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    Cochran joins Baptists' legal team


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 11, 2001

    The Progressive National Baptist Convention says it has hired attorney Johnnie Cochran to help recover damages from an incident last month at Marriott Waterside Hotel in Tampa.

    Convention president the Rev. C. Mackey Daniels said Cochran joined the organization's legal team last week.

    "We're just covering all our fronts," Daniels said Monday. The legal team also may include Florida attorney Willie Gary, Daniels said. Gary had not yet confirmed his participation. Neither Gary nor Cochran could be reached for comment.

    "There could possibly be an early settlement," Daniels said. He declined to name the amount the convention was seeking, but he said the corporation was notified in a recent letter.

    Marriott officials could not be reached for comment.

    On Aug. 8, a member of the Convention complained that a white server tainted a bowl of fruit punch during a banquet at the Marriott Waterside for the predominantly black Progressive National Baptist Convention.

    Within minutes, rumors spread across the banquet hall, including one that someone had spit into the punch, and another that the salmon and filet mignon dinners had been tainted.

    Daniels demanded to see the hotel's general manager, but she could not be reached. Unsure whether they could eat the food, and angry as an hour passed without any word from the general manager, the group of 800 left the Marriott Waterside and went to the Hyatt Regency.

    On Monday, Daniels said the incident had ruined the Convention's 40th anniversary banquet.

    "We were unable to enjoy our gala affair," he said. "We can never recapture that."

    -- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or

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