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Exposé: Skeletons Falling Out of the Closet of Oregon CorrectionsTim King Salem-News.com
Defying all odds, a black prison guard took on a corrupt state system and in the face of massive retaliation, was found not guilty by a unanimous jury.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Once in a great while, a corrupt system meets its match. The Oregon Dept. of Corrections is in big trouble, and the subject of a huge Exposé that will play out on these pages, in an upcoming book, and also as part of a television documentary.
Criminal collaboration between governmental agencies builds an unhealthy alliance. Lies and innuendo keep things confused. In this case, years passed and lies were almost continually injected into a story created by state officials to frame a black man over racism. After you know the details of this story, you will likely believe that Oregon, at this point, has nothing close to a sound or non-corrupt prison system.
Enter William Coleman, a man who has a lot in common with Michael Francke, fallen former Director of Oregon's Dept. of Corrections, who was murdered in the DOC's parking lot one dark night in January of 1989.
In what way? Start with their common refusal to be complicit to unlawful behavior.
Coleman's successful outcome in a long, grueling and expensive case constructed against him by state officials, features the most unique set of circumstances in the history of this country. Nobody has ever fought this level of retaliation and come out this far ahead.
Angelina Jolie Connection
The number of racially motivated crimes in the Oregon Corrections Dept. and the list of accompanying names documented by Coleman, is long. He is a thorough and dedicated reporter in his own right, documenting every single step in his years-long struggle to seek, and actually find justice.
There is a great deal of evidence that demonstrates the retaliation he suffered for blowing the whistle on racism, but the smoking gun in this story, was a 'People' Magazine that a black inmate subscribed to.
Before this magazine, a piece of federal mail, arrived in the inmate's cell, someone had written profane, racially-provoked comments in it with a felt tip marker; the story was about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's adopted black child. The foul scrawl about a tiny child was in writing that Coleman recognized, that of a particular white guard who, in his opinion, wasn't above doing something like this.
It was very personal; William Coleman has a white son and is sensitive to discriminatory behavior. So, he did what he was supposed to do. After being advised of the situation by the inmate who received the magazine, Coleman told his superiors.
Rather than questioning the guard Coleman believed to be responsible, they took the inmate out of his cell and placed him in solitary, but not before he was able to hand the magazine off to another inmate for safekeeping. The DOC went through his cell and Coleman says they were peeved at not finding the magazine in question. Later Coleman contacted the inmate holding the magazine, and that is why we are able to include a photo copy of it in this article.
In the movie about the death of Michael Francke, 'Without Evidence', Angelina Jolie plays the role of Jodie Swearingen. Swearingen was a 17-year old Salem, Oregon drug addict who was more than groomed, she was forced to provide false testimony under threat of a prison sentence, by corrupt law enforcement officials, many of whom are still in state employment. This is what she told everyone, except for the jury in the Frank Gable trial. She said she had to do what she did, and the jury used her words to convict Gable for Francke's murder. According to taped interviews, Swearingen's actions seemed to really bother her, though after the fact, and she insisted that Gable was not guilty.
20 years later Gable is still imprisoned. We had no idea until connecting these dots, that Jolie would actually be related, in an indirect way, to Coleman's case through the child adoption photo, and that she also played a key character in the movie about Francke's death. It is a small world.
On the subject of movies, William Coleman bears a striking resemblance to the character portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan in 'The Green Mile' with Tom Hanks. Coleman was raised in Georgia and knows all about racial discrimination toward blacks. He thought, falsely, that Oregon was better about such things.
Time after time officials could have done the right thing; responded to Coleman's documented reports of problematic racism, but each time they instead worked to avoid it, or dismiss it, rather than address or resolve it. He says a common line was, "We know it is here, but you could never prove it." They spoke too soon.
People should be ashamed of themselves, someone along the way should have done the right thing, and finally they did, but it was a jury, not the supposed trusted state officials that tax dollars pay for.
Like Francke, Coleman is from a different U.S. state and not part of the Oregon 'good old boy' network, as many call it. Like Francke, William Coleman chose to expose the corruption of the Oregon State Penitentiary.
The corrupt really have no trustworthy confidants. As it turns out, sadly, neither did William Coleman, but for extremely different reasons.
The biggest difference between the Michael Francke case and Coleman's, is that William Coleman is alive, and he will be staying that way.
I am writing a book about William Coleman's incredible story this summer. Never did anyone expect anything of this magnitude to emerge from the courts, so completely corroborated. He says the problem with Oregon's efforts to wrongly convict him stems from the fact that, "they put all of their eggs in one basket."
It appears to be a very solid theory. State officials never expected Coleman to take the matter in front of a jury, they offered him a plea deal multiple times.
Nor did they think he would bring forward a witness who could - and did - expose numerous members of the DOC staff for corruption.
