A DOUGLASS WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE
"This incident has completely ruined my life."
Those words written by Andy Frye, the young man charged with writing racist graffiti on the white pillars of the Interstate 26 overpass at Meadowview in April, 2009. Frye is charged with vandalism. We were notified about the graffiti, which contained racist references to African-Americans and President Obama, shortly after it was discovered by some Riverview residents. Kingsport police arrived and a clean-up crew from the Tennessee Department of Transportation spent almost $1,000 to cover up the markings.
See the slideshow of the original graffiti by clicking here.
Your Douglass Website editor made contact with Frye shortly after his arrest, to obtain his side of this story, that has evoked emotions on both sides of the racial barrier that many people say, still exists in the area. A few days later, he responded to the request in an email sent to the Douglass Alumni Association, via its website.
Frye said in the email that until he could speak with his attorney, he could not comment specifically about neither the charge nor his defense, but in the email, he did shed some light on how his name became associated with the graffiti and his personal feelings about the charge.
"After reading your article on the Douglass Website," Frye said in the email, "I immediately knew the white man described in the article was my father-in-law." He refers to the "white man" that came running up to African-American Ramon Willis, who, along with his family, were waiting for the police to arrive, after observing the graffiti at the I-26-Meadowview overpass. Willis says, the man who ran up to him, kept saying 'please don't hurt my daughter, please don't hurt my daughter,' alleging that their daughter's boyfriend spray-painted the graffiti.
Frye says, he is the person referred to by the father-in-law, who he says, has a personal vendetta against him. Adding to the confusion, the father-in-law referred to him as a boyfriend, although Frye says he is married to the man's daughter.
"He lives on the same road the bridge is located on," Frye wrote, "and has been tormenting me and my family for nearly 2 years." He did not go into details about that experience.
"It really bothers me to be labeled as a racist and a criminal in the very town I was born in (Kingsport), and raised in all my life. This has completely ruined my reputation in my hometown that I grew up in and love. I cannot leave my house without feeling as if I am being labeled as a racist criminal."
Frye describes himself as a "family man, married for 2 years, working a fulltime job and raise a family," and as a person who "loves America." He writes that he "is expecting another child in March 2010 and this situation has cost my family and I our entire life savings."
In the email, Frye says he has never been accused of a crime, even being pulled over and gotten a traffic citation, pointing to what he refers to as "a perfect record" that he intends to keep that way.
"I am a current member of the National Police & Trooper Association," emails Frye, and also "the Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police and the National Rifle Association."
This reporter had been trying to set up a face-to-face interview with Frye ever since he contacted the Douglass Website, but was unsuccessful. Frye continued his defense in several blog posts to commentors to the graffiti article that appeared in the Kingsport Times-News in October, shortly after his arrest.
"I have spent thousands of dollars and maxed out nearly every credit card we own to get out on bond and pay for legal fees," Frye blogged. "When this article (the Times-New article) first published, we contacted Times-News and tried to get our address removed from this article because we were concerned about our safety and our (2) children's." He wrote that the newspaper refused. He also blogged that "there is absolutely no evidence that links me to this crime, other than the so-called 'witnesses' who made statements (about him) to police."
SULLIVAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Frye's case will be heard by Judge Jerry Beck in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Criminal Division in Blountville on January 14, 2010.
We will follow this case and let you know the outcome.