Brown’s attorney closely questions expert in federal trial

Published 9:48 pm Friday, January 19, 2007

Attorneys for Noxubee County Democratic Party official Ike Brown continued a rigorous cross-examination of a government witness on Thursday in an attempt to find flaws in the witness’ testimony.

Theodore Arrington, a University of North Carolina political science professor testifying for the U.S. Justice Department, examined the politics of Noxubee County and found that Brown and the county’s Democratic Executive Committee are disenfranchising white voters.

He took the witness stand early Wednesday morning and finished at 4 p.m. Thursday after sometimes heated exchanges with Brown’s defense attorney.

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“I think we destroyed the expert,” Brown said after testimony concluded.

The department accuses Brown of violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was written to protect racial minorities when Mississippi and other Southern states strictly enforced segregation.

It is the first use of the act to allege discrimination against whites. Noxubee County is a rural area along the Alabama line with a majority black population.

While on the stand, Arrington said the government pays him $150 an hour during his investigations. Over the last five years, he has made hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

“The weight of the government and their resources are against us,” said Brown, whose attorney is working for free.

Arrington testified Wednesday that Brown, the county Democratic Executive Committee’s chairman, and others used racial slurs to alienate blacks who support white candidates. He also referred to six lawsuits prompted by complaints of voter irregularity in Noxubee County.

Brown’s attorney, Wil Colom, closely questioned Arrington on Thursday about his earlier testimony and his investigative documents. Of the six election complaints cited by Arrington, five were overturned. The one upheld was the only election that took place under Brown’s supervision as head of the executive committee.

Colom asked Arrington, the former vice chairman of the Republican Party in Charlotte, N.C., to give specific proof of ballot fraud and that coercion took place at the polls. A clearly frustrated Arrington could not.

Colom took each one of Arrington’s studies and analyzed it for flaws.

Arrington interviewed a group of white women who wanted to assist in the Democratic primary, but were not allowed. Colom inferred that it was possibly because of their ages — they were all in their 70s — and not their race.

Arrington said Brown “chased” a candidate from a precinct and allowed others to stay, but when Colom asked Arrington to identify others who were allowed to stay at the precinct, Arrington couldn’t identify any.

Colom also proved that Arrington did not interview Democratic poll workers. He also said that in one of Arrington’s studies he interviewed 21 people, yet only five were black.

“And you think that your report is fair and balanced?” Colom asked.

Persecutors later proved that Arrington did try to interview blacks. They also pointed out that he has testified for blacks in several other trials and donated money to Democrat John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

The trial resumes Friday and is expected to last another two weeks.

Brown is a former tax preparer who served 21 months in prison in the 1990s on a felony conviction of preparing fraudulent federal income-tax returns. He also was indicted in 1979 for absentee ballot fraud.

Whites once controlled politics in Noxubee County, but now there are only two white countywide office holders because Brown manipulates election, the U.S. Justice Department says.

He faces no jail time or fines, but would be forced to cease fraudulent activities if convicted, prosecutors said.