Sistah’s Step Up

Standard

Late last week, Georgia State Representative “Able” Mabel Thomas announced her intention to challenge Congressman John Lewis for re-election.  

 

 

 

She becomes the second serious challenger to Lewis, the first being Markel Hutchins, a community activist and minister.  This marks the second time Thomas has challenged Lewis. Representative Thomas lost badly in 1992 and won less than 25% of the vote.  Able Mabel is a serious politician having served in both the Georgia House of Representatives and the Atlanta City Council.  She is also a progressive legislator having twice passed legislation to increase Georgia’s homestead exemption to protect low income and elderly people from losing their homes.

 

She, like Hutchins, frames the contest in generational terms, I believe that, at the end of the day, that my opponent is not only beatable, but my opponent should — right now — just get out of the race and let a new generation come forth.”

 

Hutchins subsequently released a statement as well and obviously got the memo that this is a change election. “While my campaign will continue to respect the contributions of the elder politicians that have come before us, this congressional race is about sending a true change agent to Washington that has the energy to work, audacity to hope, courage to lead and propensity for diplomacy needed to effectively represent and advocate for all of the people of Georgia in the United States Congress.”

 

This follows on the heels of an announcement last month that Georgia State Senator Regina Thomas, (no relation) will challenge Congressman John Barrow for re-election in the July Democratic Primary. Barrow, a conservative Democrat, barely made it last election and has raised an impressive war chest to fend off stiff Republican competition.  

 

 

Senator Regina Thomas, a Savannah Democrat, has a weakness for colorful and elaborate hats and apparently hers is on too tight.   She cannot possibly win this seat in a general election despite having the demographic advantage of a 40% African American population in the district.  She’s a weak fundraiser but a solid progressive. Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna be enough to overcome white resistance to liberal black representation in rural South Georgia. 

John Lewis escapes plantation Clinton; endorses Obama

Standard

Hat Tip: Atlanta Journal Constitution

WASHINGTON — Hoping to put an end to a month of confusion and dismay, Rep. John Lewis on Wednesday said he’s switching his support from Sen. Hillary Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Lewis cited the overwhelming preference for Obama in his district as a reason for his change of heart, but he also talked about Obama’s campaign as transformational for the nation.

“Something’s happening in America, something some of us did not see coming,” Lewis said. “Barack Obama has tapped into something that is extraordinary.

Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and an elder of the civil rights movement, at first sparked outrage from Georgia’s African American community by backing Clinton, a friend, over Obama, the nation’s first viable African American candidate.

Then confusion struck about a week ago when Lewis told the New York Times that, as a super delegate to the Democratic National Convention, he would feel compelled to vote for Obama as the nominee because his district – and the state’s African American population overall – so overwhelmingly for Obama in the state primary.

Lewis’s office later charged that the story was inaccurate but did not clarify who Lewis was actually backing.

In an interview in his congressional office, Lewis said the decision to switch his support was a difficult one, a choice between a longtime friend and a little-known black man.

“I did it because I felt I had to support Mrs. Clinton because of our friendship,” Lewis said. “But also I thought she was ready to lead. Lewis had placed a called to Clinton’s office Wednesday morning but hadn’t heard back from her. He also had a Please-Return-The-Call message of his own from Obama. By midday, he still hadn’t returned it.

“It’s been a long, hard and difficult struggle to come to where I am now,” Lewis said.

John Lewis challenged for re-election

Standard

Hat Tip: By Jim Galloway, Atlanta Journal Constitution

For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta on Wednesday picked up opposition to his re-election to Congress.

Markel Hutchins, an Atlanta minister who took up the cause of a 92-year-old woman killed in a botched police raid, announced he would challenge the 11-term congressman and civil rights icon in the Democratic primary.

“Now is the time for us to move beyond the nostalgia of the Civil Rights era,” said Hutchins. The minister said he met privately with Lewis on Tuesday.

Hutchins, 30, said Lewis’ October endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race, while the 5th District largely supported Barack Obama, was a factor in his decision to challenge Lewis. “That presented some problems for many of us,” Hutchins said.

But Hutchins also said Lewis had not brought home enough federal dollars to help the city of Atlanta cope with its crumbling infrastructure. On Wednesday, to illustrate the point, he made his announcement on a Martin Luther King Jr. Drive bridge that he said was in desperate need of repair.

Lewis, who will turn 68 today, declared he was ready for the fight.

“Leadership cannot be given. It has to be earned with respect and integrity,” the congressman said in a statement issued by his campaign. “There is no question that something is happening in America. There is a movement, a movement I helped give birth to, that creates the conditions and the climate for change. I have always been a fighter.”

