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Aug-11-2010 04:00printcommentsVideo

Demonstrators Protest Local Newspaper Over Racism

Former prison guard's determination for fighting prison racism sees a new front.

Still photos by Dexter Phoenix, video by Tim King, Jerry Freeman and Joy Graves.
Still photos for this report: Dexter Phoenix, video by Tim King, Jerry Freeman & Joy Graves.

(SALEM, Ore.) - A group of demonstrators in Salem are angry with a local newspaper for ignoring racism, corruption and Civil Rights violations against African Americans; both inmates and guards, in the state prison.

Ersun Warncke talks to the SJ

The protest was led by former Corrections Officer William Coleman of Salem, who suffered extreme retaliation over blowing the whistle on racism in Oregon Corrections. He believes the problems taking place in the prisons are ignored by the paper, and it creates huge problems.

"What's on my mind are a lot of hate crimes that took place in the prison system that the Statesman Journal ignored. And what I hope to accomplish today, is that the Statesman Journal really decides, to print the truth about hate crimes and corruption in the prison system."

A former prison inmate named Chris who is white, agreed fully with Coleman about corruption in the prison system that costs taxpayers more than they know by far.

"They really don't tell the truth when it comes to the DOC and the state," he said. "I mean I have been in the prison system and I know how corrupt it is from being in it."

William Coleman has been fighting corruption and racism in Oregon's Corrections Dept. for years. Framed and railroaded in retaliation for blowing the whistle on racism in the prison, he has found the Statesman Journal Newspaper's treatment of his story very incomplete, and biased, and very frustrating.

It all came to a head recently when he called Bill Church at the Statesman to find resolution, and voice his concerns about the paper's protection of racism, and Church responded by hanging up on Coleman in the middle of the conversation.

"That is the guy that hung up on me, no one else seems to want to step up to the plate, and explain the situation that is really going on. They want us to leave, of course they want us out of here. They're asking us to leave, but we're trying to negotiate, mediate, and try to get some truth printed in the paper, finally. It affected my family, it affected other people's families, and they refused to investigate that with truth. That is what we are trying to do, and I believe if we keep pushing, we will have no choice but to print the truth."

Coleman and his advocates entered the newspaper, but the staff insisted that our photographer Dexter Phoenix leave the building. It seems odd for a media group to refuse access to a photographer, but this is corporate media. In fact everyone but Coleman and Civil Rights advocate Skip Osborne of Portland, were allowed to stay. As they walked out of the building, I asked writer Ersun Warncke how it went.

"Well the guy that they wanted to see is apparently away in San Francisco at a conference so there wasn't a lot resolved, apparently there weren't any editors available to talk, or any managers available to talk."

Coleman said, "They just don't want to tell the truth, it is political, this newspaper is political, they want to keep it that way, so until the people come out, and support real news, it is going to continue being like this, so I just hope that people continue tuning into real news, because the Statesman Journal is a joke."

One of Coleman's allegations involved a hate message written on a African-American inmate's People Magazine, something Coleman says the prison tried hard to cover up. The prison also created racial tension by playing a movie for prisoners about the fall of Hitler, packed with Nazi supremacy and suicide. Coleman says the prison created the problems, all potential serious matters of liability to Oregon taxpayers, and there was no response from prison officials.

"They choose to cover it up, protect the white racist officer. And then on top of this, allow a Hitler movie to be played in the institution that really showed me what kind of people I'm dealing with, I'm dealing with people who could not, would not, do the right thing."

Coleman says the corruption he faced, establishes a path toward resolving the historic 1989 murder of Oregon Corrections Director Michael Francke.

"Because the corruption, the people in Francke's time, they are still around, still calling the shots," the former corrections officer said.

And while Coleman says his problems are one thing, the inmates who tried to help him when he was framed by a state prosecutor in Marion County, are another.

Terrence Kimble- wrongly convicted man

One of the inmates is Terrence Kimble. A examination of his case shows that it is impossible he committed the crime he is convicted of, and has spent ten years behind bars over.

"He spent that many years in prison for something you didn't do. I mean, no witnesses to testify that he did this, no DNA to prove that he did this, nothing. Why is this man in prison?"

Coleman says right is right and wrong is wrong, and he will crank up the pressure on Oregon to set this man free.

"I'm not going to rest until I see mr. Kimble walk through that gate saying, 'I'm a free man, I'm a free man, and I believe that is going to happen pretty soon."

To their favor, the Statesman Journal did cover this story. It was a small article, but it is their credit that they covered it. Hanging up on members of the public battling racism is bad business. The Statesman Journal and Bill Church learned that in a big way on this day.

