Truly, freedom does live in Birmingham. To understand what this "freedom" means, reading The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963-2013 will provide sufficient evidence to exactly how this word is represented in the once "Magic City."
Or, you can read this story, which put a smile on my face for days, only now coming back with a vengeance. Before you begin reading, please note nearly every participant in the story below is black (save two of the nine Birmingham City Council members and the Jefferson County government employees). [Comedian conned Birmingham City Council and lawyer out of $18,670 for bogus Class Clowns program, Birmingham News, 4-8-15]:
An Alabama comedian has been sentenced to prison on charges he conned the Birmingham City Council and a local lawyer into investing more than $18,000 in bogus mentoring programs for Birmingham City school students. He's also charged with theft of a car from a Hoover dealership.
Clinton "Lazyboy" Catlin, 26, was sentenced to a 9-year and seven-month split sentence, with one year to serve for each of the three first-degree theft of property charges he pleaded guilty to on March 27, court records show. The three sentences will run concurrent so Catlin will have at total of one year to serve followed by five years of probation.
"Mr. Catlin represented himself as the organizer of charitable events in the area to fraudulently obtain the funds that served as the basis of the theft," Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls stated in an email.
"As part of his probation, he is ordered to repay restitution to the City of Birmingham and the local attorney," Falls said.
Catlin was sentenced under the mandatory guidelines to a maximum sentence of one hundred fifteen months - 9 years and seven months, Falls said. With a split sentence he could have to serve the remainder if he violates conditions of his release.
Catlin was indicted last year for theft of property from Birmingham and a local attorney between Feb. 19, 2013 and Nov. 7, 2013.
Catlin had presented the idea to the council for a school mentoring program called Class Clowns, said Assistant Jefferson County District Attorney Patrick Lamb.
Instead of acting out in class they would develop skills to become comedians, he said.
Lamb, who is with the district attorney's White Collar and Corruption unit, said that Catlin claimed he was going to arrange for Kevin Hart to perform a charitable show and the winners from the Class Clowns program would be in the opening act at that show.
The city council approved $5,750 to help fund that program and another school program Catlin proposed called Lights, Camera, Birmingham, Lamb said. That program was to help teach students about TV production, he said.
One of the things that helped convince the council to provide money was that Catlin was one of the founders of Operation Feed Birmingham, Lamb said. Catlin was not charged with anything related to that charity, which actually did provide food to the homeless, he said.
Catlin also persuaded a Birmingham area attorney to put up $12,920 to help put on the Class Clowns program, Lamb said.
City school officials did not know of Catlin's plan before he came to the council, Lamb said. The programs were never implemented, he said.
The other theft charge against Catlin involved the writing of two checks off a closed account to a Hoover car dealership, Lamb said. After presenting the checks he drove off in a 2006 BMW, he said.
The case was prosecuted by the White Collar and Corruption Division of the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. The case was investigated by the District Attorney's Office, the Hoover Police Department and the Major Fraud Division of the Birmingham Police Department, Falls said.
Catlin also faces three possession of forged instrument charges from Marengo County involving allegations that he wrote three forged checks totaling $322 to Wal Mart.
Catlin also pleaded guilty in August 2010 in Marengo County and was sentenced to a split five-year sentence, with one year to serve in prison, for second-degree attempted burglary. He also had pleaded guilty in a 2008 case to third-degree theft of property, a misdemeanor.
A call by AL.com to the Marengo County District Attorney's Office was not returned prior to publication of this story.
Catlin is a professional comedian who has made appearances at events around the state. He also appeared on Bounce TV's "Off the Chain" in 2012.Eugene "Bull" Connor is laughing right now.
Oh, so very hard.
Birmingham: Where Freedom Lives.
Yes, freedom truly lives in nearly 75 percent black Birmingham, it's just the punchline in this joke isn't quite understood yet.