Bastardizing the Dream: Alveda King

Standard

This is the week set aside in honor of one our own, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Normally a time for celebration, I have come to dread our annual commemoration because of photo-op’s like the one above with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has fallen off the mountaintop, bumped her damn head, and become a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

 

Employed full-time by the religious right, she is an aggressive pro-life activist, minister, and professional public speaker. As she has moved steadily to the right, Alveda has provided political cover and given full license to those who would distort, defame, and destroy the dream of her late Uncle in the name of a fictitious colorblindness that is really white supremacy.

 

A long time opponent of Affirmative Action, she is entangled in a network of right-wing preachers hell bent on destroying the progressive social change that Dr. King fought for. While Dr. King spoke of the power of love and the creation of the beloved community, the glue that holds their little movement together is hatred, homophobia and a fixation with stopping same sex couples who love each other from having the right to marry.

 

In the month of Mrs. King’s death, Alveda participated in “Justice Sunday,” a wingnut gala consisting of the full constellation of reactionary politicians and their talabangelical brethren dedicated to fighting for the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees like Samuel Alito. Alito, an archconservative with a history of hostility to civil rights, provided the fifth vote to strike down voluntary Affirmative Action plans in the public schools last year. Weakening the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education without the guts to admit it, Alito and his allies on the court dealt the principle of ending separate but equal education a mortal wound.

 

Among those beating the drums of fascist religiosity with Alveda were Justice Sunday colleagues Tony Perkins, Head of the right-wing Family Research Council and a former Louisiana politician who paid white supremacist and neo-Nazi David Duke for his mailing list, and Jerry Falwell, a former segregationist who smeared Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tool of communists.

During most of Dubya’s first term, he found some way to paw Coretta Scott King in a manner that made my blood boil. Born on the same day as my grandmother two years apart, Mrs. King was always an icon in my household. I would NEVER allow George W. Bush to put his damn hands on my grandmother and I could never understand why Mrs. King visited the White House of a man who stole the Presidency. Her graciousness was always taken advantage of by this White House and she invariably became a colored prop in Dubya’s annual racist stage play of deceit every third Monday in January.

 

My personal favorite was the 2003 King Holiday. Within days of the holiday, the Administration announced a bold frontal assault on Affirmative Action by filing a brief against the Affirmative Action Admissions programs for both the University of Michigan and its School of Law. Writing a powerful Five-to-Four opinion upholding the principle of Affirmative Action, Sandra Day O’Connor ended her twenty years of steady opposition to Affirmative Action programs. Within two years, she resigned from the court only to be replaced by Alveda’s choice, Samuel Alito. It is only a matter of time now before Affirmative Action is destroyed by the Roberts Court.

 

Monday, I kept hearing reports of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee being invited to attend King Day services at Ebenezer Baptist Church by a member of “the King Family.” While not identified, I have a hunch that the black fool in question was Alveda. She was the one sitting next to the presidential contender that told White South Carolina Republicans that they shouldn’t tolerate anybody dictating to them about where, when and how to fly the confederate flag. After desecrating the sanctuary with his presence, Huckabee used the occasion to accept the endorsement of a group of black wingnut preachers, the “Coalition of African American Pastors,” a group Alveda has claimed a board membership of on her website.

 

 

This week, Martin Luther King III, “deeply” concerned about politicians misappropriating the legacy of his father, wrote John Edwards a beautiful letter telling him to keep fighting and stay in the race. If he was truly concerned about folks distorting the dream, he would have stopped his Mama from being used by George W. Bush, stopped his sister Bernice from demonizing gays and lesbians, put his foot down to permit the man who paid for his Daddy’s funeral, Harry Belafonte, to eulogize his mother instead of the ignorant patrician in the White House, and done something to put his cousin Alveda in check.

 

As adherents of the drum major for justice who preached non-violence, it would be unseemly for the members of the King family to take Alveda aside and beat her ass until she remembers what the hell the dream is really about. Nevertheless, let me be the first one to say to the King family that all of black America would happily forgive y’all if you laid down the principles of non-violence temporarily to “lay hands” on Alveda with “the love of the Lord.”

 

I won’t tell nobody and I am quite sure that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a King family friend, would help. After all, she has kept her girls outta jail, despite the mess they’ve been involved in, and I’m very sure a discrete word from the mayor to the Po-po would squash it. If Shirley can’t help, somebody can always call Bishop Thomas Weeks, Juanita Bynum’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The way I see it he’ll pop either the question, Alveda, or both.

 

Although I can’t help but lampoon Alveda and make light of this situation for the sake of my fragile sanity, bastardizing Dr. King’s dream is no laughing matter.

Apollo Holmes gets bail in Darius Miller beatdown case

Standard

Hat Tip: Beth Warren, Atlanta Journal Constitution

The mother of a celebrity fitness trainer critically injured when he was beaten in a Midtown parking lot made an emotional plea to a judge Friday to think of her comatose son before granting bail to a suspect.

