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    Mumia Abu Jamal Essay (4624 words)

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    Wesley Cook was born in 1954. While he was protesting at a George Wallace forpresident rally in 1968, several white men attacked him. He claims that two mengrabbed him.

    One kicked his face and skull, while the other kicked him in thegroin. As the beating progressed, “he looked up and saw the two-tonedgold-trimmed pant leg of a Philadelphia police officer. ” He yelled for thepolice, who saw him on the ground being beaten to a pulp. “A police officermarched over briskly, and kicked him in the face.

    “1 “I have been thankful tothat faceless cop ever since, for he kicked me straight into the Black PantherParty. “2 Wesley Cook became a founding member of the Black Panther PartysPhiladelphia chapter in 1969 at the age of 15. After joining mainstream newsorganizations in the 1970s, Wesley Cook changed his name to Mumia Abu-Jamal. As a teenage journalist, Jamal took an interest in stories about policebrutality. Jamal was known to be a rare talent of radio journalism.

    He had apowerful intellect and a burning empathy for poor people. He was known as askillful interviewer and became a well-known figure in local broadcastingjournalism. Jamal appeared on National Public Radio, the National Black Network,and local Philadelphia stations including WUHY-FM (now WHYY). He had a lot ofadmiring friends in journalism and politics, and had no prior record of crime orviolence. Despite his personal experience of police brutality and years as ateenage Black Panther, he kept his noise clean even under the microscope of theFBI and Philadelphia police surveillance.

    By the late 1970s, Jamal was alsoan ardent sympathizer and supporter of MOVE a black militantantiestablishment, antipolice group. He started wearing his hair in longdreadlocks like a MOVE member. By mid 1981, Jamals growing obsession withMOVE had compromised his standing as a journalist and cost him his job at WUHY. He started freelancing his writing skills, while moonlighting as a cabdriver. Hewas robbed while on duty with his cab, so he started to carry a gun. 3 Duringthis time, the Philadelphia Police Department was so notorious for violence andpolice brutality, that the United States Justice Department, in an unprecedented1979 civil suit, charged then mayor (and former police commissioner) Frank Rizzoand the top police brass with “encouraging rampant police brutality, racism,and lying.

    ” This suit was later dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. 4 OnDecember 9, 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot to death. On July 3, 1982 Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of Officer Faulkners murder andsentenced to death. Beyond these two facts, there are a number of versions ofthe incidents that lead to Mumia Abu-Jamals conviction. This paper willreview the incidents of December 9, 1981 and show that Mumia Abu-Jamal was notprovided a fair and impartial trial by his peers, and was wrongly convicted andsentenced for the death of Officer Faulkner.

    What the Jury Heard: On December 9,1981, at 3:51 a. m. Officer Faulkner stopped Mr. William Cook (Jamalsbrother), who was driving a Volkswagen Beetle for a traffic violation, on thesouth side of Locust Street about 80 feet east of 13th Street.

    The area at thetime was known for its seediness. The area had many late-night bars, nightclubs,cafes, and streetwalkers. Officer Faulkner radioed his location and then added:”On second thought, send me a wagon. “5 He was apparently planning to arrestMr. Cook or someone in Mr. Cooks car for an unknown reason.

    According to twoprosecution witnesses, both Faulkner and Cook got out of their cars. Faulknerspread-eagled Mr. Cook across one of the cars and then suddenly turned andslugged Officer Faulkner. Faulkner responded by clubbing Cook several times withhis 17-inch flashlight.

    Mr. Cooks face and neck were bloody when policearrived. By coincidence, Mumia Abu-Jamal was parked in his cab and came out of aparking lot on the northeast corner of Locust and 13th. He accelerated from awalk to a run as he charged toward Officer Faulkner across Locust Street. It wasnever fully disclosed at the trial, why Jamals cab was parked nearby. He justhappened to be around.

    In any event, this is when the point blank shootingstarted to occur. According to the prosecutions theory, Jamal ran up behindOfficer Faulkner to within one foot, and shot him in the back. The woundedFaulkner turned around and returned fire, hitting Jamal in the chest, andfalling onto his back. Jamal then emptied his gun into Officer Faulkner at closerange, finishing him off with a shot between his eyes. 6 Less than one-minutelater, police arrived at the scene.

