Federal charges have been dropped against a former Negro League baseball player accused in late December of sending threatening letters to officials of major league baseball, authorities said Tuesday.
Alfred Henry, 65, who spent the 1950 season as an outfielder with the Baltimore Elite Giants, was arrested because of passages in five letters he wrote last year to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and marketing executive Len Coleman. He spent a day in jail before he was released.
“As far as I’m concerned, this was a bogus case from the beginning,” said David Cohen, Henry’s lawyer. “They put somebody in jail for expressing his 1st Amendment rights.”
The charges were brought in New York, where major league baseball is headquartered, and Henry was arrested at his condominium in Spring Valley, a suburb of San Diego. Through a spokesman, Selig and Coleman declined to comment about the charges being dropped.
In his letters, Henry talked about America slipping into violence and chaos unless more opportunities are created for African American youths and more is done to honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues.
What may have spurred federal authorities to action was Henry’s reference to the Dec. 7 slaughter of five people on a Long Island commuter train by a black man allegedly brimming with racial animosity.
Even after he faced charges that could have meant seven years in prison, Henry refused to relent. Federal prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for a year if Henry would stop writing letters with references to blood and violence.
Over his attorney’s objections, Henry refused to accept the offer and was prepared to appear in a New York court next week. In the end, prosecutors, without citing a reason, asked a New York magistrate on Monday to drop the charges.
After injuries curtailed his baseball career, Henry worked in book bindery and then sold cars. He lives on Social Security payments and an Army disability pension.
“My case is just like Nelson Mandela,” he said. “If you stand firm and refuse to give in, things can change, in South Africa and in America.”