Coleman says any movement is good, and long overdue.

"They've refuse to report this, it is ridiculous, I think a lot of changes have to be made, and I think some changes have to be made, and I think today is a good day to start some effective change at the Statesman Journal."

The group held their protest Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem.

It all begs the question: what role does a media group have in maintaining the integrity of the community is based in?

It is commonly believed that journalists are the watchdogs of the government, yet in the case of the Salem Statesman Journal Newspaper, the watchdog appears to have been asleep for a long time.

As the man behind the effort to raise awareness of what he calls a "far bigger problem than anyone comprehends," William Coleman, an African-American from the deep south, who had a hard lesson after moving to Oregon and becoming a prison guard, hoping to find a new life, and instead finding himself in a position where he had to fight for his life.

Coleman blew the whistle on racism, corruption and hate crimes at the Oregon State Prison. It was the right thing to do by any system of belief. Coleman saw one inmate almost killed in a stabbing attack that he reported prior to it happening, that was ignored by the people who run the Oregon State Prison. In fact everything Coleman says is corroborated by excellent research and documentation.

It seems obvious that Mr. Coleman has been greatly underestimated.

Coleman says he can not overemphasize how much this failure of the Statesman Journal to adequately perform its role in the community, has set both Salem, and the Oregon taxpayer back.

Coleman's Case History

Coleman beat the state's case against him; which he describes as a trumped up set of charges for smuggling cigarettes into the prison. The charges were filed within four hours of Coleman filing a Whistleblower claim against the state of Oregon.

A Marion County prosecutor tried to drive the case home with a pair of white racist witnesses who were, Coleman says he has learned, paid to testify against him in court.

He took the case straight on, refused to accept one of numerous plea bargains offered to him by the state, and was found "Not Guilty" on all counts with a unanimous verdict no less.

The Statesman Journal ran a small blurb on this.

Coleman says he firmly believes that the Statesman Journal could have helped prevent Oregon's corrections department from becoming extremely corrupt many years ago, by simply investigating the facts and publishing them. Allegations of corruption predate the 1989 Murder of former Corrections Director Michael Francke, which so many believe led to a false Murder conviction against a man named Frank Gable, who is still serving time for the killing.

Instead of responding to this African-American man's extremely well documented account of crimes committed by state officials at the prison, the sleeping watchdog paper and the state's complacent Attorney General, John Kroger, maintain a prose that will require federal intervention to correct it.

This is not a simple story; it involves violence, bribery, huge Civil Rights violations, millions of dollars in laundered and lost taxpayer funds, and a 21-year old Murder that nobody is going to forget about until things are set straight.

Prior Attempts to Work with Statesman Reporter

In his attempt to get the case out in front of the public, Coleman worked with a reporter named Alan Gustafson at the SJ, but the real story Coleman kept telling, about racism and ugly happenings behind the walls of the prison, never seemed to make the cut.

Yet any allegations against Coleman, Gustafson and the newspaper management deemed to be serious front page material. Coleman gave talking to Gustafson one last try, and it did not change the reporter's position.

As related above, in a last ditch effort to convince the Statesman Journal that the racism he has proven to exist in the prison is a serious problem, Coleman called the newspaper and asked if he could speak to someone who is in charge of Gustafson. Coleman was told he should contact a senior news employee named Bill Church, so he did.

After reaching him on the phone, Coleman told Church he needed the paper's help to expose violent dangerous racism that sets the tone at the state prison.

Bill Church's reply from the Statesman Journal to this embattled African-American was, "I don't need to listen to any of this crap from you" and Church slammed the phone down in Coleman's ear.

Coleman says in the bigger picture, the paper's treatment of his case has been consistent with what he has he received at the hands of the state. Somehow though, no matter what, it seems that Coleman is destined to find the justice he seeks.


Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Anonymous August 16, 2010 3:37 am (Pacific time) Interesting article about news media outlets, some cowardly and some heroic... . "Tim Crews well deserves acclaim as the Justus F. Craemer 2009 Newspaper Executive of the Year. He joins 44 other California newspaper executives who have received the award since 1967. Admittedly from a longtime friend: Crews is a journalist * who routinely, personally and vigorously attacks local governmental secrecy, corruption and dysfunction—and who just as routinely uses the sunshine laws in the courts to do it; * whose pages are a true "mirror"—and a compassionate one—of a poor valley community and its abused and neglected wretched of the earth as well as its happier moments; * who has used the newspaper relentlessly to crusade against miscarriages of justice, including most recently the botched investigation of a conspicuous homicide; * who has gone to jail to protect vulnerable unnamed sources; and * who has personally paid the price of his audacity in repeated criminal attempts on his property and his life."

