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Kenney Dennard Publisher

Barnes Says Brooks
Did Nothing Wrong

"When Tyrone Brooks was born in October of 1945, Georgia was a much different place. Jim Crow was the law of the land and the Supreme court of the United States still adhered to the principal that a school system could be separate but equal. Of course, we know that separate meant by its very term, unequal education opportunities.

African Americans were expected to sit in the back of the bus if they ever got to ride a bus at all, to step off the street if a white woman or man came down the street, and to stay on the farm in a sharecropping system that was slavery by another name. That was the world Tyrone Brooks was born into, but it is not the one he will leave.

Largely because of his efforts and the efforts of many Georgia has changed. Reluctantly, with great hesistation and yes, even with resistance, but it has changed.

At age 15 tyrone became a volunteer at the Southern Christian Leadership Council, founded by Martin Luther King, Jr., and by 1967 He was a full time employee working will King, Joe Lowery, and Ralph David Abernathy.

Since that time, tyrone has never stopped working to bring the American Dream to those who thought it beyond their reach. His life is about serving, not about amassing great wealth.

If his life had been about wealth, he could afford to pay me.

I tell you all of this because standing here today Tyrone Brooks is presumed innocent and to all of those who have already passed judgment because of the hyperbole of "theft of a million dollars"; "stealing from those who he pledged to help" and other outlandish and untrue statements of the government in this case.

Here are the facts:

1. Tyrone Brooks never took a salary from either universal humanities or GABEO.

2. He was paid for expenses and he used that money to pay his bills.

3. The time period in which Tyrone is alleged to have taken money is almost 20 Years.

The government alleges that over that 20 years he was given expenses of less than $40,000 to $50,000 average per year. If Tyrone had been paid a salary of $40 to $50,000 per year over the twenty years for full time work, could there be any dispute that he was entitled to that?
I don't think so.

As I stated what he should have done was set up a salary for his full time work, a very modest salary, and if he had done that we would not be here today. Instead he was paid an amount approximating his expenses for his work and somehow that is a crime.

Bad bookkeeping- maybe, but not a crime.

We have all seen politicians who have manipulated the system for their personal benefit, but that is apparently not a crime of substance, while a civil rights protester who is given money to pay expenses when he works full time in the struggle is a crime.

I don't think that is right.

I don't believe it is the way the criminal justice system should work.

Whether a person is guilty of a crime or not should not depend on who hires the best accountant or who holds the highest office.

Universal humanities is a 501 (c)(3) which grew out of an effort in the late 1980's to re-establish the city of keys ville.

Keys ville is a small, very poor city in Burke County where African Americans are a majority.

When it was apparent that African Americans were going to be the majority, the powers that be just disbanded the city. Tyrone led the successful effort to reestablish Keysville as a functioning city governed the majority of its citizens. While there he saw the poverty that existed as a result of the funcitional illiteracy of its citizens of color.

Tyrone helped found universal humanities to advocate for literacy programs to lift the poor of color from the corrosive effects of poverty through education. In its early years tyrone funded the efforts of universal humanities out of his own pocket.

Later, through some small grants, Tyrone was able to continue the process of trying to build an infrastructure of increased literacy.

As stated earlier, Tyrone did not receive a salary for his efforts, but he was given an expense sitpend that he used for expenses of living so he could continue the work. This is the activity that the government claims was criminal.

I don't see it that way, and I don't think a Jury will see it that way either.

As to the Georgia Association of Elected Black Officials or GABEO, Tyrone never sought to become the leader of GABEO. It was something he was asked to do, and he reluctantly agreed.

Again, he did not receive a salary for what is almost a full time job.
When he became president Tyrone found that his predecessor had a discretionary account to fund special projects and for expenses of the president.

It is these expenditures that the Government claims there was a crime. I don't believe it is a crime since there was no salary, and again I don't think a jury will think it is a crime either.

Finally, I want to say I have the highest respect for the U.S. Attorney and her assistants, but it think the broad discretion that a U.S. Attorney has in deciding whether to prosecute should have been excercised in this case by allowing this dispute to be handled as a civil tax matter rather than a criminal case seeking incarceration of somebody who has given his life fighting for the rights of others.

I have a copy of my remarks that will be available to you at the end of this news conference, and whoever is the FBI agent in the audience, let me know and I will make sure you get a full copy."

Gwenette Westbrooks
Roy Barnes