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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A member of the Wilmington 10 made a special delivery to the governor’s office in Raleigh today. He and other members of the group want the governor to pardon them for years spent in prison before having their convictions overturned.

Wilmington 10 members are hoping that a petition with thousands of signatures will help Gov. Bev Perdue grant them pardons. But the group also has something else up their sleeves.

Wilmington 10 member Willie Earl Vereen and a group of supporters arrived at Perdue’s office with 14,000 petition signatures. But the names on paper are not their only ammunition in their fight for pardons. The group also gave a Perdue staffer a DVD with video of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo

“I think that it is appropriate that the City of Wilmington recognize this moment in our history,” the video shows Saffo telling a 40th anniversary commemoration of the Wilmington 10 at UNCW in 2011. “The people that were taken into custody, and were eventually tried, were done an injustice, a tremendous injustice by our judicial system, Snd obviously the state of North Carolina and Gov. (jim) Hunt obviously felt that way, and commuted those sentences.

“It was a very tough time in our community, and I think it’s only appropriate that we recognize those folks and apologize to those folks for the injustice that was done to them during this time in 1971. There were some very tough times here.”

Supporters of the Wilmington 10 think Saffo’s apology is proof enough they deserve pardons.

Saffo does not agree.

He says his words were taken out of context and does not feel use of the video is fair. Saffo told WWAY by phone today he was commenting on the length of the Wilmington 10’s prison sentences. He says he was not commenting on their innocence or guilt.

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21 Comments on "Saffo says 2011 apology not about Wilmington 10 guilt or innocence"

2015 years 10 months ago

they were never proven innocent. They were released on a legal technicality.

Did they or did they not do it? So far, there’s been no case proving they did not.

If you look at any or every pardon issued by the Governor, regardless of how far back you go, there is an admission of guilt and a request for forgiveness.

If they did not do it, then they should first have their cases reopened and retried to have their convictions over turned and a verdict of innocent entered. Assuming they can prove their innocence.

Again, it seems like, for whatever reason, these folks and their NAACP supporters do not think protocal and proceedure should apply in their special case. Sorry, but the legal system does not work that way regardless of race or creed.

2015 years 10 months ago

They do not need to prove that they are innocent. The state needs to prove they are guilty.

2015 years 10 months ago

You done used your free get out of jail card once , i dont think it works anymore , try the race card . thats good for as many times as you can use it,

2015 years 10 months ago

Uhhhh Tom, what judicial system in America provides for a verdict of “innocent” to be entered? My understanding of judicial process is that it is the duty of the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that a citizen does not have to “prove innocence”….

What you and those of your ilk deride as being “released on a legal technicality” is actually the right working of our system. The state couldn’t perfect its case and the accused were released.

2015 years 10 months ago

I was a sophomore in high school then and recall that being the general attitude of many people(adults)around this town. It never was up to the DA to prove the 10 were guilty, The 10 were expected to prove their innocence.

I always had a problem with the accusation of there being snipers on the roof of and in the belfry of Gregory Church firing at the firemen and police who were at Mike’s grocery. That roof is really steep to try and balance and fire a weapon at the same time especially at targets a block away, The belfry is not tall enough to fire over the roof. Besides the KKK thugs running around town armed, As I recall there was a couple more white supremist groups running around here that winter. It wouldn’t have taken much imagination for them to climb up on any on the surrounding homes or the Methodist church and take some potshots over the head of the cops and firemen.

Should they be Pardoned? IMO Yes,they didn’t get a fair trial. Are they innocent? I don’t know. But it is time to bring this deal to some closure for everyone.