William Coleman August 13, 2010 4:32 pm (Pacific time)

Dear: Ryan or DOC employee: You're probably one of the people that's part of the corruptions and hate crimes that have taken place in Oregon over the years time is running out, the truth about you and your Boy's will be exposed, whether you listen to it or not, all my claims are a matter of record, they're proven fact. The truth hurts, that's why no one had the integrity to help Frankie clean up corruption here in Oregon. What's sad is you are none of your boy's had the guts to support Frankie, you choose to join, i just hope you not raising your kids to be like you. We have thousands of inmates' families that want to hear the truth about you and the corrupted system where you're employed. You sound like someone who has fear of being exposed. I know people like you, i welcome people like you to conversation anytime, tell your buddies at work to log in and comment i know they have a lot to talk about just like you. keep in touch.

Ryan August 13, 2010 11:01 am (Pacific time)

You know, it's quite obvious that no one cares about this guys claims, other than some who are trying to incorporate it into some silly and worthless agenda that will never fly. There are bigger fish to fry and this guy isn't even a minnow. People are more concerned about the economy, jobs and the incredibly high racial crime rate. Just check out the racist crimes of blacks on whites and hispanics on whites. You are swimming up river on this story. So where are the national black leaders? This Skip Osborne is irrelevant, as was his old man to the greater community there in Portland and Oregonians at large. You have no traction, just a bunch of misfits spinning their useless wheels.

Tim King: So you're Ryan today?  I think it is funny how just a couple of IP addresses keep sending these silly comments in.  They sound like the words of a fear driven criminal.  You actually think you can state those things and not make it worse for the crooks behind this three decade long scam?  Man, you would not believe the corroborating evidence we are gathering.  I have to smile at what you insinuate, because all people need to do is reverse the words to have the real story.  You're right that I have an agenda; I am out to take down racism in Oregon.  I also have a real problem with thieves and scummy badged drug dealers and higher ups in Oregon's government who have gotten away with so much.  Your problem is that the forces of good are aligning, and it is spiritual, believe me.  We are getting so much feedback on this, and we haven't even contacted the national groups yet, though some are paying attention on their own.  Then there was KXL and KBOO Radio covering the story, and the SJ itself, which I give them credit for.  I know in your way of thinking, you are honest.  You don't know enough though to realize how blatant your racism sounds.  And since when am I not swimming upriver?   

Rob August 12, 2010 10:59 pm (Pacific time)

Much too easy to cyberstalk someone nowadays huh? You're not scared are ya? Even easier to call them on the phone. Seems Mr. Coffin isn't as willing to talk nowadays as you claim he was over 20 years ago. What's the deal you suppose? Matter of fact, he sounded almost as scared as you. As if Joyce Merritt was calling him saying "I saw what you did and I know who you are." Run Curtis run! LOL! He definitely didn't strike me as the "Coleman" type in the picture your post painted of him. BTW, where's your sources to this little story of yours? Got any links to the media articles you speak of?

Silence Dogood August 12, 2010 7:07 pm (Pacific time)

Ben Franklin got it. He used pen names quite often. It is much too easy to cyberstalk someone, nowadays. Anyway, it's not the messenger needing to be noticed, it is the message that needs to be heard. In the case of the SJ, Church shot the messenger (Mr. Coleman) by hanging up on him. Coleman's message is important. The SJ simply has made it clear; they want to hear nothing about malicious prosecution or the lack of integrity (and worse) at Corrections. Dale Penn, then Marion County D.A. in 1987, helped exterminate Curtis Coffin career as a guard at Oregon State Penitentiary, just as Francke was coming to Oregon to lead Corrections. Someone (or persons) wanted to shut Coffin up. Coffin had been asked by someone in Corrections to speak at a Salem City Club meeting (this was on the heels of the 1986 so-called Corrections investigation). Coffin (placing the first nail in his own coffin) point blank admitted at this “uppity-up” Salem meeting that OSP guards were still dealing drugs. The next nail, his speech was carried by the Associated Press and picked up regionally in some newspapers. Certain coworkers quickly had a solution, they set Coffin up; and then they found ONE prisoner willing to go along as a "witness" and say Coffin had sold drugs. Dale Penn, then Marion County D.A. jumped on his well-ridden Corrections bandwagon. The first time around, Penn oddly dropped the charges against Coffin, and then Corrections gave Coffin $15,000 as a settlement. Scott McAlister was still running the Corrections legal show at the time. Kennicott was Internal Affairs. Since when does Oregon Corrections pay a guard, they had charged with drug distribution, $15,000 to go away? Later when Coffin spoke publicly (after the Francke murder) it was about the time the legislature was holding a few hearings on Corrections, and retired Judge John Warden was midway into his short-timed investigation of Corrections. Coffin described to the media about his being set up by Corrections co-workers in 1987, due to his speech to the Salem City Club being publicized in several newspapers. Penn was busy doing his Francke grand jury thing when Coffin told this to the media, in October 1989. Within days of Coffin speaking out and it getting printed in the paper, Penn announced he would again charge Coffin (with the same 1987 charges again). Apparently, the $15,000 had some kind of “keep your big mouth shut” innuendo of understanding attached, which Coffin failed to understand. Penn claimed the prisoner who didn't want to testify against Coffin before, might be willing more than two years later, if they could find him (now out of prison). Mr. Penn, whom I believe has skated free only do to "qualified immunity" for his prosecutorial bad deeds to innocent people, is a Marion County JUDGE, recently appointed by one of a long string of Oregon Democratic 'racketeering' (might as well call it as I see it) governors to fill a judicial vacancy. I highly recommend everyone, who has to go before Penn in court, affidavit him off their case. Penn’s reputation precedes him.

