Case Closed: Prosecutor Concludes Investigation without Questioning Professor about Charges He Threatened a Student Journalist

By Wolper, Allan | Editor & Publisher, October 23, 1993 | Go to article overview

Case Closed: Prosecutor Concludes Investigation without Questioning Professor about Charges He Threatened a Student Journalist


Wolper, Allan, Editor & Publisher


The Manhattan District Attorney's office has concluded its criminal investigation of City College of New York professor Leonard Jeffries without questioning him about charges that he threatened a Harvard University student journalist.

In November 1991, Jonathan Eliot Morgan, an editor at the Harvard Crimson student newspaper, filed a criminal complaint against Jeffries.

Morgan, 29, now a journalist at Congressional Quarterly magazine in Washington, said he was told that the investigation was ended to avoid a messy political confrontation.

"The DA's office said they found the things I said to be true," Morgan said. "They said they were afraid it would turn into a circus if it reached the courtroom."

Wayne Brison, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, acknowledged that prosecutors never contacted Jeffries. He said the investigative report had been sealed.

Editor & Publisher has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the report.

Morgan said Jeffries threatened him during an Oct. 18, 1991, interview in the CCNY faculty dining room.

During that interview, Jeffries attacked Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Shelby Steele of San Jose State University, both authors and scholars.

After his tirade, Jeffries ordered one of his bodyguards to grab the journalist's tape recorder, Morgan said.

After the recorder was taken from him, Morgan said, Jeffries leaned forward and said, "If I hear this again, I'll kill you'"

Jeffries repeatedly has denied Morgan's accusations.

"We thought he was a brother representing the black students at Harvard," Jeffries said. "We don't threaten anyone. He came into my office right after my father died. I won't forget that day."

Jeffries said none of the "10 to 12 people" who were present during the interview were asked about the alleged threat.

"And no one ever spoke to me," he said.

Jeffries, chairman of CCNY's Black Studies Department, was thrust into the media spotlight after he made a 12,000-word speech July 20, 1991, at a Black Arts Festival in Albany, N.Y.

In that speech, he said Russian Jews and the Mafia had financed movies that devastated African-Americans.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and other state officials called the speech racist and anti-Semitic, and CCNY officials later removed Jeffries as department chairman.

US. District Judge Kenneth Conboy in May ruled that CCNY had violated Jeffries' First Amendment rights and ordered him reinstated as chairman. …

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