Black People : The Country's Most Controversial Civil Rights Lawyer". Atlanta Journal Constitution

Goddess Auset333

Feb 9, 2007

Contact: Karen Mason


Activist Attorney Alton H. Maddox Returns Home to Georgia To Address A Community Gathering at African Djeli Cultural Center in the West End

Newnan, Georgia Born Lawyer Who Represented So me Of The Most Explosive Cases Of The 1980's Speaks In Atlanta

"The Country's Most Controversial Civil Rights Lawyer". Atlanta Journal Constitution

"In some of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 1980s, Alton Maddox has attracted a national reputation by winning long-shot cases for his young black clients". The Washington Post

May 6th, 2007 -- Atlanta, GA – Newnan, Georgia native, Attorney Alton H. Maddox Jr. will be the keynote speaker at an evening of Common Unity on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at African Djeli located 840 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd , Atlanta, GA 30310 . The donation is $10.00. Also speaking will be long time Atlanta based activist, Otim Larib. Soul songbird, Julie Dexter will bless the evening with song. This is a fundraiser for WRFG Radio. For further information call 404-840-9927.

Rising to national fame in the 1980's, Attorney Alton H. Maddox made a name for himself in legal circles partly due to his zealous representation and of his clients and partly due to the resulting victory and vindication of his clients. Some of these cases include the Central Park Jogger case, The Howard Beach racial murder case and the Bensonhurst case. (see attached articles).

But the one case that he is still fighting a one man battle about is the Tawana Brawley case in which a 16 year old Black girl was found raped, unconscious with feces all over her body.

No stranger to police brutality cases Attorney Maddox will address this issue, the legal system and critical thinking on Wedneday, May 30 th, at African Dheli location 840 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd in the West End Section of Atlanta. For further information call 404-840-9927.


Career highlights
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Washington Post




Director-NCBL Juvenile Defense Project (JDP)
Founder, Medgar Evers College 's Center for Law & Social Justice
Counsel for Chokwe Lumumba in federal govern me nt's opposition to his pro hac vice admission to Manhattan Federal Court to represent defendant in Brinks bank robbery case
Pro bono counsel in successful litigation supporting the appoint ment of first non-white Schools Chancellor in NYC's history
Co-sponsored 1983 Congressional Hearings on Police Brutality in NYC
Pro bono counsel in successful litigation on behalf of Save the Schomburg Coalition
NCBL Juvenile Defense Project successfully litigated class action against New York requiring work release and college programs for juvenile offenders
Pro bono counsel for Anthony Davis, a high school student, who was acquitted of killing his white teacher
Pro bono counsel for the Michael Stewart family in which New York City was exposed for covering-up the fatal beating of Michael Stewart by 11 white police men and litigation compelling the District Attorney of New York County, for the first ti me, to indict a white policeman for the death of a Black person
Pro se defendant who successfully defended against charges of obstruction of justice and assault on court officers which, in People v. Maddox, if successful, would have led to disbar ment
Pro bono counsel who successfully defended Jonah Perry, an undergraduate student at Cornell University, on robbery and assault charges against a white police officer arising out of a fatal shooting of his brother, Edmond Perry, who was accepted to attend Stanford University
Pro bono counsel for the Michael Griffith family and Cedric Sandiford in Griffith's racially motivated killing in Howard Beach which resulted in the first ever appoint me nt of a special prosecutor in a racially-motivated case in the United States
Pro bono counsel for Andre Nichols who confessed to murdering a white Catholic priest but who was, nonetheless, acquitted of all murder and gun charges
Co-founder, and Chairman, United African Move me nt organized to fight for racial justice and particularly for the Tawana Brawley family and to provide a weekly political forum for the Black community, among other things
Pro bono counsel for the Moses Stewart family in the racially-motivated killing of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst and the prosecution and conviction of so me white me mbers of the mob
Pro bono counsel for Michael Briscoe, the only indicted defendant whose indict ment was dismissed in the Central Park Jogger trial
Pro bono counsel for Rev. Al Sharpton who was acquitted of all counts in a 67-count indict ment in Manhattan Supreme Court
Presenter - National Convention of the A me rican Bar Association
Chairman, 1992 Committee to Elect Rev. Al Sharpton - U.S. Senate
Sponsor of successful Congressional Hearing to halt excavation of Ancestral Burial Ground in NYC
Pro se litigant in Southgate and NYCCHR v. Maddox and UAM which conditionally gave UAM rights of free associations under the First A me ndme nt against attacks by retaliatory whites
Pro se litigant in Pagones v. Maddox, et. al., in which Dutchess County petit jury found, among other things, that Maddox made no defamatory state ments against an assistant district attorney, Steven Pagones
Columnist for the Amsterdam News
Co-host for WLIB-AM's "Sharptalk"



