Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Ex-con lawyer gets support

Sentinels at odds with police union

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Several African-American community groups, including a police organization, declared their support Monday for an attorney who once went to prison for the murder of a police officer.

        The demonstration at the Hamilton County Courthouse came one week after police, prosecutors and a judge began criticizing the decision that allowed Derek Anthony Farmer to become a lawyer.

        “I support him being able to practice law,” said Cecil Thomas, president of the Sentinels Police Association. “I cannot say I believe in God and not be able to forgive somebody.”

        He said the Sentinels, with about 200 black members, will not support an effort by the Fraternal Order of Police to ban all police dealings with Mr. Farmer or the firm that hired him.

        “The Sentinels are not part of that job action,” Mr. Thomas said.

        FOP President Keith Fangman called for the ban last week and said it has the backing of most of the city's 1,000 police officers.

        Mr. Fangman said his opposition to Mr. Farmer, who is black, has nothing to do with his race.

        “They are trying to make this into a white-and-black issue, and it's not,” Mr. Fangman said. “It's offensive and insulting to make a racial issue out of this.

        “If Derek Farmer were a white male, we would take just as strong a stand.”

        But those who attended the demonstration Monday said Mr. Farmer is not getting a fair shake.

        They said the Ohio Supreme Court's decision to let him practice law was based on sound reasoning. They said he has changed significantly since going to prison and now is in a position to give back to the community.

        “This man has paid his dues,” said James Clingman, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce. “He should be allowed to earn his living.”

        Mr. Farmer, who was convicted in 1975, served 18 years for aiding and abetting the shooting deaths of a police officer and a civil-rights activist.

        The shootings occurred as Mr. Farmer, then 16, fled a jewelry store robbery with his 18-year-old nephew, Calvin Farmer. Although a judge ruled he did not fire the shots, Mr. Farmer was sentenced to life in prison.

        He was paroled in 1992 and attended law school at the University of Akron. He now works for Cincinnati lawyer Kenneth Lawson.

        Other groups participating in the demonstration included the Nation of Islam and Grassroots United.


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