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Sharpton Acquitted of Fraud and Larceny

July 3, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Rev. Al Sharpton, a flamboyant black activist, was acquitted Monday of charges he stole money from a civil rights group he started as a teen-ager, then spent it on himself.

The state jury deliberated for less than six hours before finding Sharpton innocent on all counts of fraud and larceny, said Ed Barbini, a spokesman for the office of state Attorney General Robert Abrams.

The trial lasted almost two months. The state called more than 80 witnesses; the defense called none.

Sharpton was charged with stealing about $250,000 from the now-defunct non- profit National Youth Movement, a civil rights organization he started as a 16-year-old high school student, and spending it on himself.

If convicted, he would have faced up to seven years in prison.

″We accept the verdict of the jury. We could not ignore the body of evidence that pointed to improprieties at the National Youth Movement, and we felt it was our obligation to take these allegations before a jury,″ Barbini said.

Assistant Attorney General Victor Genecin charged in his summation that Sharpton ″sold ideals,″ then cheated the people he was supposed to be helping.

Sharpton’s lawyer, Alton Maddox, said he was pleased with Judge Joan Carey’s handling of the case.

Maddox said the charges brought against his client were baseless and accused Abrams of acting out of vindictiveness because Sharpton had advised Tawana Brawley, the black teen-ager found by a grand jury to have concocted a tale of abduction and sexual assault at the hands of a gang of white men.

Maddox, 44, also represented Brawley. In May he was suspended from practicing law for refusing to appear before a grievance committee investigating his conduct in the widely publicized Brawley case. The judicial panel let him finish the Sharpton case.

″I’m not worried about anything,″ Sharpton said after the jury retired, ″except maybe on which side of the bars I’m going to do my work. I’m not tied to any geographical location.″