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Hevesi, Lawyer In Queens Case Is Known For Major Trials, The New York Ti mes, Dec. 27, 1986 at 25, col. 1
Hornung, The Black Avenger, The Village Voice, Nov. 21, 1989 , at 1
Jubera, Alton Maddox's Law: 'There Are No Rules,' The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Feb. 5, 1989 at 1L
Nelson, Alton Maddox For The Defense, The Washington Post, May 10, 1987, (Magazine) at 1
Noel, The 'Stop Maddox' Move me nt, The City Sun, June 22-28, 1988 , at 6
Stille, For Maddox, Controversy and Combat, Newsday, Feb. 14, 1987 , §2 at 1



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Alton Maddox's Law: `There Are No Rules'

BYLINE: JUBERA, DREW Drew Jubera Staff Writer
DATE: February 5, 1989
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
EDITION: The Atlanta Journal Constitution

This article profiles Newnan native Alton H. Maddox Jr., the country's most controversial civil rights lawyer. A black son of the segregated South, Mr. Maddox hoped a year ago to lead a civil rights move ment in the North through his role as lawyer for Tawana Brawley, the black teenager who claime d in November 1987 that she was raped by six whites in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. NEWNAN, Ga. - Newnan has always been a good place to grow up white. A handso me old town of 13,000, 35 miles southwest of Atlanta, it was once the third richest city its size in the country, based on per capita inco me. A booming cotton and textile industry created an improbable number of millionaires in Newnan, and two Georgia governors grew up there.

Blacks never fared as well. Their history in Newnan is like that of blacks in many Southern towns. It begins with slavery - in 1830, a white drunk in Newnan pawned one of his slaves for $25 to buy more liquor - and evolves through the permutations of segregation.

That history has long shaped the views of Alton H. Maddox Jr., the country's most controversial civil rights lawyer. A black son of the segregated South, Mr. Maddox hoped a year ago to lead a civil rights move ment in the North. His ascent was to come through his role as lawyer for Tawana Brawley, the black teenager who clai med in November 1987 that she was raped by six whites in Wappingers Falls , N.Y.

At the time, Mr. Maddox and 1980s New York looked made for each other. Following a string of police beatings and killings of blacks, Mr. Maddox won what civil rights activists called a landmark victory: in the Howard Beach, N.Y., case, a gang of whites was prosecuted for attacking three blacks in a predominantly white neighborhood. As attorney for the blacks, Mr. Maddox refused to cooperate with the investigation and forced New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor because of the case's racial overtones.

Seizing the moment again, after Ms. Brawley was found in a plastic bag with KKK scrawled on her body with dog feces, Mr. Maddox turned the Brawley case into a sweeping indict ment of racial injustice. He attacked everybody, from Mr. Cuomo (whom he said condoned the rape of black wo men) to the attorney general of New York (whom he said masturbated to photos of Ms. Brawley) to the entire criminal justice system, which he called inherently immoral. With the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney C. Vernon Mason, who also advised Ms. Brawley, he beca me part of the reigning trinity of black rage.

