All eyes are on Ferguson after the grand jury investigating Officer Darren Wilson’s conduct involving the shooting death of Michael Brown came back with no indictments. This has resulted in new focus on not only the evidence and testimony presented to the grand jury, but to the prosecutor, Robert McCulloch himself. And this focus has revealed a disturbing link between fundraisers tied to each man.
In addition to his duties as the county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch is also the president of The Backstoppers, Inc., an organization used to fundraise for the men and women in uniform in both Missouri and Illinois. And, in August, his organization was affiliated with a t-shirt drive featuring a picture of Missouri and the statement “I SUPPORT OFFICER D. WILSON” which was set up to raise money for the Darren Wilson Defense Fund as well as The Backstoppers.
Backstoppers runs a multitude of fundraising campaigns, but they also directly support the officers they fundraise for. According to their website, within hours of a traumatic experience, Backstoppers offers a variety of help, including:
- Assumption of financial obligations (i.e., mortgage payments, automobile payments, credit card debt, loan debt, taxes, insurance, etc.) as funding permits
- Health and dental insurance, if needed
- Elementary and secondary educational assistance grades K–12 (per child: $2,000 per year public, $4,000 per year private)
- College/vocational tuition assistance to spouse/survivors
- $1,000 payment to spouse at Christmas
- $1,000 U.S. Savings Bonds to surviving children at Christmas and on birthday up to age 21
- Miscellaneous assistance as approved by board of directors (i.e., home repairs, unusual medical expenses, etc.)
This is on top of any other support which Backstoppers will offer. Not all who Backstoppers supports will get all assistance, so it is unknown what, if anything, the organization may have done to assist Officer Wilson. The shirt itself was set up by an anonymous third party, with page links to both entities, creating what may potentially be an inadvertent conflict of interest.
The t-shirts are a link which open up disturbing questions we must ask about the prosecutor’s ability to do his job impartially in the Darren Wilson grand jury investigation. As his organization appears to have been partially funded by these handful of shirts, it is a cause for concern. Are there other cases where some form of double-dealing has occurred?
The National Bar Association put forth reasons why a special prosecutor was needed for this case. This evidence demonstrates clearly that they were right to be concerned. Is this why he failed to actually prosecute before the grand jury, and instead engaged in character assassinations against Michael Brown? Is Bob McCulloch a mere stooge for the police department, enabling them to get away with a wide variety of abuses? Or does he just have so little respect for the position he holds that he sees no issue with shielding those who must uphold the public trust against any accountability for their actions?
When this tie was first revealed, Backstoppers stated that they had no affiliation with the sales, but due to how it was set up they could not determine what donations could have been from the anonymous operator. They also felt that there was no question of impropriety, despite being made fully aware that they were directly profiting off of a fundraiser for Officer Wilson’s defense. And they were not going to pursue any follow-up, declaring arbitrarily that no laws were broken.
Regardless of the situation, there now exists an argument that Prosecutor Robert McCulloch was in a conflict of interest in the case. That he proceeded anyways should tell us of the ethical standards by which he operates, and how valid his prosecution before the grand jury is.
Now we need to have an investigation on Prosecutor McCulloch to discover if this is an isolated incident, or something more widespread. This might be why the t-shirt sales were done in the first place, to create such a scenario and poison trust in the prosecution’s case as presented. The actual case it turns out did enough of that, but back in August, it may have seemed a good idea to someone seeking to hide the truth. It needs to be uncovered who did this, and to put steps in place to prevent similar incidents in the future. That Prosecutor McCulloch’s organization has already rejected any such investigation leaves open the question – what it is that they are afraid to uncover? Are these ties far deeper than just a random t-shirt sale?