    The wounded Jamal was sitting on a curb fourfeet from Faulkner, with his empty shoulder holster on and his empty gun nearby. Cook was standing a few feet away against a wall, with what two witnessescalled, “a look of shock” on his face. 7 He allegedly told police that he hadnothing to do with the shooting and was only prosecuted for hitting OfficeFaulkner. On the surface, the prosecution presented a clean theory. Theprosecution’s case pointed to a clear legal conclusion that Jamal had committedfirst-degree murder of a police officer with a maximum sentence of death. However, as one examines Mumia Abu-Jamal supposed confession, the publicdefenders lack of experience in capital murder cases, the changing testimony ofthe three eye witnesses, the physical evidence procured at the scene, anddiscrepancies between the officers at the scene, the clean prosecution theorystarts to unravel.

    The Philadelphia police department themselves could of gone along way to proving Jamals guilt. For example, there was no definitive matchbetween Jamals gun and the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner. The policecould have tested Jamals hands to determine if he had recently fired a gun. The officers on the scene, could of smelled the gun barrel to determine if ithad been recently fired. 8 The Philadelphia police failed to go the extra mile inexamining the evidence and in doing so failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubtthat Jamal was guilty and deserved to be sentenced to death.

    The Confession:Priscilla Durham, a hospital security guard and Officer Gary Bell (Faulknersformer partner and best friend) both swore that they heard Jamal, as he waslying on the floor of the hospital emergency room defiantly shout: “I shot themother*censored*er, and I hope the mother*censored*er dies. “9 Jamal contendsthis confession was fabricated. The “confession” was allegedly shouted inthe emergency room while he was being detained by fifteen or so Philadelphiapolice officers. In fact, none of the officers present mentioned Jamals”confession” in their police reports or interviews over the next few months. Not a word of the “confession” found its way into any police report formore than two months.

    10 Furthermore, it is very peculiar that an intelligent manwhose livelihood depended on articulate communication would spontaneously andflamboyantly incriminates himself. Priscilla Durham first mentioned Jamals”confession” to police investigators in a February 9, 1982 interview, 62days after the shooting. She claimed that she mentioned the “confession” tohospital investigators the day after the murder, which was, written down byhand. Prosecutor McGill seemingly surprised, claimed to have never seen thereport.

    While Ms. Durham was on the witness stand during the trial, an unsigned,unauthenticated, typewritten piece of paper dated December 10, 1981 was read tothe jury and admitted as evidence against Jamal. 11 Officer Gary Bell made nomention of Jamals “confession” in his reports after the shooting. It wasnot until 78 days later that Officer Bell remembered the confession. OfficerBell explained that he was so devastated by seeing Officer Faulkner with hisface almost blown off that he did not remember the confession. 12 Due to theineffectiveness of Jamals defense lawyer and the bias of Judge Sabo (thepresiding judge) the jury never heard any exculpatory evidence.

    Officer GaryWakshul, who was in the paddy wagon that took Jamal from the scene to JeffersonHospital, reported later that morning that “we stayed with the male atJefferson until we were relieved. During this time, the Negro male made nocomments. “13 Did Officer Wakshul not hear the confession, or did he step awayfor a minute and miss it? While interviewing Officer Wakshul on charges ofpolice brutality by Jamal, Officer Wakshul issued a new statement, 64 days afterthe murder (February 11, 1982). Officer Wakshul now claimed to hear the entireconfession loud and clear. When asked by the interviewer to explain his initialreport, Officer Wakshul said that ” the statement disgusted me, and I did notrealize it had any importance until today.

    “14 Judge Albert Sabo Jamalsdefense team and supporters claim that Judge Sabo has sentenced more people todeath than any other judge in the United States. Therefore, the judge was biasedagainst Jamal from the start, due to the nature of the alledged crime. However,the defense team seeking a re trail, fail to mention the frequent disruptivenature of Mr. Jamal during his trial.

    The truth is that Judge Sabo has been asitting judge since 1974. During his tenure, he has almost exclusively presidedover capital murder cases. Therefore, if Judge Sabo has presided over morecapital punishment trials than any other sitting judge in the United States, itwould be due to his tenure as a judge not his bias. The fact that more deathpenalties have been issued from Judge Sabos court is not a function of JudgeSabo but of the individual juries in the case.