But these have turned into troubled times for Alton Maddox, whose lumbering fra me and dark expression seem to carry the gravity of his situation when he walks these days through courthouses in New York. (Though Mr. Maddox was approached several times and called repeatedly about this story, he did not make himself available to be interviewed.) Rather than a heroic act, his strategy of slander and non-cooperation in the Brawley case, which a grand jury determined was a hoax, has been wide ly criticized as an act of demagoguery.

Mr. Maddox, 43, now is almost certain to face charges by the attorney general of New York that could result in his disbarment, and the coalition that he, the Rev. Sharpton and Mr. Mason lead, called the United African Move ment, has shrunk toward irrelevancy.

It's been a long ride for Mr. Maddox from Newnan to New York . Many think it's over. Yet while the Rev. Sharpton has been declai med by his critics as a charl aton, and Mr. Mason has been called an opportunist, Mr. Maddox has remained a more complicated figure, and one not so easy to dismiss. His most severe offense, to critics and loyalists alike, appears to be zealotry--the sin of a true believer.

Family wealth in Newnan before the Civil War "meant simply a matter of******s an' mules," according to one account. After blacks were freed, their circumstances improved marginally, with whites still holding tightfisted control.

That control was made manifest in 1899 when a black fieldworker name d Sam Hose was lynched by a mob of Newnan whites. The mob alleged Mr. Hose killed his white employer and raped the man's wife. The lynching was so profoundly unsettling it was recorded in papers across the country.

The lesson of that ritual retribution diminished little in Newnan's black community by the time Mr. Maddox grew up there in the 1950's and 60's.

Newman was segregated, of course, with no contact between races except aqs a black might interact with a white superior at work. The town was run by a rich white elite. Growth was encouraged; change was not.

So blacks didn't bring charges against whites, the police treated the black community as a colony and blacks had no political presence to change it. As a result, most blacks acquiesced to the status quo.

"When you don't have any law to protect you, through the generations, black parents taught survival skills," said Frank Smith, a city councilman in Washington, D.C., who grew up in Newnan. "That was reinforced by the brute violence of the white community."

It was also reinforced in the segregated schools and churches, which prvided much of the black leadership. Mr. Maddox saw that work up close: His mother taught and his father preached.

"Their job, whether they realized it or not, was keeping the status quo," said Millard Far me r, an Atlanta civil rights lawyer who grew up in Newnan as part of the white elite. "They were paid above what other blacks made, and Alton benefited from it with his education."

But Mr. Maddox seems always to have been aware of the wider consequences around him. From the age of 4, for instance he traveled to rural schoolhouses with his mother and observed other children, mostly offspring of sharecroppers, and he saw how little most had compared to him.

"I was on the [school] bus, and my mother had prepared a big lunch," Mr. Maddox told a Washington Post reporter after the Howard Beach case. "Everybody else on the bus was eating a fatback meat sandwich, or a banana sandwich, or had a can of syrup. That drew home to me the inequities that existed."

Mr. Maddox was seen early in Newnan as smart, serious and eager to side with an underdog. "He had the idea to fight for people who didn't have anything before he ver put his foot in college," said Phenizee Mitchell, a Newnan civil rights activist for whom Mr. Maddox once worked. "He was born with it."

His awareness of race and how it turned on blacks was clear by high school. "He had a vision of what was coming long before the rest of us," said Joanne Harris, a classmate. One year, Mr. Maddox campaigned to elect a dark-skinned student prom queen; previously, only light-skinned blacks were crowned.

He also joined in one of Newnan's first civil rights protests when he and other black students sat one afternoon at the front counter in King's Drug Store. At the ti me, blacks were allowed to enter King's, go to the back and order. Then they had to leave. But Mr. Maddox and the other blacks waited to be served at the front counter.

After 20 minutes, according to Dr. William Hook Hall, a Washington , D.C., physician from Newnan who organized the protest, the help at Kin's pelted the students with eggs and tomatoes. Eventually, the police arrived and escorted the students outside.

