Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 3, 2011

This week saw yet another international banker accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York City – it must be something in the foie gras. Meanwhile Sarah Palin and Doubting Donald Trump made a joint appearance in New York City, further highlighting the disarray in the Republican presidential corral. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any dumber, Rudy (9/11) Giuliani has started visiting New Hampshire. And the real news of the week – Doubting Donald Trump actually said something that made sense!

Double Trouble

New York City is populated by men and women who embrace, endure and accept challenges daily. So the joint appearance of Doubting Donald Trump and Sarah Palin was endured and accepted, if not exactly embraced.

Ms. Palin, who ran herself out of office when she was an undistinguished governor of Alaska, is on a self-styled “We the People” tour of the United States. Why she chose New York City is as much a mystery as is why she thought that appearing publicly with Doubting Donald Trump would boost her presidential aspirations.

One would think that the fact that Doubting Donald was virtually hooted and booed off the public stage for his shameful dive into the birther cesspool would have given Sarah Palin second thoughts. But then again, that would assume that she had first thoughts.

If Sarah Palin and Doubting Donald Trump are any indication of the quality of the opposition that President Obama will face in 2012 there may soon be rumors that his campaign team has placed double agents in the Republican National Committee.

“Delusional” Comes to Mind

The economy has yet to recover from the Republican triple witching of two ruinous wars and a brace of tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans search for jobs that are still not there. Parents fear for the future that their children will inherit. And the New York Mets are not a very good team according to their owner.

In the midst of all of this turmoil Rudy Giuliani is making noises that sound scarily similar to those made by a soon to be presidential candidate. This would be the same Rudy Giuliani who arguably ran the worst presidential campaign in the 21st century and is clearly seeking to retire the title with another jaunt around the electoral track.

And, this would be the same Rudy Giuliani who was unarguably the most racially divisive mayor in the history of the City of New York, seizing the title that was previously held by Ed Koch.

This is the same main who parlayed a mediocre record as a headline hogging prosecutor into a political career and then cashed in on a fake reputation of heroism after the 9/11 tragedy, a turn of events that chagrins New York City first responders and 9/11 survivors to this very day.

Perhaps on the Planet Giuliani all of these items are qualifications for the presidency. Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing with the same result over and over, all the while expecting a different result. By that standard Rudy Giuliani needs some help – now.

A Thousand Monkeys and a Thousand Typewriters

It has been said that if a thousand monkeys were put in a room with a thousand typewriters for a thousand years, a play by Shakespeare would result. The idea being that if an act is repeated enough times, random chance will produce a positive result.

In that vein, it seems that if Doubting Donald Trump talks long enough he will finally say something that makes sense.

Last week Doubting Donald correctly pointed out that if the Republican Party continues to support the draconian Medicare reform measures advanced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan they will be acting pursuant to a “death wish”.

Amazingly —- stop the presses —– Doubting Donald is right!

Have a great weekend!

Be My Guest

Guest Column by Dr. William Pollard

Where is the Justice?

In a decision that I can only describe as shocking and shameful,
Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that an $18.5
million dollar award given to a man who spent 22 years in prison for a
rape he did not commit doesn’t deserve a nickel of that money.

“It is not enough,” she said, “to have shown that the city’s post trial evidence management system is disorganized.”

The man in question is Alan Newton, a recent Medgar Evers College alumnus. He was arrested and convicted for rape, robbery and assault in 1984 and sentenced to 13 to 40 years in prison. His attorneys repeatedly requested evidence in the possession of the New York City Police Department that could prove his innocence, but according to Newton’s attorneys, they stonewalled any efforts to clear
his name. Newton was also denied parole three times.

Later the Innocence Project took on his case and DNA evidence was found at a Queens warehouse in 2005. (When Newton was arrested such technology did not exist.) He was exonerated in 2006. In October, he was awarded $18.5 million dollars by a jury to make up for the decades he lost in the New York City and New York State penal systems.

But despite spending 22 years in prison, the award was tossed out
because according to Judge Scheindlin, the city meant no harm. It was
“mere negligence.”

Where is the justice?

I wish to congratulate all those who worked so hard for so long to get
Alan Newton released from prison – the Innocence Project, as well as a
raft of attorneys, civic and community leaders, educators. But when an
individual is thrown into prison at 22 and released at 44 years of age
for a crime they did not commit – where is the justice?

No amount of money can replace the years of freedom taken away. The
missed time with family and friends, the missed opportunities. But a sum of money could go a long way to making the rest of his life much
smoother than those 22 years spent behind prison walls. A jury confirmed that last October.

To his credit, he is not bitter. Newton has gone on to live a productive life. I am proud to say that, funded by the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business
Administration from Medgar Evers College. While here, he worked at our
College’s Male Development and Empowerment Center, which addresses
minority male recruitment, retention and graduation issues. He is now
employed at City College of New York as a research associate.

According to a published article, when asked what he would do with the money from the award, he replied: “A decent place to live” and “I love paying bills, a sense of purpose again.”

I sat next to Alan Newton at a dinner on the night when the City had
tossed out his award. He was shocked by the turn of events, but still
not bitter. Mostly I listened to what he was saying, thinking about the decision. But I also wanted him to know that those who supported him in the past – as well as many of those who only recently became aware of his plight – would stand with him now.

And we must all stand up to this travesty of justice. The perversion and arrogance of this decision basically puts the City of New York in a position of saying, “my bad,” to a man who has lost much of his life.
Where is the justice?

And what message does this send to others who might one day find
themselves in a similar position – even if it is “mere negligence?” What does the future hold for them? Will they be eligible for any
compensation at all?

And when are we as a society going to realize that when someone is
released from prison (whether they were justified in being there or not) that those who are willing and able to participate as productive
citizens should be allowed to do so?

Medgar Evers College has been very active in helping enable those
formerly incarcerated to gain the means to do so – through education,
through job training and counseling resources. Later this month we will be hosting a panel discussion, “Life After Incarceration,” at our main
campus on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

This is part of our participation in the COMAlert program. The program was started in 1999 by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes as a bridge between prison and the community for parolees returning to Brooklyn. Participants from his office will be included on the panel.

For Alan Newton it is already too late for total justice. He was denied any efforts to prove his innocence for over two decades. But some measure of justice must be forthcoming. Newton now stands as one of the best among us, with his character and his strength, and his enduring ability to better himself and become a contributing member of society.

He is an individual we should all be proud to say is a neighbor, or
friend or fellow New Yorker.

So the question remains: Where is the justice?