Friday, June 26, 2009

'Jena 6' beating case wraps up with plea deal

JENA, La. – Five members of the Jena Six pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor simple battery and won't serve jail time, ending a case that thrust a small Louisiana town into the national spotlight and sparked a massive civil rights demonstration.

The five, standing quietly surrounded by their lawyers, were sentenced to seven days unsupervised probation and fined $500. It was a far less severe end to their cases than seemed possible when the six students were initially charged with attempted murder in the 2006 attack on Justin Barker, a white classmate. They became known as the "Jena Six," after the central Louisiana town where the beating happened.

As part of the deal, one of the attorneys read a statement from the five defendants — all of whom are black — in which they said they knew of nothing Barker had done to provoke the attack.

"To be clear, not one of us heard Justin use any slur or say anything that justified Mychal Bell attacking Justin nor did any of us see Justin do anything that would cause Mychal to react," the statement said.

The statement also expressed sympathy for Barker and his family, and acknowledged the past 2 1/2 years had "caused Justin and his parents tremendous pain and suffering, much of which has gone unrecognized."

None of the defendants spoke to reporters.

By pleading no contest, the five do not admit guilt but acknowledge prosecutors had enough evidence for a conviction.

Charges against Carwin Jones, Jesse Ray Beard, Robert Bailey Jr., Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw had previously been reduced from attempted murder to aggravated second-degree battery. All but Shaw were assessed $500 in court costs. The judge did not tack that punishment on to Shaw's case because he stayed in jail for almost seven months, unable to raise bail, following his initial arrest.

Each paid the fine and court costs immediately. The payment of restitution to Barker was also part of the deal, but the amount was not released.

The only member of the group to serve jail time was Bell, who pleaded guilty in December 2007 to second-degree battery and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

The severity of the original charges brought widespread criticism and eventually led more than 20,000 people to converge in September 2007 on the tiny central Louisiana town of Jena for a major civil rights march.

Racial tensions at Jena High School reportedly grew in the months before the attack. Several months before attack, nooses were hung in a tree on the campus, sparking outrage in the black community. Residents said there were fights, but nothing too serious until December 2006 when Barker was attacked.

Friday's criminal proceedings were followed by a brief civil hearing to settle the lawsuit by Barker against the group.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crime Against Humanity Returns to New York
Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2009

After performing to more than 5000 people through-out the United Sates and Puerto Rico, the fiercely innovative play Crime Against Humanity returns to New York
With Chicago and New York Cast
A play based on Puerto Rican Political Prisoners
Limited showings
East Harlem Cafe
1651 Lexington Ave
New York
June Saturday 27th
July Thursday 2nd
Friday 3rd
Thursday 9th
Friday 10th
Special Closing Show
Julia De Burgos Cultural Center
1680 Lexington Ave
New York
Saturday July 11th

Tickets are $10.00
Reserve tickets at -
(646) 387-7207
Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides
773/ 606 4014


Saturday, June 20, 2009

06/19: Health Alert: Leonard Peltier in need of Medical Assistance

Forwarded on behalf of the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee

Kari Ann Cowan, Peltier's niece, reported tonight (Friday) from the
prison at Lewisburg that Leonard may have suffered a heart attack.

"He had hard time breathing. He was in his cell and had an ache
in his chest. He was kinda scared he was having a heart attack. He
raised his hands, breathed slowly and finally felt better."

We need to call the prison and ask them to get Leonard to the
hospital in Rochester (MN) as soon as possible for a check up.

Be polite and courteous and express your concern for his health
and welfare.
We gotta step up.

Make reference to Leonard Peltier #89637-132.

Call Warden Scott Dodrill at (570) 523-1251.

Fax numbers: (570) 522-7745 and (570) 522-7519


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Co-Support Group Coordinator and LP-DOC Spokesperson

Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Release Asit Kumar Sengupta and all Political Prisoners Now

On the afternoon of 22 January 2008, the notorious Chattisgarh police raided the home of comrade Asit Kumar Sengupta and took him away. The same evening, they again raided in large numbers and searched his house for 2 days. His wife was detained for questioning. The police seized all the copies of the revolutionary internationalist journal `A World to Win', publications of `Puravaiya Prakashan', all the books in his personal library and the disk of his PC. Violating the norms laid down by the Supreme Court, his arrest was formally registered only after 2 days. He has been accused of waging war against the state in association with a banned organisation, theCPI (Maoist).

