While falling short of an apology, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed has announced plans to prosecute the man who leaked audio of Reed in a profanity-filled, racially charged rant.
On Monday, 1819 News published audio of Reed espousing inflammatory comments surrounding the City of Montgomery, Gov. Kay Ivey, Maxwell Air Force Base and more.
The audio, posted on a newly-created YouTube channel on Sunday evening, appears to be heavily edited. However, the audio shows Reed swearing and discussing his perceived lack of need for the black vote, among other things.
Late Monday night, Reed released a statement claiming the audio was used by a community member to extort money from the city.
At a Tuesday press conference, Reed addressed media members to respond to the audio and announce plans to prosecute the man who leaked the tape.
Reed claims the audio leak came from a local man, Charles Lee, who secretly recorded a June 2020 meeting in an attempt to extort the mayor amid national outrage over the death of George Floyd.
Reed said that he “hastily” set up a meeting at the Alabama Democratic Conference auditorium, to which Lee received a last-minute invite.
“During the course of that meeting, it became very, very apparent to me that Mr. Lee did not come there as a helper to calm the community; he came out of an interest in personal gain,” Reed continued. “He came to shake me down. He came to extort the mayor of this city.”
Reed said Lee’s apparent attempt to receive financial gain during a time of crisis caused the temperature of the meeting to rise, seemingly offering a justification for his use of language throughout the recordings.
“What you hear in splices of the manipulated audio is an angry person who is frustrated and is very, very displeased – to put it mildly – with someone who has gotten the confidence of many leaders in this community asking about where his money is, and where is the $30,000 that purportedly was promised to him by a previous administration.”
The money Lee sought was reportedly for a non-profit that Lee operates in Montgomery.
While Reed referred to the audio as “doctored,” “manipulated” and “hijacked,” he did not offer an apology for his language or the statements he made in the recordings. He did say he would support releasing the full audio.
When Reed was asked why he made certain inflammatory statements, he claimed the tape was either doctored or out of context.
“The fact that it’s not a two-way conversation is doctored,” Reed said. “What were the questions? What was the topic of conversation we were having? What was said prior to that? I don’t deny being or having an elevated level of tension on the day of June 1, 2020, whatsoever. I don’t deny being offended by someone taking that as a time to try to extort the city of Montgomery whatsoever. So, again, while I regret the language being made public, a lot of the conversation was initially about how do we keep the community safe; how do we keep the community calm. And that conversation instantly went to money and a payoff.”
Reed said he decided not to prosecute Lee at that time due to advisements from civic leaders and elected officials because of Lee’s community work. However, Reed said he had reconsidered and would seek legal action against Lee, although he offered scant details.
“We should have prosecuted then, and we should have called into question what Mr. Lee’s motivations were,” Reed emphasized. “However, it would not be until sometime later that we would learn that there was an audio recording of which I never knew about at the time. And at that time, Mr. Lee again asked for money in exchange for destroying the tape. Now, as an officer of the court for almost seven years, I know what that is, and I’ll be willing to testify under oath to what exactly happened, not only that day but subsequent days when this tape was shopped to many outlets, and it was shopped for sale as a way to extort this city and the mayor of this city.”
Lee did a Facebook live stream on Monday evening, in which he denied recording or leaking the audio. Reed denies the claim, calling Lee a “shyster and a liar.”
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