Injustice Anywhere

In the final chapter of Unwritten Truce, Remaining Challenges, I briefly discuss the murder of Army Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III. Collins was stabbed to death in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 20, 2017. Richard Urbanski, a 24 year old University of Maryland student and an apparent white nationalist allegedly stabbed Collins to death for failing to vacate the side walk. Collins, a recent Army ROTC Commissionee, and two friends were departing the University of Maryland when Urbanski approached the group saying, “Step left, step left. If you know what’s good for you, you will step left.” According to police charging documents, Collins wouldn’t move, Urbanski pulled a knife and stabbed Collins, killing him. Police said the attack was unprovoked and that the two men did not know each other. The stabbing was caught on a surveillance camera.

After some investigating authorities discovered that Urbanski belonged to a right-wing group on Facebook called Alt-Reich: Nation, that shared hateful imagery. Brennan and McKenna have argued in earlier motions that the judge should bar prosecutors from introducing “certain cartoon images and a group message survey extracted from his cellular phone,” as well as discussions on his now deleted “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook page. In another motion filed in October to dismiss the Maryland hate crime charges, Brennan and McKenna stated the postings “are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible. The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime,” the defense argued.

WTOP FM Radio Station 103.5, Chevy Chase, Maryland, reported on Monday March 25, 2019 that the FBI decided not pursue federal hate crime charges against Richard Urbanski. Dave Fitz, a spokesman for the Maryland Regional FBI Office in Baltimore, said he could not comment on the matter other than to say that, “From the beginning, we were asked to provide technical assistance to our law enforcement partners, and we’ve provided that assistance.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland declined to comment. Urbanski was charged with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime resulting in death. The state of Maryland has hate crime laws on the books and will pursue hate crime charges at the state level in addition to murder charges against Urbanski. In their motion, Brennan and McKenna write under Maryland’s hate crime statute “only speech actually connected to the offense should be used as evidence of motivation.” “Generalized evidence concerning the defendant’s racial views is not sufficient to meet this test,” according to the defense. Lawyers for Urbanski have been seeking two separate trials for their client — one trial for first-degree murder, which in Maryland carries a top sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole, and one trial for the hate crime, which carries a maximum of 20 years behind bars.

Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks countered motion by arguing the evidence “tends to prove a material fact, that is, that the Defendant purposefully chose to stab Mr. Collins, over anyone else at the bus stop that night, because Mr. Collins is an African American.” For a first-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove premeditation, but not motive. However, jurors may consider motive in determining guilt or innocence, or choosing between first-and second-degree murder. “Motive is an essential element that the State must prove in order to secure a conviction under the hate crime statute,” Alsobrooks wrote. Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. scheduled a motion hearing for the case May 30, and the trial for July 22-29. Collins, was days away from his college graduation from Bowie State University at the time of his murder.

The head-scratching decision of the FBI is consistent with an earlier decision by the FBI not to prefer Federal Hate Crime Charges against Jeremy Christian. You may recall Christian made national headlines when he allegedly killed Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best aboard a Portland Oregon MAX Train. Several witnesses stated Christian stabbed both men in the neck as well as a third passenger, Micah Fletcher. Fletcher survived his wounds Namakai-Meche, Best, and Fletcher were protecting two teenaged girls, one who is Muslim was dressed in a hijab, and the other was a sixteen-year-old black girl. Witnesses report Christian was berating the two girls with anti-Muslim and racist language when the three men came to their defense, forming a wall between Christian and the girls. The attack occurred just six days after Collins’ slaying, and was captured on surveillance camera. President Trump’s only response to the incident was a tweet issued three days after the Portland attack. President Trump tweeted, “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the post was, “definitely a positive development,” but added on Skype later that, “It’s really not enough.” President Trump did not direct the Department of Justice to look into any of the killings as has been the precedent of previous Commander’s in Chief to use every available federal asset to investigate and prosecute heinous crimes of national notoriety perpetrated against U.S. Citizens in a protected status. J.F.K did it in 1963 when he federalized the Alabama National Guard so that black students admitted to the University of Alabama could gain entrance to the University. Dwight Eisenhower did it in 1953 when he sent the 101st Air Borne to Little Rock, Arkansas to allow black school children to integrate Arkansas schools safely when segregationist attempted to block their entrance to Arkansas’ Central High School. George H.W. Bush directed to the DOJ to investigate the beating of Rodney King Jr. in 1991, which led to Civil Rights convections of four L.A. Policemen. President Clinton directed the DOJ to investigate the death of James Byrd in 1998 when Byrd was chained to a truck and dragged to death. Clinton’s efforts resulted in death sentences for two of the three convicted defendants, Russell Brewer and John William King. Brewer was executed in Texas on September 21, 2011. King remains on death row. Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