"The police called our parents, which was worse than sending us to jail," said Dr. Hall. "None of our parents OK'd that kind of thing."

Our attitude was that if you can't live like a first-class citizen, why not go to jail? Some body had to do something."

Though he played in the band and on the football team ("as if he were saying, `I can make straight A's and still play this stupid ga me"' Mrs. Harris said), Mr. Maddox was always a dedicated student. "School was the only escape," explained Mr. Smith. "You grew up thinking this way of life is no good for me, so I have to get out here."

Mr. Maddox left Newnan for Washington's Howard University. There he was surrounded by the political influences of black radicals such as H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael. Many Howard students, especially those like Mr. Maddox who planned to beco me lawyers, were influenced by Charles Houston, a legendary black Washington lawyer who had won landmark housing discrimination cases. Mr. Houston, who once was dean at Howard (though not during Mr. Maddox's tenure), told students a black lawyer had two options: to be a social architect or a parasite on his people.

But Mr. Maddox's most profound influence has always been his own experience. "Growing up in the South had a tre mendous impact on him," said Edward Pinkard, a classmate who works at Howard. "He witnessed injustices he didn't forget."

The incident with the deepest impact on Mr. Maddox's future occurred in Newnan in 1967, just after he graduated from Howard.

Mr. Maddox was parked in a no-parking zone in front King's Drugstore, waiting for his aunt. According to the affidavit Mr. Maddox filed to appeal his conviction for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, a police officer pointed to the sign and said, "Boy, can't you read?"

Mr. Maddox wrote that after being threatened, he agreed to move, but the police then arrested and beat him. Mr. Maddox spent five days in a hospital as a result. The police said Mr. Maddox attacked them, and Mr. Maddox's claim was dismissed.

He told Phenizee Mitchell afterward: "When I got out of college, I thought I was some body. But when those police beat me up, they let me know I was still a ******."

Some say it is after this incident that Mr. Maddox began to search out racial confrontation, even inciting it in situations where it could not obviously be found --a tactic critics say informs his legal style today.

After Howard, Mr. Maddox enrolled in law school at the University of Georgia. He told friends the first thing he saw there was fraternity brothers dressed in confederate uniforms, and "******" was used in the classroom "as if it were standard English." He left Georgia before the end of a semester.

A year later, married and with a son, he enrolled in law school at Boston College, which had a reputation for being supportive of blacks. He also moved to South Boston , a white working class are where racial tensions were notoriusly high. Soon, he told friends, bricks were being thrown through his windows. Other blacks at the law school couldn't believe he moved there. "Out of all of the neighborhoods, the odds had to 1,000-to-1 he'd land in that one," said Leland Ware, a classmate and n ow law professor at St. Louis University.

Added Charles Johnson, an Atlanta lawyer and another classmate: "I've often wondered how much investigation he did before he moved to South Boston , whether he went there with his eyes open or closed. If he did it with his eyes open, that would suggest one picture of Alton."

Mr. Maddox eventually moved to the black ghetto of Roxbury, but his Southern experience still seethed; classmates recall his pronounced Southern accent, and, even today, observers say it is a matter of sport among New York lawyers to imitate the way Mr. Maddox says "po-lice." In Boston , Mr. Maddox belonged to a black law students group that took over the campus office of an all-white publication. He talked about race all the time .

"If there was a racial angle to be found in a situation, he'd be the one to bring it up," said Mr. Johnson. " Alton served as a reminder that as much as things had changed, there was much to be done."

After he graduated in 1971, Mr. Maddox went to a Harlem legal servcies agency in New York. His commitment to poor blacks and his style of racial warfare already were solidly in place.

"He could have gone in a number of directions," said Richard G. Huber, dean of the Boston College law school. "But all would have some thing to do with civil rights."

"He had no ambition to be partner in a major firm," added Victor Goode, once Mr. Maddox's boss. "He was a hardworking lawyer who'd be there until 8 or 10 at night.

