Verdict answered many prayers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2006

‘It’s going to be alright,” she said, “I done already talked with the Lord.”

These words were forcibly whispered in my ear as I hugged 83-year-old Viola McGhee from Greene County.

Mrs. McGhee was one of 300 standing strong at my ethics hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

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Several hours later, the Alabama Ethics Commission, which operates in secret except for the three or four minutes it takes to vote, came to order.

The chair asked, “What do I hear regarding the charge against Sen. Hank Sanders?”

For a brief moment no one spoke.

Then Commission member Michael Choy, said “I move as follows: that there is insufficient evidence to find probable cause against the Honorable Hank Sanders.

I further move that the matter against the Honorable Hank Sanders be closed.”

The chair said, “All in favor say ‘aye’, all opposed say, ‘no.’ The ayes have it and the matter is closed.”

After the vote, Mrs. McGhee said, “Thank you Jesus!

Thank you Jesus!

Thank you Jesus!”

Someone raised a voice in an old hymn, “Praise him, Praise him, Praise him.”

It was an unforgettable moment.

As I walked out of the hearing room into the waiting area, Mrs. McGhee grabbed me and hugged me tightly, saying, “I told you!

I told you!

I told you it was going to be alright!”

People spontaneously hugged me and each other.

Joyfulness flowed abundantly.

I felt so strongly.

The strongest feeling was thankfulness.

First, I was thankful to God.

I knew I was innocent, but I had nonetheless prayed hard.

So had many others.

For the past several months, wherever I went people would say, “I’m praying for you.”

A lot of prayers were answered in this moment.

Second, I was thankful to all those who had worked so hard on my case including the following: my attorneys Joe Espy, J. L. Chestnut, Jr., Susan Edwards and Kindaka Sanders; my family; various community organizers; Alabama New South Coalition leaders; etc.

So many had done so much.

Third, I was thankful to each and every person who stood with me from 16-year-old April Cadell to 94-year-old Dr. Charles Lett.

I was thankful to each and every person who had lifted a voice or prayed a prayer.

And they were legions.

There were so many that I refuse to name names.

There was one who surprised me so much I will make an exception and name her: Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley.

I was just so thankful.

Fourth, I was thankful for the three members of the Ethics Commission who rose to the challenge and did justice with their vote.

I thank them.

Fifth, I was thankful that I was not bitter.

Unjust attacks can leave the best of us bitter.

I was thankful I was filled with a sense of being blessed.

I was thankful there was no room for bitterness.

I felt relief.

My spirits had been very good all through this challenge, but I still felt a weight lifted.

The weight of a looming prison sentence in spite of innocence was lifted.

The weight of a crushed political career in spite of innocence was lifted.

The weight of a smashed reputation built through years of struggle was lifted.

All were gone, displaced by relief, flushed by thankfulness.

I felt concern.

If they could come this close to getting me when I was innocent, when I had consulted the previous Ethics Commission director about potential conflicts and followed his advice, when I had consulted lawyers and followed their advice, then others would not stand a chance.

I felt concern because if, in spite of being innocent and possessing great resources, they could still come this close to sinking me, then others with fewer resources would not stand a chance.

I was committed more than ever to changing the situation and changing the system.

I felt great joy.

So many were joyful.

The joy was infectious.

It oozed from a few, sprung from some and exploded from many.

I was swept up by this joy that enveloped the moment lifting me and all connected.

Finally, I was appreciative.

I was appreciative that I was able to embrace the struggle, transforming it into a precious gift.

I was appreciative that something better for all will come from this.

I am appreciative that I can still count my blessings.