    15 Under the system of justiceused in Pennsylvania, the judge does not sentence the defendant to death. A juryof 12 citizens hear the evidence against the accused and then must decideunanimously to impose the death sentence. In this case, Judge Sabo did notsentence Jamal to death, the racially mixed group of 12 jurors, which Jamalassisted in selecting did. This decision was later upheald by the PennsylvaniaSupreme Court on direct appeal.

    16 The court transcripts and appeal courtdecisions uphold the fact that Judge Sabo was eminently fair and patient withJamal during his trial. He frequently was disruptive during the trial whichresulted in many delays. One can only imagine how the actions of Jamal duringhis trial adversly influenced the jury as they sat sequestered in a hotel forsix weeks. Judge Sabo defends himself by stating, “In the old days we lawyershad a saying: If you have the evidence on your side, argue the evidence. If youhave the law on your side, argue the law. And if you have neither the evidenceor the law on your side, scream like hell.

    Now the news media has changed thatto read: If you dont have the evidence or the law on your side: blame thejudge. Who else are you going to blame it on?” 17 The Jury: Jamalssupporters and defense team have claimed during the appeal process that the jurywas racially stacked against the defendant, violating his civil rights. Duringthe 1982 trail, Judge Sabo encouraged the defense to note the race of eachprospective juror so it could become part of the public record. Unfortunatly,the defense failed to do so.

    Therefore there is no record to confirm or supporthow many prospective jurors for the 1982 trail were black and of that number,how many of the prosecutions fifteen preemptory challenges to excuse jurors wereused against eligible black jurors. This is unfortunate since during this partof the trial, Mr. Jamal was acting as his own attorney during the selectionprocess. Having demanded to represent himself, Jamal assumed the responsibilityof asking prospective juror what their race was and noting it in the writing ofthe record. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reviewed the evidence and ruledthat Jamals civil rights were upheld. The facts clearly show that at thebeginning of the trial, 3 or the 12 jurors seated were black.

    When one of theblack jurors, Ms. Jenny Dawley, violated sequestration to attend to a sick cat,the defense as well as the prosecution agreed to her removal. The defense claimsthat the judge provided a white juror special arrangements who needed to take acivil service exam, and was not as flexible for the Ms. Dawley. The factsclearly indicate that the white juror had asked the judges permission prior totaking the test.

    Ms. Dawley did not communicate with the judge or any courtofficers regarding her cat. Ms. Dawley while under sequesture at the hotel ,simply chose to go and take care of her cat. She was told by the court that shecould not just leave, and responded per the public record, “I dont carewhat Judge Sabo or anybody says, I do what I have to do, nobody is going to stopme. ” Ms Dawley chose to violate her sequestration without asking the judge toaccommodate her personal needs.

    The record also shows that both the defense andprosecution agreed to her dismissal. In short, the 1982 jury that Mr. Jamalhelped select was properly selected and seated. The racial mix of the jury wasalmost identical to that of Philadelphia at the time. The prosecution had four(4) preemptory challenges left when the jury was finally seated.

    If theprosecution had desired, they could of used these remaining challenges toexclude the three black jurors that were seated. The court transcripts verifythat each of the jurors dismissed by the prosecution were dismissed for validnon-racial reasons. 18 The Witnesses Both the defense and prosecution have alitany of witnesses. Over the years, many of these witnesses have changed theirstories. A few of the witnesses have filed sworn affidavits that the policecoerced them into making false statements to support the prosecutions claims.

    The defense witnesses contend that a third person was present during the routenetraffic stop by Officer Faulkner. This third person was responsible for shootingOfficer Faulkner and then fled on foot. This “running man” theory is theonly theory ever presented on the record that purports to show Mr. Jamalsinnocence.

    19 This section will try to identify all key witnesses for both theprosecution and the defense and analyize their statements individually. Thedefense claims that Veronica Jones is a key eye witness to overturning themurder conviction. The night of the murder, Ms. Jones was a prostitute workingthe neighborhood around 13th and Locust. Ms. Jones originally told the policethat she had witnessed two men run from the scene in which Officer Faulkner wasshot, but changed her story after receiving threats and promises from twoPhiladelphia detectives.