Patricia Bonhomme told Fulton County Magistrate Richard Hicks that her only son, Darius Miller, 41, nearly died when his heart stopped, but doctors were able to bring him back.

Doctors at Emory Crawford Long Hospital have told the family Miller may never come out of his vegetative state, Bonhomme said.

“I sit there watching my son suffer,” the mother said. “This violence has to stop. My son is lying there fighting for his life with tubes down him.”

Hicks told the victims’ mother, “I feel for you,” but under Georgia law, he had to grant bail to Apollo Holmes, who has no criminal record. He set it at $100,000.

Holmes, 24, is charged with aggravated assault in the attack on Miller.

Accounts differ regarding what happened the night of Dec. 16 outside two popular Peachtree Street nightclubs. One thing that is known is that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s two daughters, Kai Franklin Graham, 35, and Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, were present.

In one version, witnesses said a man turned his video camera on Graham, Franklin and a third, unidentified woman, and Miller, a friend of the mayor’s daughters, asked him to stop. At that point, witnesses said, about 10 men attacked Miller.

Page Pate, an attorney for 01 Entertainment, a party promoter filming an event at one of the clubs, has told a different story. He said witnesses told him the fight started after the three women became upset when they thought someone was videotaping them leaving a club about 2:30 a.m.

Miller stepped in and tried to take the video camera as several men crowded around him, Pate said. A scuffle ensued, and Miller ended up striking his head on the pavement, the attorney said.

Holmes’ attorney, Bruce Harvey, brought in several witnesses who were ready to testify. The defendant’s newborn son also was brought to court.

But Hicks opted not to hear from the supporters. Besides granting bail to Holmes, the judge assigned him a 6 p.m. curfew and ordered him to live with his mother in Mableton.

Holmes will continue his job at a rug manufacturing plant but cannot keep working nights as a front-desk security guard at a condominium due to the curfew, Harvey said.

Fulton prosecutor Jack Barrs said outside court that the case remains under investigation.

“There are other arrests coming,” Barrs said without elaborating.

Apollo Holmes arrested in Darius Miller beatdown, Kai Franklin remains silent

Standard

, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A man wanted in connection with last week’s brutal beating of a personal fitness trainer turned himself in to authorities Monday morning, Atlanta police said.

Apollo Holmes turned himself in at the Fulton County Jail at around 8 a.m., according to Atlanta police spokesman James Polite.

Holmes, 24, has been charged with aggravated assault in the attack early Wednesday on Darius Miller in a parking lot outside two popular Peachtree Street nightclubs in Midtown Atlanta.

Miller, 41, was attacked during a dispute that witnesses said started when Mayor Shirley Franklin’s daughters complained about being videotaped outside one of the clubs, He remained in a coma over the weekend at Emory Crawford Long Hospital.

Police spokeswoman Judy Pal has said the investigation was continuing and that more arrests were possible.

Holmes was “affiliated” with 01 Entertainment, a party promoter that was videotaping an event the company staged at one of the clubs Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, according to a lawyer for 01 Entertainment.

Attorney Page Pate said Holmes was in the parking lot at the time.

Witnesses said the fight started because of objections to videotaping people leaving the clubs.

But the accounts differ on what happened as Kai Franklin Graham, 35, Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, and a third woman who has not been identified came into an adjoining parking lot at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

In one version, witnesses said as soon as a man turned his video camera on the three women, Miller, who has a number of celebrity clients, asked him to stop. At that point, witnesses said, about 10 men attacked Miller.

But in a telephone interview Saturday, Pate said 01 Entertainment contends the sisters started the argument that led to Miller’s injuries when Graham and her sister demanded the camera from the man they believed had just photographed them.

The attorney said Miller had gone to retrieve his truck and was not present when the dispute began.

“[The sisters] started arguing with them, saying they were already famous and they don’t need to be famous,” Pate said. “He [Miller] heard the argument between the mayor’s daughters and he jumped into the middle of it.”

Pate said Miller tried to take the camera, and two other people came up to help the photographer.

“I don’t think it was as big of a melee as has been described,” Pate said. “There weren’t a lot of blows thrown.”

Then Miller went to his truck,”saying he wants to air this out,” prompting one of the 01 Entertainment contractors to fear Miller was getting a weapon, Pate said.

“As he [Miller] was trying to go into the passenger seat … he fell down and was wrestling with one of them,” Pate said.

Miller, he continued, “got back up and he fell … He fell back … on the pavement with the back of his head.”

Kai Franklin to avoid jail

Standard

 

Hat Tip:  By Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Greenville, S.C. —- In November 2004, Kai Franklin Graham’s life was unraveling.

