By Ron Hosko | President, Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund
Kendrick Johnson’s body was found in a rolled-up gym mat inside Lowndes High School in January 2013. Within months, a GBI medical examiner concluded Kendrick died from “positional asphyxia” – suffocating after becoming trapped inside the mat. Quickly, rumor, race and politics entered the tragedy with suggestions that the death was suspicious, a grand conspiracy involving high school students, the school board, sheriff’s investigators, medical examiners, and the GBI, all helping to cover up a murderous scheme involving the sons of an FBI agent.
By October 2013, the former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced a civil rights investigation, and callers to his office were invited to leave their views on an office answering machine–a civil rights investigation with a popularity poll.
Enter attorney Benjamin Crump, CNN, and Ebony magazine’s Fred Rosen, who arrived in Valdosta to help people “understand” how such a thing could happen. In January 2015, the Johnsons’ family attorney, Chevene King, filed a $100,000,000 lawsuit against the Bells and dozens of other defendants presumably because he would expose the sweeping conspiracy.
U.S Attorney Michael Moore’s office issued “target letters” to Branden and Brian Bell, and their father, FBI Agent Rick Bell in March 2014, presumably because he had “substantial evidence linking (the target) to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.”
Last summer, heavily armed U.S. Marshals executed search warrants at the Bell residence and locations tied to their sons. The probable cause standard for a warrant must have been met by sworn statements of the warrant’s affiant.
A curious reader might ask, if the government had substantial evidence of a crime in 2014 and probable cause to search for evidence at locations occupied by the grand jury targets in 2015, how could they now close their case with a lack of evidence?
Can substantial evidence and probable cause simply vaporize? Was a different killer identified? And what about King’s $100,000,000 lawsuit? Where is Benjamin Crump and Al Sharpton? Where is the breaking news about the killers’ arrest reported by CNN’s Victor Blackwell or Ebony’s Fred Rosen? Former U.S. Attorney Moore will be available to comment? No?
Despite the warnings of civil rights leaders that the Johnsons’ “suspicions” about the tragic death of Kendrick created an opportunity that was taken advantage of by Moore, the Johnsons, King, and others, the DOJ pressed ahead – to the detriment of the Bell family. For years they’ve been tormented, accused, vilified without proof and victimized by rumor and hate.
With the three year saga now concluded, who from the DOJ will explain how investigators and attorneys presumably reached “substantial evidence” and “probable cause” but couldn’t bring an indictment? Who will explain how DOJ’s crediting the lies for over three years was a mistake that had nothing to do with justice? Who tells the Bell family, “We’re sorry” and restores their lives and reputations to before their nightmare began?
Loretta Lynch owes the Bells more.