Mothers Against Conviction Of The Innocent
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Chris Togneri is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer and can be reached at 412-380-5632 or via e-mail.
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Milton Raiford spent the past 16 years providing second chances to youths in the East End.
The state Supreme Court decided last week that Raiford deserves a second chance, reinstating him as an attorney.
Once a high-profile defense attorney, he was disbarred in 1994 after admitting having an impostor pose as a defendant in a drug possession case.
"A gigantic weight has been lifted, a stain has been removed," Raiford said Tuesday. "The feeling I have now is the feeling Jerome Bettis had when he fumbled on the 1-yard line. He thought he was the goat, and he was redeemed."
Raiford, 54, of Wilkins is headmaster at Imani Christian Academy in East Hills, which seeks out youngsters from poor neighborhoods and teaches them through discipline, religion and love.
The court reinstated him Friday based on a recommendation from its Disciplinary Board, which cited his work at Imani.
"Petitioner sacrificed both time and money to realize his ambition of a quality school for underprivileged children," the board wrote. Raiford's position as headmaster "allowed him to impact and enhance the lives of hundreds of students."
Raiford said he will not leave Imani, which has grown from 30 students in 1993 to about 250 this year. He does not know how or when he might return to the courtroom, but he wants to fight for equal rights in education, he said.
"God is going to use me as a vehicle of social change," he said. "I really do desire an opportunity to advance the case for quality education for children in this country."
In 1994, Raiford was one of 32 attorneys statewide to be disbarred, according to Disciplinary Board statistics. Last year, the court granted 84 requests for reinstatement and denied one.
Raiford applied for reinstatement once before, but was denied in 2001.
This time, some influential supporters backed him, including Michael Ahwesh, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted him on obstruction charges in 1994. Ahwesh said Raiford redeemed himself, according to the board's report.
Former Superior Court Judge Justin Johnson, who serves on Imani's advisory committee, and former Steelers Mel Blount and Franco Harris testified on Raiford's behalf, the court wrote in its ruling.
"(Raiford) has expressed obvious and sincere contrition for his egregious activities," the board wrote. "He described the shame he experienced and the hurt he inflicted on the profession and his family, particularly his late mother."
Cora Mae Raiford was a Homewood icon who taught her five sons and others the importance of education. She died in a July 2008 house fire that also killed her son Kenny Raiford, 56.
"I wanted to do this for her," Raiford said. "I believe that she's smiling down on me."
Attornye Milton Raidford license has been reinstated .