The Voter Fraud Case Jeff Sessions Lost and Can’t EscapeBreaking News
tags: Jeff Sessions
When Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Donald J. Trump’s choice for attorney general, answers questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, he can expect to revisit a long-ago case that has followed him. In 1985, when Sessions was the United States attorney in West Alabama, he prosecuted three African-American civil rights activists, accusing them of voter fraud. The case, more than any other, helped derail Sessions the last time he sought Senate confirmation, when he hoped to become a federal judge in 1986. Yet then and now, Sessions has defended the prosecution as necessary and just. If he had it to do over, Sessions would bring the case again, a Trump transition official told me in December.
To some black leaders who lived through the prosecution, however, it remains a reason, all these years later, for grave concern about a Sessions-led Justice Department. “If he is attorney general, I would not expect the rights of all people, including the least among us, to be protected,” said Hank Sanders, a longtime Alabama state senator. “To understand why, you have to start with that case.”
Albert Turner, Sessions’s chief target, began fighting for the right to vote in West Alabama in the early 1960s, trying to organize other African-Americans after he wasn’t allowed to register because he couldn’t pass a test used to thwart black applicants, even though he had a college education. Beginning in 1965, he served as state director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helping to organize a major voting rights demonstration that year. Speaking out and organizing was dangerous at the time. “There’s no explanation in the world as to how I’m still living,” Turner reflected a decade and a half later, in an article in the journal Southern Changes.
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