Harry S. Truman directed the DOJ to investigate the blinding of Sergeant Isaac Woodard in 1946 and on July 25, 1946, he directed the DOJ to investigate the quadruple murder of four black sharecroppers by a racist mob in Monroe, GA. George Dorsey his pregnant wife Mae and, their neighbors, Roger and Dorothy Malcolm were tortured and lynched in an extra-judicial quadruple murder. George was a returning U.S. Army World War II Veteran. Truman was so incensed by the senseless violence being perpetrated against Black Americans that he appointed a Presidential Commission to study the problem of unequal protection under the law. Truman adopted 10 of the commission’s findings, one of which was the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces. In 2019 under represented communities are less safe than they have been in recent memory. FBI statistics reveal a 17% increase in hate crimes for 2017. The U.S. cannot point out human rights violations abroad, while ignoring human rights violations at home. It’s time for the Trump Administration to stop protecting the sensibilities of some Americans and start protecting the lives of all Americans.

Troy Mosley, author of Unwritten Truce: the Armed Forces and American Social Justice

Why?

The world is mourning the death of 50 men, women, and children, murdered by a right wing extremist in New Zeeland. In 2018, 50 people in the U.S. were killed as a result of hate crimes- all committed by right wing extremists. One U.S. President addressed the spread of racial hatred and divisiveness like this: “Today, however, some of our citizens are still denied equal opportunity for education, jobs, and economic advancement and for the expression of their views at the polls. Most serious of all, some are denied equal protection under laws”- Harry S. Truman, January 7, 1947.

Sadly, what was true in 1947 is still largely true today, perhaps not in degree but in kind. No other case illustrates this more clearly than that of Crystal Mason, a 43 year old mother of 3. Mason voted in the 2016 Presidential election while serving probation, but it is against Texas state law to vote while on probation. She was sentenced to 5 years in prison for voter fraud. Mason maintains that no one told her she couldn’t vote while on probation, nor did she sign anything stating she couldn’t vote. Mason failed to read the fine print on a write-in ballot she completed when she reported to her normal polling place and found her name was not listed on the rolls. In contrast, Terri Lynn Rote, a 56 year old white woman, was sentenced to only 2 years probation and a $750 fine for voting twice for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election—a blatantly illegal instance of voter fraud. It’s hard to believe that race didn’t factor into these wildly different sentences. Mason was sentenced to 5 years in prison for one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in 2011. Mason received the sentence for her part in a tax preparation scheme where she artificially inflated tax returns for clients from 2005 – 2008. Mason was ordered to pay $4,206,805 in restitution as a part of her original felony conviction that set her up for the voter fraud charge for which she is currently serving.

Another disturbing contrast in sentencing black and white convicts is between Paul Manafort, the former Trump Campaign Chairman, and black Louisiana Congressman Bill Jefferson. Earlier this month, Manafort was sentenced to 4 years (47 months) for 8 counts of felony financial fraud and tax evasion, and ordered to pay $25 million in restitution for over $55 million in income he hid in overseas bank accounts. The sentencing guideline for his case was 14 to 25 years. Judge T.S. Ellis reported that he believed the guideline was excessive, even as he noted that Manafort had never apologized for his crimes. Ellis must have had a change of heart in the face of Manafort’s overwhelming remorse because he sentenced Jefferson to 13 years in prison for bribes totaling between $400,000 and $1 million. Jefferson’s was the longest sentence ever given to a U.S. Congressman. In a second trial, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to another 43 months for conspiracy against the United States and witness tampering. Still, Manafort’s total sentence amounts to just over half of Jefferson’s.

