Randy Credico vs Chuck Schumer and the Drug Laws (Part 1)
By Kathleen Wells, Race-Talk contributorRandy Credico is a former comedian turned political activist/drug law reformer who has worked as Director for the William Moses Knustler Fund for Racial Justice the past 12 years. Now, he'd like to take on and challenge Senator Chuck Schumer for his seat in the Senate. Kathleen Wells: Randy, talk to me about the challenge you are mounting for the Senate seat of Senator Chuck Schumer?
Randy Credico: I'm running to get on the ballot against Chuck Schumer - on the Democratic ballot line for the primary in September. I am also seeking the endorsement of other parties, lest the Democratic Party pulls some tricks and tries to keep me off the ballot. I'll probably have to go through the signature route. If I don't make it that way, if I get challenged by Schumer, which I believe I will, then I will end up with the Green Party.
Kathleen Wells: So essentially you're saying you have got to collect signatures and it may not...
Randy Credico: I have to collect 15,000 signatures, which is not really a tall order and would include half the congressional districts in the state -- 200 signatures from 200 registered Democrats in 15 congressional races. And we've got 14 of those congressional districts that kind of border or [are] inside of New York City. So, it's not that difficult.
Kathleen Wells: It's not that difficult, but what is the likelihood of it happening?
Randy Credico: Well, it depends on how well I'm able to organize this group of supporters and volunteers that are joining my struggle to beat Chuck Schumer. He is basically a Blue Dog Democrat in the State of New York. And there are a lot of progressive Democrats, particularly in the primary, the activist Democrats who are not happy with Chuck Schumer. He has never faced a real test since he ran against D'Amato in 1998 and beat him.
Kathleen Wells: You're a self-professed political satirist/impressionist and social activist? Tell me, what is your motivation to run for political office and specifically to run against Senator Chuck Schumer?
Randy Credico: Well, for many years I did political humor, I did impressions. I worked in Vegas back in the late 70s, mid 80s. Then I worked comedy clubs. I was on the Tonight Show in 1984 with Johnny Carson. And I was on the Charlie Rose show as a political satirist back in 1992, and I've done a couple of albums.
And in the last 12 years, I have done comedy sporadically, but also I ran an organization called the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. That was my primary occupation, and I worked within the criminal justice system in the state of New York, in particular [with] the Rockefeller drug laws. I also worked on a project in Tulia, Texas. Our organization spearheaded the movement to help release forty-six mostly African-Americans in Tulia, Texas, who were hand guided into the prison system in Texas based on very racist drug operations, and we were able to get a victory down there. It was a lot of work. [We] spent three and a half years [and] a couple hundred thousand dollars that we raised making the video by Sara and Emily Knustler, the [younger] daughters of Bill Knustler, and getting a lot of media attention. [We] organiz[ed] "Mothers of the Tulia Disappeared," which was the offspring of the "Mothers of New York Disappeared," an offspring of the William Moses Knustler Fund for Racial Justice.
So I did that and then we got some changes in the laws in New York in 2004, 2005, and 2009 -- not significant changes, moderate changes. It did lead to the release of a lot of people. The other day Anthony Williams got out [after spending] nineteen years for two dime bags. Of course, he's black, and he was tried up in Albany County, beaten up by the police there. He just got out two or three days ago. I was not there for his release, [but I] wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about him.
The criminal justice system in the United States is a repressive, racist from-top to-bottom enterprise with 3 million people in prison in the United States. There are 70,000 [in prison] in New York, now down to about 61 or 62,000 -- mostly black and Latinos. They keep saying the criminal justice is the best system in the world. I think it's one of the worst systems in the world, because we've got so many people in prison -- three times as many as China, and they've got four times or five times our population. We've got double or triple what Russia has [in prison].
Why am I running? I am at my wit's end. You go to the courthouse, you watch a white judge, a white prosecutor, a mostly white jury giving heavy sentences to black women, black men, Latino men, Latino women -- all poor. Their families are there, the mothers watching their kids being snagged away and taken up to Attica for, manufactured crimes. It's so profound.
