NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A City Councilman said he has not gotten the “benefit of the doubt” by many since being named in a sexual harassment lawsuit because of what he calls the same racist justice system encountered by other black men, including George Floyd.
Fleming was the fifth and final member of the council Wednesday to speak out against the events of May 25, when Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee for more than eight minutes.
Fleming said that although he has issued what he calls a blanket denial, “accusations have kept coming” since the lawsuit accusing him of making various advances of a sexual nature toward Juanita McKoy was filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on May 11.
In the lawsuit, Fleming is accused of repeatedly exposing himself in 2017 to McKoy, a Democratic activist, and using his influence to prevent her from getting grant writing work when she rebuffed his advances.
He said the accusations contained in the lawsuit, including the fact that he exposed himself to McKoy on three separate occasions, have affected his family, the students he teaches and his colleagues.
Fleming has been a member of the City Council since 2012 and has been an educator in the Hamilton Township public system for about 15 years.
“And I’m just saying right now, to the George Floyd family and to the nameless, countless amount of black men who haven’t had a chance to tell their story, I’m like them,” Fleming said. “I will have a chance to tell my story, but there are a lot of them that are laying in their graves right now and they didn’t have a chance to tell their story. They didn’t have a judge and jury to be able to judge them. People decided to make them judge and jury right there on the street and I just hope … I don’t hope, I know the exoneration is going to be much bigger than the allegation. I know that because I’ve got God, my family, everybody else has my back.”
Fleming, who spoke for 3 minutes, 44 seconds Wednesday, said his family was startled when a sheriff knocked on the door to give him court papers.
Referring to the allegations, he said, "Fifty years ago, I could have gotten dragged out of my house and lynched for that. And I’m saying in 2020, nothing’s changed.”
Derek Chauvin was fired from the Minneapolis police force the next day and was eventually charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder. On Wednesday, that charge was upgraded to second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting manslaughter in the second degree.
Floyd’s death touched off protests across the country. More than 300 people joined a peaceful albeit impassioned protest in New Brunswick on Saturday. In many other cities, there were clashes with police and looting.
Council President John Anderson, Council Vice President Suzanne Sicora Ludwig and council members Rebecca Escobar, Kevin Egan and Fleming took turns Wednesday condemning Floyd’s death and hoping for a more peaceful future.
“This is to all my black friends, neighbors and members of our community,” Sicora Ludwig said. “I, too, am saddened, outraged, angered and emotional over the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism that continues to plague our nation.”
McKoy, an elected committeewoman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s County Committee, and Fleming met through their mutual involvement in the Democratic Party and through working on Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign, according to the lawsuit. She was a freelance grant writer for various non-profit organizations at the time.
The lawsuit also accuses Beatrice Moskowitz, the vice chairwoman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization (MCDO); Michelle Haas, a partner in the law firm of Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas and legal counsel of MCDO and Reginald Johnson, President of NAACP’s Metuchen-Edison Area Branch, with not taking action to protect McKoy when she told them about the alleged incidents of sexual harassment.
The suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages for work lost when she was blocked from obtaining grant-writing jobs as well as punitive damages and reimbursement for legal fees, according to the suit.
When asked to comment on the suit, Fleming told TAPinto New Brunswick last month, “I’m not really going to comment right now, but I will have a full story for you when the truth comes out of everything because I’ve been instructed not to comment on it because there’s many parties involved.”
Fleming, Sicora Ludwig and Anderson are up for re-election. Voting on July 7 will be held via mail ballots only.
Daryl Kipnis, McKoy’s Franklin-based attorney, was unsuccessful in his bid for the 12th Congressional District in 2018 when he ran as a Republican. He lost to Bonnie Watson Coleman by about a 2-to-1 margin.
Here is the full content of Fleming’s comments at Wednesday’s meeting:
“With George Floyd, he’s really part of a system of systematic racism that goes throughout this country. And, people don’t experience it every day, but personally, I had to have a talk with my sons and tell them how it is to be black in America. Sometimes people can glance over that, ‘Well, you know, why are you saying that?’ Stuff like that. People have to actually experience something to bring it home. You have to experience something like that to bring it home. Normally I wouldn’t talk about this, but about three weeks ago, I had a sheriff bang down my door, demanding to see Glenn Fleming. My son didn’t know if that was me or him and it brought a lot of fear.
Next thing I know, I had read a paper and I had been accused of something so horrendous that some people think that 50 years ago, I could have gotten dragged out of my house and lynched for that. And I’m saying in 2020, nothing’s changed because – I’m not going to go into the case, but I am going to go into what that does, what our system of racism, what our system has done. Because it seems when something like that happens, my family was alienated - my sons, my neighbors. People began to throw accusations. And even when I made a blanket denial, that wasn’t good enough for some people and I’m not talking about just enemies or people who are against us who are going to believe the worst anyway. I’m talking about those that I work with, ministered with, said they supported us. It still wasn’t good enough because the accusations kept coming or in the back of their minds (they thought) maybe something did happen. Now is not the time to litigate that because that’s for the courtroom. But I’m saying now that when something like that happens, my students are affected by it, my colleagues and 30 years of good service, 30 years of giving my life to public service, sacrifice and everything that I’ve done almost went out the window.
Thirty years of building up good will with people I work with on a daily basis were saying in the back of their minds, ‘Well, maybe something like this could be true’ from people who said they supported me. Over a thousand students that I mentored over all these years had to hear something like that. My sons, my family. In 2020, if you’re a black man in America, there is no benefit of the doubt. In 2020, it’s no equal justice under the law. In 2020, there’s no presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. And that’s how my experiences have been for the last three weeks and for the past 52 years on this Earth. I’m just saying right now, like I said, I’ll let my lawyers or whoever has to take care of something like that, but I know what it’s like to be sacrificed or have people walk away from you all over an allegation before my story even gets out. And I’m just saying right now, to the George Floyd family and to the nameless, countless amount of black men who haven’t had a chance to tell their story, I’m like them. I will have a chance to tell my story, but there are a lot of them that are laying in their graves right now and they didn’t have a chance to tell their story. They didn’t have a judge and jury to be able to judge them. People decided to make them judge and jury right there on the street and I just hope – I don’t hope, I know the exoneration is going to be much bigger than the allegation. I know that because I’ve got God, my family, everybody else has my back.”