• Donald V. Watkins

The Two Faces of the Department of Justice

Updated: Feb 17

An Expression of Personal Opinion

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on February 14, 2021


In September 2020, new-wave COINTELPRO federal prosecutors in Birmingham, Alabama wrote in a court filing that my published articles on corruption in the federal criminal justice system showed a “disdain” for the system. My “disdain”, to the extent that I have any, is not with the system; it is with white supremacists who have infiltrated the system and now use this powerful platform to target and prosecute Americans of color who have committed no crimes.


Professional Federal Prosecutors in New Jersey


In my case, professional and highly competent federal prosecutors in New Jersey reviewed allegations of wire and mail fraud in connection with investors in my companies. This grand jury review occurred during a six-month period during late 2015 and early 2016. I was the “subject” of the investigation, but not a “target”.


I submitted a pre-indictment memo to prosecutors that refuted the allegations of wrongdoing. In January 2016, the New Jersey federal prosecutors cleared me of all wrongdoing and wished me well in business.


COINTELPRO Federal Prosecutions in Birmingham, AL


Indignant with the outcome in New Jersey, Birmingham federal prosecutors working for Donald Trump and Senator Richard Shelby (R – Al) begged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to send its investigation to them in 2017. They quickly empaneled a grand jury of 20 members that included only 3 black jurors. The lead prosecutor – Lloyd Peeples – did not disclose his documented history of racism with the grand jurors. Peeples labeled me a “target” of the investigation at the outset.


The evidence presented to the Peeples grand jury was “twisted” to support novel legal theories. Peeples secured an indictment on the same allegations of investor fraud on which I had been cleared by New Jersey federal prosecutors. Peeples added two “fig leaf” bank fraud charges for loan transactions to a business partner that were expressly authorized by banking regulations.


Unlike the New Jersey prosecutors. Peeples ignored a comparable pre-indictment memo that was prepared by my legal team for the grand jury and the Trump Department of Justice. To make it personal, Peeples added my son as a defendant.


Then, Peeples forum-shopped the case to a sympathetic judge who saw my case as an opportunity for redemption in Birmingham’s white community after she was vilified in that community for my stunning 2005 courtroom victory in the Government’s criminal case against scorned former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy – a victory that occurred in this judge’s courtroom.


I was tried in predominantly black Birmingham/Jefferson County in front of a jury that had only 4 Blacks. In contrast, Scrushy’s jury in the same courtroom had 7 Blacks.


What is more, I have never discussed a couple of motions that prosecutors filed “under seal” early in the case. The Magistrate Judge and trial judge granted these motions. After the case was over, the trial judge agreed to unseal these motions. I agreed to their unsealing, but Peeples did not. They remain sealed. I understand why. The content of these motions would shock the conscience of modern-day free speech advocates. They evidence a throwback to classic COINTELPRO activities.


To my knowledge, what was done to me in these motions (and orders granting them) has never been done to any defendant in any civil or criminal case. I cannot comment further until the orders are unsealed.


Poisoning the Well


A well-known and highly successful former federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Alabama confirmed to me privately how the U.S. Attorney’s Office in BIrminham uses AL.com columnists John Archibald and Kyle Whitmire to generate negative stories about criminal defendents. This is a classic COINTELPRO tactic that dates back to the 1950s. Local reporters use their media platforms to “poison the well” of people from which potential jurors are drawn.


In my case, Archibald actually made up a racist quote which he attributed to me. This fake quote was published twice after my indictment. Archibald’s publishers retracted the false quote and apologized months later, but the damage had already been done.


Epilogue


I have tremendous respect for the professional federal prosecutors who reviewed my case objectively in New Jersey. I did not know them and they did not know me. Their career resumes were vastly superior to the political hacks who masqueraded as federal prosecutors in Birmingham. Lloyd Peeples was running a struggling pizza restaurant before he was hired to target and persecute me and my son.


Peeples’ published college newspaper articles define his views on race and gender equality. I do not respect self-professed bigots, especially those who are cloaked with a badge of law enforcement authority. The judges of the Northern District of Alabama may be fond of Lloyd Peeples, but I do not romanticize racists.



PHOTO: John Archibald and Lloyd Peeples

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