The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Witt penned an investigative piece published yesterday on the controversy surrounding the charitable funds raised for the Jena 6. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that much of the money can’t be traced, while some of the defendants are literally rolling in race-hustling dough:
Just weeks after some 20,000 demonstrators protested what they decried as unequal justice aimed at six black teenagers in the Louisiana town of Jena, controversy is growing over the accounting and disbursing of at least $500,000 donated to pay for the teenagers’ legal defense.
Parents of the “Jena 6” teens have refused to publicly account for how they are spending a large portion of the cash, estimated at up to $250,000, that resides in a bank account they control.
Michael Baisden, a nationally syndicated black radio host who is leading a major fundraising drive on behalf of the Jena 6, has declined to reveal how much he has collected. Attorneys for the first defendant to go to trial, Mychal Bell, say they have yet to receive any money from him.
Meanwhile, photos and videos are circulating across the Internet that raise questions about how the donated money is being spent. One photo shows Robert Bailey, one of the Jena 6 defendants, smiling and posing with $100 bills stuffed in his mouth. Another shows defendants Carwin Jones and Bryant Purvis modeling like rap stars at the Black Entertainment Television Hip-Hop music awards last month in Atlanta.
The teenagers’ parents have strongly denied that they have misused any of the donated money. Bailey’s mother, for example, insisted that the $100 bills shown in the photograph were cash her son had earned as a park maintenance worker.
But civil rights leaders who helped organize support for the youths say they are concerned about the perceptions that are spreading.
“There are definitely questions out there about the money,” said Alan Bean, director of a Texas-based group, Friends of Justice, who was the first civil rights activist to investigate the Jena 6 case. “I hate to even address this issue because it inevitably will raise questions as to all of the money that has been raised, and that is going to hurt the defendants.”
Watch this video montage of Bailey’s bling-bling photos from his MySpace page. Like I said, he’s literally rolling in dough on his bed:
Another group called “Color of Change” has disclosed on its website how it spent $212,000 raised for the Jena 6 defendants. But as Witt noted:
Exactly how much money has been collected for the Jena 6 defendants is impossible to know, because many donors did not go through Color of Change, the NAACP or other mainstream groups and instead contributed directly to the defendants’ families. Many Internet operators raised money by selling T-shirts or otherwise invoking the Jena 6 cause, but much of that money disappeared without a trace.
As I reported last week, shakedown leader Al Sharpton will be leading a Jena 6-inspired march around the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 16.
The hustling continues…