Her husband of three years was a fugitive from justice, charged with operating a transcontinental drug-trafficking ring. One of his co-defendants —- a potential witness against him —- had been shot to death. Federal agents had searched the Grahams’ $650,000 house in suburban Atlanta. And the mortgage was due.

One day, about two weeks after her husband had fled to California, the oldest of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s three children traveled to seven post offices. At each, she bought two $1,000 money orders, a total of $14,000 that she used for house payments. She paid cash.

The money, federal prosecutors said here Monday, came from drug dealing. And the transactions, Franklin Graham admitted to a judge, were designed to evade government reporting requirements that help authorities spot money laundering.

With her mother watching, Franklin Graham, 35, pleaded guilty Monday in a federal courtroom to a single charge of illegally structuring a financial transaction.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” U.S. District Judge Henry M. Herlong Jr. asked her.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

Franklin Graham is likely to avoid jail time; her plea agreement calls for her to serve three months of home confinement, followed by three years of probation.

However, “she has to be fully and completely truthful” with federal investigators, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore said.

Otherwise, she could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison and be fined up to $250,000. Herlong is expected to sentence her in 60 to 90 days.

Authorities will ask Franklin Graham about a double homicide in Atlanta that is linked to her former husband, Tremayne Graham, 34.

Graham, whom she divorced in 2005, pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2006. He is serving a life sentence in a high-security federal prison in Kentucky.

Prosecutors have alleged that he ordered the killings of Ulysses Hackett III and his girlfriend, Misty Denise Carter. They were shot to death in Carter’s Virginia-Highland townhouse on Sept. 5, 2004. Hackett was thought to have incriminating evidence against Graham. Atlanta police never solved the case.

Franklin Graham will be asked to disclose what she knows about the killings and other matters, and might have to pass a lie-detector examination.

“We’re going to ask her a number of questions about a number of things,” Moore said outside Greenville’s federal courthouse. “I don’t know what, if any, information she has.”

Her testimony could be important to prosecutors, who might seek a death sentence for Graham or others implicated in the killings.

In court Monday, Franklin Graham was not accused of drug-related offenses.

However, Moore said: “We have looked into all the people who were involved. Not just limited to drug dealers, but people who assisted drug dealers, such as Ms. Franklin Graham.”

More than a dozen people have been convicted for their role in a ring that moved more than 2,200 pounds of Mexican cocaine through Atlanta to South Carolina.

Graham was indicted and arrested in 2004, several months after Hackett was arrested as he delivered cocaine to a “safe house” in Greenville.

On Nov. 12, 2004, 15 days after her then-husband skipped his $400,000 bond, Franklin Graham went to an Atlanta post office and used cash to buy two $1,000 money orders, Moore said in court.

Federal law requires postal officials to tell the Internal Revenue Service about any transaction exceeding $2,000.

Over the next several hours, Franklin Graham visited six more post offices, where she completed identical transactions, ultimately converting $14,000 in cash into money orders. She needed the money orders, Moore said, because her bank would have been required to report a cash payment of more than $10,000.

“This was a clear —- very clear —- transaction,” Moore said later.

The judge asked Franklin Graham whether she had known she was breaking the financial reporting laws.

“Yes,” she said, “in general, your honor.”

“You either did or you didn’t,” Herlong responded.

One of Franklin Graham’s lawyers, Richard Deane, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told Herlong she knew reporting laws existed but not the details.

The guilty plea provided a dramatic coda to a series of indignities for Franklin Graham: personal bankruptcy, forfeiture of her home to the federal government, and the implication that she aided her husband’s drug ring.

Flanked by two lawyers, Franklin Graham stood facing the judge throughout Monday’s 22-minute hearing. Wearing a red turtleneck and black pants, her long, straight hair pulled into a ponytail, she answered Herlong’s questions in a quiet but clear voice.

Her mother watched alone from a second-row bench in the courtroom, her trademark fresh flower in her lapel. Asked outside the courtroom to comment on her daughter’s guilty plea, the mayor politely declined.

Kai Franklin, daughter of Atlanta Mayor, pleads guilty in drug trafficking probe

Standard

Hat Tip:  By Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Greenville, S.C. — A daughter of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin pleaded guilty today to federal charges that she illegally concealed proceeds from her former husband’s transcontinental drug-trafficking ring.

Kai Franklin Graham, 35, the oldest of the mayor’s three children, pleaded guilty to structuring financial transactions in a way that avoided scrutiny from federal authorities.

 

While her former husband, Tremayne Graham, 34, was a fugitive from justice, she converted cash from him into 14 postal money orders totaling $14,000. She admitted going to seven Atlanta area post offices in a single day to avoid federal financial rules that would require reports of transactions exceeding $2,000.

