Black journalist fights retaliatory charges
Published Jun 19, 2009 11:31 PM
On May 7 and 8, African-American reporter Kathy Wray Coleman was tried in
Municipal Court here on trumped-up charges of resisting arrest, sounding a
false alarm, disrupting court proceedings and aggravated disorderly conduct. A
jury found her not guilty on all except the resisting charge.
The charges arose from an incident after a tense foreclosure hearing on
Coleman’s home on Aug. 7, 2008. As she walked out of the court, two
deputies threw her to the floor. The court hallway then filled with more than
20 officers. Coleman began to panic as a crowd of police swarmed down on
Coleman was arrested and chained to a hospital bed for several days before
being taken to Cuyahoga County Jail. She was drugged with sedatives, kept in a
cell nude, and watched constantly by a male officer.
Coleman, a journalist with two masters’ degrees, wrote about conditions
at the jail in a series of articles entitled “Jailed Reporter Tells Her
Story,” which appeared in the Cleveland Call & Post, an
Coleman had previously written articles exposing racism in Cleveland schools
and reporting on the foreclosure crisis. Her articles were critical of the very
judge who later ordered her arrest. She said that a relative of this judge
greeted her in jail with, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Assistant City Prosecutor Lorraine Coyne invoked a racist stereotype, accusing
Coleman of “playing the race card” to avoid taking “personal
Only one of the 20 deputies who had intimidated Coleman shortly after her
arrest testified at the trial. This deputy met Coleman outside of the
courtroom, hugged her and said, “I just did it to keep my job.”
Prosecutor Coyne tried to dismiss the abuse, drugging and sexual degradation in
the jail by saying, “Jail isn’t supposed to be nice.” She
said that if jails were “spas” or “country clubs,” they
would not be effective in deterring crime.
The prosecutor also argued that no “responsible” citizen would have
had any reason to flee from the police and compared Coleman to her child in
Five other prosecutors sat in during the proceedings, perhaps hoping to learn
from Coyne’s tactics.
Coyne lectured Coleman and the jury about personal responsibility and tried to
dismiss all of the corruption charges against the city prosecutor’s
office as “conspiracy theories.”
Coleman took the stand in her own defense and testified about how she was
drugged, sexually degraded and held illegally in jail.
Presiding Judge Kathleen Keough often interrupted Coleman and told her to stop
speaking. Coleman often ignored these orders and continued speaking, turning to
Keough afterword with a defiant grin and saying, “I’m sorry,
Coleman spoke of how a deputy had growled, “We’re going to get you
in jail if it’s the last thing we do,” as he forced her into
Prosecutor Coyne and her assistant failed to further their case with
cross-examination. Coleman ripped their arguments to shreds, one by one, from
the witness stand.
Coyne asked if Coleman had any proof that her journalism had motivated the
“Yes, it’s related,” she said. “You can’t
separate it.” Coleman explained that everything in Cleveland was related,
from the foreclosure crisis to the crumbling school system to the racism and
violent abuse in the legal system.
“This system is broken at the core,” Coleman proclaimed, as Judge
Keough’s face melted into a grim look of disgust.
“My duty as a journalist,” Coleman proclaimed, “is to seek
and perpetuate truth.”
Coleman plans to appeal her misdemeanor conviction for resisting arrest. Her
supporters left the courtroom feeling victorious that the prosecution had
failed in its attempt to railroad her back to jail.
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