"He also had a quality of great empathy for his clients. He sees them generally as victims of justice system that's inherently racist."

Mr. Maddox also saw his legal service office as racist. He would stand up at me etings and scream that white attorneys should leave Harlem; he resented whites being hired there at a ti me when the black bar was so small. Sometime s he'd become so emotional he'd cry.

"I think he was sincere in his conviciton that whites are evil, vicious and contemptible," a white lawyer who worked with Mr. Maddox told the National Law Journal. "He called us `white devils."'

Mr. Maddox was fired in 1977 for what a board member called "obstreperous behavior."

But the pattern was set. In 1979 Mr. Maddox joined the juvenile project of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. Though he was on the periphery of black activism in New York, one friend recalled him at the time, with his intense visage and gold-fra me glasses, looking "like a young Malcolm X."

"He wasn't central, but he was around," said Clemson Brown, an associate minister at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn . "More than any other lawyer, he holds the place as the people's lawyer."

The black lawyers conference was organized in the '60s to represent such controversial defendants as Angela Davis and the Black Panthers. As head of its juvenile project, Mr. Maddox told his lawyers to look for cases with impact beyond their clients. Toward that end, he once sued the city of New York for incarcerating a teenage defendant withouth providing for his educational needs. He won, and those needs are now provided for all juveniles.

But Mr. Maddox also became involved in more office conflicts, and in 1983, he was fired again. On his own, he quickly beca me part of a series of high-profile cases involving white police actions against blacks, honing what Michael W. Warren, who worked with Mr. Maddox at the black lawyers conference, called his "guerrilla tactics."

"[His style] is all-encompassing and Machiavelian," Mr. Warren explained. "He creates an illusion of what he's doing, while the reality is so mething else."

"Alton's only rule in the courtroom is there are no rules," added Peter Noel, a friend who covered Mr. Maddox for the Amsterdam News and City Sun, black newspapers in New York. "Someti mes he mumbles that rule to himself in court, over and over, like a psalm."

Mr. Maddox's most controversial case after leaving the juvenile project involved a 23-year-old black na me d Michael Stewart, who died in 1983 after being arrested and beaten by six New York transit police when he was found spray-painting walls in a subway station. The city's investigation of the police was botched by a number of depart ments, including the district attorney's office, according to independent investigations. it was just the circumstance Mr. Maddox had been looking for.

"We knew the system was morally bankrupt, and all that was necessary was a test case," Mr. Warren said. "The Stewart case was it."

Throughout the case, those involved were given a display of the legal shell game Mr Warren, the case's lead attorney, says Mr. Maddox has perfected. The judge, Jeffrey M. Atlas, has said Mr. Maddox and his partners filed motions throughout the trial to dismiss the charges against the police. Mr. Atlas said their aim was to hamstring prosecution, making it look racist throught the endless delays.

"While it seemed to the world they were protesting the defendants not being prosecuted," said Judge Atlas, "they were trying to prevent them from being prosecuted."

Similar charges have been leveled against Mr. Maddox in the Howard Beach and Tawana Brawley cases. His first move in both those cases was to charge that authorities investigating them were racist. Then he refused to cooperate with the investigations.

Critics such as Richard Emery of the New York Civil Liberties Union say Mr. Maddox's charges of racism beco me a self-fulfilling prophecy. He says Mr. Maddox's only goal is "sabotage and the pursuit of racial division."

In the Stewart case, the police eventually were acquitted. The effect of that decision on Mr. Maddox as well as on a large seg ment of the black community, was much like that of the beating Mr. Maddox suffered years earlier in Newnan.

"What little faith we had in the criminal justice system, it totally erased that faith," Mr. Warren said. "Now we're at war."

That war continues. Mr. Warren, whom friends say has had a personal falling out with Mr. Maddox over his tactics in the Brawley case, nevertheless says other black attorneys have been watching Mr. Maddox "and sharpening their swords." Organizations that track racial legal activity agree.