Who is Asit Kumar Sengupta? Why is he declared as an enemy of the state?

Awakened to radical politics through the 1960s mass struggles and mobilisations in West Bengal, Asit was attracted to the revolutionary movement through the Naxalbari armed struggle of 1967. Since then, his revolutionary cultural activism and work as a propagandist, begun at the age of 20, has never ceased; up till this arrest. This creativity in the service of the people has, over the past four decades plus, spanned the diverse fields of literature, drama, publishing and journalism. A number of his short stories, short plays and articles in Bengali, Hindi and English have been published in various journals. His short plays were staged in a number of places, including in Delhi by students of the National School of Drama. With this literary and cultural background he took an active part in the formation of `All India League of Revolutionary Culture' (AILRC) and later served on its executive committee for several years. During the 1980's he was in the CRC, CPI (ML), and edited its Hindi mass paper `Rashtriya Mukti'. He also served as a member on the Editorial Board of the English mass periodical `Mass Line'. He fought against revisionism within the revolutionary movement and played an important role in the process of reorganisation leading to the formation of the CPI (M-L) Naxalbari. He was prominent in propagating Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and presented a paper on behalf of `A World to Win' journal at the joint seminar in Kolkatta, commemorating the150 anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.

Asit published the `A World to Win' from Delhi for nearly a decade. He started publication of its Hindi edition `Jitne Ke Liye Hai Puri Duniya', handling on his own almost all the translation and other editorial tasks. He launched a publication centre by name `Puravaiya Prakashan' (East Wind Publications) which brought out more than 20 Maoist titles, in English, Hindi and Malayalam. The `A World to Win' stall at the annual International Book Fair at Kolkatta used to be a well noticed center for revolutionary literature from all over the world.

When STRUGGLE INDIA was launched in May 2007 as an anti-imperialist all India mass front, he was elected its General Secretary.

The state sponsored `Salwa Judum' in Chhattisgarh State of India, aimed at smashing the Peoples' War led by CPI (Maoist), is an inhumane campaign of suppression. Even the Supreme Court has called for ending it. Continuous and powerful protest of human rights and cultural activists was instrumental in this exposure. The state is doing all it can to suppress such opposition and stamp down on revolutionary propaganda. The arrest of Asit Kumar Sengupta is a part of this. Nearly two years back, Dr. Binayak Sen, an international award winning people's doctor and human rights activist was arrested on charges similar to those foisted on Asit. Though an international campaign called for the release of Dr. Sen, the notorious Chhattisgarh state government had denied even his right to bail. (It has now been granted by the Supreme Court.) Asit too is denied bail, while this case drags on without trial. During the past 15 months since his arrest, the police could not produce any evidence in support of their charges other than the perfectly legal Maoist literature they have seized from his house. Yet they deliberately persist with the case so that this revolutionary intellect will remain locked up within the prison cell, cut off from the people.

This is not a chance incident. Boasting of being the world's largest democracy, the Indian state deliberately targets revolutionary and progressive writers, publishers, journalists and human rights activists. This is done without relent in order to block exposure of its anti-people activities, its corruption, and the inhuman torture, killing and `disappearing' of those who resist. Not only Asit and Dr. Sen, the Indian state has imprisoned hundreds who dared to raise their voice against it. We from STRUGGLE INDIA appeal to the fighting masses and justice loving peoples throughout the world to support, by all means, our campaign for the release of Asit Kumar Sengupta and all political prisoners languishing in different jails in various parts of the country - immediately and unconditionally.

M.N. Ravunni

Acting General Secretary,



M.N. Ravunni

Mundur P.O, Palakkad District,

Kerala, India.

Phone: +91 9249713184

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Support Black Panther Jack Johnson - Baltimore 6/23

The Campaign to Free Jack Johnson Needs 200 People to Fill the Courtroom!

WHERE: Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, Courtroom 236
Calvert & Fayette Streets (Calvert Street entrance), downtown Baltimore
WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
TIME: 1:30 p.m. (be very early so that we get seats and fill courtroom)
STRATEGY: Quiet, disciplined but organized support for Jack Johnson
GOAL: Jack Johnson, a beloved Black Panther, Must Come Home!

