by Alton Maddox
When Erykah Badu, on March 13, was peeling off her clothes as she was approaching the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, I am absolutely certain that she was engaged in symbolic speech which is protected under the First Amendment. No police officer was present. More than two weeks later, a white woman filed a criminal complaint against Badu.
The story is not Badu engaging in symbolic speech but a white woman belatedly filing a criminal complaint against her. Of course, the white media descried Badu’s conduct as “stripping” and walking through the street “buck naked.” The white media is composed of wordsmiths. They make every effort to cheapen the conduct of a Black woman.
If a white woman had taken off her clothes on March 13 and, more than two weeks later, a Black woman had filed a criminal complaint against the white woman, the Black woman would have faced perjury charges. The police department would have advised the white woman to file a cross-complaint against her. The prosecutor will routinely drop the criminal complaint and vigorously prosecute the cross-complaint.
Badu is no stripper. She is a philanthropist and a sensitive and conscious woman, of African ancestry. This is well-documented and she was the difference-maker in Pagones v. Maddox et. al. A civil case is won or lost before the case appears on the “ready calendar”. Pre-trial discovery is not only necessary but also very costly.
Sis. Karen Mason stepped into the breach and the rest is history. She assumed the responsibility for financing the pre-trial discovery. Among other things, she encouraged Badu to make an appearance at a fund-raiser and perform musically. Mason is a natural leader and an effective organizer.
The goal was to raise enough money so that Pagones could be subjected to a meticulous examination before trial. This would require thousands of dollars. Transcripts are very costly. A default judgment in a defamation case was employed to hound Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. out of Congress.
Without Sis. Mason’s commitment, and her ability to get things done, this defamation trial would have ended up in the win column for Pagones and I would have been precluded from pointing a finger him. As it turns out, it is Pagones’ lips that are sealed. Thus, New York has raised the ante against me.
Steven Pagones, who kidnapped and raped Tawana, was afraid of being exposed to an examination before trial. I pulled a legal maneuver that put Pagones in the hot seat first. His appeal to the intermediate appellate court to stay the deposition was unsuccessful. Pagones wanted to get my version of the facts so that he could go to a tailor to shape his lie.
This was the longest civil trial in New York history. The late Justice S. Barrett Hickman was bent on instructing the jury to return verdicts against the defendants. He instructed the jury that truth was no defense in a defamation trial. Truth has always been a defense. This was a resurrection of the slave codes.
The jury was also instructed to disregard New York Times v. Sullivan which gives a person the right to criticize a public official like Pagones, an assistant district attorney. This Supreme Court ruling arose out of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. et. al speaking out against police terrorism in Montgomery, AL. The chief law enforcement agent sued the New York Times for carrying the ad.
The case was over when Pagones had to be deposed first and I was sitting on a nest egg. Two Black women made the difference. I feel terrible that, as a lawyer, I am unable to return the favor to help Badu. This is like the KKK flogging a Black woman in my presence and I have been fitted with a straitjacket. The Creator knows my heart, however.
The bullet is proud to add famed Attorney/Activist and Commentator Alton Maddox to our regular rotation. He can be reached at PO Box 35. Bronx, NY, 10471