Debate Over Elliott Case Heats Up
In the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy was often at the front of the line, drawing heat because he was an organizer of events such as the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the sit-ins in Birmingham.
But now the veteran civil rights leader and former D.C. delegate to Congress is under attack for the campaign he and others have led to get Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson to reopen the 1993 case of a 24-year-old man who was shot and killed while in police custody.
Archie Elliott III was shot 14 times on June 18, 1993, while he was handcuffed and sitting in the front seat of a District Heights police car. For months, Fauntroy and WOL-AM radio host Joe Madison have led protests outside the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro, criticizing Johnson for not reopening the case.
Now a prominent group of Prince George's County ministers is calling on Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to reopen the Elliott case. The leader of the coalition of ministers, the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, also took occasion last week to accuse Fauntroy of being unfairly critical of Johnson.
This dispute in Prince George's is noteworthy because all of the participants are African American in a county that was considered hostile to people of color in the 1960s. Fauntroy said that he has nothing personal against Johnson but that "it appeared to us that he was misleading the public in regards to his ability to reopen the case."
The one thing the ministers--the Collective Banking Group and Fauntroy--agree on is that the Archie Elliott case should be reopened by some official body. They say the issue of racial profiles used by police in stopping people also should be looked into.
"There are still too many unanswered questions regarding the shooting death of Archie Elliott," Weaver said. "The only appropriate and justifiable thing is for the governor to appoint a special prosecutor."
Madison said he will not stop talking about the case regardless of who gets angry. "I have only one concern. That is justice for Archie Elliott III."
But Weaver wants everyone to back off the criticism of Johnson.
"The state's attorney has been characterized as someone who has refused to meet with religious leaders on this case, and he has made it very clear that he is willing to meet with anybody and everyone," said Weaver, president of the Collective Banking Group. "I want to set the record straight so Jack Johnson's reputation is not impugned."
"This whole case is dividing the community," said the Rev. Ben Thayer, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Redeemer in Temple Hills. "Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Prince George's County is one community that doesn't need to be divided."
The Rev. Perry Smith, of First Baptist Church of North Brentwood, agreed. "We are concerned that this community is being divided."
Johnson characterized Fauntroy and Madison as outsiders in an old story. "Where was Walter Fauntroy" when the incident first occurred?
Fauntroy laughed when he was asked about Johnson's remarks.
"Being called an outsider doesn't disturb me," Fauntroy said. "They called me an outsider in Birmingham, they said that to me in Selma, they said that to me in Haiti, they said that to me in South Africa. I have gotten that response wherever I have attempted to address the question of justice."
Meanwhile, Mike Morrill, Glendening's press secretary, said the governor's legal counsel and lawyers for the protest leaders met in Annapolis last week to explore reopening the case.
"The legal counsel that has reviewed this issue indicates that the statute of limitations has expired under the terms that the advocates were advancing," Morrill said. "In the state of Maryland, there is no special prosecutor at the state level. In the state of Maryland, there is a state prosecutor in corruptions, but it is not applicable in this situation."
But he said the lawyers are trying to find a way around that.
--Hamil R. Harris
A Shortage of Coaches
If they ran an advertisement in the classifieds, it would read something like this:
Expanding youth soccer league seeking enthusiastic coaches to work with young aspiring Peles. No pay, but plenty of rewards, including the satisfaction of helping dozens of children become proficient in the world's most popular sport. Parents or other willing adults with patience, lots of love for children and a few extra hours a week to supervise practices and games encouraged to apply. Respond ASAP to the Kettering Largo Mitchellville Boys and Girls Club.
A month after the club's fall soccer program was supposed to get underway, some children last week still had not been assigned to teams because there weren't enough coaches.
The reason for the coach scarcity was the enthusiastic response of central Prince George's County children to the program. Organizers said they expected fewer than 100 children to sign up. They got more than 200. Last year, about 85 children played on six teams.
The response, which organizers attribute to the Women's World Cup soccer fever, has left organizers scrambling to recruit enough coaches to supervise teams in a community that has not traditionally embraced soccer on a large scale. Football and basketball programs in the central region of the county have better success at attracting coaches, officials said.
Parents plunked down $50 a child to play soccer, which is supposed to include a soccer shirt and shorts. A month after parents gathered at Kettering Middle School for a soccer rally, however, several teams have had only a few practices and no uniforms have been passed out because organizers had to double the order and are still awaiting its arrival.
Organizers acknowledged last week that they were still working the kinks out. Managers for each team called parents to remind them of upcoming practices, but a few parents complained that they had not been notified. The increased number of children also has meant that organizers have had to search for more practice locations.
Tracy McDaniel, a volunteer who coordinates the soccer program, said late last week that coaches had been secured for all but one team. Several of the coaches were "enthusiastic parents" with no previous coaching experience. But she said a training program for new coaches would give them the tools and knowledge necessary to work with the children.
"There was a lot of response, more than we expected, and we had to regroup to get enough coaches and establish more teams," said McDaniel, who said she has volunteered with the soccer program for three years.
McDaniel said that the recreation division of the soccer program, made up of younger children and less inexperienced players, now includes more than 200 children on 13 teams. Each team includes 14 children. Several dozen other children play in a part of the program that pits them against teams from other county communities.
Uniforms are expected to arrive before games begin Sept. 18. The county competition begins Sept. 24, she said.
And there is still some room for more players in other leagues. Parents whose children are unable to play with the Kettering program still have time to register for two soccer programs offered at the Glendale Community Center.
One program, run through the Glendale Recreation Council, is open to all children and provides children the opportunity to play competitively. The cost is $20 for children with a uniform and $25 for children who need a uniform. A program for inexperienced players, geared to teaching soccer skills, is offered in the gymnasium of the community center at a cost of $50 for 10 weeks, authorities said.
"We've had a tremendous response," said Bob Youngblood, who works at the Glendale Community Center. Youngblood said he knew of no problems at his agency securing coaches.
Tyrone Patterson, president of the Kettering Largo Mitchellville Boys and Girls Club, said they hope to recruit additional coaches before the spring program starts in February.
"Our main objective is to get our children involved on all levels, and that has been tough for us because we don't have the resources, fields and facilities we need for kids to participate because now we don't have enough school for the educational purposes or recreational purposes for our kids," Patterson said. "Our area is growing so fast that they haven't been able to keep up with the growth. Hopefully in the next five years, things will catch up with the construction of new schools."
If you have an item for Prince George's Towns, please let us know. Send faxes to 301-952-1397; e-mail email@example.com; or write to Prince George's Towns, Prince George's Extra, The Washington Post, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772.
CAPTION: Dorothy Elliott, center, and Joe Madison, right, sit in the doorway of the Prince George's County courthouse in April.
CAPTION: The Rev. Jonathan Weaver, a leader in fight to reopen Elliott case, defends State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson's handling of it.