Franklin Graham is likely to be sentenced to three months of home confinement and three years of probation. However, if she fails to comply with terms of her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Henry M. Herlong Jr. could increase the sentence to as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Herlong will formally sentence Franklin Graham in 60 to 90 days.

The mayor sat in a federal courtroom in Greenville this morning and watched as her daughter entered the plea. She declined to comment afterward.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore said Franklin Graham is expected to cooperate in several aspects of an investigation into her former husband’s drug business, which moved at least 2,200 pounds of Mexican cocaine from Los Angeles through Atlanta to South Carolina.

He said authorities will question her about a double homicide in Atlanta linked to the case. One of the victims, Ulysses Hackett III, was a co-defendant of Tremayne Graham’s and was thought to be considering an offer to testify against him in exchange for a lenient sentence.

A federal grand jury in South Carolina indicted Tremayne Graham in April 2004 in the drug case, which has resulted in more than a dozen guilty pleas. While he was out of jail on a $400,000 bond, Hackett and his girlfriend, Misty Denise Carter, were shot to death in her Virginia-Highland townhouse.

Atlanta police never solved the case, but federal prosecutors have alleged Graham ordered the killings.

According to earlier testimony, Graham then told an associate that he had moved into the mayor’s house, hoping to signal he feared he, too, would be killed. Soon, he fled to California. From there, authorities allege, he sent couriers with bags of cash to his wife.

Although Franklin Graham pleaded guilty to financial transactions conducted on Nov. 12, 2004, Moore said in court that the government could have proved that she engaged in additional transactions to hide the source of her cash.

Franklin Graham filed for divorce in January 2005.

Authorities captured Graham in June 2005 in California. Prosecutors later alleged he lied about his former wife’s role in his drug business ” one factor that prompted the judge to impose the maximum sentence against him: life with no chance of parole.

Must be nice to have Mama’s pull when you’re jammed up in a drug sting.  If it was you or me, they woulda charged us as accessories and sent us up for a cool quarter-mandatory.  That’s 25 years, for all y’all who ain’t know.

Kai Franklin’s black fantasy life unravels

Standard


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/27/07

He sold custom cars to rich celebrities. His clients included people like the football player Ray Lewis and the rap star Ludacris.

He sold cocaine embossed with a prominent symbol of hip-hop culture: Hummer.

Tremayne Graham was a player. Then his partner in the drug business says he introduced Graham to his future wife in an Atlanta strip club. If anything, Graham’s life became even more infused with money and status.

The couple bought a mini-mansion in the suburbs.

She amassed $120,000 of jewelry.

And when her mother became Atlanta’s first female mayor, they celebrated at the side of Shirley Franklin.

But Graham and Kai Franklin’s opulent lifestyle — detailed in interviews and court testimony, as well as in other public records — came to an emphatic end in 2004. A federal grand jury indicted Graham for his role in a drug ring that smuggled at least 2,200 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Atlanta and South Carolina. Based on figures routinely used by various government agencies, the drugs had a street value between $15 million and $35 million.

Graham, 33, pleaded guilty in 2006. Last month, after prosecutors alleged he ordered the killing of a co-defendant and his girlfriend, a judge sentenced Graham to life in prison.

Now, federal agents say they are investigating whether Franklin, 34, who divorced Graham in 2005, helped her former husband launder tens of thousands of dollars of drug money.

Neither Franklin, the oldest of the mayor’s three children, nor her lawyer will comment on the investigation. Graham’s lawyers have not responded to requests for an interview.

In court, Graham’s lawyers contended Franklin did not know he was a drug dealer because he never told her. The lawyers said he explained away his wads of cash — as much as $60,000 or $70,000 at a time — as gambling winnings.

Prosecutors responded with a question: How, they asked, could she not know?

Longtime drug history

Graham started dealing drugs early.

He worked as a courier for a South Carolina drug dealer while attending Clemson University in the early 1990s, according to testimony presented last month during Graham’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenville. After college, Graham moved to Atlanta. When he met Kai Franklin a few years later, he had become an established cocaine dealer and had moved into a leadership role in a drug ring called the Sin City Mafia, according to the recent testimony.

His car dealership, 404 Motorsports on Cheshire Bridge Road, was a money-losing front intended to give an appearance of legitimate prosperity, said Scott King, Graham’s partner in selling both cars and drugs.

“In the first couple of months, we done great business at the store, and everything was going good,” said King, who received a 24-year prison sentence in the drug case. “And then things started taking a turn for the worse. But we wanted to keep the business afloat because of the nature of everybody in the Atlanta area thinking that we were great businessmen.”

