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Monday, September 9, 2019

Cleveland Deserves Better than Frank Jackson, the 'None of Your Business' Mayor

Posted By on Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge Mayor Frank Jackson at Mitchell's Ice Cream for an event hosted by the Atlantic in 2016. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Mayor Frank Jackson at Mitchell's Ice Cream for an event hosted by the Atlantic in 2016.

Monday, the 22-year-old grandson of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson pleaded not guilty to four charges stemming from a violent attack on an 18-year-old woman in June.

Frank Q. Jackson, the Mayor’s grandson, is being held at the Cuyahoga County Jail on a $25,000 bond. If he posts 10 percent of the total, he’ll be released but will be required to wear an ankle bracelet. Additionally, per's Cory Shaffer, he has been forbidden by Judge Ashley Kilbane from having any contact with his victim or those who witnessed the beating.

A pretrial date has been set for next Monday, Sept. 16.

A county grand jury indicted the younger Jackson last week, only days after first reported on the June beating. The explosive story found not only that the city of Cleveland had failed to prosecute the Mayor’s grandson, despite an abundance of evidence, including officers from the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) willing to testify; but that the city had also failed to hand over the case to county prosecutors, who handle felonies.

Jackson was charged with four felony counts: felonious assault, abduction and two counts of failure to comply. Witnesses told CMHA police that Jackson had punched and choked an 18-year-old woman in a truck at a gas station on E. 40th. He then drove her to an apartment building at E. 49th Street, where he dragged her out of the truck and continued beating and choking her. He then retrieved a truck hitch from his vehicle and beat her with that as well.

Police were called and arrived after Jackson had fled. But as they questioned the victim, who identified Jackson as her attacker, he returned to the scene and drove slowly down the street. He sped away when police gave chase. His mother later did the same, driving slowly and threateningly by the victim as police questioned her. Officers noted that members of Frank Q. Jackson's family began to drive around the area, what was perceived as an intimidation tactic. The victim declined to press charges, having said that she expected to be retaliated against.

Mayor Frank Jackson's statements on the incident have been contemptuous in the extreme. He dismissed WKYC's Mark Naymik's questions last week.

"What happens at my house, my family, is really not up for discussion or any of your business," he said.

But that’s simply not true. It is our business. Journalists have a right to demand an explanation from the mayor about conditions in his household — both his grandson and his great grandson have had brushes with the law this summer; a gang member was photographed with a gun bulging from his pocket in Jackson’s driveway last month; his family members are evidently prowling the streets, striking fear into the hearts of abuse victims — and the public has a right to know what the hell is going on.

Frank Jackson is the Mayor of Cleveland, a reality that is becoming more embarrassing by the day. The perpetrators of the crimes in question are not distant relatives. These are members of his household. Whether or not Jackson views these matters as private, he is obliged to address them. If he were even remotely concerned about leadership, about setting an example for the constituents over whom he ostensibly presides, he would’ve denounced violence against women immediately and vowed to prosecute abusers regardless of their connections to him. Instead, he has pleaded ignorance. Par for the course. You’d find more attentive, courageous leadership from a pile of  slag.

The Plain Dealer’s Philip Morris touched on the point in a column this weekend: “Why does a mayor who has publicly made fighting crime and getting guns off the streets a priority continue to find himself defending violent criminals in his own family?” He asked.

That’s a good question, though it’s stated imprecisely. Jackson finds himself in positions where he should be defending, or at least providing comment on, the violent criminals in his own family. But he does not, in fact, defend them. Even in the one instance Morris cites when Jackson has publicly testified on behalf of his nephew, a man named Nicholas Martin, his comments are breathtakingly void of substance.

“As Nicky’s uncle, I spent a lot of time with him from infancy through his teens,” a letter from Jackson to Judge Christopher Boyko read. “As a family member, of course, I see him from those innocent times and see his best qualities. So, I am writing from that perspective. I’m not going to go into details about anything in particular, I just know he is my family, not who his record would indicate, and I love him.”

"Not going into details about anything in particular" might as well be emblazoned above Jackson’s press office, or tattooed on the arms of every member of his administration. How does one defend or explain anyone or anything without going into details?

In matters where the city of Cleveland demands leadership, and in matters like these where a response is demanded, Jackson generally refuses to make himself available or, if he does, gives his little half-smile and tells everyone that what they're asking is none of their business. He knows if he waits 48 hours or so, everyone will forget and move one. He knows he'll face zero consequences from his colleagues, the City Council or the public.

Lest we forget, Jackson hired the violent abuser Lance Mason in 2017, only months after Mason had been released from prison for a savage attack on his then-wife Aisha Fraser, having served only nine months of a two-year sentence. The hiring scandal was revealed shortly before the 2017 election but had marginal, if any, effect on the electorate.

Even after Mason murdered Fraser, a year later, Jackson astonishingly stood by the hiring. No one had the decency to issue a statement critical of Jackson’s response. No one had the guts then, and no one has the guts now, to lambaste Jackson for the utter contempt he has demonstrated by his silence. And it is contempt: contempt for women, contempt for the press, and contempt for the voters who continue to put him in office.

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