Several supporters sat in the federal courtroom last week as Angela Goodwine, 53, solemnly admitted she stole thousands of dollars in taxpayer money meant to help battered women. Her father, the Rev. Raleigh Trammell, was not among them.
Even though Trammell, 76, was the original target of the FBI investigation that led to the charge against Goodwine, he has not been charged with her in the theft of Federal Emergency Management Agency money meant for a domestic violence shelter that proved to be non-existent.
And while he was convicted in 2012 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on 51 felony counts for theft of taxpayer money from a home-delivered meals program, Trammell is a free man. He served 10 days of his 18-month prison sentence before being released on bond in September pending his appeal. Trammell formerly headed the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Dayton chapter.
“I know it bothers his daughter that he has a term of incarceration. It bothers her deeply,” said Goodwine’s attorney, Mia Wortham Spells. “And it bothers her that her family has done so much work for this community yet the only thing that’s lasting that most people want to remember are these two cases involving her father and Miss Goodwine.”
Trammell and Goodwine, who both live in Dayton, declined to comment.
Goodwine is free pending her Aug. 6 sentencing after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court on Tuesday to one felony county of theft of $70,000 from FEMA while she headed the SCLC’s Stop the Violence program between 2004 and 2009. She faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and payment of full restitution.
On Feb. 11, 2010, FBI agents raided the Dayton SCLC chapter offices and the homes of Trammell and Goodwine, acting on a tip that they were stealing taxpayer money by claiming to operate a battered women’s shelter.
‘No way that he did not know’
Like Goodwine, Trammell signed documents claiming women and children were served in the SCLC shelter, a house owned by and adjacent to his Central Missionary Baptist Church in Jefferson Twp. The two also sat on the local emergency food and shelter board that awarded and oversaw FEMA spending in Montgomery County.
Tracy Sibbing is the local United Way official who administers that board under the agency’s national contract with FEMA. She said Trammell had to have known the money was being accepted for the phantom shelter and a closed SCLC food pantry.
“There’s no way that he did not know that. There’s a level of accountability that he just has to bear,” Sibbing said.
She said that as a member of the board, Trammell would have known that agencies did not consistently have to produce receipts or other proof that services were provided. She said “he gambled” that he wouldn’t have to submit receipts.
“I feel like because he knew that, he took advantage of that,” Sibbing said.
Fred Alverson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart, said he could not comment on why Trammell has not been charged for theft of FEMA money.
“We don’t discuss charging decisions,” said Alverson. “Our job is to work with the law enforcement agencies to review the evidence of violation of federal law and to prosecute people with the most serious readily provable offense.”
The Montgomery County conviction is Trammell’s second. In 1978 he was found guilty of stealing public money while working as deputy director of the county welfare department. Trammell was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison but paroled after one year.
Local businessman Bart Wilson, 57, of Kettering is outraged that Trammell is is out of prison on appeal and has not been charged by the feds.
“He did all these things knowingly. He’s guilty. He needs to be locked up,” said Wilson, owner of Barton L. Wilson Insurance. “They can do his appeal while he sits in prison. He needs three hots and a cot.”
Tom Hagel, a law professor at the University of Dayton, said it is not unusual for a non-violent offender to be released on bond pending appeal. Hagel said the government may be waiting for Trammell’s appeal to wend its way through the system before charging him in the FEMA case, or they are taking into consideration his age and health problems.
He said the justice officials want to be sure the public sees they are respecting Trammell’s rights and he suspects Trammell’s history as a vocal civil rights advocate may also be at play. Hagel said over the years Trammell would threaten to hold news conferences and organize picketing if officials didn’t meet his demands.
“And the problem is the powers that be more often than not just caved in,” said Hagel. “That’s one of the reasons it didn’t surprise me at all when he got an appeal bond. In fact, it would’ve shocked me if he had not.”
51 felony counts
Trammell was charged with the 51 felony counts after a Dayton Daily News investigation in 2010 found that people were not being fed, even as public money kept flowing to Trammell. The Daily News also found that the food pantry and the domestic violence shelter were not open and raised questions about other programs operated by Trammell or Goodwine.
Trammell had obtained funding for the programs either through the Dayton SCLC or the now-defunct Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which he helped lead. The Daily News found that the two groups received about $3.7 million in taxpayer money since 1999 and it outlined a pattern of questionable claims and sloppy government oversight of the money. More than $728,000 of that money came from FEMA since 2001. All public funding was pulled from the SCLC and IMA in the wake of the Daily News reports.