The Web site for 404 Motorsports showed an array of heavily accessorized luxury cars: Hummers, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Bentleys, Ferraris. One page featured nothing but the massive stereo speakers the company offered for installation. Another page showed celebrity clients: rappers such as Ludacris and P. Diddy, sports stars such as Hines Ward and Jamal Anderson, even Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in south DeKalb County.

In a 2003 article, the weekly newspaper Creative Loafing called 404 Motorsports a “luxury car mecca.” The article described the showroom’s “club-inspired interior,” decorated with black leather furniture and autographed jerseys from professional athletes such as the Braves’ Andruw Jones.

The auto store, King said, made him and Graham look like something other than drug dealers.

In his testimony last month, King said he dated Kali Franklin, Kai’s younger sister, “off and on” for two years.

One evening, King said, he, Graham and the Franklin sisters all were at the same strip club. That’s when King introduced Graham to his future wife.

Kai Franklin, who had graduated from the University of Virginia in 1999, worked for her father’s company, Franklin and Wilson Airport Concessions Inc., which operates three retail outlets at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Testimony indicated she quit around the time she and Graham were married in December 2001.

The ceremony took place between Shirley Franklin’s election and inauguration. King was the best man. The rhythm and blues performer Peabo Bryson — whose personal manager is David Franklin, Kai’s father — sang at the wedding.

Days later, Graham escorted his new wife to her mother’s inauguration events. Graham also brought King, his fellow drug dealer, to the event (and, King said, to Christmas dinner at the mayor’s house).

Already, court records show, Graham’s drug ring had accumulated about $10 million in profits. This money, prosecutors say, fueled a streak of acquisitions for the newlyweds: a $650,000 house in Cobb County, jewelry, Range Rover and Lincoln sport utility vehicles.

Graham traveled regularly to California to oversee drug shipments to Atlanta, according to court testimony, and even considered moving there. He was in Los Angeles in April 2004 when his wife called him with bad news, King testified: Federal agents with a search warrant were searching their home.

A federal grand jury in South Carolina had indicted Graham in a case that ultimately would net a dozen guilty pleas. Graham returned to Atlanta and turned himself in. A judge released him on a $400,000 bond, secured by an Atlanta bail bond company, Free At Last.

House arrest

While he waited to go on trial, Graham remained under house arrest in the 5,000-square-foot home he shared with his wife in an east Cobb subdivision called Woodruff Plantation. An electronic device attached to his ankle tracked his movements.

The neighbors knew nothing about Graham’s drug business — or much else about the couple, said Katherine Todd, an officer in the subdivision’s homeowners association.

“They didn’t socialize with anyone in the neighborhood,” Todd said.

It is a small subdivision, with 38 large, but closely situated, houses. When Graham and Franklin had a pool installed, Todd said, neighbors complained that the couple wouldn’t stop workers who tramped on their lawns.

Graham and Franklin “never seemed to want to follow the rules,” Todd said. “They weren’t the ideal, fun neighbors to have.”

Even while Graham was under house arrest, he continued to oversee the distribution of drugs from California, according to testimony by another defendant, Eric Rivera. And, King testified, Graham became worried because Ulysses Hackett III, a drug courier who also worked for 404 Motorsports, had been arrested while making a delivery and could give authorities damning information.

Prosecutors allege Graham acquired a gun from a fellow drug dealer and engaged yet another associate in 2004 to kill Hackett and his girlfriend, Misty Denise Carter. Atlanta police never made arrests in the case. Federal authorities recently took over the investigation.

Weeks after Hackett died on Labor Day weekend, just before his trial was scheduled to begin in South Carolina, Graham snipped his electronic ankle bracelet and fled.

He took most of his wife’s jewelry, she said later, and left behind a $5,000-a-month mortgage and his $400,000 bail bond.

Graham quickly settled into life as a fugitive in Los Angeles. One of the first things he did there, court records say, was buy a Ferrari.

The divorce

Kai Franklin barely hesitated before filing for divorce.

In January 2005, she told the Cobb County Superior Court that her husband had abandoned her. She said she had not been in contact with Graham since Nov. 1, didn’t know his whereabouts and couldn’t get in touch with him.

A judge granted the divorce four months later. He awarded Franklin the house in Woodruff Plantation, but did not order Graham to pay alimony.

“It was very difficult for her, having to go through a divorce proceeding,” said James Dearing, Franklin’s lawyer. “It was not an easy thing for her to do.”

But the recent testimony and other public records suggest it may have been a divorce on paper only.

Franklin and Graham remained in regular contact, according to evidence presented during his sentencing hearing. Graham’s co-defendants testified that while he was a fugitive, he sent drug money to Franklin: one bag of cash holding $25,000, another with $20,000. She also got portions of $150,000 that Graham invested in her father’s business, King testified. David Franklin said last week that the investment never occurred.