Anonymous August 12, 2010 6:20 pm (Pacific time)


Hank Ruark August 12, 2010 2:10 pm (Pacific time)

Rob,JDos,et al: Those who offer ONLY their own strong feeling disguised as an "opinion" abuse real meaning of that word as involved here at S-N. What Tim works with for his analysis guiding his proven professional reporting skills in statements here is definite "informed opinion", offered always as the product of real digging in multiple sources, over time, consideration of all possible facts findable, analysis and test of that very complex difficult process,and the demanded cogitation every pro-writer will recognize from its rigourous rerquirement for professional skills and processes. "Opinion" is ONLY expression of personal feeling, NOT even necessarily involving facts, but very often based on narrow life experience, no special training and little attempt at cogitation OR analysis. It is professsional search for facts,followed by the kind of cogitation always involved necessarily when more than feeling is placed in the pot by factual research, that is the differentiation for professional journalists from casual commenteers seeking the casual satisfaction of THEIR response to professional work. WHen such refuse ID and any reason we should accept their authority as authentic via their special experience or training, their relative place in our list of credibles and accountables becomes exceeding clear to any rational person. What Tim reports re handling of racism, as here reported, and of many other issues,too, at the SJ --as available from many surveilling this city tragedy of monopoly over far too many years-- is flat-out fact, furiously and thoroughly documented. For those dodging behind the easy-tree of "anon", or the hanging branch of single-name synonynm equally-hiding real ID--as demanded for any Letter to The Editor in print-side dailies !, with good reason, they get what they give, and deservedly so...would you let any masked/man into your home without removing the mask ?? "Informed opinion", with checkable links for "see with own eyes" is what is offered at S-N. That's what professionals in every level and form of the journalistic endeavor DO, ALL the TIME,at huge costs for all in time, effort, energy --and dollars. SO, J/Dos, lay it out here for all to see: What's your real background, interest, and involvement ? Any special training for comments AND your demands ? Where have YOU been published, TV-transmitted with many story-products, or other activities ? Comments,unfortunately, are almost without other than the personal feeling which happens to be on top-of-head for any one person...until, unless, and invariably that person is qualified by sharing further facts, research or any special documentation they may have --as Tim has done with those deeply involved here. Deep,long-continued research over many centuries supports these points: documentation on request to Tim with full ID and working phone...delighted to supply from 60-yr. working career contending with every one of these issues... !!!

Rob August 12, 2010 1:09 pm (Pacific time)

Just curious...why wouldn't someone with the ability to offer an intelligent opinion not want to sign their name to it? Has always seemed cowardly to me or in the case of some I've encountered born out of ulterior motives designed to upset the positive flow. Just my opinion.

JCDos August 12, 2010 11:14 am (Pacific time)

Tim King, it's called an opinion and if you don't like it then I suggest you get out of the media business and also turn off comments on stories. Assuming I am doing nothing useful or right with my life is an absolute elitist and arrogant attitude. You should be ashamed. You know nothing of my personal business nor to the extent I help the local community, charities, and our local business community.

Thank you for showing that when you accuse the Statesman Journal of bias, you are yourself the pot calling the kettle black.

Tim King: Well I guess I'm up to my eyeballs in this story and just not responding well to your criticism.  For the record I could slam other media all day, that isn't my goal.  This is a very specific situation and as it developed, significant pieces to the story were ignored by the paper.  That's all there was to it.  I have a hard time being very positive when I am being accused of something that is off base.  Just remember that is absolutely the only thing like it in the nation, and it happens to be in Salem, Oregon.  We are the underdog of underdogs and very taken in by Americans and people all over the world.  You are involved in the community, yet you don't so much as use your name, and then you are offended over my reaction.  It is hard for me to know who I am dealing with when people only list initials.  At any rate, perhaps I was wrong in my reaction and I realize I offended you, and for that I apologize.   

