Najee Ali jailed, daughter awaits trial
Shirley Hawkins | 8/27/2008, 5 p.m.
Community activist Najee Ali, 45, born Ronald Todd Eskew, was sentenced to four years in state prison on Aug. 18 after pleading guilty to trying to bribe a witness in his daughter's criminal case.
Ali's daughter, Jasmin Eskew, is awaiting trial on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of leaving the scene of an accident stemming from an incident in July 2007 involving her vehicle and a group of motorcyclists on the San Bernardino Freeway.
According to Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Ali tried to tamper with a witness in January outside his daughter's preliminary hearing in Alhambra.
A court clerk initially said Ali pleaded no contest, but Gibbons said the activist entered a guilty plea. Prosecutors dismissed a count of witness intimidation.
Ali would have received two years in prison, but a prior robbery conviction in 1992 doubled his time to four years, Gibbons said. The judge also found that Ali had violated his probation in a 2004 case in which he was convicted of felony hit-and-run and perjury.
Many local activists were stunned when they heard the news of Ali's sentencing.
Activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a political analyst who heads the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said, "I had a brief conversation with Ali in central jail and his spirits were high. He expressed no regrets."
Hutchinson said that although he and Ali disagreed over approaches on issues, he said Ali will leave a void in the community. "I feel that at times he antagonized people and he made enemies unnecessarily. Despite the differences we had, I still feel that given the lack of outspoken community leadership, Najee filled a very necessary role. That makes the loss of Najee Ali sad because we've lost an outspoken voice. When he comes out of prison, he will be an even stronger voice for community activism."
Reverend and activist K. W. Tulloss of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church said he recently paid Ali a visit, who is currently being held in the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles.
"Ali said he has no regrets for what he did," said Tulloss. "He did what he did for the love of his daughter. He said that because of who he is, the district attorney tried to come after him in regard to the charges."
Pausing, Tulloss added, "I feel bad that individuals in the community have taken this moment to try to scold this brother because of their dislike for him. Najee has been a friend to many. Our community has lost a strong soldier. He will leave a void because no one could bring awareness to an issue in our community like Najee."
Ali, born Ronald Todd Eskew, spent two years in prison for armed robbery before coming to prominence in 1998 when he led public protests over the case of Sherrice Iverson, a 7-year-old girl from South Central Los Angeles who was sexually attacked and strangled in a Nevada casino bathroom.
Ali has been vocal on a number of community issues. He has been a frequent and outspoken critic of law enforcement and criticized the televised beating of car-chase suspect Stanley Miller in 2004. He recently protested pornography in a Snoop Dogg video as well as protested the acquittal of R&B singer R. Kelly in the sexual assault case involving an underage girl.