I figured Chuck Schumer would be the perfect person to run against to highlight the things that really do bother me. Chuck Schumer is owned by the banks, by Wall Street. I call him Dr. Bankenstein. He is owned by them. He's responsible for, in 1999, [during] his first couple months in office, the repeal of the protective legislation, The Glass-Steagall Act, that prohibited commercial banks from making these wild investments. He did that at the behest of his owners, and then when they collapsed, he bailed them out.
So, I'm dealing with a very, very powerful figure. I'm really testing the limits of our democracy by running against him, particularly in a financial state like New York, and I think it's imperative that somebody runs against him.
Kathleen Wells: Is your motivation the fact that you have worked as the director for the Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice for 12 years? Is that your motivation, the criminal justice system? Or is your motivation the fact that Chuck Schumer is just all-powerful, omnipotent in New York?
Randy Credico: Well, it's twofold. The criminal justice system has driven me to the brink where I don't know what to do at this point. Schumer was on the House Judiciary Committee, and he helped put together mandatory minimum sentences, [and] and he denied restoring an extra appeal for people on death row in the Omnibus Crime Bill. You have to take a look at his record. And that's a really racist position as far as I am concerned. Yes, it is about race.
Race in America is my number one thing. Bill Kunstler was my idol. He was a John Brown with a law degree. [When] I look at the criminal justice system right now [or] at the drug war, I look at them the same way I look at the Fugitive Slave Law. We have slave catchers coming in from Long Island into New York City as cops, and shanghaiing African-Americans into the criminal justice system, into the prison system.
Kathleen Wells: Let's go back a bit. You said that the criminal justice system is racist. What I want to ask you is how do you define racism? And give me an example of seeing that racism played out.
Randy Credico: Well, I'll just give you an example. Here in New York City, for example, only three or four percent of the people that go to jail for a drug crime are white, and 96, 97 percent are black and Latinos, and they're all poor. So the juries are mostly white, the prosecutors are almost exclusively white, the judges are white -- as white as can be -- so you got this triangulation there. And the police are mostly white, from rural areas like in Long Island.
You have hapless victims that usually plea out. If they don't plea out, they get a long prison sentence, and then they're completely screwed for the rest of their life. Once they plea out to a felony, they're under state control [much as] you had [under] slavery. After slavery, you had convict leasing, which has been described as worse than slavery, if you read Oshinsky's book on it or the book by the Wall Street Journal reporter that's called Slavery by Another Name. You had that up until 1941.
Franklin Roosevelt wouldn't pass or try to pass an anti-lynching law because the people that were being killed were black. Take a look at the figures here. You hear cops talking to kids on the street; they use the N-word. They're only targeting blacks and Latinos and young kids; it fills up this real monster of an enterprise. They keep this dirty engine going with black and brown flesh.
Kathleen Wells: Okay, but you know, I asked you to define racism. You're a white man, and I'm...
Randy Credico: Racism? I've got my own level of prejudice. Everyone has a level of prejudice.
Kathleen Wells: But prejudice and racism...
Randy Credico: There's prejudice and then there is racism. It's this... I guess you would say it's a hatred of another race.
Kathleen Wells: Right. But is this racism economic-motivated, psychological, sociological, biological? What is the impetus for the racism?
Randy Credico: Racism is in the fabric of the cloth of the nation. It goes [back to] the middle passage, to slavery, to convict leasing [to] Jim Crow. Jim Crow and convict leasing were simultaneous. Horrible period of time, just horrible! And now, it hasn't changed. This country is so racist, and you have the drug laws that were initiated by Nixon and then Rockefeller and then Reagan.
These are planned schemes; they're almost like what were called the Carlsbad Decrees, but only on African-Americans. They've got TV shows on it. You've got "Cops," where this voyeur nation is seeing blacks and Latinos being shoved into the prison system. You've got MSNBC. In spite of their reputation of being a liberal news network, they have a show called "Lockup."
