Senate Opens Probe of ‘Good Ol’ Boys Roundup’
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two black agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, one retired and one active, today depicted the organizer of the ``Good Ol’ Boys Roundup″ for law officers as a man who went out of his way to insult blacks.
Larry D. Stewart, assistant special agent in charge at the ATF’s Atlanta office, recalled meeting Roundup organizer Gene Rightmyer at a training event in Georgia in 1985.
In testimony prepared for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Stewart said he and two other black agents, Dondi Albritton and William Stringer, were involved in a discussion when Rightmyer approached the group and ``without any provocation, looked toward Mr. Stringer and Mr. Albritton and stated, `You were born trash, you’ll live and die trash.‴
Earlier in his career, Stewart recalled invitations to the Roundup being distributed to white agents at the Atlanta office. He was not given one.
``I assume, Mr. Chairman, that I was not one of the `Good Ol’ Boys,‴ he told committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. ``While no on indicated to me that racist material, signs, skits, etc., were present ... I got the distinct impression no African-Americans were present or were ever invited to this event.″
The weekend of picnics, volleyball, rafting and beer-drinking, held each spring since 1980, allegedly featured the sale of T-shirts with racist themes and, in 1990, an entrance poster with the words ``Nigger Check Point″ and a racist skit with a Ku Klux Klansman and character in black face.
Curtis Cooper, a retired ATF agent, recalled being transferred to the ATF’s Nashville, Tenn., office as assistant special agent in charge. He said he had been warned by ATF headquarters managers that Rightmyer had stated at the time of his selection, ``It would be a cold day in hell before worked for a nigger.″
In July 1985, when Cooper arrived in the office, he said Rightmyer ``presented me with a sketch depicting the devil in hell, with a pitch fork, wearing and overcoat.″
``Rightmyer said something to the effect that `I guess this is a cold day in hell,‴ Cooper said.
Meanwhile, Rightmyer issued a statement through his lawyer saying, ``Over the 16-year history of this event, I am aware of perhaps three or four isolated instances of racist conduct by a very small number of attendees.″
He said they were never authorized or condoned and he took ``steps to ensure that the conduct was not repeated.″
Hatch said Rightmyer was invited to testify but did not respond.
Cordell Malone Jr., a black ATF agent who attended the start of this year’s Roundup, held May 18-20 in the hills of southeastern Tennessee, said he never observed any racist displays and was generally welcomed.
However, his friend John Scott, a white ATF agent, informed him that a white officer had yelled the word ``nigger″ at a black officer from the Cleveland, Tenn., police department.
Malone said he and the Cleveland officer left the Roundup, that Scott left later that night vowing never to attend again and that Rightmyer had later called and apologized to Scott.
The hearing opened with senior Clinton administration officials vowing to fully investigate the incidents but saying a relatively few federal law officers were involved.
Treasury Undersecretary Ronald Noble said the department’s inspector general has determined that employees of the ATF, Secret Service, Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center have attended at least one Roundup.
However, he said, ``some of the accounts of the ATF’s involvement may have been particularly exaggerated.″
``The facts as presently reported do not implicate a large number of agents of any of the Treasury enforcement bureaus,″ he said.
ATF Director John McGaw said about a dozen current and former employees have participated in the Roundup over the years. FBI Director Louis Freeh said seven FBI agents and one clerical worker had attended and Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Thomas Constantine said 10 DEA agents had.
Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said the department was committed to ending discrimination in its workplace but said, ``Let us not rush to judgment based on press reports.″
``Our law enforcement agents risk their lives ... every single day. We owe them a thorough, fair and objective investigation into these allegations,″ she said.
Today’s hearing marks the third inquiry into federal law enforcement by the Republican Congress. House lawmakers today continued to probe the deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. Another hearing is planned to examine a raid on the home of a white separatist in Idaho that resulted in the death of his unarmed wife.