Henry Clay Ruark August 11, 2010 4:54 pm (Pacific time)

To all: BCR,wife of 60 years, fervent activist from graduate days,had favorite-line: "Keeping quiet will never start the riot." We need some riots-starting in this nation, and this is a good place for one to begin.

William Coleman August 11, 2010 3:09 pm (Pacific time)

Rob you were here in spirit, I appreciate you hanging in there with the free Gable situation.  I know if you were here you would have participated, just knowing that is good enough for me. I'm trying to bring courage to the people to make a stand for justice, I know lot of people in their minds wanted to stick beside you in freeing Gable, but this kind of situation we are dealing with must come from the heart. I don't know Kevin, I'd like to meet him one day. Rob, we can't change people- they have to want to change and compromise with each other to make situations better for us all. I desire to see effective change, Rob i could have taken plea deals, but i choose to fight for justice, I'm glad i choose to fight i could have taken probation and left the state like an "swimp". I want to see effective change, the Statesman Journal needs to print the truth, If the local news would have printed the truth of what really happened, and the people who planned his murder. We need state reporters that go out there and asked question like detectives. Maybe the DOC is giving them "hush money" because all the incidents I experienced in DOC are a matter of record- they happened, not only does Frankie's case need more coverage it's going to be solved.  Believe me, I know Frankie was upset with all the corruption that he had seen and that he trusted some people that were close to him in DOC that sold him out you and I know who they are. We will find them and they will confess to what they know.  There are some new leads out there. I've been looking at Frankie's case for about 2yrs a very easy case to solve, but we need the right FEDERAL people with integrity and a desire to make a name for themselves.  I believe that's coming soon.  Gable also is 1000% innocent of murder.  Rob i know how you feel when people claim to be something they're not, people who will agree with you and leave you hanging when the situation gets a little "hot" just hang in there,  I'd rather have 10 contenders than 1000 pretenders. Frankie case should have been resolved many yrs ago. Rob, keep exposing the truth even though it may hurt people, but remember we can't change people, i believe Frankie will come around eventually.

JCDos August 11, 2010 9:24 am (Pacific time)

So basically one "media group" is utilizing another "media group" to garner attention and puff themselves up as providing "good and fair news".

Napoleon syndrome at it's finest.

Tim King: Is that really what you get from this? 

You equate fighting racism to having a Napoleonic complex? 

I know some people can be shown things and simply lack the ability to comprehend; sorry you still feel like you should make a public statement.  I recommend against it in the future in your case.  Coleman makes the point about news, true, but he is the individual bringing change to the table and he is right.  Here's something for you, it's 2010 and time to wake the Hell up and try to do something useful and right with your life.   

Rob August 11, 2010 8:12 am (Pacific time)

How I wish I was still in Oregon so I could've participated in this. Couldn't help being reminded of Jan. 17, 2006 when I drove my RV with Free Frank Gable signs on the sides through downtown Salem, past the capitol, and eventually ending up at the Dome Building. All the while exercising my free speech rights through a bullhorn. Liz Francke and her two kids rode along to participate. Couldn't get Kevin away from the bar at Magoos. Is that the same story here? Did anyone ask Kevin if he wanted to participate? Just curious. Ya know, if this sort of thing embarrasses Kevin, maybe Tim could just take his film crew over to Kevins house for a Francke perspective on this corruption series and the Francke case. Kevin loves the camera and he presents himself quite well. Maybe Kevin just isn't comfortable in the protest role, so provide him an element he's comfortable with. I dare ya! I dare Kevin too! LOL!!! The time to shake things up in a different manner is long overdue because the manner that's been used the past twenty years obviously isn't working. Oh, and how I could elaborate on that. Don't stop now fellas. I say on to the capital, the dome building, the Oregonian, Willamette Week, Portland Tribune...and just where are all these local citizens I've encountered the past six years who claim to want to help in the fight to Free Frank Gable and expose the corruption? Not one word from any of them here at (other than Requiem anonymously)...and most notably Kevin Francke. What gives Tim? The Francke case needs more coverage here and it's been asked for by one of your readers in a comment. Need some ideas? I've got ideas. Offer Kevin some column space, Phil Stanford and Eric Mason...Or what...are they all too busy unless there's a paycheck involved? Maybe they just don't agree with your style.

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