Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two Black Men Kidnapped Me and My Daughter.

Bonnie Sweeten, a suburban Pennsylvania mother, was tracked to Disney World after claiming she and her young daughter had been abducted by two Black men and stuffed into a car trunk will be extradited from Florida and charged with making false reports and identity theft, a prosecutor said.

Bonnie a
nd her daughter, Julia Rakoczy, were taken into custody Wednesday night at the Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando, Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said.

Henry told reporters that Sweeten borrowed a co-worker's driver's license and presented it as her own when she bought an airline ticket in Philadelphia and flew to Orlando with her 9-year-old daughter.

They had minimal luggage and the hotel was paid through Friday, Henry said. Sweeten had withdrawn about $12,000 from several bank accounts over recent days, but authorities were investigating whether that money had been stolen.

"We believe that there were some domestic concerns with her husband and some financial concerns as well," Henry said.

In the frantic 911 calls, Sweeten, said two Black men had bumped her 2005 GMC Denali, carjacked her and stuffed her in the trunk of a dark Cadillac. She implied that her daughter was with her in the trunk, according to Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore, who listened to tapes of the calls.

Sweeten, who is white, described her assailants as Black men but otherwise gave few details about their appearance, Vanore said.

"It was pretty generic," he said.

Police found inconsistencies with her story from the start, and noted that they could not find witnesses on the busy road in Upper Southampton Township who saw an abduction. The Denali was found early Wednesday on a downtown Philadelphia street, about 20 miles away, with a parking ticket issued shortly after the calls were made. Police knew the 911 calls were made in the same area.

Sweeten has two other daughters, a 15-year-old from a prior marriage and an 8-month-old with her current husband, a landscaper. Julia Rakoczy attended elementary school in Bensalem until she was withdrawn from classes May 1, said Susan Harder, an administrative assistant with the Bensalem Township School District.

Her ex-husband and the 9-year-old girl's father, Tony Rakoczy, described Sweeten on NBC's "Today" show as a good mother.

Neighbors said the family had lived in their relatively new development for about two years.

Sweeten, 38, of Feasterville, is listed as a director of a New Hope-based charity called The Carlitz Foundation, run by lawyer Debbie Carlitz. The charity's stated goal is raising money for autism research and for people in Burma. Carlitz did not return e-mail or phone messages.

"Bonnie was a very, very organized person," said Susan Cordeiro, secretary of the parent-teacher group at Belmont Hills Elementary School in Bensalem, which Julia had attended. "She was at every meeting, she was very involved. ... She's on top of her game all the time, even when she was pregnant."


I don't know about you, but I've heard Ashley Todd's story somewhere before and that somewhere is here in Boston. Twenty year old Todd from Texas is a student volunteer for the McCain campaign in Pittsburgh. Her scarred face turned up all over the internet after alleging that she was mugged at an ATM machine on Wednesday night by a knife-wielding Black man. Todd said the 6 foot four assailant also carved the letter "B" in her cheek after he spotted a McCain bumper sticker on her car. Police arrived and offered to take her to the hospital. She declined. Instead, in the hours after the alleged incident, she used her Twitter social networking account to thank fellow GOP supporters "for their thoughts and prayers" and to ask them to work together to get John McCain elected.

Todd has now confessed that she made up the story after failing a lie detector test, and after police failed to turn up a 6 foot four black Obama supporter who drew a "b"--presumably for Barack-- in her cheek like the fictitious mark of Zorro or the anti-hero in the movie "V."

This brings me back to Boston. I was having a conversation with a friend one night in October of 1989, when a local news station reported a story so dreadful that we stopped in mid-sentence: A white couple coming home from a birthing class at a local hospital in Boston had lost their way and had ended up in a "dangerous part of town" near a black housing project. While looking for a way out they were allegedly attacked by a Black mugger who came out of nowhere and fatally shot Stuart's pregnant wife, Carol, and injured Stuart.

After ingesting the news, my friend said, something's not right about this story. For one, he grew up not far from that location and said it would take some effort to "get lost" in the area where the shooting took place. To him, the story smelled of fiction.