The same witness told the jury that Oregon State Police investigators specifically asked him to testify that Coleman had smuggled cigarettes into the prison and was corrupt. Instead, the witness told the jury the names of white officers, who he said actually are corrupt. The witness further stated that he would have much preferred to deal contraband with a black guard (instead of the guards he named), but he said, "Coleman was clean."
What a burn for the people trying to bring Coleman down.
Out of the hundreds of inmates interviewed in an effort to find some willing to testify against Coleman, the only two who agreed to work with the state were bona fide white racists from the EK (European Kindred gang), along with a Salem woman who is also romantically involved with, you guessed it... a white racist inmate. This is who the Marion County prosecutor relied on to convict Coleman, a law officer with no criminal record.
Racial prejudice allowed this to happen. That ignorance compounded with other similar behaviors resulted in the state's weakest and yet most vicious attempt to frame an innocent man, and we have them dead to rights.
It is one thing for a prosecutor to press a case they believe in, it is another for a prosecutor, like Marion County's Brad Orrio, to take a case that could well be false and just plain wrong.
Long before he apparently realized he had to prosecute this bogus case, Orrio made a statement to a local reporter that is coming back to haunt him like an angry ghost.
Before trying to send Coleman up the river, he said this about the case, "With prison cases, in my experience, they are the most susceptible to going down the toilet because the inmates are so great at manipulating witnesses and getting information through the grapevine. So I'm pretty tight-lipped about this case."
Then he turned around and prosecuted the case with passion. He forgot, however, to mention the racist profanity in People Magazine, the fact that his witnesses against the black guard were neo-Nazi's, and he also hadn't anticipated Coleman mentioning the Nazi movie that the white corrections officers had played for the inmates, called "The Falling", which examined the last days of Adolph Hitler's life. I have not seen the movie, but Coleman says, "It is the last thing any sane person would do: play a crazy movie with all those heil Hitler salutes, in the most racially sensitive environment on earth."
Racism took a big hit with the outcome of this trial.
The people in this case according to Coleman; every investigator involved, would be better suited for writing Hollywood fiction, 'b' movies of course, than reports as badged representatives of any government.
I'm not even beginning to scratch the surface. And for the record, all of the documentation is in multiple places, very secure, and we'll not be deterred. It is all a matter of record.
In summary, William Coleman endured and survived the unthinkable. He was exposed to extreme racism, blew the whistle in accordance with established law, and then watched the organized retaliation begin. They turned on him.
Over and over, in unexpected ways, from agencies including Corrections, the Marion County District Attorney, Oregon State Police, Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI), the state insurance fund (SAIF), the Marion County Sheriff's Office and even Salem Police, William Coleman was the victim of lies and official collaboration.
Strong words, yes, but again - it is all a matter of record. Whereas many say the state boldly stood together to oversee and cover up (very poorly) the Michael Francke Murder, they greatly underestimated William Coleman.
Let's put it this way: a sixth grader could figure it out. The story speaks volumes about the lack of integrity and character in Oregon state officials and the agencies they run.
I want to coin a term that is long overdue, that is "Frivolous Prosecution". An existing legal term to represent the act is "malicious prosecution". We know "frivolous lawsuit" from the last presidential administration, now it is time to bring the chickens home to roost. Frivolous Prosecution is a far bigger problem in society than many realize.
Sadly, Oregon is too thoroughly involved in this story. At this point it seems virtually impossible to consider the state having any ability to look at this in an impartial manner. A resolution to this this matter will require the feds.
Perhaps one of the ugliest marks on Oregon's landscape for the past 21 years, is the common belief that Michael Francke's killer was the state of Oregon itself. It is tragic that so many years have passed since this alleged organized act of injustice.
A Vietnam Veteran, Mr. Francke was hired by former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt to overhaul the troubled and failing Oregon Corrections System.
Francke had been in place for just over a year when he was exposed to something very unacceptable during a 'team building' session of top DOC officials at a retreat. We don't know exactly what happened that day to upset Francke so much that he cut the several day retreat short on his first day and drove home.
We do know that the former Oregon Assistant Attorney General Scott McAlister, who is suspected of knowing more about Francke's death if nothing else, went on to become convicted of a crime related to child pornography. Every one should find that more than a little disconcerting. I wonder what they were all doing during that retreat that shocked and dismayed Michael Francke so much.
Coleman's case is different from all others, because as much as they drug him through the mud, falsifying charges, claiming to have witnesses who never existed, ensuring that all state agencies worked in a manner that would force him to his knees, etc., he outsmarted them.
Personally I don't know what part of Coleman's story is the worst, there is a series of so many equally disgusting illegal acts from state officials that it is hard to know what the 'worst' is.
Needless to say, if you have information about corruption inside the Oregon State Corrections system, or if you know particulars about the Michael Francke case, please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are not looking for anything on William Coleman's case, as it is a wrap.
STAY TUNED TO SALEM-NEWS.COM FOR PART 3 IN THIS ONGOING SERIES
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