5 craziest take-aways from the Roy Johnson piece on Paul Littlejohn III

Paul Littlejohn_Sue Bell Cobb
Paul Littlejohn III and Sue Bell Cobb backstage at the gubernatorial debate at the Lyric Theatre, April 24. 2018. [Photo Credit: Paul Littlejohn Facebook]

Earlier this week it was reported that Paul Littlejohn III, a convicted rapist and registered sex offender has become a Democratic operative currently working for Sue Bell Cobb‘s gubernatorial campaign. Prior to that he worked for Sen. Doug Jones and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Most of us found this out through what Al.com’s Roy Johnson seemingly intended to be a feature profile on redemption in politics. Yet here I am, two days later still scratching my head about what I read. It seems the piece has created far more questions than it gave answers.

Assuming you’ve caught up and read it yourself… let me begin my saying, I’m all for rehabilitation and allowing ex-offenders to reintegrate into society. But that looks different for different people, depending on their crimes.

Something about reading Johnson’s piece just feels off. There are too many oddities within the story and Cobb’s team’s crafted response to just let it go.

Here are my top 5 craziest take-aways from the piece:

1. Throughout the piece Littlejohn essentially says he’s reformed and has learned lesson, but in same article he claims was essentially railroaded by bad attorney and that’s why he ended up in jail to begin with. So which is it? Did he atone for the atrocious crimes he committed, or was he innocent altogether? It can’t be both.

It was a plea deal Littlejohn took, he says, because his attorney insisted that if it went to trial, he could get life without the possibility of parole.

“I didn’t know any better,” he says. “When he said ‘life’, I thought it meant life. Thirty years sounded better. [My attorney] thought he made a good deal.”

2. In the piece, Johnson points out Unity Group Solution, of which Littlejohn is a partner, was paid in both March and April by Cobb’s campaign. Alabama Today looked over the campaign finance reports ourselves (and noticed Johnson left out a figure when he did the math), and figure the company was paid $19,066 in March and another $21,739 in April ($18,739 on April 4 and $3,000 on April 11). Liltlejohn also said he employs 12 people.

Littlejohn says he employs 12 people full-time for canvassing neighborhoods up to six days each week and three others for phone-banking. He pays $10 per hour, higher than the $7.25 minimum wage.

“I have 12-to-14 people,” Littlejohn says, “who depend on me to eat.”

Yet in his most recent update with the ALEA’s sex offender registry, he’s listed as home. How can he be making so much money to pay others, yet still doesn’t have a place to live himself? Something’s not adding up.

Paul Littlejohn sex offender registration
Screenshot of Littlejohn sex offender registration on the ALEA website. Pulled Thurs. May 10, 2018.

3. Now let’s look at the campaign’s response from campaign chair Landon Nichols. There’s just way too much there to ignore. But perhaps most disturbing is that Nichols queries “Have you ever made a mistake? Once you have atoned for that mistake, do you believe in forgiveness? I do.”

Sue Bell Cobb Littlejohn letter

That’s such an absurd statement to make, especially from someone who’s handling communications for Cobb as well. Comparing an ordinary person’s transgressions to violent, forcible rape and sexual assault of two women is mind-boggling. If a campaign chair can’t see the difference — they need to be in a new line of work.

4. The campaign attempting to give themselves an attaboy by recognizing the #MeToo movement in hiring a “reformed” sex offender is a mind-scratcher. Attempting to applaud the victim in the same statement they’re applauding the perpetrator seems tone-deaf. It’s a very odd thing to connect. #MeToo is a movement about empowering women. Whereas this is a statement about defending a man who violently attacked them.  Shame on the campaign for attempting to bend a national movements narrative to fit their agenda.

Sue Bell Cobb Littlejohn letter2

5. The reality of a campaign sending a violent ex-felon door-to-door is baffling. I have firsthand experience as a field director. In that position you’re entrusted with sensitive voter file information on individuals from their addresses to phone numbers to age, etc. Handing it over a registered sex offender is questionable judgement at best.

Heck, when I campaigned I was routinely invited into the homes of people I visited, it is the South after all. Certainly you wouldn’t want to invite in a registered sex offender.

After all, we don’t let those who hurt children work in schools and bank robbers probably shouldn’t be able to get bank jobs, so maybe the person with access to household data shouldn’t have a violent past either.

I get it, American correctional facilities are known for high recidivism rates. Nationally, than 76% of all inmates return to prison within five years, and I fully believe it’s our duty to give people who own their crimes and serve their time a second chance to prove they’ve changed. But it’s also the responsibility of those around them, of those giving them said second chance to not set them up for failure. Not not put them in questionable positions that could cause them to make a faulty judgement.

But like I said, something about this story if off. There are fare more questions than answers coming from Cobb’s campaign. In fact, we reached out to Nichols on Tuesday asking Cobb to clarify a few things, to which they’ve yet to respond. Here’s some of what we’d like to know:

  1. When did Mrs. Cobb find out about Littlejohn’s past? Does she have confidence in the work he is doing for her now?
  2. What message is she sending to women by hiring a sex offender who was found guilty of rape by forcible compulsion and sodomy?
  3. In the AL.com piece, is looks as though Littlejohn is not taking responsibility for his actions, in saying It was a plea deal Littlejohn took, he says, because his attorney insisted that if it went to trial, he could get life without the possibility of parole.
    “I didn’t know any better,” he says. “When he said ‘life’, I thought it meant life. Thirty years sounded better. [My attorney] thought he made a good deal.”
    What does Mrs. Cobb feel about that?
  4. Finally, the ALEA sex offender registry shows that as of 4/30/18 Littlejohn’s known address is listed as “homeless,” does the campaign feel as though they’re paying him a livable wage if that’s the case?