    Ms. Jones was a mother of two at the time and wasfacing felony charges of welfare fraud and was later convicted of these felonycharges. However Ms. Jones testified in 1982 that she did not see the actualshooting. She stated that she was working the street around the cornor and didnot look across the street until after the shooting stopped.

    When she lookedaround the cornor, she saw “two men kinda jogging away” from the crimescene. Ms. Jones has never testified that these two men were involved in thecrime in any way. 21 Today, Ms Jones claims in a sworn affidavit that she gavefalse testimony under oath against Jamal.

    She claims that at the time of thetrial, she was coerced by the police to lye. In her statement, Ms. Jones statesthat approximatly one week before the trial she was visited by two white plainclothed detectives. The detectives began by discussing Mr. Jamal rather than thefacts of the case.

    They told her that if she testified at the trial andidentified Jamal as the shooter, she would not have to worry about her upcomingpending felony charges. She claims to of told the detectives at the time thatshe did not see the shooting, but only heard the shots. The detectives were notsatified with this response and reminded Ms. Jones that she faced a long prisonsentence if convicted.

    She felt at the time that if she did not testify againstMr. Jamal, she would never see her children again and spend many years inprison. Ms. Jones also claims in her sworn statement that during the trial bothdetectives were in plain view, standing at the rear of the courtroom. DebraKordansky is another defense eyewitness that was in the bedroom of her apartmentdown the street from the crime scene. She heard all five shots but thought theywere firecrackers so she did not look out her window until the police arrived onthe scene.

    She saw ten squad cars and two vans and a man running on the Southside of Locust Street. 22 Mr. Desie Hightower testified in 1982 that he was downthe street from the shooting, behind a building in a parking lot, getting into acar with his friend. Like Ms. Kordansky, Mr.

    Hightower initially thought theshooting was a kid lighting firecrackers. Mr. Hightower testified that he “didnot have a direct line of vision to the crime scene because he had sought coverbehind a wall when the shooting started and then remained there until theshooting stopped. Having waited until quite some time after the shooting stopedbefore looking around the corner towards the crime scene, he stated that he sawsomebody running from the general area of the shooting.

    ” Mr. Hightower hasnever testified or stated that the person he saw running from the scene was theshooter or involved in the crime in any way. It should be noted that Mr. Hightowers 1982 description of the person he saw running after the policearrived was an exact composite of Mr.

    Jamal the morning of the shooting and Mr. Hightower had no explanation for this fact. Furthermore, Mr. Hightower was givena polygraph test on his testimony and passed. William Singletary was a secondaryeyewitness for the defense.

    He not only was present at the crime scene the nightof the murder, he had a long discussion with one of the presiding officers. However, he did not testify in the original trial but was called by Judge Saboduring the 1995 appeal of the decision. Later in 1996, Mr. Singletary was calledthe key witness in the 1996 HBO documentary on the Jamal trail. He stated thathe saw two shooters. The first shot Officer Faulkner in the back and thenescaped down the street.

    The second gunman stepped out of the car OfficerFaulkner pulled over (Jamals brother), shot the wounded officer in the face,threw the gun away, and ran away. Then according to Singletary, as Mr. Jamalapproached Officer Faulker to offer assistance, Officer Faulkner raised his handand shot Mr. Jamal in the chest.

    Mr. Singletary went on to say that hepersonally approached Officer Faulkner and heard him say “Get Maureen, get thechildren. ” Maureen is in fact Officer Faulkners wifes first name, howeverthey never had any children. Mr. Singletarys testimony does raise someinteresting questions. Both the prosecution and defense medical experts bothagreed that Officer Faulkner died immediately from his head wound.

    Did Mr. Singletary actually speak to Officer Faulker? How did Mr. Cooks mysterypassenger get posession of Mr. Jamals gun, out of its holster, and shootOfficer Faulkner in the head? How was Officer Faulkner shot in the back? . Wasthere a second man (mystery man) in Mr.

    Cooks car? If there was a second manin Mr. Cooks (Jamals brother) car, why hasnt Mr. Cook come forward? Mr. Cook has stated for the record many times that he had nothing to do with themurder of Officer Faulkner and has refused to testify during the trial. Mr. Singletary also swears that he was admitted in the Philadelphia PoliceHeadquarters (Roundhouse) at 4am on the morning of the shooting and released at9am.