FOR INFORMATION OR FOR RIDE FROM D.C., call Black August Planning Organization at (202) 561-2898.


From An interview with Baltimore Black Panther Nana Njinga Conway, the wife of political prisoner
Eddie Conway
by POCC Minister of Information JR

We'll go back to how they manifested these false charges: In 1970, two police officers were attacked by what according to
police reports were three Black men who "they"
identified as members of the Black Panther Party.

When they arrested two members of the Black Panther Party, one of them was a man named Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson was beaten
and coerced into signing a statement that they wrote, and in that statement, it stated that he, Jack Johnson, and Jack Powell was the
other Panther that got arrested, were involved in the police shooting, and that Eddie Conway was also involved.

They beat Jack, and they beat him so bad that when we finally got access to Jack, he had so much bodily damage that we had to go to
court to get him taken to the hospital, to have him seen at the hospital. And he stayed in the hospital for a couple of days.

During that time, the lawyer who had access to him, Jack told him that he had been beaten to sign a confession that wasn't true.
But by that time they had gone to Eddie's job and picked him up and arrested him, and they were holding him without charging him.
So once Jack was under his own legal counsel, he recanted the statement, saying that he was coerced into signing the statement. So
they had no grounds to hold Eddie, but they continued to hold him.

And we continued to try to get him released because they had no case. Then the police officer who came to the assistance of the two
police officers down was taken into a room and given two stacked decks of pictures. In the two stacked decks of pictures, one stack had
maybe eight pictures in it, and the other might have had 12. I'm not certain on the numbers, but it was very low numbers in both

The only picture that was duplicated in both stacks was Eddie's. And that is the way in which they tell someone, "This is the
person we're looking for."
So they used a stacked deck and didn't have to, because they had his body there and could've put him in a lineup.
Then it would've been only the lineup, but they didn't do that. They had this police officer to testify and say that he saw the
person that was fleeing from him and shooting at him from a distance in a dark alley and said that that was Eddie. What they also
did was go into the Maryland House of Corrections and where they had a paid jail house informant.

That jail house informant had some more time to do in Jessup. I don't know how much time, but after he got through doing this time
in Jessup, he would be extradited to Michigan for some forgery charges, because he had some other charges to face.
What they did was cut a deal with him. They took him from Jessup and put him in city jail, which is unheard of. If you're gonna
extradite somebody, they take them directly to the other place, they don't risk the flight of a prisoner by moving him from one jail to
the other, just to the jail that they are taking him to.

But what they did was take him down and put him in Eddie's cell for a day, and in that day that he was in the cell with him, he went
to Michigan. And then probably on their instructions, he wrote back to the Baltimore police station and said that "I was in jail and in
the cell with Eddie Conway, and within the hours that I was in there with him, he confessed to me and told me that he killed the police

And then he told them that he could prove it, because also Eddie had told him that he had taken the officer's watch. And so they
used that to go into court with. Jack told his lawyer that when they put him on the stand to testify that Eddie was a part of it, he refused
to testify against Eddie.

What they did do was try to cut a deal with Jack and said that if you would go on and testify against him and keep this statement like we
got it "even though we're sure you have something to do with it" we'll give you complete immunity and drop you off of the
case. But Jack couldn't do it in good conscience, because he knew it was a lie, and he wouldn't do that.

ACLU suit to challenge isolation prisons

From the Los Angeles Times

Civil rights activists question the transfer of inmate Sabri Benkahla to a federal facility that drastically limits outside contact.
By Dean Kuipers

June 18, 2009

Civil rights activists plan to file a lawsuit today contesting the transfer of a Tunisian American prisoner to a federal prison facility that some inmates have dubbed "Little Guantanamo."

The suit by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Sabri Benkahla could be the first of many challenging the secretive units, which drastically restrict outside contact.

Benkahla was transferred to the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Ind., in 2007, eight months after his conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in a terrorism case. Prosecutors contended that he lied to a grand jury about his contact with an alleged Al Qaeda fundraiser and other terrorism suspects.

The Terre Haute unit opened in 2006. Another began operations last year at the federal prison in Marion, Ill.