One could argue these cases and the disparities in sentencing are anecdotal, but in aggregate such discrepancies contribute to the “19.1 percent more prison time black men receive than similarly situated white felons, even after adjusting for prior criminal history, violence, and plea bargains.” reported Elie Mystal. Sherrilyn Ifill, Director of the NAACP legal Defense Fund has been lobbying Congress for years to provide implicit bias training for federal judges. Ifill states, “Some judges are biased and don’t know, some are biased and would improve if things were explained to them.” She maintains we live in an era where predictive analytics are so good we can tell you if the right fielder for the Yankees is likely to pull the ball with an O-2 count, but we can’t seem to tell with statistical probability if a judge who has been sitting on the federal bench for 30 years has an implicit bias.

One thing is certain, America is embroiled in a political and cultural clash. Tom Brokaw was very candid in sharing with the world that many Americans in the ruling class would prefer white grand babies to brown ones if given a choice. Can you blame them? They are acting on the racial bias and the social currency ascribed to whiteness in American society. This cultural capital has been systematically invested in preserving privilege among wealthy white males for so long that it’s beneficiaries take it for granted that even seemingly neutral institutions will give them preferential treatment. During Women’s History Month this year, let’s reflect on how the Equal Rights Amendment fell 1 vote shy of being ratified in Virginia. That single vote would have given the amendment the required number of states to ratify it as an amendment to the U.S. constitution, effectively guaranteeing women in the U.S. equal rights protected by law.

Some leaders exploit differences, and long standing divisions among us for political gain, and to preserve ill-gotten social advantages. Theirs is a failed strategy. History is replete with their failures in Nazi Germany, American chattel slavery, the Apartheid system of South Africa, even Great Britain’s current debacle with Brexit arose out of nationalist ideologies. The leaders that history has recorded as the most successful, spoke to our higher ambitions. They provided a vision that united and inspired us to pursue the best expression of ourselves, by emphasizing our common humanity. Despite how far our experiment in democracy has come, we still have considerable lengths to go before we live up to Truman’s vision for the United States: “Whether discrimination is based on race, creed, or color, or land of origin, it is utterly contrary to American ideals of democracy.”- Harry S. Truman, January 7, 1947.

Troy Mosley, author of Unwritten Truce: the Armed Forces and American Social Justice

The Second and Third Order Effects of "Good People on Both Sides"

On May 20th, 2017 Richard W. Collins III was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland Campus by a white nationalist who will not face federal hate crime charges. Collins had just received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and was poised to graduate from Bowie State University the following day and begin the rest of his life, when Sean Urbanski allegedly stabbed him to death for failing to vacate the side walk. The incident was caught on camera and there were multiple witnesses.

Though Urbanski’s Facebook page linked him to a white nationalist group, that has since been taken down, the Department of Justice reviewed the case and decided not to charge the alleged murder, with a federal hate crime. The Trump Administration is exploiting racial divisions, and fueling racial animus by refusing to prosecute criminals to the full extent of the law, or call people out who exploit any vestige of legitimacy to further their twisted cause. Military bases named after men who betrayed their oath to America to preserve the immoral institution of slavery is but one example of the remaining work America has to do to align its values with its practices. Honoring traitors in such a demonstrable fashion gives hubris to those who wish to preserve that twisted cause. To help remedy this misalignment, I am asking all to sign the petition to the United States Army to urge them to rename the 10 bases that currently bear the names of Confederate leaders, http://chng.it/jYCdTZtvDS.

We are currently living in an era where white supremacists have been embolden. FBI statistics since 2017 show hate crimes are up by a conservative 17%. As a nation, we must be united and unequivocal in our rebuke of all symbols of hate. There can be no gray area, or “good people on both sides”, regarding hate and intolerance. The present day gains of an integrated society, and the right for all Americans to vote, and serve in an integrated armed forces was won by both black and white Americans, who pushed for change and demanded better. Have we stopped pushing? Have we stopped demanding better of our elected officials? Have we stopped protesting through civil activism? Please join Citizens Against the Spread of Hatred and sign the petition! #renamethebases #goodpeopleonbothsides

Troy Mosley, author of Unwritten Truce: the Armed Forces and American Social Justice