    During this time he was interogated and threatened by a black Philadlephiapolice detective. Mr. Singletary claims he provided a handwritten version of themornings events, and once it was reviewed by the detective it was balled up andthrown away. Finally frustrated, the interviewing detective typed up his ownversion of the events that morning and demanded that Mr. Singletary sign thetyped document.

    Fearing for his safety, Mr. Singletary claims he unwillinglysigned the typed police version of the mornings events. Mr. Singletary alsoclaims that the police treatened him at his place of business, windows of hisgas station were routinely broken by police, and that his tow trucks were citedfor numerous violations. He claimed in the HBO documentary that the allegedintimidation became so oppressive that he was forced to abandon his business inPhiladelphia and leave town, moving to South Carolina.

    There are manyinconsistancies with Mr. Singletarys statement. Log books at the PhiladelphiaPolice Headquarters indicate that Mr. Singletary signed himself in and out ofthe roundhouse. He was not questioned by a black detective as he claims, therecords show Mr. Singletary was interogated by a white detective with less thaneight months experience.

    It is impossible to prove or disprove weather or not hewas threatened by a detective with less than eight months experience. Both theprosecution and defense agree that Robert Chobert was an actual eyewitness tothe shooting and one of the closest individuals to the crime. When he was 18yeas old, Mr. Chobet was paid to throw a molotov cocktail into an empty schoolbuilding.

    He pleaded no contest to the charges and was placed on probation. Thenight of Officer Faulkners murder, Mr. Chobert was parked in the taxi he wasdriving 30 feet behind Officer Faulkners police car. He swore in the 1982trail and 1995 appeal that he saw Mr. Jamal shoot Officer Faulkner and did nottake his eyes off of Jamal until he was arrested and placed in the police van.

    The defense claims that Mr. Chobert was driving his taxi without a valid driverslicense and that the Assistant DA Mr. McGill had an agreement with Mr. Chobertthat he would arrange to get his license back in return for favorable testimony.

    Mr. Chobert confirmed during his 1996 testimony that back in 1982, he did askthe DA on how he could get his license back. Thirteen years after the shootingand testimony of Mr. Chobert, he still does not have his drivers license backdue to his limited source of funds, but has been allowed to continue driving ataxi cab. Four individuals, Michael Scanlon, Cynthia White, Robert Harkins, andAlbert Magelton all provided testimony for the prosecution. All four witnesseswere unquestionably present during the shooting, eyewitnesses to the murder, andhave been deemed credible by the court.

    “Michael Scanlon was visitingPhiladelphia from out of state and was sitting in his car at the intersection of13th and Locust and witnessed the entire murder, beginning to end. ” Mr. Scanlon testified extensively at the 1982 trail and confirmed that William Cookattacked Officer Faulkner. He went on to testify that the officer reacted to Mr. Cooks attack trying to subdue Mr. Cook.

    As this was going on, another mancame running out from the parking lot across the street towards the officer andMr. Cook in front of the police car. Mr. Scanlon saw Jamals hand raise andheard a gunshot. Then the officer fell down on the sidewalk and Mr.

    Jamal walkedover and shot the officer two additional times at point blank range. Anotherprostitute working Locust street that night was Cynthia White. Ms. Whitetestified that she was across the street in the parking lot when “I noticedMr. Jamal running out of the lot and practically on the curb when he shot twotimes at Officer Faulkner in the back. The officer turned around and staggeredand seened like he was grabbing for something but fell.

    Then Jamal came on topof the officer and shot him some more. ” After it was all over, Jamal sloucheddown and sat on the curb. Credible Eyewitness Albert Magelton was a pedestrianwalking across the intersection of 13th and Locust approximatley twenty yardsfrom the shooting. While testifying in 1982 to what he had witnessed Mr. Magelton stated, “I noticed the gentleman (Jamal) coming from the parking lot.

    He was moving across the street towards where the officer had stopped theVolkswagen. I heard shots and I did not see the Officer any more. I proceededback across the street to see what happened to the Officer. And then, as I wasmoving across the street, I looked to where I heard the shots.