The suit charges that the federal Bureau of Prisons violated Benkahla's right to due process by pulling him out of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center with no transfer paperwork, no hearing and no opportunity to contest his transfer beforehand. It also questions the legality of the units.

Similar suits are being prepared by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and by attorneys of other inmates, calling the specialized units an unwarranted expansion of the war on terrorism.

Inmates in the units get one 15-minute phone call a week and two two-hour visits a month. They have access to computers, a library, a basketball court and a religious library. Though the rules are more restrictive than those of most federal prisons, they are not as strict as the supermax facility in Florence, Colo., which houses terrorists such as unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.

The Bureau of Prisons said the list of inmates in the units was not a matter of public record. It said it needed to monitor communications involving the prisoners because they posed a public-security risk.

"The Communications Management Unit (CMU) was established to house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct, or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communications between the inmate and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security and orderly operation of Bureau facilities, and to protect the public," the bureau said in written response to questions from The Times.

But civil rights attorneys contend that the communications restrictions serve another purpose.

"These are political prisons," says Rachel Meeropol, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "These people are being targeted to limit their ability to communicate with the outside world, and to limit their ability to be political people."

David Shapiro, an attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project working on Benkahla's case, said, "The fact that somebody like Sabri is in the CMU really shows the need for better procedures before people are thrown in there and kept in there indefinitely."

Among the inmates at Marion is environmental activist Daniel McGowan, who was convicted in 2007 of burning a lumber company office in Oregon and facilities at an Oregon tree farm that marketed hybrid trees. Federal Judge Ann Aiken added a "terrorism enhancement" to his sentence for the political nature of his acts, resulting in a seven-year term.

In May 2008, McGowan was returning to his cell from lunch at Sandstone, a minimum-security prison in Minnesota, when guards told him to pack.

"My knees kind of buckled when I heard the term 'CMU,' " McGowan said in an interview with The Times. "I was on this bus, and I realized, 'Oh, my God. This is pretty much what my lawyer had said.' She said [to the judge], 'If you give him the terrorism enhancement, the BOP will treat him differently.' "

McGowan thinks he was put in the unit because he remained in contact with other activists and published a blog.

Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center and lead attorney in McGowan's case, notes that none of McGowan's co-defendants ended up in the CMU.

"What's different about Daniel?" she said. "The only difference is the outreach that he was doing and the voice that he had behind bars."

Benkahla was studying in Medina, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 when Saudi agents picked him up and shipped him back to the United States to face trial in Virginia on charges of providing material support to the Taliban. He was acquitted in 2004.

Federal prosecutors soon called him back before a grand jury, where he lied under oath about e-mail and phone contact with suspected jihadists during travels to Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan. Among the evidence federal prosecutors had were e-mails in which Benkahla talked of "studying in Afghan," and traveling to a place "far, far away" that was "top secret." Because the grand jury was part of a terrorism investigation, his recommended three-year sentence was extended to 10 years.

The ACLU lawsuit asks that Benkahla be transferred out of the CMU and that the units be shut down pending full approval under the process required by the federal Administrative Procedures Act. The lawsuit maintains that the Bureau of Prisons violated the provisions of the act by failing to issue a public notice or solicit comments when it set up the units.

The bureau contends that existing federal regulations allow it to set the conditions of prisoners' confinement.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Mumia article in SFBV Newspaper about civil rights investigation

by Hans Bennett

Hi folks,

this is my new article that just got released by the SF Bay View Newspaper, focusing on the campaign for a civil rights investigation for Mumia. It is a long article, but I thoroughly detail 5 key pieces of withheld evidence, and the article is broken into five sections accordingly. Please help spread the word about this campaign, and this article, which the SF Bay View Newspaper has granted permission for anyone to reprint, as long as the SFBV is cited as the original source.