There are so many prisons, but you know it's primarily voyeurism of blacks and Latinos all over the country, and it's an epidemic; it's a sickness.
There have been some changes, but the beat goes on. Even though the Rockefeller drug laws have been amended slightly, but they have not been repealed. I'm for full repeal.
What's the racism? America is one of the most racist countries in the history of the planet. Slavery was worse here than it ever was in Egypt or any other country. The Romans didn't treat the slaves as the slaves were treated here.
How did slavery exist if it weren't for racism? So you have 150 years later -- not that long a period of time -- a lot of hatred. I don't know where it comes from. It's a superiority complex.
You know it's racist when you've been to the courtrooms like I have and you see the way blacks are treated like chattel. If they were all Italians or all Irish or all Jews only going to the prison system here, believe me, this wouldn't exist. It's just that there's a collective racism in this country that allows this to happen.
I hear the way they talk -- cops, judges. The whole system is corrupt, from top to bottom. And the only way it could exist is the level of racism that we have in this country. You have it in England; you have it in France; but it's particularly vile in this country.
Kathleen Wells: So let's talk about some specifics. You mentioned the Rockefeller Drug Law, and I know...
Randy Credico: That's a state issue.
Kathleen Wells: That's a state issue, I know, that...
Randy Credico: That's a state issue.
Kathleen Wells: And I know that last April, it was reformed in your state. Now just let me give a brief overview as to the drug law -- the Rockefeller Drug Law. It gave a penalty for selling two ounces or more of heroine, morphine, raw or prepared opium, cocaine, or Cannabis, including marijuana.
Randy Credico: Not Cannabis.
That's been out since 1979. It was out early. It's really cocaine and heroine and crack. And the crack and the cocaine are on the same level, something like the federal [law] where it was 100:1 and now [it's] 18:1.
Kathleen Wells: Exactly.
Randy Credico: Now it's two ounces to sale, eight ounce possession, which will get you 15 to 25 years to life sentence. I see people get 62 years to life sentences because they get one for possession, one for sale [plus] the conspiracy rap. The judge would throw it all together and end up with 62 years.
They also had, until the laws were changed, what was called the Predicate Offender Law, which was from the same era, where if you sold a dime bag of cocaine you could have gotten [up to] 25 years, which is the same as [for] rape and second-degree murder. I saw it happen many times. Gary S. King is doing 12.5 to 25 years for attempted sale of a nickel bag. He is black, of course. Now you can get a flat one to nine years for selling a dime bag.
And this is not anecdotal. I can tell you a million stories like this with the raids on the homes by these white shock troops that go in with the no-knock search warrants, the stun grenades.
Kathleen Wells: What is your response to critics who say, "If you don't do the crime, you don't do the time?"
Randy Credico: I think it's time for that hackneyed phrase to disappear from the American lexicon because these crimes are not really crimes. These are invented crimes. Many people smoke a cigarette or drink a beer or do drugs and it's a social illness -- drug abuse.
The economy is in such tatters that [some] people have no other way to make a living. What are you supposed to do? Just sit at home all the time since you've been written out of the economy? A lot of people just been written out of this economy, and they're not allowed to jump into it. They're not allowed to jump into the educational process. There's so much discrimination and racism in the application of these laws.
So it's okay to do the crime if you're white and you got money, but it's not okay to do the crime if you're black and have no money? That's the way it boils down.
And there are so many other kinds of moral crimes that are being committed by credit card companies, economic crimes committed by Wall Street, by the military. Those are real crimes. Killing a million people in Iraq -- that's a crime against humanity.
Kathleen Wells is on Facebook.Kathleen Wells, J.D., is a political correspondent for Race-Talk. Kathleen is a native of Los Angeles and has degrees in political science and law, from UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively. She writes/blogs on law and politics.