    When I got to thepavement, I looked down and saw the Officer lying there. I did not see the othergentleman (Jamal) until I moved up closer and saw him sitting on the curb. “Under oath in 1982, when asked by Assistant D. A. Joe McGil what the police didwith the man who was sitting on the curb next to the dead Officer. Mr.

    Mageltonresponded that they handcuffed Jamal and put him in the wagon. One of theofficers on the scene then took Mr. Magelton over to the wagon and asked him ifthis was the gentleman that he had seen coming across the street. Mr.

    Mageltonconfirmed his story under oath and there is no evidense that the defense of Mr. Jamal has ever challenged his testimony. Mr Robert Harkins was another cabdriver placed immediately across the street from the crime scene. Like Mr.

    Chobert, Mr. Harkins was very close to the actual shooting and witnessed theentire crime. Mr. Harkins gave a statement to the officers on the sceneconfirming the prosecutions theory. In his statement from 1981, Mr Harkins saidthat, ” I looked over and observed a police officer grab a guy, the guy spunaround and the officer went to the ground. He had his hands on the ground andthen rolled over at this point and the male who was standing over the officerpointed a gun at the officer and fired one shot and then he fired a second shot.

    At this time the officer moved a little and then went flat to the ground. Iheard a total of three shots and saw what appeared to be three flashes from thegun of the man standing over the officer. ” Despite this fact, Mr. Harkins isin the unique position of having neither the defense nor prosecution call him totestify at the 1982 trial. However, Mr.

    Harkins was asked by the defense totestify at the 1995 appeal trial. Mr. Harkins stated under oath during the 1995trial that he had been repeatedly harassed by Mr. Jamals investigatorsbetween 1990 and July of 1995.

    He went on to say, that “there were many peoplethat came around, many different people that would go to my place of work, andthen call me at my home. Each time Mr. Harkins refused to talk to the defenseteam. ” Finally after thirteen years of keeping his silence, Mr. Harkinsfinally sucummed to the defenses pressure and agreed to give a statement toone of Mr.

    Jamals investigators. After he gave his statement the defense teamcontinued to contact him. Under oath in the 1995 trial, Mr. Harkins explainedthat ” each time I would say something to the defense, they would come backwith something different than what I said. I dont like that.

    ” Regarding thewitnesses of this trial, it is clear that four prosecution witnesses: Scanlon,White, Chobert, and Magelton, all gave virtually the exact same testimony. Furthermore, the man that defense witness Harkins describes as having shotOfficer Faulkner and then sat down on the curb, who was later apprehended bypolice was Munia Abu-Jamal. Witness credability is a major factor in this case. There are four eyewitnesses for the defense that claim there was a third personat the scene of the crime or a passenger in the Volkswagen? Pamela JenkinsCynthia White was a key witness for the prosecution, due to the fact that shewas the only witness who testified to seeing Jamal with a gun in his hands.

    Noother witness claims to have seen Jamal with a gun. It should also be notedCynthia White has disappeared and can not be found by the defense. No otherwitness the morning of the shooting can recall seeing her that morning. It seemsthat only the prosecution and the Philadelphia police now of Cynthia Whitesexact whereabouts. Following Jamals conviction, Ms.

    White continued to workthe streets under police protection. She was arrested many times after the trialand all charges were dismissed, or a plea bargain was worked out. Pamela Jenkinsrecently came forward for the defense. Apparently, Ms. Jenkins was working as aprostitute that night and knew Cynthia White very well. Ms.

    Jenkins also knew anumber of Philadelphia police officrs at the time and was dating Officer ThomasRyan. Ms. Jenkins has provided a sworn statement that Officer Ryan asked her totestify against Jamal and to falsely identify Mumia as the shooter, in spite ofthe fact she wasnt even present during the shooting. Her statement went on tosay that Officer Ryan paid her $150 to help Ms.

    White and that the police putpressure on Ms. White to lie at the Mumia trial. Is Ms. Jenkins testimony andstatement credible after all these years? It appears the government has used Ms.

    Jenkins as a star witness in a police corruption case in Philadelphia. At thattrial, Ms. Jenkins revealed how the Philadelphia police used her to providefraudulent evidence to obtain a murder conviction against Raymond Carter. Ms.

    Jenkins testified that Officer Thomas Ryan paid her $500 to testify againstCarter.

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