers paid more than non-Hispanic white wholesale borrowers, not based on borrower risk, but because of their race or national origin. Wells Fargo’s business practice allowed its loan officers and mortgage brokers to vary a loan’s interest rate and other fees from the price it set based on the borrower’s objective credit-related factors. This subjective and unguided pricing discretion resulted in African-American and Hispanic borrowers paying more. The complaint alleges that Wells Fargo was aware the fees and interest rates it was charging discriminated against African-American and Hispanic borrowers, but the actions it took were insufficient and ineffective in stopping it.
The United States’ complaint also alleges that, as a result of Wells Fargo’s policies and practices, qualified African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers were placed in subprime loans rather than prime loans even when similarly-qualified non-Hispanic white borrowers were placed in prime loans. The discriminatory placement of wholesale borrowers in subprime loans, also known as “steering,” occurred because it was the bank’s business practice to allow mortgage brokers and employees to place a loan applicant in a subprime loan even when the applicant qualified for a prime loan. In addition, Wells Fargo gave mortgage brokers discretion to request exceptions to the underwriting guidelines, and Wells Fargo’s employees had discretion to grant these exceptions.
This is the second time that the Justice Department has alleged and obtained relief for borrowers who were steered into loans based on race or national origin, a practice that systematically placed borrowers of color into subprime mortgage loan products while placing non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar creditworthiness in prime loans. By steering borrowers into subprime loans from 2004 to 2008, the complaint alleges, Wells Fargo harmed those qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Subprime loans generally carried higher-cost terms, such as prepayment penalties and adjustable interest rates that started with low initial teaser rates, and then increased significantly after two or three years, often making the payments unaffordable and leaving the borrowers at a much higher risk of default or foreclosure.
The department began its investigation into Wells Fargo’s lending practices in 2009 and received a referral in 2010 from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) which conducted its own parallel investigation of Wells Fargo’s lending practices in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas. The OCC found that there was reason to believe that Wells Fargo engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in these metro areas on the basis of race or color, in violation of the FHA and ECOA.
This case was prosecuted by the Fair Lending Unit in the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Since the attorney general established the unit in early 2010, it has filed a complaint in or resolved 19 matters. By way of contrast, from 1993 to 2008, the department filed or resolved 37 lending matters, an average of a little more than two cases per year.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). President Obama established the interagency FFETF to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
A copy of the complaint and proposed settlement order, as well as additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Justice Department, can be obtained from the Justice Department website at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.
The proposed settlement provides for an independent administrator to contact and distribute payments of compensation at no cost to borrowers whom the Justice Department identifies as victims of Wells Fargo’s discrimination. The department will make a public announcement and post contact information on its website once an administrator is chosen. Borrowers who are eligible for compensation from the settlement will then be contacted by the administrator. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of lending discrimination by Wells Fargo and have questions about the settlement may email the department at email@example.com.
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RALEIGH-APEX NAACP PRESIDENT GRADUATES