Peace Scientists work for peace

Peaceful accountability

Peaceful accountability. Charges against Vickson Korlewala and Lorpu Korlewala dropped. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2014 v8n2 p0920

When accountability is demanded at the end of a gun, trust is gone, love is gone and the threatened wants revenge. That is what we have in Philadelphia. We have armed police who are afraid of the ease with which guns are passed around and used on the streets, who want to stop the frequent murders and accidental killings of young and old. So when they find a victim of a violent crime, and immediately find someone to blame, they give the names to the District Attorney's Office who is happy to prosecute whoever the police arrested.

Crime cannot be stopped by violent threats. Crime can only be stopped by regaining trust and love; and the quickest path to that is education of children and decent living wages of their parents and adult relatives. We do not have the possibility of decent living wages in Philadelphia, and public education for most is not a path to a peaceful life.

The police were overjoyed in April when they claimed to have arrested a man and a woman who accompanied an old woman to a Citizen's Bank near Philadelphia International Airport. There, the old woman happily withdrew her life savings of $8,000, she later told police that they had convinced her that they were going to instantly double her money.

What was interesting about the case is that the bank video footage showed a tall mahogany-skinned man with the old woman, and during a lineup 3 months later, 2 bank tellers claimed he was the short mocha-skinned freckled Liberian that the police arrested. Were the bank tellers recipients of the loot, or had they avidly watched all the videos and read all the newspaper articles showing the picture of the accused? I don't know.

When an innocent man is arrested, and in this case, also an innocent woman, several outcomes are possible.

The first possible outcome is that no-one notices, and the accused is swiftly moved through a trial without the intellectual or financial ability to raise a defense, and stuck in prison making money for profiteers. The new slavery.

The second possible outcome is that a lot of people notice, the accused has important friends and the District Attorney's Office realizes that the accuser is not a competent witness, and the accused is released before being taken before a judge and charged. The 2 times I have been arrested, in Brooklyn and in Nairobi, that was my outcome. Phew.

The third possible outcome is that during the general confusion of arrest, the accused has not been able to notify important friends before being taken before a judge and is charged with a crime. That is what happened to Vickson Korlewala and his wife Lorpu Korlewala. Once charged with kidnapping and fraud, and also charged with a previous fraud of an even older woman, they were kept in jail until 3 hearings during Holy Week managed to get the total bail reduced from $1million to half that, which meant the Liberian community of family and friends had to raise $50,000 to get them released after 3 weeks in jail.

The torture did not end with their release, they were back in court in May, when their attorney successfully argued against a lineup, since Vickson's picture was all over local television broadcasts and newspapers and anyone intimidated by the police, or a collaborator of the thieves, could identify him. Which is what happened. And in July they were back in court in front of yet another judge, for a pre-trial hearing. The pre-trial hearing did not proceed because the judge ruled that it could not without a lineup. He ordered the lineup for later that month, and ruled that if the accusers did not show up to the lineup, they would be barred from identifying the accused in court.

The sixth hearing that I attended, on Sep 19 2014, was supposed to be a pre-trial hearing. The prosecutor argued with the judge about the lineup: the old woman had arrived late to the lineup after Lorpu had already been dismissed. The judge finally decided enough was enough: the prosecutor would probably never be ready for trial, and rather than grant his motion for a new pre-trial hearing date, he granted the defense attorneys motion to dismiss all charged without prejudice. So if the District Attorney really believes these 2 upstanding citizens make a habit of shaking down old women,  they can rearrest them.

Another interesting point: Vickson was lying down in a hospital bed on the day the older woman was shaken down. Which did not stop her from identifying Lorpu as his accomplice. Who was braiding hair in her salon on that day.

After sitting through 6 hearings and listening to 5 judges, I can witness the intelligence, focus and good intentions of the judges. The prosecutor was argumentative, and by hearing 2 or 3, clearly knew he was prosecuting the wrong citizens. Widely disseminated articles had been published in, and in the free Philadelphia newspaper the Metro.

The prosecutor could have lessened his workload early on by dropping the charges, instead of waiting for the judge to do it.

I was not impressed with the first defense attorney who was initially hired to defend both of the accused. I did not understand why he did not bring a motion to dismiss in each hearing. The arguments that swayed the judge were made coherently and concisely by the second defense attorney, who brought before the judge the successful motion to dismiss, and who had been hired in May so that Lorpu and Vickson had individual representation.

What I learned from this is
1) Africans behaving like Africans, supporting and helping others in need, with no thought of reward, are unstoppable.
2) Philadelphia police are predatory and when a crime has been committed, will arrest anyone with color on their skin if skin color is mentioned.
3) Philadelphia police have no respect for the accused, or the victim. The old and older ladies should have been collected and driven to the lineup, and not had to rely on relatives or friends who maybe do not have an understanding of punctuality.
4) Philadelphia prosecutors are overworked, and lack of accountability for police evidence puts them in predatory positions themselves.
What upsets me most is that the police, prosecutors and judges are trying to dump water out of a sinking boat with a sieve. Crime is rampant on the streets of Philadelphia and the police are completely ill-equipped to stop it.

And how can they become equipped? We have the people and the tools in Philadelphia. We can learn from peace-makers like Mohandas Gandhi, whom I learned was greatly influenced by Leo Tolstoy, and who in turn influenced Martin Luther King jr. And those are just the men.

Philadelphia has peacemakers: Dr Althea Hankins who feeds and cares for and honors veterans  every day. Councilmember Jannie Blackwell who is out to bat for Philadelphian citizens every day. Pennsylvania Assemblywoman Vanessa Brown who fights for Philadelphians in Harrisburg. 

What we don't have in Philadelphia is the collective will. And we will not have until the schools and jobs are adequate.
Mr Vickson Korlewala, chemist USAID-sponsored CEO of Ecopower Liberia. On Apr 2nd 2014 he was falsely accused with his wife of stalking, kidnapping and shaking down an old Jamaican lady click here
In the early hours of April 23, 2014, more than 5 days after a judge lowered the bail and ordered them released on bail, Vickson Korlewala and Lorpu Korlewala were released from prison in Philadelphia. They appeared at Philadelphia Justice Center in Room 406 on May 2nd, 2014; and were ordered to go for a police lineup on May 15 (Lorpu) and May 19 (Vickson). Vickson charges click here. Lorpu charges click here.
Pennsylvania Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown celebrates Martin Luther King jr Day in Philadelphia click here
Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, out to bat for all Philadelphians every day click here
Dr Althea Hankins, the peace-maker of Germantown click here