In California, King said, Graham bought a pre-paid cellular telephone to call only his wife, thinking it would be difficult to trace. King referred to the device as “the Kai phone.”

“They would talk about different things,” King said, “but sometimes about paying bills.”

He said Franklin regularly sent bills to Graham at the house where he was hiding in suburban Los Angeles. King said Graham told him “he still had responsibilities to take care of for Kai.”

Graham used postal money orders to pay Franklin’s bills, an Internal Revenue Service agent said. They apparently took pains to make the transactions difficult to track.

Franklin, agent Wayne Wright testified, bought the money orders in a “structured fashion” to avoid scrutiny. She had each money order issued for less than $3,000, the amount that triggers reporting requirements designed to detect illicit transactions. And she allegedly bought multiple money orders at multiple post offices on the same day, or in different lines in the same post office.

Wright said authorities have obtained about 60 such money orders.

Other alleged discussions between Franklin and Graham during his time as a fugitive were of a more personal nature.

When Graham wanted to see his child from a previous relationship, Rivera testified, Franklin picked up the boy from his mother and dropped him off for a flight out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport on a chartered jet. Rivera said he ferried drug money back to Graham in California on the same flight.

The visit troubled King.

“I just told Tremayne that he has to tighten up,” King testified, “because he can’t let something like that let the authorities track him through his son.”

Rivera said he accompanied the boy back to Atlanta several days later. He left the child with Franklin, he said, in her Cobb County home.

The capture

Authorities captured Graham in June 2005. In his California house, they found more than 500 pounds of cocaine, $1.9 million in cash and five weapons, one of which court records described as an assault rifle.

This time, Graham was held without bond. In March 2006, he agreed to plead guilty to charges that could send him to prison for several decades. But prosecutors promised to seek a lighter sentence of 35 years — if he cooperated with their continuing investigation.

During a lie detector exam, court documents say, Graham said Franklin didn’t know she had handled drug money.

The examiner told Graham the machine showed he was lying. Graham, the examiner later reported, just laughed.

Later, Graham told the judge in his case: “I’m sorry that my story wasn’t embellished or sensationalized enough to the agents’ liking. But my plea agreement didn’t require that.”

Regardless, prosecutors, for that and other factors, revoked their deal, and the judge handed down the maximum sentence: life, with no chance for parole.

Graham’s lawyers said they would appeal. For now, he is serving his time at the maximum-security U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Franklin filed for protection from her creditors in federal bankruptcy court in March 2005. She said she was unemployed, broke and more than $300,000 in debt.

Little remains of Graham and Franklin’s old life: The luxury auto dealership, closed. The money, seized by federal agents. The big suburban house, empty.

Weeds sprout between the brick pavers in the driveway. The grass needs cutting. The shrubs sprawl wildly.

And on the front door, a document posted by the IRS lays claim to the house as government property.

Atlanta Mayor’s daughter, Kai Franklin, caught up in drug prosecution

Standard

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/23/07

Federal agents are investigating whether a daughter of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin helped launder money for her former husband’s transcontinental drug trafficking ring.

Kai Franklin, 34, handled tens of thousands of dollars from cocaine sales in 2004 and 2005, according to court records and testimony last month in South Carolina.

Franklin twice received bags of drug money — one containing $25,000, the other $20,000 — at the direction of her former husband, Tremayne Graham, one of his co-defendants testified. In addition, another defendant said, Franklin received portions of $150,000 in drug money invested in an airport concessions company run by her father, the mayor’s former husband.

The allegations surfaced at an April 17 hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenville, S.C., at which a judge sentenced Graham to life in prison. Graham, 33, admitted his role in shipping at least 1,000 kilograms of Mexican cocaine from Los Angeles to Atlanta and South Carolina.

Federal agents said in court that they have established a paper trail of cash transfers from Graham to Franklin in the seven months that he was a fugitive from drug charges.

Franklin divorced Graham in 2005. Efforts to reach her in recent days were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, James Dearing, said she would have no comment.

Authorities have filed no charges against Franklin, nor have they presented all the evidence that might incriminate her. Much of the testimony concerning her came from defendants in the drug case, who cooperated with investigators in exchange for lighter sentences.

But the sentencing transcript and other court documents reveal the extent to which Franklin is implicated in the drug case.

An Internal Revenue Service agent testified that both the IRS and the U.S. attorney in South Carolina are investigating Kai Franklin for alleged money laundering.

And Mark Moore, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Graham, gave a judge a broad outline of Franklin’s possible involvement:

“Her husband is a fugitive. OK? She knows where he is. She isn’t telling law enforcement where he is. And, in fact, what she is doing is taking dope money from him while she knows he is a fugitive. … Taking money from a drug dealer that you know or suspect to be drug proceeds is money laundering.”

