For a hundred years after the end of the Civil War, a quarter of all Americans lived under a system of legalized segregation called Jim Crow. Together with its rigidly enforced canon of racial “etiquette,” these rules governed nearly every aspect of life—and outlined draconian punishments for infractions. Although America has finally consigned Jim Crow to the historical graveyard, its shadow remains alive in the collective memory of African-Americans in Westchester County.
Unfortunately in the 21st century residents of Westchester are living beings sacrificed and victims of Selective Prosecution. We are reminded of the murdering of Detective Christopher Ridley, Danroy Henry, and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. In addition to the violent physical attack on White Plains Police Officer Michael Hannon. Family members of these victims and the victim have asked Westchester County District Attorney Janet Difiore to investigate these cases. Time after time she had referred the investigation “back” to the same police department in question of breaking the law.
Now she has turned her investigational forces on those who have been critical of her actions as District Attorney. As the United States justice is system is under the microscope. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Selma, but there is no real celebration for Westchester residents. Now they do not have to face Jim Crow, they now face Jim Crow Esq. in the person of Janet Difiore.
Black Westchester (BW) has obtained important information that in 2013 a subject of one particular investigation by Janet Difiore, should have never been the focus of her investigation. According to the complainants, the subject was not the main focus of the complaint that sparked the investigation.
It has been alleged by the complainants themselves, that the complaint was specifically against Democratic Chairman, and Commissioner of Westchester Board of Elections, Reggie Lafayette. It is alleged by the complainants that the complaint specifically states Mr. Lafayette gave them wrong information challenge another candidate petitions. But because the candidate in question has been long critic of the DA Difiore’s office the investigation quickly switched its focused to him instead of Mr. Lafayette.
The complainants (who at the moment will remain anonymous) even alleged that they was willing to go to News 12 and the Journal News to expose the actions of Mr. Lafayette concerning the process to challenge the signatures, fraudulently having people on Democratic voter rolls and abusing his absolute power over the voting process as Westchester democratic chairman, Mount Vernon City Committee Chairman and Westchester County Democratic Commissioner of Elections which they felt was illegal in nature and the DA’s office was against the complainants going public with their complaints.
This investigation has led to an all out assault on the candidates character while intimidating follow Democrats and especially senior citizens. You wouldn’t never think a Democrat would use intimidation tactics on fellow Democrats. When the DA Difiore’s office is behind the plot, who can a person go to for help?
BW is in possession of an audio of DA investigators threatening and intimidating those who they have questioned.
BW is also in possession of copies of donations from Janet Difiore campaign contributions. On July 30, 2013 she made a 10,000 dollar donation to Mr. Lafayette’s personal political committee, The Chairman’s Circle. Mr. Lafayette has come under fire from political watchdog groups questioning how these donations are a conflict of interest.
How could her office conduct a fair and unbiased investigation of the complaint that was made at the same time she made the donations to Mr. Lafayette? Wouldn’t this be a conflict of interest? Wouldn’t there be a bias? Shouldn’t the DA’s office have recused themselves from the investigation? And maybe this is the reason that the DA’s office was so against the complainants and going public, with what they felt was criminal activity of Mr. Lafayette. It appears DA Difiore had no intention of investigating the Westchester Democratic Chairman. This was a perfect opportunity to go after one of their long time critics.
On a recent People Before Politics Radio Show, Dr. Giulio Cavallo, Chairman of the Westchester Independence Party spoke on the conflict of interest when major party chairman elect themselves to be Commissioners of the Board of Elections that represent their party.
“When you’re a political leader, you can not be the commissioner of elections,” Cavallo says on PBP Radio. “It was never like that and then they started doing these things in NYC and then Westchester County too. They’re not going to concentrate on being a leader, when they have a full-time job as being a commissioner… There should be some laws that say you can not be a commissioner of elections and also a party leader. It doesn’t even look right.” (See Dr. Cavallo comments in its entirety below)
While Mr. Lafayette has public expressed his disapproval of Cavallo’s comments, he has refused several offers to appear of PBP Radio Show. I introduced myself to Mr. Lafayette as the Editor-In-Chief of BW and producer and on-air host of PBP radio at the Annual Statutory Meeting, where Councilman Marcus Griffin was sworn in as the new Mount Vernon City Council President. After hearing him express his dissatisfaction of Cavallo’s comments and telling those at the reception that followed, he was upset that Damon K. Jones (publisher of BW and On-Air Host of PBP) lied on him. “Damon has never invited me to come on the show.” I personally extended an invitation and had Pricilla Echi who does the scheduling for the show call him the following week.
Westchester County political insiders informed BW that Reggie Lafayette and Douglas A. Colety, the Westchester Republican County Committee allegedly have made a pact that they will not support any candidate that runs on the Independence Party line because of what Cavallo exposed on PBP.
Mr. Lafayette finally agreed to appear on PBP only to not show up on the time slot he was scheduled for. Mr. Lafayette also never returned any of our calls when we reached out to get statements on several stories involving him and DA Difiore to inquire about the donations. Her office has yet to respond as well.
Mr. Lafayette continues to publicly express his feelings of what’s been written in BW and said on PBP Radio, instead of taking us up on our offer to tell his side of the story and set the record straight. Personally, I feel, this is an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and the Democratic process that is upheld by the United States Constitution.
It has been reported by blogger and Mount Vernon Community Activist, Samuel Rivers that Janet Difiore spent over 50 thousand dollars in manpower to intimidate and scare people who just want to see a change in their city government.
Voter intimidation is any concerted effort or practice by an individual or group to coerce the voting behavior of a particular class or demographic of voters. It is against the law to cause “psychological” impediments for the purpose of interfering with an individuals right to vote freely.
The Jim Crow Laws has been long gone but today in Westchester, a more subtitle, cynical, and creative shadow remains in the form tactics have taken place. Preventing an African-American from becoming a candidate or obtaining office and then secondly, diluting the African-American votes by intimidation. When will Westchester residents say enough is enough?
Stay tuned to BW as will continue to follow this story. We will work tirelessly to bring the facts and truth to light. BW is also currently working on a story on racial bias when it comes to DA Difiore’s office prosecuting white men vs men of color for domestic violence in Westchester County.
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.