Trammell loses appeal, faces prison sentence

An appeals court on Friday rejected the Rev. Raleigh Trammell’s appeal of his conviction for stealing taxpayer money intended for the poor, and lifted an order that has kept the Dayton civil rights leader out of prison for more than a year.

Montgomery County prosecutors said they will give Trammell until early next week to turn himself over to the county jail for transport to state prison to begin serving his 18-month sentence, or they’ll have him arrested.

Carley Ingram, chief of the prosecutor’s appeals division, filed a successful motion asking the 2nd District Court of Appeals to lift the stay.

“We don’t see any reason for delay,” Ingram said. “He’s had his day in court.”

Trammell’s attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Earlier Friday, the appeals court ruled the “the defendant’s convictions on all charges are supported by sufficient evidence and are not against the manifest weight of the evidence,” as Trammell had claimed.

Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said Trammell, 76, of Dayton should begin his sentence now.

“Not only did this defendant steal taxpayer money, but he denied meals as promised to elderly and frail citizens,” Heck said in a statement. “It is now time that he start serving the sentence he earned and deserves for stealing from those most in need. His conduct over many years is shameful.”

Trammell, formerly chairman of the Dayton chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was convicted last year of fraudulently accepting public funds for a program to provide meals to needy shut-ins. Evidence at his trial showed that some of the people Trammell claimed to be feeding were dead or already being fed in nursing homes. He was convicted of 51 counts: 25 each for forgery and tampering with evidence, and one count of grand theft.

Prosecutors sought indictments against Trammell after a 2010 Dayton Daily News investigation uncovered the questionable payments.

He briefly went to prison, but was released in September 2012 on a stay of execution pending the appeal.

Trammell, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jefferson Twp., was convicted June 1, 2012, after a jury trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Evidence showed he claimed to be providing meals to dead people, members of his church who were hospitalized or living in nursing homes and not receiving extra meals, and people who said they didn’t know they were being claimed as recipients. Montgomery County reimbursed $38,000 to Trammell’s SCLC, which administered the program, for 7,000 meals that weren’t delivered between 2005 and early 2010.

It wasn’t Trammell’s first felony conviction. He spent a year in prison starting in 1979 after a jury convicted him of larceny and grand theft for opening fraudulent welfare accounts for his personal gain while he was deputy director of the Montgomery County Welfare Department. He used the name of a relative in one of the false accounts, and used a man who had consulted with him about marital problems to cash welfare checks and redeem food stamps for him.

Not long after his parole, Trammell became an official of the Dayton chapter of the SCLC, the civil rights organization founded in the 1950s by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Eventually, he became chairman of both the local chapter and the national SCLC. In more recent times, the local SCLC shifted its focus from a civil rights group to a social services agency receiving federal, state and local funding for a host of anti-poverty programs. Trammell also ran social programs as a leader of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

A 2010 Dayton Daily News investigation raised questions about misuse of public funds in other SCLC and IMA programs:

  • The groups were getting Federal Emergency Management Agency money for a battered women’s shelter and a food pantry that didn’t exist. A federal magistrate in August placed Trammell’s daughter, Angela Goodwine, on three years’ probation for stealing FEMA money as an SCLC official. Trammell wasn’t charged in that case.
  • The SCLC couldn’t document its spending for a county-funded social service program it operated as a subcontractor for the now-defunct Urban League of Dayton.

The state of Ohio also withdrew funding for a youth anti-violence program run for the SCLC by Goodwine because the SCLC couldn’t prove it provided services or account for its spending of taxpayer money. Trammell ultimately lost all the public funding he was receiving.

After a long and rancorous legal battle that almost destroyed the national SCLC, a judge ruled in 2010 that Trammell wasn’t the rightful chairman and ordered him to stop holding himself out as a national SCLC leader. Trammell also lost his position with the Dayton chapter.

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