Rev. Al Sharpton’s office was raided and staff subpoenaed in a sudden move by federal agents. There is clearly a grand jury investigation afoot and Sharpton’s 2004 Presidential run seems to be the focus of the probe. With at least 10 subpoenas to testify, it seems to be a fully developed investigation and makes possible indictments more likely.
Sharpton’s various political and non-for-profit organizations have always been a bit murky in their relationship and possible co-mingling of funds. Co-mingling appears to be one of the issues under investigation. There is also an allegation of the misstatement of money raised in 2004 — used for matching funds. The usual concern in such cases is that the figure was inflated to get more matching funds from the public coffers.
Two years ago, Sharpton was forced to return $100,000 in matching taxpayer funds. In 1993, he was pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for failure to file a tax return. His most infamous legal run-in, however, occurred in connection with the case of Tawana Brawley. Om 1987, Sharpton made himself a national figure when he organized protests after Brawley was found inside a plastic bag behind an apartment house in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. She was covered with feces and racial epithets smeared on her body and accused various white men, including Steven A. Pagones, a former Dutchess County assistant district attorney. Sharpton attacked Pagones and the other men with Ms. Brawley’s lawyers, Alton H. Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason.
A grand jury eventually found that the account was a hoax and Pagones successfully sued Sharpton, Maddox, Mason and Brawley. Sharpton has never apologized for his role and failed to pay the damages until various businessmen came forward to pay the damages for him in 2001.
His latest problems could be an embarrassment to officials like Hillary Clinton who have cultivated the support of Sharpton in the past.
For the most recent controversy, click here