Former Gov. Roy Barnes defends civil rights leader accused of fraud and tax evasion

By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 5/31/2013, 9:42 a.m.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes stresses that state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a civil rights hero, is no thief and has been ...
Former Gov. Roy Barnes (left) publicly defends state Rep. Tyrone Brooks (right). (Photo by Vincent Christie).

“Mr. Brooks defrauded not only the donors but also the American taxpayer by evading his tax obligations. Tax compliance should and must be equally shared among all Americans.”

Barnes filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the indictment due to an “unconstitutional and legally deficient grand jury selection.” Barnes challenged the racial makeup of the grand jury charging that the formula used to pick jurors was flawed because it was based on outdated U.S. Census data that was “unrepresentative of the cross section of the community.”

“I have the highest respect for the U.S. Attorney (Sally Yates) and her assistants, but I think the broad discretion that a U.S. Attorney has in deciding whether to prosecute should have been exercised in this case by allowing this dispute to be handled as a civil tax matter rather than a criminal case seeking incarceration of somebody who has given his life fighting for the rights of others,” Barnes said.

Supporters of Brooks also agree that the case should be tossed out.

“This is much ado about nothing,” said the Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the Georgia Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Rich Pellegrino, a business consultant and member of the Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he believes the charges are racially motivated.

“Tyrone Brooks has a broad base of support; he has fought for all people in the immigrant community.” said Pellegrino, who is Italian-American. “If the microscope used to look at his finances were, “turned on the mostly white elected officials and leaders of Good ol’ boy network, you would find much more than what is being alleged about Tyrone Brooks.”

The Rev. Coakley Pendergrass, associate minister of Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church in Marietta, said the indictment of a civil rights leader could reflect negatively on the Obama administration.

“We should not have a civil rights leader be attacked by a U.S. attorney under the Obama administration,” Pendergrass said. “It’s an embarrassment.”

The federal court has not yet made a determination on the request to dismiss the indictment.