Friday, July 25, 2008

Perception can become "reality"

What a mess.

Justice should be blind and appearences of impropriety can raise questions concerning the system.

Not commenting on what is going on there as I do not know the facts just stating what should be the obvious.

Racial issue raised in Atlantic City prosecution
By WAYNE PARRY Associated Press Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- As one notorious Atlantic City corruption case nears its end, another is heating up.

Former mayor Robert Levy was scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Camden for lying about his Vietnam War service to obtain additional veterans benefits. Meanwhile, an alleged blackmail scheme involving city councilmen was roiling along the Jersey shore.

In the latest scandal, some claim that a white councilman is being treated more leniently than his black co-defendants in a case of attempted blackmail involving a videotaped sex romp.

Councilman John Schultz is one of several current and former city officials charged in the November 2006 attempted blackmail of Councilman Eugene Robinson, who was lured to a motel room and secretly videotaped having sex with a prostitute.

The aim of the alleged plot was to force Robinson to resign, prosecutors say. He contacted authorities instead.

Schultz is accused of referring former Council President Craig Callaway - who was awaiting sentencing for unrelated federal corruption charges at the time - to someone who could help him edit the videotape. Two of Callaway's brothers, as well as a close friend, are also charged in the case. Schultz is white; the others are black.

Prosecutors offered to let Craig Callaway plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit invasion of privacy, and to be sentenced to up to four years in prison - a deal he rejected. He is already serving three years and four months in federal prison for taking bribes while in office.
Schultz has applied to enter the state's pretrial intervention program, which allows nonviolent first-offenders to complete a period of supervision and avoid a criminal conviction.

If accepted into the program, Schultz would not be required to forfeit his council seat.
That has infuriated not only his black co-defendants, but also many in the predominantly black city.

"Everyone else in the case of African-American descent is being treated differently," said Steve Young, an official with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It shouldn't matter how much you pay your lawyer or what color you are: Right is right, and wrong is wrong. This is selective prosecution of African-Americans in our community, and it's a slap in our face."

During several court appearances, David and Ronald Callaway protested having to stand in the courtroom and be photographed by the media while Schultz was not required to be present.
Schultz did not return a call left at his City Hall office. His lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, would not discuss specifics of the case.

Robinson's lawyer, Joseph Levin, wrote to state and federal prosecutors, objecting to the way Schultz's case is being handled. He cited the cases of a former Atlantic City school board president and a city public works official who were required to step down after pleading guilty or being convicted of crimes.

"What is the difference between those defendants and Councilman Schultz's present situation?" Levin wrote. "Sadly, the only perceivable difference is that the above defendants are African-American, whereas Councilman Schultz is white. That is the perception. ... Such perception is a crushing blow to those of us who still believe that justice is blind."

The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said in an e-mail Thursday to The Associated Press that it has not decided whether to accept Schultz into the pretrial intervention program. It denied that race had anything to do with how the case is being handled.