Cash Michaels
2015 years 10 months ago

As coordinator of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, please allow me to straighten out a few misnomers. A legal petition for the Governor to issue individual pardons of actual innocence to ALL of the Wilmington Ten was submitted May 17th of this year to the Governor’s Office of Executive Clemency by two attorneys for the pardon project. Those attorneys met with the governor’s clemency staff two months ago to answer any legal questions they had about the case. Those questions were answered and documentation provided as requested.
Some say the Wilmington Ten were “never proven” innocent. Well, they were never “proven” guilty either, even though they were all convicted, and sentenced to 282 years in prison. To this day, there isn’t a shred of concrete evidence proving that any of The Ten committed any of the crimes they were charged with (they weren’t tried on all of the charges they faced, charges, technically, that are still pending 40 years later if the state wanted to go forward). NO guns, NO bullets, NO physical evidence of ANY sort proving that ANY member of the Wilmington Ten had ANYTHING to do with the firebombing of Mike’s Grocery Store, or the sniper fire on public safety personnel attending to the blaze.
You say there’s been no proof that they didn’t do it. Well, let’s see now…Willie Earl Vereen and James McKoy were musicians playing a gig in Leland the night of Feb. 6th, 1971, the night of the firebombing. The late Connie Tindall was celebrating his birthday at a birthday party at a club clear across town. Anne Shepard, the white female was a woman of size who couldn’t possibly escape notice if she were involved in the firebombing, and there’s no proof she even knew how to fire a rifle, let alone a gun. And Ben Chavis was at Gregory Congregational Church that evening, working with the white pastor of that church at that time, Rev. Eugene Templeton, wetting wash cloths and towels in case the National Guard had stormed the church with tear gas so they could be put over everyone’s faces.
So here’s the problem. Prosecutor Jay Stroud KNOWS he has no case, so he “employs” three black convicted felons to perjure themselves on the stand as “witnesses,” because without them, he has NOTHING! He takes care of them – a beach cottage, a woman, a mini-bike – it’s all in their letters and the US Fourth Circuit of Appeals decision. Stroud also plots a mistrial when he ended up with a jury of ten blacks and two whites for the first trial, and indeed, gets “sick” to cause one. In jury selection, the prosecutor writes down that he should “Stay away from black men,” and that he’s looking for “KKK and Uncle Tom-type” jurors. And he gets a judge, Martin, who broke so many rules to ensure the Wilmington Ten were convicted, that even the 4th Circuit Court made note of his behavior.
So when folks say that the Wilmington Ten’s convictions were overturned on a “technicality,” they actually don’t understand what they’re talking about.
The Federal Appellate Court overturned the convictions because, after studying the court record for the second trial, it determined not only wasn’t there ANY credible evidence on which to convict, but that the prosecutor (Stroud) hid exculpatory evidence that proved his own witnesses were lying through their collective teeth, especially since he was paying them, and they later went before a judge and admitted they had committed perjury.
The 4th Circuit, in its decision to overturn, told the state of NC to either dismiss all charges against the Wilmington Ten, or retry them if they have any evidence at all.
And that’s why, after Gov. Hunt refused to pardon (because at the time, the 4th Circuit hadn’t ruled yet), he did commute the W-Ten’s sentences.
No other governor since then was ever asked to pardon the Ten.
In 2011, the National Newspaper Publishers Association voted to seek pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten. They appointed me, at the suggestion of the Wilmington Journal, to coordinate the effort. I’ve researched this case like the back of my hand. I’ve interviewed many, and I’ve read almost everything that is credible about this case. In my considered opinion, pardons of innocence, especially after forty years, is more than justified. Yes, there were shootings, incidents of arson and violence during that faithful time in 1971. No argument. But WHERE is the solid evidence proving that any of the Ten had a hand in ANY of it? And if prosecutor Stroud had evidence, then why did he have to hire three lying witnesses to prove his case?
In this country, we pride ourselves with having the best criminal justice system in the world. But when we prosecute people with “evidence” we have to make up, we do that system, our state and our nation, a gross disservice.
This effort is NOT about money. We have been working too, too hard to uncover the truth about how the Wilmington Ten were framed, and garnering the support that we have from across the nation. Clearing the names and reputations of the Ten has been our ONLY concern and goal. If we achieve it, the attorneys will deal with what’s next, not us.
JUSTICE…that’s what burns in our hearts about this case. And the measure for REAL justice is being able to accept the unvarnished truth about the framing and criminal justice persecution of the Wilmington Ten.
So, in closing, I’m sure many of you don’t like, or even believe any of what i’ve written. But really ask yourselves…is it because you feel you HAVE TO believe the Wilmington Ten are guilty? And if the answer is “Yes,” then ask yourself “Why?”
If you’re honest with yourself, you may not like the answer!
I pray that ALL of you and your families have a blessed Christmas holiday season!

2015 years 10 months ago

The convictions were overturned on technicalities. At one time I had found a wealth of information of the details of that federal judge’s decision, but I cannot locate it at this time. I think that the federal judge was wrong. I think that it is wrong to issue a pardon, but that idiot that currently sits in the governor’s mansion will most likely issue the pardon and will probably grant the pecuniary damages. The injustice was not in convicting those men. The injustice is treating them like victims.

2015 years 10 months ago

In the United States, you do not have to be “proven innocent” in a court of law; you have to be proven guilty.

And you are mistaken about the legal requirements for a pardon. None of the various pardons possible under NC law require someone to admit guilt and ask forgiveness. In the case of the Wilmington 10, they have applied–using all the same protocol and procedures as everyone else–for a “pardon of innocence,” which would definitely not require or even permit “an admission of guilt and a request for forgiveness.” The NAACP has followed the law, which you apparently have not looked at. “If you look at any or every parson issued by the Governor,” as you say you have, then surely you know that Gov. Perdue pardoned Greg Taylor in 2010, who certainly did not admit guilt or ask forgiveness in the murder for which he served 19 years, because he was not guilty.

