By Sheryl Estrada
Since this report was published on DiversityInc and various other news outlets, questions have arisen over its credibility, with demands for more documentation to support the claims of The Henry County Report.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which had posted a link to The Henry County Report by Jon Carroll on Twitter, formally retracted the tweet after determining that it could not vouch for the information saying: “The SPLC hasn’t seen the referenced documents and cannot validate the claims made in the report.”
According to Carroll, the documents had been leaked to him by a group of whistleblowers inside the Dothan Police Department who had long sought to expose the abuse.
Slate Magazine spoke with Carroll, who said “he has more than 800 documents in his possession and will be releasing them slowly over time, in accordance with agreements he has made with his confidential sources.”
The Washington Post spoke with people who have done criminal defense work in Alabama about the district:
One prominent defense attorney in the state says the county is so rife with racism that he had advised Black clients to take plea bargains even when they have corroborating witnesses, simply because white jurors there just tend to assume that black people are lying.
[District Attorney Doug] Valeska’s office has had several cases overturned by appeals courts due to the systematic exclusion of blacks from juries. He has also had verdicts overturned due to illegal evidence and improper comments to juries.
There have been documented problems in Alabama’s 20th Judicial District, where Valeska is accused of covering up the alleged planting of drugs on Black men by police officers.
In 2011, The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) filed a civil rights lawsuit contending that for decades Valeska illegally excluded qualified Blacks from serving on Houston and Henry County, Alabama, juries in serious felony cases, especially capital cases.
DiversityInc will continue to track and update this story.
During the 1990s, about a dozen police officers on a special narcotics team of The Dothan Police Department in Alabama were allegedly involved in framing more than 1,000 innocent Black men by planting guns and drugs on them. The officers were members of a neo-Conderate group. District Attorney Doug Valeska, who knew it was a set up, charged the innocent men.
The Henry County Report states:
For two decades District Attorney, Doug Valeska, having full knowledge of the situation, proceeded to earn a reputation across the Wiregrass as a tough prosecutor while knowingly prosecuting black men whom he knew the evidence was planted on them in their cases. The district attorney’s office took in millions of dollars in court fees and their pre-trial diversion program.
Documents obtained by The Alabama Justice Project expose an internal affairs investigation was covered up to protect the officers’ law enforcement careers and keep them from being criminally prosecuted.
The original documents, which are now “secured at an N.G.O. in Canada, are being shared directly with attorneys in the U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division, and are being made available to the lawyers of those falsely convicted that seek to clear their names … serve as irrefutable evidence of criminal activity at the highest levels of the Dothan Police Department,” according the publication.
The officers, who were supervised at the time by Lt. Steve Parrish, current Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, current asst. director of Homeland Security for the State of Alabama, reportedly were members of a neo-Confederate organization. Both Hughes and Parrish held leadership positions in the group.
It was discovered the police officers who planted the drugs and weapons were members of the hate group when a group of white officers shared hundreds of files from the Internal Affairs Division because “they believed the public has a right to know.”
The Henry County Report tweeted a photo from its Twitter account on Tuesday, which shows the men holding a confederate battle flag at one of the club’s secret meetings.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies neo-Confederates as hate group of extremists, which are “hostile towards democracy, strongly opposes homosexuality, and exhibits an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy.”
According to the SPLC’s hate map there are more than 10 active hate groups in the state of Alabama.
Beginning in 1996, the Black men who were incarcerated, and their families, began to complain to the police department about being set up by officers, especially young men with no prior record. Though, the police chief and district attorney told senior officers to repress these complaints, as well as complaints from white cops who wanted the corruption exposed.
The majority of the Black men arrested unjustly in the 1990s were prosecuted, many sentenced to prison and some remain incarcerated.
The group of officers who presented the evidence to the Internal Affairs Division will testify against their corrupt colleagues, only if U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch assigns a special prosecutor from outside of Alabama.
The public revelation of the Dolan Police Department’s crimes against Black men comes the same week the city of Chicago faces allegations of a yearlong cover up of the killing of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black male, by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Black Leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, say the city would not have charged Van Dyke for first-degree murder on Nov. 24 if the video, which shows the officer shooting McDonald 16 times, had not been released. The city, facing mounting pressure, fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Tuesday.