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Montgomery mayor details alleged extortion scheme in response to leaked audio

Mayor Steven Reed said he has started the process of taking legal action against Charles Lee, who he said leaked the audio.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed prepares to speak at a press conference regarding leaked audio of him that he says is part of an extortion attempt. (Jacob Holmes/APR)

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed told press Tuesday that secret recordings of him released Monday were part of an extortion scheme by local nonprofit founder Charles Lee.

The tapes reveal Reed using expletive-laden language as he speaks on topics including the “Black vote” and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.

According to Reed, the recordings are from a private meeting between himself and Lee during the summer of 2020 as the city looked to quell protests over the death of George Floyd.

Reed said he met with Lee, founder of That’s my Dog and That’s my Child, in hopes that the community leader could help in that effort.

Instead, Reed said Lee used the opportunity to ask the mayor for $30,000 for his nonprofits.

“Charles Lee is a liar, he is shyster and is a hustler,” Reed said Tuesday.

In the first of three recordings released so far, Reed says that if he can get “30 to 45 percent of the white vote, I don’t have to (expletive) get the damn Black vote I got this past election, I’ll (expletive) win.”

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The context, Reed said, is that Lee threatened to influence Black voters against him if Reed did not give him the money he was after.

Lee said the threats ranged from suppressing his votes in the Black community to “tell (community leader) Karen Jones we need to burn the city down.”

Reed continuously referred to the audio as “doctored” and heavily edited, and said he would hope that the full audio is released to show both sides of the conversation.

Lee has denied making the recording or releasing it, although he discussed the audio on a Facebook Live session. Lee says the remarks were made to a room of community leaders.

Reed said it was just him and Lee, and said Lee has been shopping the tapes around for years.

The situation is likely to turn into a legal battle, as Reed said he has already had meetings with the district attorney about what to do next.

When asked if he stands by his comments made on the video, including a comment that seems to dismiss the importance of Maxwell-Gunter, Reed pivoted and said none of the audio could be understood without the context of the full conversation. He did not explain when pressed by media members on what context may have led to such a statement.

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Reed did apologize for the language used in the audio, but said he used the strong language because he was offended by a community leader coming to “shake him down” instead of working on calming the community.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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