Rockdale County resident Michael Minkoff was honored with the “Charles P. Cole Citizen Involvement Award” at CEO Richard Oden’s State of the County address on Jan. 16. The award was established in 2004 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the betterment of Rockdale County.
“The unwavering determination of Mr. Michael Minkoff must be rewarded,” said Oden. “Michael Minkoff used his own resources to fight for a falsely accused young man who had charges brought against him in two different counties.”
Minkoff made local headlines when he helped to get Nathan Dwight exonerated. Dwight was 21 years old when he was given life in prison for armed robbery in 2010. He was charged with carjacking a vehicle in DeKalb County and driving to Rockdale, where he was accused of robbing the Bella Vista Hispanic Grocery Mart on Iris Drive.
Minkoff, who was volunteering with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for youths, said there was no way that Dwight could have committed the crimes. Dwight was living with Minkoff and his wife, who had taken him in after meeting him through CASA. Through working with Dwight’s attorney, Albert Myers, and DNA evidence, Dwight’s conviction was overturned on Oct. 7, 2011.
“I got very involved from the day he was arrested. I knew he was factually innocent from the very beginning,” said Minkoff. “In 815 days, we visited him every day except two when the jail was shut down to visitors due to an ice storm and the day of my daughter, Erica’s, graduation from military school.”
Minkoff said he was humbled to receive the Charles P. Cole award. The award is named after Cole, an avid community activist who regularly attended Rockdale Board of Commissioners’ meetings and spoke at all of them. Cole passed away in 2004 from a heart attack.
“Receiving this award was really a surprise to me from the beginning. I don’t do anything for this kind of attention. I just do it. I honestly get personal satisfaction from helping people,” said Minkoff. “I live by this: It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as the acquired goal is accomplished.”
Minkoff said his wife, Brenda, who is battling cancer, couldn’t attend the awards presentation because she is hospitalized. He praised her for being a caring individual.
“My wife, Brenda, and I have done things like this all of our lives,” said Minkoff. “Whether it was taking in troubled youth or giving the less fortunate clothing, we just love helping people and showing them affection.”
Minkoff, a retired veteran of the New York City Police Department, serves as an advisory board member of the Department of Juvenile Justice in Rockdale and is second vice president of the Rockdale Chapter of the NAACP.
Pictured above: CEO Oden (left), presented Michael Minkoff with the Charles P. Cole Citizen Involvement Award. Minkoff is joined by Maggie Dwight-Hill (center) in the picture. Dwight-Hill is the mother of Nathan Dwight, whom Minkoff helped exonerate.