NEW YORK, JULY 2 -- The Rev. Al Sharpton, a flamboyant black activist, was acquitted today of charges he stole money from a civil rights group he started as a teenager, then spent it on himself.
The state jury deliberated for less than six hours before finding Sharpton not guilty on all counts of fraud and larceny, said Ed Barbini, a spokesman for the office of state Attorney General Robert Abrams.
The trial lasted almost two months. The state called more than 80 witnesses; the defense called none.
Sharpton, 36, was charged with stealing about $250,000 from the now-defunct nonprofit National Youth Movement, a civil rights organization he started as a 16-year-old high school student, and spending it on himself. If convicted, he would have faced up to seven years in prison.
"We accept the verdict of the jury. We could not ignore the body of evidence that pointed to improprieties at the National Youth Movement, and we felt it was our obligation to take these allegations before a jury," Barbini said.
Sharpton's lawyer, Alton Maddox, said he was pleased with Judge Joan Carey's handling of the case. Maddox accused Abrams of acting out of vindictiveness because Sharpton had advised Tawana Brawley, the black teenager found by a grand jury to have concocted a tale of abduction and sexual assault by a gang of white men.
Maddox, 44, also represented Brawley. In May he was suspended from practicing law for refusing to appear before a grievance committee investigating his conduct in the Brawley case. The judicial panel let him finish the Sharpton case.