curate, press coverage. Lester is servingna prison term of ten to thirty years.nAlton Maddox also figured in thenHoward Beach case, as a lawyer for thenblack man who was beaten, CedricnSandiford, and Maddox’s refusal toncooperate with prosecutors greatlyncomplicated efforts to get at the truthnand resolve some still nagging questionsnabout what really happened. Innthe movie, Maddox and an equallynimplacable colleague, C. Vernon Mason,nare merged into a compositencalled Clayton Barry, whose hostilitynand obstructionism are made to seemnboth understandable and entirely justified,ngiven the way blacks are victimizednby the criminal justice system.nThere is no mention at all of theirnfriend Al Sharpton, whose numerousnprovocative marches into HowardnBeach had a lot to do with stirring upnracial hostilities.nThe movie got generally respectfulnpress reviews. Wendy Lin, who coverednthe story for Newsday, found itn”basically faithful” but “surprisinglyndispassionate,” and actually faulted itnfor “taking pains not to inflame.” Ansomewhat puzzling complaint, in viewnof the way the movie portrayed thenwhite defendants as junior Klansmennwho deserved murder convictionsnwhether the racially mixed jury felt thatnway or not.nIf the movie desensationalized anything,nit was the provocative and sometimesnviolent behavior of black militantsnand their white radical allies asnthey staged demonstrations bothnagainst the white defendants andnagainst “racism” in general. Whitensupporters of the defendants werensometimes openly hostile, and somenHoward Beach residents rose to thenbait as Al Sharpton and his troopsnmarched through the streets, but then”balance” displayed in the movie wasnessentially false. One scene shows anwhite shoving a black outside thencourthouse; that probably never happened.nWe don’t see something thatnreally did happen — the arrest of anblack man for punching a white witness.nAnd if anybody had any doubts thatnthe moviemakers’ hearts were in thenright place, there is the sequence involvingna black man named CharlienBrasher, most sympathetically playednby Gregory Alan-Williams, who hasnbeen wrongly convicted of rape. Idealisticnprosecutor Joe Hynes, heroicallynportrayed by Daniel J. Travanti, hadnbeen Brasher’s unsuccessful defensenlawyer, and his guilty feelings aboutnlosing that case have undermined hisnconfidence to the point that he’s scarednto take on the Howard Beach job. SonCharlie, in a moving jailhouse scene,nhas to talk him into it. A nice dramaticntouch, with the added message (itndoesn’t have to be stated) that blacksnaccused of a crime don’t get a fairnshake. In reality, the defendant in thensex-crime case on which the sequencenis remotely based was white, an accusednchild-molester who was eventuallyncleared and who had nothing at allnto do with inspiring Hynes to meet thenHoward Beach challenge.nThe American dilemma has provednto be far more complicated and intractablenthan most people dreamed in thenheyday of the civil rights movement. Atnthe same time, we’ve come a long waynin the past thirty years, if not in rescuingna large residual underclass, then atnleast in reforming prevailing popularnattitudes about tolerance, justice, andnequality before the law. The exaggeratednfocus on putative white hate, innshort, traduces an America that is tryingnlike hell — albeit counterproductively,noften enough — to live up to itsnideals. And in a way these overheatednsermons are too pessimistic — turningnJon Lester, for instance, into a meannlittle hater, when by almost all accountsnhe was a nice kid with blacknfriends who paid an inordinate pricenfor his role in the affair. By painting ancomplicated tragedy like HowardnBeach as a latter-day lynching, which itnemphatically was not — despite incendiaryncomments at the time by politicians,nincluding Mayor Ed Koch — thenmovie seriously distorts not only thencase itself but present social reality.nThat doesn’t make reasoned dialoguenany easier.nAnd who can recall a televisionndrama that even touched on blacknracism — not hostility, which can be andifferent thing, but racism? How patronizingnto blacks it is, really, to trot outnthe old double standard every timenthere’s a choice to be made.nWhatever his psychological problems,nhowever understandably theynmay be rooted in America’s historicalnguilt, Alton Maddox is a destructivennnperson. He’s not a very good lawyer,nbut he has a real talent for his specialty:nthrowing racial monkey wrenches intonan already beleaguered criminal justicensystem. He is a man, in short, who hasncarved out a career whose “most consistentnthemes have been hidden agendas,nself-promotion, and hatred of allnlaw enforcement.”nThat appraisal is from Jack Newfield,nwriting in the Village Voice innJanuary 1987, a couple of weeks afternthe Howard Beach “racial murder.”nNewfield goes on to quote MurraynKempton, another columnist notnknown to tolerate white racist rhetoric,nas suggesting that “Maddox’s hiddennagenda here [in the Howard Beachncase] may not be public justice at all,nbut deeper racial bitterness amongnblacks, and a negligence suit againstnthe city that might produce money fornall concerned.” Jack Newfield was then”creative consultant” for the HowardnBeach movie, though not, apparently,ncreative enough to persuade the producersnto put in an accurate portrait ofnMaddox or anything else.nAs for the Maria Hanson movie, ifnthe people behind that endeavor hadntaken on Maddox’s disturbing role innthe case, honestly and straightforwardly—nwell, that would have taken realncourage. And it would not only havenbeen better journalism but better art, ifnit’s not too outlandish to use either ofnthose honorable words in connectionnwith such a debased genre.nOr how about a TV movie based onnTawana Brawley’s lurid, lying tale ofnrape and degradation at the hands ofnwhite brutes, and the way Maddox,nMason, and Sharpton stirred the racialnpot in that sleazy affair? (In the Brawleyncase, Sharpton outdid himself by >ncomparing New York Attorney CeneralnRobert Abrams to Hitler and accusingnAbrams of masturbating over anphoto of Tawana; others said Tawana’snpurported ordeal was the kind of thingnthat typically happens to black womennin present-day America, so it didn’tnmatter if she was lying or not.)nThe Tales of Tawana — a hell of anstory. What we get instead — and ofncourse it’s not only on television — arenmovies like Mississippi Burning.nEnglish director Alan Parker beginsnthat story with the 1964 murder of thencivil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman,nand Chancy (who are not specifi-nSEPTEMBER 1991/55n