Actions are being organized throughout the summer to support the campaign for a federal civil rights investigation, including at the upcoming NAACP convention in New York City, July 11-16. Organizers are focusing particularly on July 13, the day that Attorney General Holder will address the convention. Supporters will then be in Washington, D.C., on July 22 to lobby their elected officials and, in mid-September, they’ll return to Washington, D.C., for a major press conference. For more information on how you can support the campaign for a federal civil rights investigation, and to sign the online letter and petition to Attorney General Holder, please visit:

With this campaign, the movement supporting Mumia is fighting back after the US Supreme Court dealt such a terrible blow in April when it ruled to not consider Mumia's case for a new guilt phase trial. And, more outrageously, the court has YET to rule on the DA's appeal to execute Mumia without having a new sentencing hearing!

Let's fight back!

Hans Bennett

June 16, 2009

Citing withheld evidence, supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal call for civil rights investigation

by Hans Bennett
Despite a 2001 federal court decision overturning his death sentence, Mumia Abu-Jamal has never left his death row cell. – Photo: Prison Radio
Despite a 2001 federal court decision overturning his death sentence, Mumia Abu-Jamal has never left his death row cell. – Photo: Prison Radio

On April 6, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal from death-row journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial deemed unfair by Amnesty International, the European Parliament, the Japanese Diet, Nelson Mandela and numerous others. Citing the Supreme Court denial and several instances of withheld evidence, Abu-Jamal’s international support network is now calling for a federal civil rights investigation into Abu-Jamal’s case. The facts of the Abu-Jamal/Faulkner case are highly contested, but all sides agree on certain key points: Abu-Jamal was moonlighting as a taxi-driver on Dec. 9, 1981, when, shortly before 4 a.m., he saw his brother, William “Billy” Cook, in an altercation with Officer Faulkner after Faulkner had pulled over Cook’s car at the corner of 13th and Locust streets, downtown Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal approached the scene.
Minutes later when police arrived, Faulkner had been shot dead, and Abu-Jamal had been shot in the chest. The bullet removed from Faulkner, reportedly a .38, was officially too damaged to match it to the legally registered .38 caliber gun that Abu-Jamal says he carried as a taxi driver, after he was robbed several times on the job. Further, Amnesty International has criticized the official “failure of the police to test Abu-Jamal’s gun, hands, and clothing” for gunshot residue as “deeply troubling.”
Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence, and today still fights the conviction from his death-row cell in Waynesburg, Penn., where he also records weekly radio commentaries and has now written six books.
Recently, Abu-Jamal had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the U.S. Third Circuit Court ruling of March 27, 2008, which rejected his bid, based on three issues, for a new guilt-phase trial. One issue was that of racially discriminatory jury selection, based on the 1986 case Batson v. Kentucky, on which the three-judge panel split 2-1, with Judge Thomas Ambro dissenting.
Ambro argued that prosecutor Joseph McGill’s use of 10 out of his 15 peremptory strikes to remove otherwise acceptable African-American jurors was itself enough evidence of racial discrimination to grant Abu-Jamal a preliminary hearing that could have led to a new trial. In denying Abu-Jamal this preliminary hearing, Ambro argued that the court was creating new rules that were being exclusively applied to Abu-Jamal’s case. The denial “goes against the grain of our prior actions … I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents,” wrote Ambro.
This is the cover of J. Patrick O’Connor’s book on Mumia’s case.
This is the cover of J. Patrick O’Connor’s book on Mumia’s case.

In his new essay titled “The Mumia Exception,” author J. Patrick O’Connor argues that the Third Circuit Court’s rejection of the Batson claim and of the other two issues presented is only the latest example of the courts’ longstanding practice of altering existing precedent to deny Abu-Jamal legal relief. O’Connor cites many other problems, including the 2001 affidavit by a former court stenographer, who says that on the eve of Abu-Jamal’s trial, she overheard Judge Albert Sabo say to someone at the courthouse that he was going to “help” the prosecution “fry the nigger,” referring to Abu-Jamal. Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe rejected this affidavit on grounds that even if Sabo had made the comment, it was irrelevant as long as his “rulings were legally correct.” The phrase “Mumia exception” was first coined by Linn Washington Jr., a Philadelphia Tribune columnist and professor of journalism at Temple University, who has covered this story since the day of Abu-Jamal’s 1981 arrest. Washington criticizes the Third Circuit’s ruling against Abu-Jamal’s claim that Judge Sabo had treated him unfairly at the 1995-97 Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearings, which was another issue the Circuit Court had considered. Citing “the mound of legal violations in this case,” Washington says “the continuing refusal of U.S. courts to equally apply the law in the Abu-Jamal case constitutes a stain on America’s image internationally.”

