Downtown() - The Christian and African American Communities rallied around Richard Scrushy during his long struggle to prove his innocence in the face of an all white prosecution and witness brigade. The black community was most touched by Scrushy's plight as it echoed their own long struggle to be judged fairly and equally under the law, regardless of their economic background. The parallels were so stark that the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama
decided to throw its meager resources behind Scrushy during the trial. "We were stunned to see how Scrushy was being treated simply because he is wealthy and white," said Bryan Stephenson Executive Director of EJI. The pastors from several predominantly black congregations were also outraged by this social injustice and were able to convince their parishioners that Scrushy's plight was their own. Scrushy attorney Donald Watkins
aided in this effort by speaking out at black churches and reminding his people how they used to have to drink from separate water fountains. "But things change," said Watkins. "Someday maybe white-collar criminals will be treated as fairly as everyone else. We've come too far to surrender our city to the Alice Martins of the world."
The Scrushy defense team denies trying change the $2.7 billion fraud case into one about race. "Your friends come and stand behind you, where the TV cameras can see them," said Watkins. "It just so happens that most of Richard's good friends now are black." Scrushy's ties to the black community run very deep according to the News Service
section of his website. Scrushy reportedly tried, on numerous occasions, to hire more blacks into upper management at Healthsouth, but was continually foiled in his attempt to find any that met his qualifications for handling complex accounting. Scrushy is also well known for his generous giving to Jefferson State Community College, where many black students attend. Herman Henderson, a black minister and long-time Scrushy friend, asked members of his 'Stop The Violence' organization to stand at Scrushy's side during the trial. "We must stop this violence," said Henderson. He advised Scrushy that, apparently, there was an economic justice problem in the black community much like the one Scrushy himself faces. That is when the sluice gates of Scrushy's giving really opened to the black community, and also when the EJI decided to step in.
The EJI was monitoring the case from day one, but was uncertain whether to intervene on Scrushy's behalf. "It is clear that the white establishment had their way with the media by spreading lies and deceit about Mr. Scrushy simply because he failed to notice a $2.7 billion dollar discrepancy on his company's books," said Stephenson. "Regardless of how much of his own money he spent trying to defend himself, it was clear that the deck was stacked against him. It was at this point that we decided to help, even if it meant a few of our innocent underprivileged clients had to go to prison." Watkins puts it more succinctly: "They got 15 handkerchief-head
, weak-kneed Uncle Toms to testify [against Scrushy], and ain't one of them ever been to a black church." For his part Scrushy plans to stop giving to the black community in order, as he says, "to help them learn to raise themselves out of poverty. Maybe the next generation won't have to worry about the inequities in the justice system as much as I have."
Scrushy's next stop will be his namesake Rehabilitation Center on Birmingham's southside. There therapists will attempt to strengthen Scrushy's image as a caring, compassionate black man. "I've strayed too far from my roots," said Scrushy. "People forgot how good a Christian I am, how this kind of attack can happen to anyone, especially a poor black man." Scrushy says he will need the rest of the riches he got from Healthsouth to pay for his therapy. "But it will be worth it once I get my old job back," he said.