"As a strategy, [non-cooperation] is now being employed in the New York area," said Esmeralda Simmons, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Jusice at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. "Racism is alive and well in the crimnal justice system, and Mr. Maddox has retained a treme ndous amount of respect."

Ms. Simmons added that the effectiveness of Mr. Maddox's strategy has not yeat been determined, and that results in the Brawley case are "mixed." But she said that as a result of Howard Beach, civil rights groups in New York are calling for a permanent special prosecutor in all racial bias and police brutality cases.

"If there wasn't a real problem with racism there, [the Brawley case] wouldn't have flown as far as it did," added Millard Far mer. "But there's the realization this could have happened. It is a small paragraph, if not a whole chapter, in the book on what brings about social change."

But while Mr. Maddox's critics agree racism often perverts the justice system, they are unwilling to view him as a hero. Many see him instead as a treacherous demagogue with an apocalyptic agenda. Most disturbing to many is Mr. Maddox's alliance with the Rev. Sharpton, the churchless preacher whose calculated presence, made unmistakable by his long copper hair with its Donna Reed flip, categorizes him among much of the civil rights leadership as an obvious charaltan and media cartoon.

But for Mr. Maddox, described by one observer as a "spectacularly unglamorous fellow," the Rev. Sharpton provides the charismatic oratory he lacks to energize a following. Called by New York magazine "the Rev. Sound Bite" for his media acu men, the Rev. Sharpton has said his role is to rally grassroots support for the controversial cases Messrs. Maddox and Mason find.

"Legal work has a certain isolating quality," explained Mr. Goode. "I'm not surprised Alton would want to find someone to help him break down that isolation and connect his work to so mething larger."

But others think Mr. Maddox, in the words of one observer, has "sailed over the [expletive] edge" with the Brawley case --that he's wearing the blinders of the true believer, ignoring the dubious company in which he's found himself and dismissing any suggestion he is being used by strategists whose motives might be different from his own. So me suggest Mr. Maddox reached a point of no return in the Brawely case, one in which he could not retract his position no matter what he believed f or fear of being branded a dupe of the white establish ment by the radical elements he represents. Many charge that Mr. Maddox now believes any means justifies the exposure of a racist syste --including, as New York Atto rney General Robert Abrams charged after the grand jury findings in the Brawley case, perpetrating a hoax on that system.

Some say the strategy has undermined those it was supposed to help. Conrad Lynn, a legendary black civil rights attorney in New York who has advised Mr. Maddox in the past, said grand juries are now taking a cynical view of civil right s cases. he said since the Brawley case, he can't win trials "I used to win with all-white juries."

"What Alton's doing is an expression of rage at discrimination," Mr. Lynn said. "But he's never sorted it through to get to so mething else. He doesn't want to admit any white person could be so emancipated spiritually to identify with the plight of blacks."

"He's done a lot of great work here," added Playthell Benjamin, a forme r history professor and civil rights soldier who covered the Brawley case for The Village Voice. "But I've seen this happen over and over again. This is the rise of a classic demagogue.

"Maddox," Mr. Benjamin concluded, "is a zealot who might be courting martyrdom."

Up Against The System

In some of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 1980s, Alton Maddox has attracted a national reputation by winning long-shot cases for his young black clients. It's how he does it that bothers so me people

Copyright The Washington Post Company May 10, 1987

Written by: Jill Nelson

IT IS A LONG WAY FROM THE LITTLE TOWN OF Newnan, Georgia , to the community of Howard Beach, in Queens, New York, but to attorney Alton Henry Maddox Jr. the distance is one of perception, not substance. In 1967, Maddox suffered a beating at the hands of police officers on Newnan's main street. In December 1986, Cedric Sandiford, Timothy Gri mes and Michael Griffith suffered a beating at the hands of 12 white youths in Howard Beach. Maddox sees a difference between what happened to him Down South and what happened to Michael Griffith "Up South," as he calls New York. Maddox was convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in Georgia ; Michael Griffith is dead.