Launched campaign cites withheld evidence

The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal are responding to the March 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling by launching a campaign calling for a federal civil rights investigation into Abu-Jamal’s case. The campaign’s supporters include the Riverside Church’s Prison Ministry, actress Ruby Dee, professor Cornel West and U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, who is chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
In 2004, the NAACP passed a resolution supporting a new trial for Abu-Jamal, and campaign supporters will be gathering to publicize the civil rights campaign at the upcoming NAACP National Convention in New York City July 11-16 and to pressure the NAACP to honor their earlier resolutions by actively supporting the current campaign seeking an investigation. Supporters will then be in Washington, D.C., on July 22 to lobby their elected officials and, in mid-September, they’ll return to Washington, D.C., for a major press conference.
Thousands of signatures have been collected for a public letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, which reads: “Inasmuch as there is no other court to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, we turn to you for remedy of a 27-year history of gross violations of U.S. constitutional law and international standards of justice.” The letter cites Holder’s recent investigation into the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens, which led to all charges against him being dropped: “You were specifically outraged by the fact that the prosecution withheld information critical to the defense’s argument for acquittal, a violation clearly committed by the prosecution in Abu-Jamal’s case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, though not a U.S. Senator of great wealth and power, is a Black man revered around the world for his courage, clarity and commitment and deserves no less than Senator Stevens.”

Supporters will be gathering to publicize the campaign for a federal civil rights investigation into Abu-Jamal’s case at the upcoming NAACP National Convention in New York City July 11-16.

Several campaigns seeking a civil rights investigation into the Abu-Jamal case have been launched since 1995, at which time the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was one of many groups that publicly supported an investigation. In a 1995 letter written independently of the CBC, Reps. Chaka Fattah, Ron Dellums, Cynthia McKinney, Maxine Waters and John Conyers - now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - stated, “There is ample evidence that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights were violated, that he did not receive a fair trial, and that he is, in fact, innocent.”
Among many political leaders around the world who speak out for justice for Mumia is former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, an avid supporter. Here she speaks at a Philadelphia rally for the world-renowned journalist on April 19, 2008. – Photo: Minister of Information JR
Among many political leaders around the world who speak out for justice for Mumia is former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, an avid supporter. Here she speaks at a Philadelphia rally for the world-renowned journalist on April 19, 2008. – Photo: Minister of Information JR

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois responded to the CBC’s request and, in a September 1995 rejection letter written to Congressman Ron Dellums, Fois conceded that even though there is a five-year statute of limitations for a civil rights investigation, the statute does not apply if “there is significant evidence of an ongoing conspiracy.” One of the 2009 campaign’s organizers is Dr. Suzanne Ross, a spokesperson for the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition of New York City.
Citing Andrew Fois’ letter, Ross argues that the “continued denial of justice to Mumia in the federal courts, as documented by dissenting Judge Thomas Ambro,” is evidence of an “ongoing conspiracy” and thus merits an investigation. “Throughout the history of this case, we were always told ‘Wait until we get to the federal courts. They will surely overturn the racism and gross misconduct of Judge Sabo,’ but we never got even a preliminary hearing on the issue considered most winnable: racial bias in jury selection, the so called Batson issue.”
Ross also criticizes the Third Circuit’s denial of Abu-Jamal’s claim that Judge Sabo was unfair at the 1995-97 PCRA hearings and considers this denial to be further evidence of an “ongoing conspiracy.” Ross argues that the courts’ continued affirmation of Sabo’s rulings during the PCRA hearings and Sabo’s ultimate ruling that nothing presented at the PCRA hearings was significant enough to merit a new trial serves to legitimize numerous injustices throughout Abu-Jamal’s case.
Specifically referring to the issue of withheld evidence that was central to the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens, organizer Suzanne Ross identifies five key instances in Abu-Jamal’s case where “evidence was withheld that could have led to Mumia’s acquittal.” The DA’s office withheld two items from Abu-Jamal’s defense: the actual location of the driver’s license application found in Officer Faulkner’s pocket and Pedro Polakoff’s crime scene photos. Then, at the request of prosecutor McGill, Judge Sabo ruled to block three items from the jury: prosecution eyewitness Robert Chobert’s probation status and criminal history; testimony from defense eyewitness Veronica Jones about police attempts to solicit false testimony; and testimony from Police Officer Gary Waskshul.

