'Civil Rights' Activists, DOJ Distort Reality in Death of Georgia Black Teen
Railroading innocent persons into prison, or extracting outsized cash settlements from them, is now a defining feature of what passes for civil rights in America. The possibility of such an outcome explains why Kendrick Johnson, a Valdosta, Georgia black teen who died in a freak accident at his high school nearly three years ago, has become a rallying symbol for “anti-racist” activists.
Johnson’s name isn’t as familiar as the late Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. But give it some time. From the start, the Johnson family and growing cadres of supporters have insisted, without evidence, that he was the victim of a racially-motivated murder and cover-up. They’ve convinced the U.S. Justice Department to search for the “killer” – and with methods that subvert due process. Demagogue Al Sharpton also has made his mark in a case that now resembles an orchestrated hoax.
The hash tag phrase “#Black Lives Matter” suddenly has become a meme among young blacks across the nation. Strictly speaking, it shouldn’t be controversial – all lives matter. But the campaign is far less about protecting innocent lives of any race than it is about conveying to the general public the impression that blacks are being systematically targeted for death by police, prosecutors and the media. Young black radicals, like their mentors, know the drill. They seize upon what appears to be a crime with racial overtones and then apply a double standard: 1) a white individual should be presumed guilty if the victim is black; and 2) a black individual suspected of, or charged with a crime should be presumed innocent if the victim is white. On a practical level, then, a presumption of innocence, the very basis of a functioning criminal justice system, ought to apply only to black defendants. Even if evidence overwhelmingly shows an accused white cop or civilian to be innocent (including clear-cut cases of self-defense) or an accused black to be guilty, the outcome of the case must affirm the preset storyline, “white racist, black victim.”
This mindset creates complications for our criminal justice system, which rests on the bedrock premise that evidence does matter. No rational grand jury is going to indict a white person for a crime simply because he or she is white. And no rational trial jury is going to convict a white person on the basis of his race either. Unfortunately, the Black Lives Matter movement is not rational. Possessed of racial identity aggression and push-button hysteria, its followers demand the arrest, indictment and incarceration of a white or group of whites for any unexplained death of a black. If such a result does not materialize, these activists may riot or incite others to do so. This is what happened in Baltimore in May following the funeral of a black career petty criminal, Freddie Gray, who had died several days after being taken into police custody (the riot ended when the black district attorney announced the hasty arrests of a half-dozen police officers, three of them white and three of them black). This is what happened in Ferguson, Missouri last November in the wake of the sensible refusal of a St. Louis County grand jury to indict a local white cop for the shooting death of an “unarmed” violent black attacker, Michael Brown. And this is what happened in July 2013 in Los Angeles and Oakland in the wake of the wholly justified refusal by a Florida state trial jury to convict a white neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, for defending himself with lethal force against a murderous black teen, Trayvon Martin.
This may be said to be the implicit definition of “civil rights” in this country for the last 50 years. Black race-baiters and their aggressive followers rarely waste an opportunity to make life miserable for anyone whom they deem racist. And whether out of habit or fear, many whites, especially those in positions of authority, reflexively accommodate them. This mentality, among other things, drove the highly-publicized, and false, prosecution of three white Duke University lacrosse players for their March 2006 “rape” of a local black female stripper at a party. The dice were loaded against the defendants. The politically ambitious Durham County, N.C. white district attorney, Michael Nifong, eager to win convictions and thus win favor with the heavily black electorate, brazenly cut ethical and legal corners. And campus administration and faculty, rather than defend the trio, displayed little but contempt. Yet when the evidence supporting the claims of the prosecution became increasingly suspect, the case collapsed. The black accuser, Crystal Mangum, who years later in 2013 would be found guilty in the second-degree murder of her boyfriend, had given highly conflicting stories to police. It was a hoax by any other name. Nifong would be removed from the case, slapped with ethics charges by the state bar association, and eventually disbarred. Yes, evidence does matter, regardless of mobs who demand that it shouldn’t.
At least one federal prosecutor seems to be afflicted with Nifong Syndrome. That would be Michael J. Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, who happens to be resigning today. He and his staff have done everything they can to transform the death of Kendrick Johnson from an accident into a crime. An objective investigation never would have allowed this case to morph into the witch hunt it has become. Moore, who is white, announced earlier this month that November 23 would be his last day in office. To the people caught in his dragnet, this day couldn’t have come soon enough. Karen Bell, the wife of veteran FBI agent Rick Bell, conveyed her sense of desperation in an interview with National Legal and Policy Center: “Michael Moore, along with Kendrick Johnson’s family and supporters, are doing everything they can to make life miserable for us. My family is hounded daily with online stalking and threats. All of this has resulted from Moore conducting an investigation that has no basis in fact.”
The focal point is Valdosta, a city of about 55,000 in Lowndes County, Georgia, in the state’s southern tier just north of Florida. What follows is a timeline narrative, derived from various published and unpublished sources, strongly pointing to Kendrick Johnson’s death as accidental. That is, it is highly improbably that his death was related to any crime, racially-motivated or not. Yet the U.S. Justice Department investigation apparently desires to nail guilty whites to the wall – any will do. If rule of law were the order of the day, this investigation never would have occurred.
It was Friday, January 11, 2013, a date unlike any other at Lowndes High School in Valdosta. On that afternoon, a macabre sight had been discovered in one of the gymnasiums: A student, Kendrick “KJ” Johnson, a 17-year-old black male, lay dead, upside down inside a six-foot-high stack of vertically-stored wrestling mats. A school surveillance camera – there are more than 40 throughout the 3,000-student campus – revealed that Johnson had entered the gym sometime during 1:23-1:30 P.M. for the purpose of retrieving a pair of shoes he thought he had left behind inside the rolled-up mats. Johnson, a three-sport athlete, would not live to see his mission accomplished. He fell headfirst into the mats and, unable to escape, suffocated. Within 24 hours of the body’s discovery, Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine announced that investigators had no reason to believe foul play was involved. A preliminary autopsy by the sheriff’s office indicated that Kendrick Johnson had died of positional asphyxia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Valdosta Police, after months of lab analysis and interviews with more than 100 persons, arrived at the same conclusion. Positional asphyxia – it was a hell of a way to go. The case was ruled an accident and officially closed that May.
Some people were determined not to believe this story. Foremost among them were Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, the parents of Kendrick Johnson. On Saturday, January 12, 2013 – just one day after their son’s death and months before the release of the final autopsy reports – the parents posted a video on YouTube, stating: “This had to be a cover-up, that rumor has it that there was some type of altercation on a school bus between a son of a GBI agent and KJ.” Far from being an accident, claimed family members and supporters, KJ was beaten to death. The Johnsons also accused the local sheriff’s department of failing to follow standard protocol, moving the body and mishandling evidence. It all was part of a cover-up, they asserted. Despite having no evidence to back up their claims, they were certain they had uncovered a conspiracy.
That day, the family hired black attorney Chevene King Jr. King alleged that had Kendrick been white, the investigation would have gone differently. Lt. Stryde Jones of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office disputed this claim. “Race never played into it,” said Jones. “The victim played into it. That’s who we’re working for –
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