DECEMBER 14, 2007
Animated civil rights activist Al Sharpton is accusing the federal government of investigating his suspicious financial dealings as retaliation for organizing one of his trademark protests recently on behalf of six black Louisiana students charged with assault.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are investigating Sharpton for tax fraud and campaign finance violations during his failed 2004 presidential run. The probe includes Sharpton’s Harlem-based nonprofit, National Action Network, as well as several businesses that he runs.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have issued subpoenas to about a dozen Sharpton associates, employees and former employees asking them to produce documents relating to the investigation and a grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence by next week. Among those subpoenaed was the former director of Sharpton’s nonprofit, with whom he had an extramarital affair.
This isn’t Sharpton’s first brush with the law. In 2005 he was forced to repay the government $100,000 plus interest for taxpayer funds he took during his unsuccessful 2004 effort to win the Democratic presidential nomination. In 1993, the Baptist reverend pleaded guilty to not filing a state income tax return in 1986.
Sharpton maintains, however, that federal authorities are harassing him for leading a highly publicized march in defense of half a dozen Louisiana students, known as the Jena Six, who he insists were prosecuted too harshly because they are black.
After blasting the feds for investigating him, Sharpton resorted to his familiar martyr rhetoric by pointing out that “this is the kind of abuse that people in my community go through every day.” He added that he is used to operating under investigation.
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