April 12, 2017

The seamy past of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

Mother Jones -  Community organizers, led by Albert Turner, a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., started teaching African Americans to vote absentee in order to boost turnout, particularly among elderly voters struggling to make it to the polls, which in some places were open for only four hours. In 1982, local candidates backed by Turner and his allies finally won. Two years later, Sessions began investigating absentee ballot use by African Americans in five rural counties where black voters' influence was ascendant. He charged Turner, Turner's wife, and another organizer—known as the Marion Three—with mail and voter fraud for allegedly tampering with ballots. During the trial, his case fell apart, and the jury found the three activists not guilty.

The case became a major issue for Sessions a year later, when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to a federal judgeship. A Senate committee blocked his nomination amid allegations of racism stemming in part from his targeting of the Marion Three. To his critics, Sessions' handling of the case was as damning as the fact that he had prosecuted it. He could have convened a grand jury in Selma, just down the road from Marion. Instead, it was convened in Mobile, 160 miles away, where the jury would be whiter...

Shortly after Sessions was denied the federal judgeship, his office charged two African Americans who played a role in his confirmation hearings: one who had testified against him, and another whom Sessions had allegedly called a racial slur. The first was acquitted; the second spent more than five years in prison but continues to deny any wrongdoing. "I considered that, 'How dare you? You testified against me,'" says Sanders. Sessions charged at least half a dozen Democratic politicians in Mobile, often during campaigns and with questionable evidence, according to a report in the Guardian.


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