NAACP Leader's Shady Past Scrutinized After Donald Sterling Fallout [UPDATED]
NAACP L.A. chapter president Leon Jenkins is under scrutiny for not only accepting donations from beleaguered Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but also for taking bribes in the past.
Jenkins had been disrobed as a Detroit district court judge in 1991 for accepting bribes and has been barred from practicing law both in Michigan and California, according to BuzzFeed.
He came under fire when he gave Sterling a humanitarian award in 2009 despite the fact that Sterling was in the middle of a federal racial discrimination lawsuit. And Jenkins' NAACP chapter would have given Sterling another lifetime achievement award on May 15, but they didn't because a damning audio recording of Sterling's racist rant against black people surfaced.
Jenkins, who started heading the NAACP L.A. branch in 2008, faced a laundry list of charges when he was indicted in 1988 for bribery, racketeering, mail fraud, extortion, and conspiracy, according to records from the State Bar of California. Although he was acquitted of the criminal charges, the Michigan Supreme Court removed him as a judge in 1991, saying that he “systematically and routinely sold his office." The Michigan Citizen reported:
Jenkins was a 36th District Court judge between 1984 and 1987. During that time, he was caught lying about his residency to get lower auto insurance rates, fixed tickets and accepted other bribes, according to the California Bar Journal. He was also observed on FBI surveillance taking money.
However, that wasn't the end of it. He was disbarred from practicing law as an attorney in Michigan in 1994. He tried to start a new life in California, but was also disbarred there in 2001 after the State Bar began looking into his misconduct allegations in Michigan. The State Bar of California rejected his requests to be reinstated in 2006 and 2012, according to the L.A. Times. Court records showed that he tried again this month, but judges thought he hadn't established the "moral fitness to resume the practice of law." BuzzFeed reported that they decided this based on the fact that repeatedly misrepresenting his finances.
Jenkins had tried to convince the State Bar of California that he was doing good for the community, by raising funds for the NAACP and working with mentoring programs for African-American youth.
At a press conference on Monday, Jenkins announced that the NAACP would be returning Sterling's donations to the organization; however, he would not disclose how much the Clippers owner had given them. Although the NAACP requires that its non-profit chapters to release financial reports, BuzzFeed was unable to find any such documents from the L.A. chapter.
A petition on Change.org asking the NAACP to suspend the L.A. chapter has already garnered 403 of its 500 needed signatures as of today. Tiara Williams, who launched the petition, wrote:
In light of the Donald Sterling controversy, the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP has proven that they have no intention of combating racism, inequality and prejudice for the black community. Instead, the organization is consumed by wealth, power, and the misleading perception of providing legitimate advocacy for people of color.
UPDATE 9:12 p.m.: Jenkins has resigned as president of the NAACP L.A. chapter. According to USA Today, his resignation letter reads:
"Please be advised that the legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency. In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign my position as president of the Los Angeles NAACP."