MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ A federal grand jury Thursday indicted state NAACP President Thomas Reed on charges of accepting more than $15,000 in cash and restaurant equipment to secure the early release of a convicted murderer.
The federal grand jury returned the indictment on the same day a Montgomery County grand jury began investigating Reed and the state parole system. The county grand jury has not announced any charges.
The federal indictment parallels charges filed against Reed last month by U.S. Attorney Jim Wilson of Montgomery. The five-count indictment accuses Reed of accepting $10,000 in cash and between $5,000 and $10,000 in restaurant equipment from the family of convicted murderer Anthony Dennis Chesser.
In return, the indictment said, Reed was to use his position as a state representative from Tuskegee and member of the Legislature’s Joint Prison Committee to get Chesser on work-release and his date for parole consideration advanced 5 1/2 years.
Chesser was convicted of murder in Russell County in 1984 for the death of his wife. He is serving a 40-year sentence.
The indictment was issued while Reed was in New York for a board meeting with fellow trustees of Tuskegee University. Reed said through a spokesman he would have no comment on the indictment other than to reiterate his innocence.
Reed, 60, will remain free until his arraignment Tuesday, Wilson said.
Reed, a longtime leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was one of 14 black state legislators arrested Feb. 2 when they tried to scale a fence around the state Capitol to remove a Confederate battle flag that flies from the dome.
The federal indictment charges Reed with two counts of violating the Hobbs Act through extortion and three counts of violating the Interstate Travel Act by using using the highways between Tuskegee and Columbus, Ga., as well as an interstate telephone call to obtain $10,000 in cash from Chesser’s parents, Woodson and Jessie Lee Chesser, of Columbus, Ga. The indictment contends the money was delivered by Bobby Gene Chesser, of Columbus, Ga., the uncle of Anthony Dennis Chesser.
If convicted of violating the Hobbs Act, Reed could get a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. A violation of the Interstate Travel Act can bring a five-year sentence and a $250,000 fine on each count.