By DAVY V.
Outrage over the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down by George Zimmerman, has spread throughout the country, and Rochester is no exception.
In my March 30th column: "As Thousands Turn Out for Trayvon Martin March... What About Injustices Right Here in Rochester?" I addressed, not only our community's lack of denouncing our own Trayvon Martins, especially innocent unarmed African-Americans shot and killed by the Rochester Police Department, but I also wrote about how a few "so-called leaders" had the audacity to show their face at the march, individuals who have NEVER stood up to injustices right here in Rochester, especially the countless senseless killings at the hands of the R.P.D.
Yes, it seems as though in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, hypocrisy and two-facedness are running rampant in our community, causing some folks to do an "about-face" and completely contradict themselves, and their history.
Take, for example, former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson's, March 28th essay in the Orlando, Florida Sentinel newspaper denouncing Trayvon Martin's murder. Johnson, who was also featured on a local television news station, claims that he was personally contacted by a Sanford, Florida City official asking for his advise after the Martin incident.
In his article, "Trayvon Martin aftermath: Rochester an example of how citizens, police can reform" in referring to the Rochester community's distrust of the Rochester Police department, Bill Johnson writes "When I became mayor in 1994, repairing this breach and reforming the police department became a top priority. We changed the attitude that everything the police did was right and everything a citizen, especially one of color, did was wrong."
Bill Johnson is a hypocrite. In the mid to late 90's, prior to me and my family filing a Civil rights lawsuit against the city and the R.P.D., I personally reached out to Mayor Johnson numerous times, through calls and certified letters, pleading with him to do something about the ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse on the part of the R.P.D. against my family.
In one incident, after a local television news channel aired a video which I filmed of R.P.D. officer David Joseph, along with several other officers abusing a Jamaican motorist during a traffic stop on Rochester's westside, David Joseph's brother, Nick Joseph retaliated against me.
Nick Joseph, and his partner, LaMar Cousins illegally entered my home without a warrant, assaulted and falsely arrested me, and slammed my face into a police car's door. He then laughed, and blew cigarette smoke in my face, as he made fun of my elderly mother and aunt, who were crying and speaking Spanish.
Under Johnson's administration, a Federal jury later found Nick Joseph, Lamar Cousins and several other R.P.D. officers, including David Joseph, willfully and maliciously violated me and my family's Civil rights in a series of incidents, finding the City of Rochester liable for punitive and compensatory damages.
Bill Johnson should have immediately terminated Nick Joseph after the jury's verdict in my Federal trial. He didn't. Instead, Bill Johnson, and then R.P.D. Chief Robert Duffy, allowed Joseph to remain on the R.P.D., until transferring to the Greece Police department.
In June 2008, while high on cocaine and alcohol, Nick Joseph was driving his brother, David Joseph's car, at more than 80 miles per hour, when he rear ended a stalled vehicle on 390 North, sending the driver of that vehicle, Alexis Sharpe, who was pregnant, into premature labor. Then, like the coward that he is, Nick Joseph fled the scene under the cover of night.
Later, in New York State Supreme Court, Nick Joseph was convicted of several felonies including Vehicular Assault, Perjury, and Leaving the scene of a serious accident without reporting. Nick Joseph was sentenced to 3 to 7 years in State prison, and his corrupt actions led to a major investigation into the Greece Police department which in turn led to the arrests and convictions of Greece Police officer Gary Pignato and Chief Merritt Rahn.
To anyone who doesn't know Bill Johnson, his essay in the Orlando paper may evoke a false sense and illusion of a former Mayor who was truly concerned about police, community and race relations, here in Rochester. But, for others, such as myself who know firsthand who Bill Johnson really was, his essay is textbook example of hypocrisy at its worst.
The truth is, when Bill Johnson became Mayor, he abandoned his own "Blueprint for Change" that he ran on in his campaign. Bill Johnson also forgot that he was an African-American. He forgot Rochester's long history of racial divisiveness. He forgot the Rochester Police department's long history of killing unarmed African-Americans in our city. Contrary to his claims in his Orlando Sentinel article, as Mayor, Bill Johnson NEVER stood up to injustices right here in our city, especially ones committed by his own police department.
When 21 year old Vandy Davis, an unarmed Jamaican father was shot in the chest and killed by Rochester Police officer David Gebhardt, who claimed he tripped, and accidentally discharged his shotgun, Bill Johnson didn't stand up.
When 14 year old Craig Heard, an unarmed African-American teen was shot twice in the head and killed by Rochester police officers Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham, Bill Johnson didn't stand up.
When Lawrence Rogers, an unarmed mentally-ill African-American father died, less than an hour after being beaten by Rochester Police officer Thomas Rodriguez, in a Wegmans parking lot, Bill Johnson didn't stand up.
It's sad when "so called" leaders and politicians, both current and past, use the truly sad, tragic and senseless murder of Trayvon Martin, to "jump on the bandwagon", claiming to be something they never were. Claiming to have stood up to injustices, when the truth is, they never did.