Maddox, 41, is first, last and always a black man, and, to his mind, survival has less to do with education and credentials than with chance. A 1967 graduate of Howard University who completed Boston College Law School in 1971, he is now an attorney and a middle-class professional who has been living in New York since 1973. He knows that he was born with a better chance for success than most blacks, so he has dedicated his life to making the odds better, to improving the chances of black criminal defendants by using the law.

"I didn't decide when I got out of law school that I was going to defend black juveniles, but that's who's coming through the system," says Maddox. "Those are the majority of people being arrested and tried and imprisoned. Ain't nobody givin' up nothing in New York. If you want to survive here, you have to take your turf!" It is a choice that has made him a public and not very popular man.

Maddox is best known from the aftermath of the Howard Beach incident last December, in which three black me n were beaten and chased by a mob of white youths. One of the men, Michael Griffith, was hit by a car and killed as he

fled the mob. Maddox is representing Cedric Sandiford, one of the survivors of that attack; Maddox's friend and colleague, C. Vernon Mason, is representing Timothy Gri mes, another survivor. Both lawyers accused the Queens district attorney, John Santucci, of conducting a bad-faith investigation and said that their clients would not testify until Dominick Blum, the driver of the car who hit Griffith, was arrested. Police said that Blum was not associated with the Howard Beach whites who attacked the black men and that he just happened to be driving through the area at the time of the attack.

Maddox and Mason alienated many in the legal community by advising their clients not to cooperate in the investigation. Mayor Edward Koch warned that Sandiford and Maddox were "stirring up people"; Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind called on the grievance committee overseeing state judicial districts "to investigate the professional behavior of Mr. Maddox," and charged that he used "racially divisive tactics."

On December 23, three youths were indicted for murder, manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment for the attack on Griffith, Sandiford and Gri mes. On December 29, a Queens judge threw out the murder and assault charges against the three white defendants, citing Maddox's refusal to bring his client, Sandiford, to testify at the preliminary hearing.

Maddox demanded that New York Gov.Mario Cuomo appoint a special prosecutor to handle the investigation, a move that was supported by New York 's Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and others. On January 14, Cuomo appointed Charles Joseph Hynes special prosecutor in the Howard Beach case, effectively removing Santucci from involvement. On February 10, 12 youths were indicted as a result of Hynes' investigation, three of them for second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and assault.

Though the Howard Beach case has brought Maddox national attention, sensational cases are hardly new to him. One morning after an unexpected trial victory, Maddox walked toward the federal courthouse in Manhattan. A rainbow of attorneys, rushing to their offices, stopped to shake his hand and offer congratulations, and to compli ment him on what several called his "stunning victory." Messengers with manila envelopes under their arms called out hellos. In a large seg ment of New York's black community, Maddox is more than a celebrity; he is a folk hero, a latter-day Robin Hood of African descent, if not praised by the legal community then certainly by those whom he has protected and defended. The quintessential Maddox case involves a black client tackling a symbol of white society. Usually the black client is perceived as having little chance of acquittal:

- In February, Maddox took on the case of Andre Nichols, 19, a black youth accused of killing a white Catholic priest, the Rev. Frederick M. Strianese, who had picked Nichols up for a homosexual liaison. Maddox argued self-defense, that Nichols shot and killed the priest after Strianese refused to let Nichols out of his car when Nichols changed his mind. Nichols was acquitted not just of the murder, but also of illegal-weapons possession, which surprised even Maddox.

