Rachel Dolezal, NAACP Leader Who Pretended To Be Black, Takes Plea Deal In Welfare Fraud Case

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A former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader who pretended to be black has reached a plea deal, allowing her to avoid a trial. Rachel Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, was charged with second-degree perjury and felony theft by welfare fraud last year. From August 2015 to December 2017, Diallo received $8,847 in food and childcare assistance.

However, during that period, she also received over $80,000 in income from her memoir, In Full Color, which was published in 2017 by BenBella Books. The payments were split up into monthly installments, yet Dolezal filed for welfare with the state of Washington, claiming that her income was less than $500 a month. A YouTube video published by VICE News in March of 2017 lines up with Diallo’s payments. While speaking to VICE interviewer Dexter Thomas, Dolezal claims that she had trouble finding employment due to past media coverage and that most of her income was derived from “doing black hair” and selling artwork.

While Diallo originally pleaded not guilty to both felony charges, she entered into a plea agreement late last month in Spokane County Superior Court. In order to avoid going to trial, Diallo’s plea requires her to repay the welfare she received, as well as complete 120 hours of community service.

“I think that this is a fair resolution of the case,” her lawyer, Bevan Maxey, said earlier this week. “I don’t think it was Ms. Diallo’s intent to defraud anyone. I think this will allow her to move forward in her life.”

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“She’s a very intelligent and creative woman and I hope that she can put this behind her.”

Nkechi Diallo, 41, was born in 1977 in Lincoln County, Montana, to two white parents. She’s explained that her views and perspectives on race shifted during her teenage years when her parents, who were Christian missionaries, adopted four black children. Years later, after going through a divorce, she decided to publicly present herself as black. The deception lasted years — in 2014, she was elected president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. She was fired a year later after media interviews with her family revealed the ruse. Diallo also lost her job at Eastern Washington University (where she taught African studies), and she was kicked off a police ombudsman commission.

Diallo was thrust back into the spotlight last year, after the release of a Netflix documentary titled The Rachel Divide. The film explored her racial identity, the controversy surrounding it, and the aftermath.