Lester Miller Appears to be at Root of Attack
on Black Leadership
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Seeking, speaking and sharing the truth with OUR COMMUNITY, the Black Community has never been easy because there have always been and will always be so many forces fighting against us to achieve TRUE UNITY and PROGRESS especially in Macon-Bibb County.
We started this journey nearly three years ago with our first front-page article in December of 2017 with a photo of Cliffard D. Whitby, one of our community’s most recognized and hardest working black leaders, who was embroiled in a wild goose chase of a federal investigation and court case which resulted in his FULL ACQUITTAL by a majority white jury. But if the truth is to be told, the story started long before that.
So, we kept working and researching in a search not only for a WHY but also for a WHO and we found it.
From Bibb School Board minutes, Middle District Federal Court records, sworn affidavits from local leaders, and the boldness of the vitriol used to pen internet commentary, Facebook posts, and local blogs; we have compiled over ten thousand pages of research. You’ve read the front-page pieces for nearly two years. Some of the research came from questions the community has posed about why Black Leaders seem to remain under attack in Macon-Bibb County while other problematic leaders go nameless and blameless. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Last month, we talked about the Mueller investigation and how it compared to these federal investigations in Macon-Bibb. Well, as a nation, we saw the “smoking gun” in plain sight with the 2016 elections and evidence of Russian obstruction in that election. Evidence in these local investigations isn’t as clear, but how we got here is crystal clear.
On June 29, 2012, three plaintiffs, amongst them School Board Member Attorney Lester Millerand former School Board member and former Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel, filed a lawsuit in federal court to run all elections based on the new and questionable district lines of the newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County government (click here to view the court case). Based on the gutting of the Voting Right Acts Section 5, the questionable lines would not be subject to federal review as they had been in the past. This could be perceived as the first political power play orchestrated by Miller to garner political favor to reshape the authority and power of the Bibb County School Board and school system. Bechtel eventually became a commissioner and Miller joined the school board. The same federal court system that once gave us desegregated schools in Brown vs. Board of Topeka was now being used to shift equity and equality in Bibb County schools for our children’s educational services. Like the Willie Horton political play of the Southern Strategy that gave us Republican rule from the Governor’s mansion to our local communities, Miller ran on the anti-Dallemand/anti-black man platform on lines that he knew would suppress black voting power. Fast-forward to the recent spate of federal investigations today and you will find according to the records submitted sworn affidavits from a Macon-Bibb County Commissioner, Al Tillman (click here to read Mr. Tillman's affidavit) and a prominent local businessman David D. Thompson of Piedmont Construction (click here to read Mr. Thompson's affidavit) as to how School Board Member Lester Miller had intimate and intimidating conversations with them about Federal Grand Jury decisions that would later lead to a string of indictments of local black businessman. When you read the court case of Isaac Culver, it will bring shivers to your spine because many of the same players are involved especially from the Bibb School system. The entire proceedings read more like a kangaroo court than anything else. Culver’s sentencing was strangely cruel and unusual as well as the sentencing of his former business partner Dave Carty who was sentenced to nearly five years in a federal prison for a charge related to an email transmission despite the fact he was fully acquitted of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and several other serious alleged federal charges.
But in the affidavits, Miller gives a play-by-play on what was to come to all of the black leaders in these cases. What makes this so rare is the presumption of the highly confidential and private nature of Grand Jury proceedings, however, Attorney Miller positioned himself as a key player, witness, and guide to the entire process. So, Miller was advising the Feds, relaying Grand Jury information, and guiding the School Board to continue to endorse countless invoices to local law firms to pursue these cases too? Hard to believe? Not really, because all of this was done in plain sight and no matter who objected to this continued “witch hunt”, based on the documentation it appears Miller was determined to deliver the prizes, i.e., black leaders to the hidden hands of the same power structure that wants to keep Macon-Bibb County stuck in the Jim Crow Era of violence, inequality, economic injustice, and separate but unequal opportunities for non-white citizens.
The background of all this runs very deep.
Four hundred years ago on August 20, 1619 the first slave ship landed at a port in Jamestown, VA. The New York Times is running a series of articles, writings, essays, and photos of exactly what that date meant not only to black people but to the birth of this nation and its current predicament. Because in this 400thyear, some of the same violence, injustices, attacks, and brutal use of our court systems are still in play. The same intimidation tactics, character assassinations, betrayals, voter suppression, and strategies to maintain White Power at all costs without even a semblance of shared power.
For example, even the callous removal of Charles Douglass’ home, another one of Macon’s most prominent and affluent black business leaders, was a poignant rebuff of his existence. Flashback to 1922 when Charles Douglass continued to successfully operate the Douglass Theatre, Hotel, and Café even after a lynching victim’s bullet-riddled corpse was cast at the front of his theatre by a white mob. Fast-forward to the treatment of our first African-American Mayor, C. Jack Ellis, who despite all of his successes and love for the community was subjected to ridicule, to daily assaults from the local media, and eventually to federal investigations as well, which never resulted into ONE CHARGE.
Even our local black clergy who legally engaged in federal programs to improve and to bring new hope to our communities were conveniently placed in the spotlight of distrust from “alleged misdoings” with federal funds which never resulted into ONE CHARGE. Can you imagine, the Black Church, one of our community’s strongest foundations, finding itself attacked, maligned and in Macon’s local media daily? There was never a retraction or an apology for what ended up being another attack against Black Leadership. Who was the prosecutor then? Current Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms who took the investigation on our Black Clergy to the federal prosecutors. We can’t talk about the inequities in our Criminal Justice system without highlighting how Simms, who was elected judge in 2010 just months after he received a ride from a Macon police officer who smelled alcohol in a government car Simms was driving received a highly unusual type of preferential treatment rarely given to ordinary citizens and especially black citizens. (Click here to view the Simms' article.) The officer didn’t administer a field sobriety test or a Breathalyzer test for alcohol during that June 3, 2010, traffic stop. Simms wasn’t arrested, and the officer drove Simms’ car to Freedom Park where his child was playing baseball.
Unfortunately for Commissioner Virgil Watkins, one of the youngest and first African-Americans elected a commissioner to our newly consolidated government, he has never received such preferential treatment or benefit of the doubt. As a matter of fact, the stories about Simms rarely even made the front page or frequency in the news cycle; yet, he has been allowed to stay on the bench to administer justice to others.
Ask Attorney Veronica Brinson, one of the first African-American women attorneys born and raised in Macon about how her legal career began to take a turn after representing a case in Simms’ courtroom (Click here to view the article.). The call for Criminal Justice Reform from the August 2019 issue is as much or more about the courts as it is about the prisons. That same bloodlust is evident today as our community watched the Bibb County school board spend millions upon millions of our taxpaying dollars in pursuit of Dr. Romain Dallemand with some of the same players for charges and/or cases never fully explained to the community. While Romain Dallemand certainly has great integrity issues, there have been no clear charges, convictions or budget deficits attributed to him outside of his conviction for tax evasion from the IRS.
This is just Part I; we can’t tell it all in one post. There is a corresponding Facebook page and Twitter account to create a more balanced point of view with full links to public access documents and news. We can’t wait to share more of our findings from the court documents with our readers. All court records are available on the following website, click here .