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Rev. Pinkney granted bond, will be home for Christmas

December 11, 2008

ACLU praises court decision to release minister from prison pending appeal

Supporters from across Michigan rally and march for Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor, May 14, 2007. Rev. Pinkney is being persecuted mainly by Whirlpool for opposing its land grab of the Black town’s valuable lakefront park. The huge corporation acts as if it owns Benton Harbor and its people.
Supporters from across Michigan rally and march for Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor, May 14, 2007. Rev. Pinkney is being persecuted mainly by Whirlpool for opposing its land grab of the Black town’s valuable lakefront park. The huge corporation acts as if it owns Benton Harbor and its people.
Detroit – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan applauded a Court of Appeals decision today granting its motion for bond on behalf of a Benton Harbor minister who is serving a 3-10 year prison sentence for writing a newspaper article that harshly criticized the judge who presided over his trial.

“We are thrilled that Rev. Edward Pinkney will be home with his family celebrating Christmas instead of sitting in prison for criticizing a judge,” said Michigan ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg. “The court properly recognized that serious constitutional questions are raised when a minister is thrown in prison for predicting what God might do.”

Rev. Pinkney is a Baptist minister in Benton Harbor, a predominantly African American community with a troubled relationship with its predominantly white sister city, St. Joseph. Rev. Pinkney has long been an outspoken community activist and advocate, frequently denouncing injustice and racial inequality in Benton Harbor, its local government and the Berrien County criminal justice system in particular.

Rev. Edward Pinkney
Rev. Edward Pinkney
In 2007, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to probation for violating Michigan election law. But his probation was revoked and he was resentenced to 3-10 years in prison solely because of an article he wrote for a small Chicago newspaper. Quoting a passage from the Bible, Rev. Pinkney predicted that God would “curse” the judge unless he “hearken[ed] unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe [and] to do all that is right.” Rev. Pinkney also expressed his opinion in the article that the judge was racist, dumb and corrupt.

The ACLU argued in its motion for bond pending appeal that the statements Rev. Pinkney made in his newspaper editorial, while offensive to many, are clearly protected speech under the First Amendment. The ACLU further urged the Court of Appeals to release Rev. Pinkney on bond while it considers the appeal of his sentence.

In an order issued yesterday, the Court of Appeals granted the ACLU motion and has asked the Berrien County Circuit Court to set the amount of bond. A date has not been set yet for a hearing to determine the bond amount; however, the ACLU will ask for the earliest date possible. The Court of Appeals is expected to decide the merits of Rev. Pinkney’s appeal in 2009.

In addition to Steinberg, Rev. Pinkney is represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys James J. Walsh and Rebecca O’Reilly of the respected corporate law firm Bodman LLP.

Resources

To read the Court of Appeals order, go to http://www.aclumich.org/pdf/pinkneybondbrief.pdf.

To read the ACLU Brief in Support of Bond Pending Appeal, go to http://www.aclumich.org/pdf/pinkneybondbrief.pdf.

To read Rev. Pinkney’s article, go to http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2007.11/PT.2007.11.18.html.

Michigan ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg can be reached at (313) 578-6814.

One thought on “Rev. Pinkney granted bond, will be home for Christmas

  1. Joe Rowe

    Thanks for reporting this story.

    I can read, and on page 12 of the legal brief it says all you need to know. Or nation’s first amendment cannot be deleted Just because some local authority put in writing a probation order. And while that debate rages, The Rev. should be released on bond.

    I’m sad that other newspapers and media outlets have ignored this. Does our “rule of law” allow the power of a judge and his fellows in the “criminal justice” system to put a man behind bars for writing the word “curse” or “stupid”. Those are not true threats as stated in the brief.

    It is clear that Rev. Pinkney is being treated differently that the history of 71 related cases mentioned by the ACLU in the brief that show the precedent in our nation. I guess the local courts in Michigan feel they are something different. This whole trial and events afterward are very questionable and there are valid questions and feelings about racism: an all white jury, one juror on record with statements of a drug deal in the parking lot of the trial building. In domestic violence men often know the best defense of their abuse is to go on the offense and blame the victim for a far minor flaw.

    It is nearly impossible to cause any change in a Judge. The only way to use energy to move forward is to stop people just because they are democrats in the hope they will find a spine. They won’t take a risk for justice if it is a risk to their re-election. Avoid lawmakers who give words to social justice and instead volunteer for and elect those who have lived their lives for justice, and then you get better judges.

    Thank God we have independent news like the Bayview Reporter.

    Reply

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