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Leader of Sharptons L.A. office must pay in sexual harassment case


Tony Wafford, the West Coast coordinator of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and president of Wafford Consulting and the Palms Residential Care Center, will have to pay former National Action Network program administrator Sharon Song Byrd damages for sexual harassment and battery. A continuation hearing was held Monday to determine the amount of damages Wafford must pay, but no amount has as yet been specified.

Byrd’s lawyer, Jeffrey Cowan, and court analysts project her award will be in the six-figure range. The court ruled that Wafford also must pay Byrd’s medical bills and the tab for services of a psychologist.

Wafford fired his attorney after he was found guilty following his trial in April. He decided to defend himself during the hearing Monday to assess the damages he will pay Byrd for pain and suffering, and emotional distress, but he didn’t do a very good job, according to Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE. “The judge essentially laughed at him and told him to sit down. He was trying to argue topics regarding the case that Byrd had already won, and this wasn’t about that, it was only about the monetary award.”

Because of the case’s outcome, a coalition of African American women’s groups have called for Wafford’s resignation and have threatened Sharpton with a possible boycott of his radio sponsors, if demands are not met.

“Wafford is a sexual deviant and pervert, he should not be in a role of leadership with Rev. Sharpton or any other respectable leader,” declared Sister Lee of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Women’s Network. “Now that Wafford has had his day in court, we want Sharpton to send a message that he respects Black women and will protect us … We support Sharpton, but we have no problem calling for a national boycott of him, if Black women don’t have his support.”

Said Paulette Gibson, president of the Compton branch of the NAACP: “The Compton NAACP, stands in full support of the victim Sharon Song Byrd. No civil rights organization should have anyone in a leadership position who has been found guilty of sexually harassing and battery against a woman. Civil rights leaders are suppose to protect women, not abuse them.”

Byrd resigned from her job in December 2007 and filed the lawsuit against Wafford in January 2008. The trial, which began in Superior Court in April, lasted nine days, with the jury finding in Byrd’s favor. The sexual harassment charges were due to Wafford’s continued and unwelcomed advances, including exposing himself to Byrd in his office and showing up at her home unannounced. The battery charges resulted from Wafford striking her on the hand, causing inoperable nerve damage because of the large diamond ring he was wearing.