I used to eat lunch with Lewis Stewart.
He was a nice guy.
He liked Indian food and we’d go to the buffet and talk about things in the city and society. He was good natured, had a hearty laugh, and a good Christian foundation.
I was a newspaper columnist when we met, and later a talk-show host, and I used to have him on the radio with me. I’d be right and he’d be left, I’d be country and he’d be city, I’d be white and he’d be black.
Then he moved away or something and I didn’t hear from him for years. Then he showed up, but he showed up a different guy. Of late, he’s been on the news and at the press conferences, angling to be a leader among the black clergy.
Specifically among the black clergy who seem to use racial invective and hatred of the police to whip up some sort of movement from which they can profit.
Yesterday, outside the courtroom of Judge Francis Affronti at the Hall of Justice.
When the Rev. Lewis Stewart said, among other things, that the cops were “Nazis,” the judge was a “jackass,” and there had just been a “lynching.”
And, of course, the judge and District Attorney Sandra Doorley were prejudiced against blacks, women and people of color.
At issue was the official sentencing of a young woman named Brenda Hardaway.
Last August, she was involved in an incident in which she, a black lady, was videotaped wrestling with a white male city police officer outside her home. She was pregnant, and belligerent, and the officer had to wrestle her down, which was no insignificant task. In the fracas, the office cuffed her in the back of the head and took her to the ground.
The video was broadly publicized and some were upset at the police officer. He was injured in the confrontation, however, and Brenda Hardaway was charged with second-degree assault.
In January, she pled guilty.
And yesterday she officially learned her sentence – six months in jail, with credit for time already served.
Brenda Hardaway had a bad day last August. But since, she has on at least a couple of occasions shown maturity and grace. She apologized for her actions, in an interview with a television reporter, and said they were wrong. She seemed sincere and emotional when she did so.
And yesterday in court, she apologized again, accepting responsibility for the event and her part in it, acknowledging that it was her fault and that she was sorry the officer was injured.
It was a different Brenda Hardaway than the one shown incessantly wrestling with the officer. It was a young woman who had grown up and was acting in a respectful and respectable way.
To be honest, I was proud of her.
She’s come a long way, and I hope she can continue to grow and mature and be the sort of young woman who will succeed and find happiness for herself and her baby.
But for all the class and maturity shown by Brenda Hardaway inside the courtroom, there was an equal amount of grandstanding and bull crap at the three-ring circus out in the hallway.
Some group called the United Christian Leadership Ministry had decided to get some face time on the evening news.
With Lewis Stewart in the lead.
That’s when he started talking about lynching and Nazis and racist cops, courts and prosecutors. He called the police thugs, said they didn’t understand the black community and said that black people couldn’t get justice.
All of which was pulled out of his arse.
There’s a difference between opinion or belief and out-and-out lying, and Lewis Stewart spent the totality of his press appearance on the wrong side of the Ninth Commandment.
He bore a whole lot of false witness against his neighbor.
And he did it on a subject and in a way that did nothing but exacerbate the eager-to-explode anti-police sentiments of some in the black community. He defamed the reputation of a judge, a district attorney and a cop – as well as a city, a police department and the American justice system.
He took the stereotypes and biases rampant in some parts of black America and fanned them to flame for his own self-aggrandizement.
Maybe there’ll be a city grant in it for him down the road as some sort of community leader or bridge builder or religious leader. Maybe there will be donations that businesses wanting to stay on his good side will send his way. Maybe he can milk something out of it.
Heaven knows he others have.
But let this much be clear.
The police officer in this incident was cleared by a county grand jury and an internal police investigation. The police officer in this incident was injured, has undergone surgery and is still in rehab. The police department in this incident was unfairly tarred by the political exploitation of this incident and the black police chief who oversaw that department was pushed out of his job in part by the manipulation of this incident.
And it’s all a bunch of nonsense.
The police did nothing wrong that day. The judge and the DA did nothing wrong yesterday.
And Lewis Stewart is full of crap.