Tag Archives: slavery

Inside the Belley of the Beast – The Just Us System

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

I’m a recovering N.Y. federal prosecutor.

I say “recovering” because you never quite get over the power and authority you enjoyed as a young man – as a ‘puppy” prosecutor.

In New York, a port city, the cases are a big deal, mobsters plot their crimes a few blocks from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in lower Manhattan, vast quantities of drugs, heroin and cocaine come into the Big Apple from every direction imaginable, there are illegal transfers of money, in and out of banks, securities fraud and oceans of bad acts and words deceiving the public, plots and devices hatched by a variety of rogues within walking distance of Foley Square, where the Courts and federal prosecutors are lodged.

If you do it right, when you’re a prosecutor, no matter the jurisdiction, your mission is to do justice for the individuals charged.

The Executive US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Sylvio J. Mollo, pulled the flag around him while he was testing my resolve to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Sylvio said, “when you stand before the court as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, you represent the people and the government, but, like the flag [that he had in his hand], those you represent are silent, not there with you, and they depend on you to do what’s right.”

Years after walking out of my last grand jury as a prosecutor, I started representing the Accused, upset about how the government was pushing around those they accused – in a way I’d been instructed was just plain wrong. Continue reading

Southern character – John S. Mosby

“The Gray Ghost”

“The Gray Ghost”

Most of us are familiar with “the Gray Ghost,” John Singleton Mosby, a Confederate Army Cavalry Battalion commander in the Civil War, a guerilla fighter leading irregulars in Northwest Virginia, and throughout Loudoun County, known for raids on the Union forces and getting away afterwards, thus the appellation, “ghost.”

I’ve always found Mosby fascinating, but more for what he did after the Civil War, transformed, serving as a lawyer and public servant, and mending a nation divided.  We might learn from his character by mimicking today how Mosby acted then.

When the Civil War began, Mosby spoke out against secession, but joined the Confederate army as a private; it was his civic duty, he said, to fight for his “country.”  Mosby found a way to reconcile these difficult choices.

Herman Melville wrote a poem, warning – “Of Mosby best beware” for “mounted and armed he sits as a king” and “each alley [is] unto Mosby known” as his battalion “kill[s] and vanish[es] … through grass they glide” and “[t]o Mosby-land the dirges cling.”

Union General Ulysses S. Grant described Mosby as “slender, not tall, wiry and [he] looks as if he could endure any amount of physical exercise.  He is able, and thoroughly honest and truthful.”

Mosby said after the war that “whoever has seen the horrors of a battlefield feels that it is far sweeter to live …”  Mosby was not the first soldier to understand that working for peace and comity is much to be preferred but to make this adjustment so quickly after a civil war is quite remarkable.

Mosby knew that “we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about.” He said, “I’ve never heard any other cause than slavery.”

After the war, he practiced law and lived in Warrenton, Virginia.  Many have appeared in the same courthouse where Mosby argued causes.  Mosby was, however, harassed after the war, some tried to kill him, but what was surprising was that General Grant granted Mosby an exemption from arrest and guaranteed his safe conduct and Mosby wrote that otherwise he “should have been outlawed and driven into exile.” Continue reading

Land of the free? About our national anthem!

Flag_wavingOn Friday night, my wife Holly and I took out the Iron Horse (little Harley) and had dinner at Anthony’s in Purcellville.

A Starbuck’s friend at the next table over asked what I thought about the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, with the San Francisco 49ers, who wouldn’t stand during the national anthem.

I said I had no problem with his protest.  And I don’t.

I think there is good cause because of our poor race relations that we promote discussion about race and equality – so that we might thereby achieve the equal rights for all Americans, male and female, and fulfill the promise of equality that has eluded this nation’s grasp since we declared our independence.

Blacks failed to become full “persons” in our much revered Constitution at the birth of our nation; they were recognized as fractional three-fifths “persons” for purposes of allocating political representation among the several states, but not allowed the vote.

Still, we have folk insisting on the “original” meaning of the constitution, what our founders “believed.”

What our founders “believed” was that it was necessary to compromise individual rights to ameliorate regional differences.

In 2011, there was some congressional embarrassment when our U.S. Congress thought to read the Constitution on the floor of the House so that we could focus on our nation’s “original” meaning.

The “reading” deleted certain “original” passages from the Constitution including the language in Article I, Section 2, that references slaves as “three fifths” persons.

Many are beside themselves that anyone would protest the Anthem?  But we should examine the context and content of the Anthem.  I have never done so, not from the perspective of being black, or having had ancestors who were slaves.  When you do, you can’t ignore that our Anthem contains these words, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

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White Wash

Samuel C. Means, a Waterford Mill Owner, leader of the Loudoun Rangers

In the past week, I urged that we remove the Confederate Soldier Statue, bearing a rifle in the direction of approaching visitors to the court in Leesburg, because it is an offending symbol of disunion, lawlessness and slavery.

In 2009, a Deputy Clerk at the Court, Jennifer Grant, reportedly told the Post that she “didn’t like [the statue],” but “there were certain things people didn’t talk about.”

Johnny Chambers, on his way to Court this past Tuesday, told WUSA*9 that, “It’s hard to get justice when you got people that live in this area, that run this country, that believe in this system,” pointing at the Confederate Soldier statue.

Leesburg court personnel told me, “We all read what you wrote. We here talk among ourselves and some of us have resented that statue. … You should know you have support in this building.”

The most virulent opposition to removing the statue claims that the statue’s not about slavery, it’s just history.

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Take That Statue Down!

Confederate soldier statue in front of the historic Leesburg Court House

Take that confederate soldier statue down that stands in front of the historic Leesburg Court House!

It’s a symbol of disunion and slavery.  If it’s to stand anywhere, let it be in a museum but not at the front of a court of law on public grounds.

Our forebears could have placed a less offensive symbol in front of the court house in 1908.  But they didn’t.  They intended to make a statement – an unacceptable statement – and it’s high time we rejected that offensive statement.

Years ago, in the 1980s, there were stocks and whipping posts in front of this same court house.

I made reference at a sentencing in the court house once, how it was “unfortunate” that such dehumanizing and tortuous methods of punishment stood directly in front of a court house when we were considering punishment in a criminal case. Continue reading