At his Montgomery County trial, evidence showed that Trammell’s program sent out “a few” meals, prosecutors later wrote, but “the food inside the containers that he left on the doorsteps was inedible, and appeared to be scraps left over from meals” prepared for Trammell’s for-profit soul food restaurant, Chris’s Kitchen. Dead people were among the names of those Trammell claimed he had served.
After his conviction, county prosecutors urged Judge Michael L. Tucker of Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to sentence Trammell to at least 10 years in prison, saying he had abused his position as a minister and leader of the civil rights group founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“As Trammell wrapped himself in the cloth, he was blatantly ignoring the central precepts of any religion, namely to help the weak and poor and not to steal,” prosecutors wrote. “Trammell lurked in the enormous shadow cast by a civil rights icon to steal money from the taxpayers and food from the needy.”
Prior to sentencing, “Trammell contacted the state and the court and requested the opportunity to pay a lump-sum payment in hopes of, in the words of his counsel, mitigating his sentence,” prosecutors wrote, adding the court “should be outraged by such a blatant effort by Trammell to buy his way out” of a possible prison term.
Tucker sentenced Trammell to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay $38,000 in restitution to the county.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me,” Tucker said from the bench, his voice breaking softly. “This was not something that I did in a cavalier or hurried way.”
Trammell appealed his conviction. On Sept. 4, his lawyers asked the 2nd District Court of Appeals to allow him to be free on bond pending the appeal, arguing that Trammell could serve his entire sentence by the time the appeal was decided. The defense argued that Trammell was convicted because he was the head of the organization, but that many subordinates actually handled the meals program.
Prosecutors opposed bond, saying, “the state asked for 10 years and it is adamantly opposed to (Trammell) using the lenience of the sentence as leverage against going to prison during his appeal.”
But the court last September ordered Trammell released from prison on his own recognizance pending the conclusion of the appeal. Administrator Ronald E. Mount said Trammell must comply with certain requirements, including that he not leave Montgomery County. Trammell asked permission in January to attend an out-of-state funeral, but the court denied the request.
Greg Flannagan, spokesman for Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr., said the county does not supervise Trammell while he is out on an appeal bond.
“However, if we received notice that he failed to abide by all the conditions of his release, we would move to lift the stay, revoke his bail and have him transported to the institution to serve his sentence,” Flannagan said.
Hagel said it may offend the public’s “sense of fairness” that Trammell remains free and not federally charged. Hagel does not believe Trammell’s age should prevent federal charges, and that his two convictions should be considered.
“If I were a U.S. attorney, that would lead me into the direction of charging him,” Hagel said.
Raleigh Trammell timeline
1978: Raleigh Trammell is convicted of larceny and grand theft in connection with the theft of welfare money while Trammell was deputy director of the Montgomery County Welfare Department. He set up a fake welfare account and got another person to cash the checks. Sentenced to 4 to 10 years in prison, and paroled after a year, Trammell soon becomes head of the Dayton chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Eventually, he also is named national chairman.
December 2009: The national SCLC in Atlanta suspends Trammell pending an investigation of financial irregularities. After a long, bitter court fight, Trammell is permanently removed. He is not charged criminally after prosecutors determine his financial activities were approved by his board of directors.
Feb. 11, 2010: FBI agents raid the Dayton SCLC chapter offices and the homes of Trammell and his daughter, Angela Goodwine, acting on a tip that they were stealing taxpayer money. The FBI didn’t disclose the reason for the raid.
Feb. 21, 2010: A Dayton Daily News investigation finds that Trammell’s groups for years received Federal Emergency Management Agency money for a non-existent battered women’s shelter and a food pantry that fed no one. A year later the government unseals the original search warrant showing the FBI raid was prompted by a tip from a confidential source alleging theft of the FEMA money.
Jan. 12, 2011: Prompted by the Daily News investigation, Montgomery County prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment on 51 felony counts alleging Trammell stole local taxpayer money for a fraudulent program allegedly providing meals to senior citizens in poverty.
June 1, 2012: After a jury trial, Trammell is convicted on all 51 counts. He later is sentenced to 18 months in prison, but serves 10 days before being released on appeal bond. That appeal is pending.
April 11, 2013: Federal prosecutors file a bill of information charging Goodwine with stealing FEMA money for the bogus shelter.
May 8, 2013: Goodwine pleads guilty to one felony count, admitting she stole more than $70,000 in public funds. She is free pending sentencing on Aug. 6. Trammell, the original target of the FBI probe, has not been charged.
Staying with the story
The Dayton Daily News broke the story three years ago about what authorities later confirmed was stolen taxpayer money meant to be spent for a battered women’s shelter that didn’t exist. We will continue to follow new developments in this story.