To call the U.S. Fourth District Court’s overturning the Wilmington 10’s convictions a “technicality” is simply not accurate. The federal court ruled that the witnesses committed perjury on the stand, “and that this fact was bound to be known to prosecutors.” The court found that the prosecution had bribed three witnesses and illegally withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, and had also withheld that their main witness, Allen Hall, had been diagnosed with extreme mental illness, had a record of violence, and had given a large number of contradictory accounts of the alleged crimes in his pretrial statements. The federal judge ruled that Hall “may well have been disbelieved in nearly the entirety of his testimony if the jury had known this.” That is not a “technicality.”

And this new evidence goes way beyond anything that Gov. Hunt or the federal appeals court ever saw. It is crystal clear that they were falsely convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison.

Rick Wilson
2015 years 10 months ago

The legal system should not work this way, but in this case I bet it will. The passage of time should not/does not change what happened. The Wilmington 10 never asked for a new trial once they were released. If they were/are not guilty, what are they being pardoned for? I hope the Governor will check into their complete criminal histories before issuing a blanket pardon.

2015 years 10 months ago

The NAACP is a racist organization and should be banned

2015 years 10 months ago

I lived here through the Wilmington 10 criminal scare on this town.
There is no doubt in my mind that they murdered and terrorized throughout this town. I remember it well. There is NO reason whatsoever that THEY deserve an apology or a pardon. They may be a lot older but still they are cold, calculated criminals. The terror they instilled in Wilmington is still fresh in my mind. They deserve nothing but what they got, which, in my eyes, was not enought. They actually shot at my brother and I as we played in our own dirveway while they were speeding down the street. After the curfew was enforced, we were not allowed to play outside. Please don’t be fooled by this media coverage. They terrified this town and YES it was them. Do let legal technical mishaps lets thses convictions go away. They are guilty…….. show remorse instead of pleading no guilty

2015 years 10 months ago

Of course they did it. As you so astutely pointed out, in no account have they proclaimed they didn’t “do” it, only the release on technicality.

2015 years 10 months ago

Saffo, your words were NOT taken out of context. They were spoken clearly and precisely. What in the name of God were you thinking? And why did you allow them to take such a speech to the governor? YOU AREN’T GOD OR JUDGE AND JURY AND YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ANYONE BUT YOURSELF! Are you out of your mind? You continue to slip lower and lower in your actions. You are a disgrace.

Guest, Just Another
2015 years 10 months ago

“Hunt refused to release the Wilmington Ten, but did reduce their sentences. The case finally came to a close a couple of years later, in 1980, when a federal appeals court overturned the conviction on a technicality”

There is no indication of innocence. A technicality is NOT innocent. They are GUILTY, but because of shyster lawyers, a technicality got them out.

They’re scum.

Guest, Just Another
2015 years 10 months ago

Did our fine Mayor apologize to the families of the two dead? To the fire dept for being put in a position to be shot at? To the people who were injured because of this?

Nope. You don’t get votes that way.

2015 years 10 months ago

This is what happens sometimes when a politician speaks out of both sides of his mouth in the same speech.

One side records it for prosperity and he’s expected to stand by his word.

Too funny!

2015 years 10 months ago

If Mayor Saffo feels the supporters of the Wilmington 10 used his video in a deceitful and inappropriate manner, he should immediately followup with them to demand a public apology. He should also send a followup video to the Governor’s Office to advise Gov. Perdue of these facts, and that he does NOT support the pardon.

That’s assuming, of course:
(1) He’s not lying through his teeth about the intent of the video;
(2) He’s got the guts to stand up to the supporters of the Wilmington 10.

Now you will see what your Mayor is made of, Wilmington.

Saffo Fan
2015 years 10 months ago

Softie remembers this is not the only large mishandled legal case of that time; against african-americans or whites. Race is irrelevant when the top person in charge of the courts is incorrigibly corrupt.

2015 years 10 months ago

This is true to and certain point,but its only this way because of individual personalities within the NAACP… Heres the question, who regulates the NAACP to make sure this dosent happen?….lets be honest …

2015 years 10 months ago

Why do I believe the Wilmington 10 are guilty? Because everything in me, down to the deepest reaches of my gut, knows that they are guilty.

Where’s my proof? My father was a deputy in here in New Hanover County during the reign of these mongrels. While these monsters were out terrorizing the citizens of Wilmington and the county, my father was one of MANY who had the job of confronting the evil deeds these “people” committed. Their names and faces were well known at the time, so YES, my father knew exactly who he was going into battle with each time he went to work. You know what? It isn’t easy to forget the face of someone who points a gun at you, especially if that someone has already made themselves public enemy # 1.

I don’t give one flip what you believe on this issue. I know my father. He knew EXACTLY who took shots at him, trying to kill him, simply because he and NUMEROUS other deputies and officers dared to stand in the way of these animals that were nothing less than hell-bent on committing their heinous crimes.

GUILTY. No doubt in my mind on this issue.

2015 years 10 months ago

It is all about re election.. Trying to find all the help he can..


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