As a journalist, especially as a journalist specializing in color politics and race relations, I am taught to treat all stories with complexity and with a fair degree of informed skepticism.

That's why Ashley Todd's story did not smell right. From the very beginning it smelled of fiction, but that did not stop Matt Drudge from headlining the incident on his much-read web site, declining to delve into the most obvious questions:

1) Why did she refuse medical treatment after such a physically and emotionally traumatic incident?

2) Did she have a reason for lying? Her story seemed too convenient. Its veracity too problematic. She's a staunch McCain supporter in a battleground state that many fear may be slipping away.

3) In the photo why was there no swelling and the scar did not appear to be a deep slash, which you would expect to result from the actions of an enraged 6 foot four mugger who takes a knife to someone's face.

In the Charles Stuart case tough questions were asked, belatedly. Only after dozens of Black men were rounded up and questioned; after hundreds of homes were raided; after an African American man was arrested and jailed on suspicion of murder; after race relations, in an already racially charged city, were set on end by the raw emotions that resulted from the tragic murders of a young woman and her not yet born baby. Charles Stuart, it was later discovered, had pulled the trigger. He jumped to his death from a bridge in 1990.

The Stuart case and the initial lack of media skepticism, continues to serve as a lesson to journalists to probe deeper when confronted with stories that smell of fiction.

But in 1994 the smell apparently was still not strong enough. A story told by Susan Smith, a white South Carolina mother, was greeted with up-turned eyebrows by only a handful of reporters. On October 25th that year, Smith told police that she had been car jacked by a Black man who drove off with her two children in the back seat. It took nine days for the story to unravel, and compelled Smith to confess to driving her Mazda into a lake and drowning her children.

The often brutal and tangible dynamics of America's racial history have made it just as easy to fall for the make-believe of alleged Black victims of white assailants. That was the case with Tawana Brawley, the Black teenager in Duchess Country, New York, who in 1988 falsely claimed she was gang raped by a group of white men. That incident may have fueled more skepticism and investigatory instincts in the years that followed -- but apparently not enough. Let's take Crystal Mangum's tale. She's the North Carolina woman who falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape, and her story, on the surface, seemed plausible, given that it concerned intoxicated male athletes, strippers, a supporting witness (at least initially) and confident assertions by the white district attorney. But this case too should have been put under a microscope before it was allowed to be so heavily promulgated as truth.

Ashley Todd's story came apart at the seams a lot quicker than many, thanks in large measure to a skeptical public, good police work and a local and national press that asked the right questions. But the fact that Ms. Todd felt she could get away with telling yet another false story about a Black boogie man, suggests that some in this country have not gotten the memo. Here it is: We've been there before and our noses are getting used to the smell of fiction, especially, it seems, when it's soaked in the sullage of race.
(P. Martin)

In 2005 at the United Coast Guard Academy, cadet Kristen Nicholson told a similar story. She claimed that she had been raped by a Black man. That Black man turned out to be cadet Webster Smith, her boyfriend. They had been dating for about two years before the alleged incident. Kristen got pregnant and had an abortion. Six months or more after the abortion while she was still dating Webster Smith, she decided to claim that Webster Smith had raped her. To the amazement of rational people everywhere except at the Coast Guard Academy and the Headquarters legal staff she was believed. Coast Guard lawyers believed her story so strongly that they circled the wagons, spent over $20 thousand dollars to court-martial Webster Smith and kicked him out of the Coast Guard. And that story still does not have a conclusion. The case has been appealed to one step just shy of the United States Supreme Court.

The dynamics of America's racial history and the rabid racism of people in the Coast Guard like Doug Wisnewski, Sean Gill, and James Van Sice and others make stories like those of Kristen Nicholson, Bonnie Sweeten, Ashley Tood, Susan Smith, and Charles Stuart seem completely believable. Sometimes we would rather believe a lie than simply accept the truth.

Judge London Steverson
London Eugene Livingston Steverson
 (born March 13, 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.

Early Life and Education
Steverson was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948,[1] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African American to enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University and graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.

USCG Assignments.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [2] (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker General SanMartin, which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[3]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[4]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[5]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the Kolevan and the Lamut for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Base before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back

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