A former NAACP leader in Washington state whose life unraveled after she was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black pleaded not guilty to welfare fraud on Wednesday.
Nkechi Diallo, formerly known as Rachel Dolezal, made a brief appearance in Spokane County Superior Court.
State charges of welfare fraud and false verification for public assistance are related to income she received from a book and other sources while also receiving welfare benefits, prosecutors said.
Superior Court Judge James Triplet ordered that she remain free on her own recognizance and set her trial date for Sept. 10.
Diallo did not talk to reporters after the brief hearing. Her lawyers also declined comment.
She resigned as head of Spokane’s NAACP chapter in 2015 when it was revealed she was born to white parents and raised in rural Montana.
The welfare fraud case started in March 2017 when a state investigator received information that Diallo had written a book. The investigator reviewed Diallo’s records and found that she had been reporting her income as usually less than $500 per month, court documents said.
But a subpoena of her bank statements and other records showed Diallo had deposited nearly $84,000 into her account from 2015-17, without reporting most of it to the state Department of Social and Health Services.
The money came from her memoir, “In Full Color,” speaking engagements, soap making, doll making and the sale of her art, according to the case file.
Diallo did report a change of circumstance to the state agency, saying she did a one-time job in October 2017 worth $20,000, court documents show.
The charges accuse her of improperly receiving about $8,800 in public assistance.
She has said previously that she grew up near Troy, Montana, and began to change her perspective as a teenager, after her religious parents adopted four black children. She decided some years later that she would publicly identify as black.
The ruse worked until 2015, when her parents, with whom she has long feuded, told reporters that their daughter was white but was presenting herself as a black activist.
The story created an international uproar. She left her position at the Spokane NAACP and was kicked off a police oversight commission. She also lost a position as a freelance columnist for a weekly newspaper in Spokane and lost her job teaching African studies at nearby Eastern Washington University.
But her story continues to fascinate people. In addition to her book, Netflix recently ran a documentary about her called “The Rachel Divide.”
– Associated Press