More Bad News for Compton : Tucker Conviction Mars a City Already Hurt by Crime, Unemployment and Bad Schools

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The troublesome events, the bad and burdensome news, just keep happening in Compton.

On Friday, it was the extortion conviction of one of the city's rising political stars, U.S. Rep. Walter R. Tucker III.

And even as the verdict was being handed down, there were worries that more troubles may lie ahead. A former city councilwoman, Patricia Moore, also faces extortion charges.

Add to that a battered local economy, a soaring crime rate, a school system that lags behind the rest of the state, chronic high unemployment. Now a former mayor has been convicted of extortion.

In the aftermath of Tucker's conviction, leaders in Compton were both stunned and suspicious about the fate of a man they believed had been good for the community and destined for greater things. They talked about how Tucker's father had been a good mayor before him.

The Rev. William R. Johnson Jr., pastor of Curry Temple CME in Compton, questioned whether the verdict was racially motivated, noting that only one of the jurors was black.

Royce Esters, president of the Compton branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said Tucker's conviction was evidence of selective law enforcement against black politicians.

"The entrapment of African Americans is really disgusting," Esters said. "It's unfair that you entrap the blacks and you don't entrap the whites."

Moore also had harsh words for the government investigators, saying they were only interested in dismantling the city's leadership.

"The very foundation of Compton is being destroyed," she said. "The government is concerned with the destruction of the leadership of the city."

Councilwoman Marcine Shaw expressed regret that Tucker's political career had ended so soon. She said it was a "double whammy because he could have done well throughout his life."

And Compton College President Byron Skinner said he never believed Tucker would be convicted. "I think Compton by and large will be shocked by the verdict," he said.

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State Assemblyman Willard Murray Jr. had already announced that he intended to run for Tucker's congressional seat. Also mentioned as a prominent candidate is Assemblywoman Juanita M. McDonald. The congressional district includes Compton, Carson, Watts, Wilmington and parts of Long Beach.

In the wake of the verdict, Murray was highly critical of the city's political leadership, saying it needed a major change. He said the conviction was an embarrassment to Compton.

"It's my observation that the political leadership in Compton does not provide the leadership I think this community needs and deserves," he said. "There are a lot of problems that exist, but the leadership does not focus on the solutions to these problems but maintains the status quo. As a result, none of the problems get solved. It's a downward spiral because things get worse, not better."

As an example, Murray cited crime, the school system--which is run by the state--and the city's unemployment rate.

The verdict, meanwhile, was a vindication not only for federal prosecutors but also for John Macardican, a San Gabriel Valley businessman whose testimony was central to the case. "The jury system, in this case, worked," Macardican said after the verdict.

But he also said he was particularly pained that Compton's reputation was once again besmirched.

"Don't blame anybody in Compton for what Walter Tucker did," he said. "The people of Compton are wonderful people."

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Times staff writer Greg Krikorian and free-lance writer Laura Accinelli contributed to this story.

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