Friday, February 11, 2011

Cleveland Councilman Jeff Johnson Supports Imperial Women's Requests As To Imperial Ave Murders, Judicial Reform, And Student Protester

Cleveland Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson

Collinwood High School graduate Destini Bronaugh (rt)
and her mother, Tina Bronaugh

From the Metro Desk of the DeterminerWeekly.Com and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com ( and

Cleveland Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson says he supports initiatives of the Imperial Women as to the group's requests for an investigation around the Imperial Ave. Murders, judicial reform, and the dismissal of all criminal charges brought by the City of Cleveland against a Black girl for protesting last year with student peers at Cleveland's Collinwood High School over teacher layoffs and school closings.

About 15 members from the organization founded around the tragedy where the remains of 11 Black women where uncovered in 2009 at the home of serial killing suspect Anthony Sowell met with Johnson to seek his support on community issues. They want Cleveland city officials to hold police and other city workers accountable for the release of Sowell from police custody in 2008 following a complaint of attempted rape by Gladys Wade, who says Sowell tried to rape her but she got away. Six of the 11 women murdered were murdered thereafter, outraging community activists.

“I support such an investigation,” said Johnson, a former state representative and licensed attorney whose council base includes the Glenville area.

Johnson told the Imperial Women that unless Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson takes action he would need support from Cleveland City Council President Martin Sweeney for an investigation.

A former marine and convicted sex offender who served 15 years in prison on an attempted rape conviction before being accused of the Imperial Ave. Murders, Sowell is in custody and awaiting trial on numbers counts of aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, including an attempted rape charge as to Wade that was brought in 2010. He faces the death penalty.

Imperial women leader Kathy Wray Coleman said that it is only feasible that police and others that are responsible for releasing Sowell in 2008 are brought to justice after police went to his Imperial Ave. home and found blood and a struggle at the scene as to Wade's complaint.

“The Imperial Murders are Cleveland's greatest tragedy and its Katrina, and we will not rest until justice comes for the 11 murdered women, six of whom might be alive today if city officials had done the job they were hired to do.”

Johnson rejected the group's request for support as to the firing of the law director, safety director, chief of police and chief prosecutor, none of whom are Black and all of whom were appointed by Jackson. Activists say that their collective malfeasance and neglect contributed to the murders of the women. But the councilman embraced the group's request for support for the dismissal of criminal charges against Destini Bronaugh, 19, the Collinwood High School graduate facing misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of official business in retaliation for participating in a peaceful student protest at Collinwood High School last May around teacher layoffs and school closings.

“We need your support,” said Tina Bronaugh, Destini Bronaugh's mother. “Police targeted the students, including my daughters, without good reason.”

Via state law, Cleveland's mayor controls Cleveland's public schools and appoints school board members.

Coleman told Johnson that if Jackson did not speak up as to the attempt by city law director Robert Triozzi to criminalize Destini Bronaugh for being Black, being female and for a peaceful student protected under the First Amendment the Imperial Women would again protest at the mayor's house. If the Imperial Women do protest for Destini Bronaugh it would be the third one since the group picketed in front of the mayor's Cleveland home as to the Imperial Ave Murders and malicious prosecutions by city officials against Black women in December 2009, and in Sept 2010.

After the Sept. protest Coleman was assaulted where her nose was bloodied, requiring hospital attention, the 16-year journalist and community activist said.

Group members also called Cleveland police to task at the meeting and questioned indictments of felony charges by Cuyahoga County grand juries based upon questionable police testimony,

“They are over indicting people because they fear lawsuits due to police misconduct,” said Tiesha Cole, garnering support from Priscilla Cooper, who said that police are over zealous.

Though he said that police are often doing their jobs and controlling crime, Johnson agreed that in some instances police appear to be overstepping boundaries as in the Bronaugh case where a video camera caught a Cleveland Fifth District police officer seemingly slamming Destini Bronaugh up against the police cruiser after arresting her in connection with the student protest. She had questioned the arrest of her protesting younger sister, a juvenile charged also with crimes relative to the peaceful protest but exonerated when a Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court magistrate last year dismissed all charges against her.

Destini Brounaaugh graduated from Collinwood High School last summer and her mother says the malicious prosecution of her daughter has wreaked havoc on the family.

"It is teribble," said Tina Bronaugh.

The councilman endorsed the group's demand for judicial reform as to the necessity of a state law requiring that all trial court judges be assigned and reassigned to cases by random draw at all times to ensure due process protections. He would not immediately commit to support their request to help them lobby state legislators for a law requiring that Ohio trial court judges are no longer represented by the offices of county and city prosecutors and law directors in proceedings alleging impropriety by people that come before them because they bring the criminal charges against people and in essence become the attorneys of the judges with undue influence over them.

“Who would represent the judges,” said Johnson, prompting Coleman to say a separate and unbiased venue of attorneys hired for that purpose that do not participate in the prosecutorial process.

Valerie Robinson, a member of the Imperial Women, said that Johnson did a fine job running the meeting and that the group appreciates his support.