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Former SCLC chair Raleigh Trammell convicted

11th June 2012   ·   0 Comments

By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) —Former Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board Chairman Raleigh Trammell has been convicted on all 51 felony charges filed against him in Dayton, Ohio in connection with a sham home-delivery food program loosely modeled after the successful meals on wheels federal program. He remains free on $10,000 bail and is scheduled to be sentenced June 27.

Trammell, 74, was ousted as chairman of SCLC on Nov. 13, 2009 along with treasurer Spiver Gordon of Eutaw, Ala., after the two were suspected of operating unauthorized bank accounts that siphoned off more than $500,000 from the civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trammell and Gordon went to court in Atlanta seeking reinstatement but lost that challenge.

In the Ohio case, Trammell was accused of stealing $50,000 of taxpayer money from 2005 to 2010 that was intended to go into programs helping the poor and the elderly. Trammell claimed to be serving meals to Oscar Davis, a longtime friend, residing in the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center nursing home. Witnesses testified that Trammell has visited Davis at the VA and therefore knew the address he listed for Davis was inaccurate.

Other witnesses testified that they never signed up for the program, had not received any food deliveries and did not meet the requirement that they be at least 60 years old.

According to invoices submitted by Trammell in 2008, his group served hundreds of meals to Mary Frances Davis and Char­lotte Mercedes Garrett. There was only one problem – the prosecutor produced death certificates showing that Davis died August 19, 2007 and Garrett died May 5, 2004.

Trammell’s attorney tried to dismiss those offenses as ac­counting errors. But Montgomery Coun­ty Prosecutor Ward Bar­rentine offered the court a different explanation: “That’s intentional fraud,” he said. “Dead people don’t eat meals. I don’t need to tell you that.”

Barrentine submitted evidence showing Trammell deposited three county checks into his personal bank account and six more in an account for the Martin Luther King Celebration, which he also controlled.

When sentenced later this month, Trammell could be staring at the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars. He was convicted of one count of grand theft, a fourth-degree felony; 25 counts of forgery, five of which are fourth-degree felonies; and 25 counts of tampering with government records, all third-degree felonies.

A third-degree felony in Ohio is punishable up to five years in prison on each count. A fourth-degree felony carries a maximum of 18 months for each charge. And a fifth-degree felony is punishable by up to a year in prison.

If Trammell is imprisoned, it won’t be his first time behind bars. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Tram­mell “went to prison in the 1970s for cheating a county welfare department in Ohio.”

Former SCLC national treasurer Spiver Gordon also served time in federal prison for voter fraud. He pleaded guilty in 1999, admitting that he had asked a person who lived outside of Greene County, Ala., to fill out an absentee ballot that listed a false county address. Gordon was sentenced to six months in prison, fined $2,000 and given three years of supervised probation.

The unlikely pair of Trammell and Gordon was able to assume leadership posts in the venerated civil rights group after bruising political in-fighting. At the end, they were among the last standing.

Although no charges have been brought so far against Trammell in connection with the unauthorized SCLC bank accounts, he faces the possibility of being prosecuted on federal charges for using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money for a food pantry and domestic violence center that the Dayton Daily News discovered was nonexistent.

According to an affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Eric J. Miller on Feb. 5, 2010, the agency received information that Trammell and others “had embezzled money from federally-funded programs operating in the Dayton-area.”

In addition, Trammell, who headed both the local SCLC in Dayton and the board of the Atlanta-based national organization, was subject of a sexual harassment suit by DaMisha Douglas, a Dayton SCLC employee. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission said it had probable cause to believe SCLC allowed to discrimination to continue against Douglas.

Trammell’s most immediate problem is his upcoming sentencing. And that’s not likely to work out in his favor if the judge agrees with assistant county prosecutor Dan Brandt’s summary: “This program was a fraud from the minute it began.”

This article was originally published in the June 11, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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