- Last year, Maddox won acquittal of Jonah Perry, 19, a young black man accused of assaulting a white plainclothes police officer near Columbia University. The officer claime d that Jonah and his brother Edmund assaulted him; Edmund was killed by the officer. The Perrys seemed to many to be unlikely perpetrators of a mugging. Harlem natives, they had excelled academically. Both had attended prep school; Edmund was a recent graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and was about to attend Stanford University. Jonah was a sophomore at Cornell. They were idealized success stories, intelligent kids who rose from poverty through hard work. The Manhattan grand jury that indicted Perry found that the officer had acted in self-defense and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

- Recently Maddox took up the case of Steven Bowman, a 26-year-old black man accused, along with Darren Norman, also black, of slashing the face of a white New York model, Marla Hanson. Earlier, Hanson's former landlord and spurned suitor, Steven Roth, had been convicted of first-degree assault in the case.

As much as Maddox is in the headlines, he also avoids them. Interviews with him are hard to come by; for reporters working in the mainstream

press, they are nearly impossible. And although Maddox's goal is justice for blacks, it is ironic that in seeking judicial equality he has increased the distance between black and white A mericans by shouting "racism" whenever he perceives it.

"The button that Alton has pushed is making all of us confront the barriers of our own racism, and this is particularly difficult for progressive whites, because we're so self-serving about our racism," says New York attorney James I. Meyerson. "It really makes us vulnerable in an intense way."

Whites often want black leaders to be predictable, but Maddox is not. He is neither the remembered comrade from the Selma-Montgo mery march in the 1960s, holding hands and singing "We Shall Overcome ," nor is he typical of their northern black colleagues 20 years later, soft-spoken, professional, keeping the faith-if at all-in a non-threatening way. He neither hates white people as a group nor, it appears, does he particularly like them. For the most part, they are simply not in his sphere of interest or impact, just as they were only peripherally present when he was a child growing up in Georgia. "My mother simply did not want me in contact with white people," he recalls. "That was the kind of society we lived in. So I never knew a subservient role."

"One of the things we have been talking about for years is starting a real civil rights movement in New York City," says his colleague Mason. "Both of us being from the South, we certainly have southern perspectives, but I don't think that's distorted at all. New York City is in greater need of a movement than Birmingham, Alabama, was 20 years ago. What Alton really represents is the realization that we must move from a powerless position to a position of power.

"Alton is very clear about the need to build moveme nts around certain types of cases," says Mason. "He has integrated the emotional fervor of our people with the intellect of a scholar, and that combination is what is most frightening to the status quo . . . Alton is a man who quotes Du Bois and Douglass and Tubman, who understands what was happening in the South around police brutality, but who, more important, understands Ronald Reagan and Ed Koch, Edwin Meese and William Brad-

ford Reynolds, and where they are coming from."

In the process of forging a new movement with Mason, Maddox has drawn the ire of a broad section of New York's legal and political community for his someti mes unorthodox but often successful legal tactics. For example, Maddox attempted to turn the tables on the prosecution in the Hanson case by claiming in court that the victim "is a girl out of Texas with a lot of racial hang-ups."

Maddox throws his head back and laughs heartily when asked about criticism of his methods. "You can't give us an education and then ask us to be stupid. It just doesn't work. If you didn't want me to have a brain, you should have never let me go into these schools."

NEWNAN, ABOUT 35 MILES FROMAtlanta, is a pretty town, rife with magnolia trees, antebellum architecture and broad streets. Everywhere, the indelible redness of Georgia's earth pervades; the streets, houses and cars are washed in pale orange. Across the railroad tracks is the black community, full of small, neat houses, gardens, yards planted with flowers. The house where Alton Maddox grew up, with his mother Nicie, father, Alton Sr., and sister, Gloria, is at 23 Wheat Street. It is pale gray, neat, with a sloping yard and columns on either side of the front doorway.

Early on, it seemed that a place in life was assured for Alton Maddox Jr. The child of southern black aristocracy-a teacher mother and a preacher father- he would go to school and college, beco me a doctor, perhaps, as his mother wanted, settle down and raise his family in Newnan. Maddox and his younger sister Gloria would do we


Well-Known Member
Jul 20, 2006
i have had the honor and privilege of meeting and speaking with this brother...
to hear this man is an honor

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