Federal officials said this week they could not comment on the status of the investigation.

Prosecutors alleged that Graham lied when he told federal agents that Franklin was not involved in his drug business — partly to protect her, but also to minimize his own culpability.

Moore told a judge that Franklin “may have very critical information” about Graham’s connections to the killings of another defendant and that man’s girlfriend in Atlanta three years ago. Prosecutors allege Graham ordered the killings of Ulysses Hackett III and Misty Denise Carter. No one has been charged in the double homicide.

A co-defendant testified that Graham told him shortly after the killing that he planned to move into the mayor’s house to deflect suspicion from himself by making it appear he feared for his life.

Aides to the mayor would not answer questions about whether Graham actually went to her house or, if he did, for how long or if his wife accompanied him.

The mayor would not discuss the case in detail.

“I ran for mayor — none of my children did,” she said last week. “They are subject [to] the law, as they should be. They are expected to live their lives accordingly.”

In court last month, one of Graham’s lawyers said some of the money Graham sent Kai Franklin came from gambling winnings. The lawyer, Jessica Salvini, acknowledged Graham had told federal agents that his wife had seen him with as much as $60,000 or $70,000 in cash. But Salvini said Graham had not told Franklin he was a drug dealer.

Federal authorities allege that Graham was a key member of a drug ring called the Sin City Mafia. Authorities also allege that the money Graham sent Franklin came from his drug business, and that she had to have known that.

Franklin and Graham remained in regular contact, even after he skipped bond and she filed for divorce, citing abandonment, according to testimony at his sentencing hearing. Two of Graham’s co-defendants testified that he sent drug money to Franklin while he was a fugitive.

Eric Rivera, who received a 40-month sentence, testified that Graham told him to take $25,000 in cash to his Cobb County house, where Franklin was then living alone. Graham gave him a security code to enter the residence, Rivera testified, and he left the cash on the stairs.

Another time, Rivera said, he put $20,000 of drug money in a duffel bag at Graham’s instruction and waited outside his Atlanta hotel for Kai Franklin. When she arrived, he testified, he put the money in the back seat of her Lincoln Navigator and she drove away.

Graham allegedly funneled more money to Franklin through her father’s airport concessions business.

Scott King, who was Graham’s partner in the drug business, testified that Graham invested $150,000 of their money in David Franklin’s Atlanta-based company, Franklin and Wilson Airport Concessions Inc.

King, who has been sentenced to 24 years in prison, said he expected to regularly receive checks from Franklin and Wilson, giving the impression that he had legitimate income. Instead, he testified, the company sent a check each month only to Kai Franklin.

Prosecutors did not establish in court when the alleged payments were made or how much of the $150,000 ended up with Kai Franklin.

David Franklin said Tuesday the investment “never happened. I wouldn’t let strangers put any money in.”

Franklin’s company operates three retail outlets at the city-owned Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The firm’s contracts are approved by the City Council, but the mayor has said she played no role in selecting the company. The couple divorced in 1986.

Kai Franklin made no mention of payments from her father’s company when she filed for bankruptcy in March 2005.

In court papers, she said her only income was $2,000 a month in unspecified “family contributions.”

She listed debts of more than $300,000, not counting the mortgage on a house in Cobb County. She said she had just $1,250 in the bank, $250 in cash and jewelry worth $10,000.

Witnesses at her former husband’s sentencing contradicted her claims, however.

King said Franklin routinely sent bills to Graham while he was a fugitive. Graham, King said, paid them through postal money orders. IRS Agent Wayne Wright testified that federal agents obtained about 60 such money orders that paid credit card and mortgage bills for Graham and Franklin. Wright said Franklin bought the money orders in a “structured fashion.”

“There were multiple money orders that were purchased either at multiple post offices in Atlanta on the same day or … in the same post office on the same day at different lines,” Wright testified.

He said each money order was issued for less than $3,000. That amount triggers federal reporting requirements intended to detect illicit transactions.

The “structuring,” Wright said, “could be an offense in and of itself. … It’s also an indicator of money laundering.”

Franklin used money from Graham to make payments on two Porsche sports utility vehicles while he was a fugitive, witnesses said.

Both cars ended up in the hands of a Detroit-based drug gang, the Black Mafia Family, court records show. Prosecutors said the gang had invested in a luxury auto dealership, 404 Motorsports, that Graham ran on Cheshire Bridge Road.

Moore, the prosecutor, asked Wright, the IRS agent: “Would it be hard for [Franklin] to deny that perhaps she was aware that the source of the money was drug dealing when, at that point, her husband was indicted for drug dealing and was a fugitive from law enforcement?”

Wright answered, “That is correct.”