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Abernathy Trial Jurors Investigated

September 22, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) _ Investigators are looking into whether civil rights activists tampered with the jury in the trial of a former state senator accused of cheating the state out of expense money.

The theft case against Ralph D. Abernathy III, the son of a renowned civil rights leader, ended last week in a mistrial.

However, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been asked by the judge to look into an encounter between jurors and a group of civil rights leaders that included Coretta Scott King, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said Tuesday.

Mrs. King, New York activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks and others intercepted the jurors as they were going to lunch, according to law enforcement personnel.

Abernathy’s mother, Juanita, who also was with the group, said the meeting was an accident.

The trial, in which Abernathy was accused of cheating the state out of about $13,000 in Senate expense money, ended two days later with a hung jury.

Jury foreman Les Hankinson has said the encounter with Mrs. King’s group had little bearing on the outcome of the case. He and other jurors blamed the mistrial on a juror who they said would not participate in deliberations.

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