DA suppresses evidence about Kenneth Freeman

The title of Michael Schiffmann’s book, written in German, translates to “Race Against Death: Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Revolutionary in White America.” This is the cover.
The title of Michael Schiffmann’s book, written in German, translates to “Race Against Death: Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Revolutionary in White America.” This is the cover.

In their recent books, Michael Schiffmann (”Race Against Death: The Struggle for the Life and Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” 2006), and J. Patrick O’Connor (”The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” 2008) argue that the actual shooter of Officer Faulkner was a man named Kenneth Freeman. Schiffmann and O’Connor argue that Freeman was an occupant of Billy Cook’s car who shot Faulkner in response to Faulkner having shot Abu-Jamal first, and then fled the scene before police arrived. Central to Schiffmann and O’Connor’s argument was the presence of a driver’s license application for one Arnold Howard, which was found in the front pocket of Officer Faulkner’s shirt. Abu-Jamal’s defense would not learn about this until 13 years later, because the police and DA’s office had failed to notify them about the application’s crucial location. Journalist Linn Washington argues that this failure was “a critical and deliberate omission” and “a major violation of fair trial rights and procedures. If the appeals process had any semblance of fairness, this misconduct alone should have won a new trial for Abu-Jamal.”
More importantly, Washington says, “This evidence provides strong proof of a third person at the scene along with Faulkner and Billy Cook. The prosecution case against Abu-Jamal rests on the assertion that Faulkner encountered a lone Cook minutes before Abu-Jamal’s arrival on the scene, but Faulkner got that application from somebody other than Cook, who had his own license.”
At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Arnold Howard testified that he had loaned his temporary, non-photo license to Kenneth Freeman, who was Billy Cook’s business partner and close friend. Further, Howard stated that police came to his house early in the morning on Dec. 9, 1981, and brought him to the police station for questioning because he was suspected of being “the person who had run away” from the scene, but he was released after producing a 4 a.m. receipt from a drugstore across town - which provided an alibi - and telling them that he had loaned the application to Freeman, who Howard reports was also at the police station that morning.
Also pointing to Freeman’s presence in the car with Cook, O’Connor and Schiffmann cite prosecution witness Cynthia White’s testimony at Cook’s separate trial for charges of assaulting Faulkner, where White describes both a “driver” and a “passenger” in Cook’s VW. Also notable, investigative journalist Dave Lindorff’s book (”Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” 2003) features an interview with Cook’s lawyer, Daniel Alva, in which Alva says that Cook had confided to him within days of the shooting that Freeman had been with him that morning.
Linn Washington argues that “this third person at the crime scene is consistent with eyewitness accounts of the shooter fleeing the scene. Remember that accounts from both prosecution and defense witnesses confirm the existence of a fleeing shooter. Abu-Jamal was arrested at the scene, critically wounded. He did not run away and return in a matter of seconds.” Eyewitnesses Robert Chobert, Dessie Hightower, Veronica Jones, Deborah Kordansky, William Singletary and Marcus Cannon all reported, at various times, that they saw one or more men run away from the scene.
O’Connor writes that “some of the eyewitnesses said this man had an Afro and wore a green army jacket. Freeman did have an Afro and he perpetually wore a green army jacket. Freeman was tall and burly, weighing about 225 pounds at the time.” Then there’s eyewitness Robert Harkins, whom prosecutor McGill did not call as a witness. O’Connor postulates that the prosecutor made that decision because Harkins’ account of a struggle between Faulkner and the shooter that caused Faulkner to fall on his hands and knees before Faulkner was shot “demolished the version of the shooting that the state’s other witnesses rendered at trial.” O’Connor writes further that “Harkins described the shooter as a little taller and heavier than the 6-foot, 200-pound Faulkner,” which excludes the 6-foot-1-inch, 170-pound Abu-Jamal.
Journalism professor Linn Washington has covered Mumia’s fight for freedom from the beginning. Speaking at More Than a Book Party, the Philadelphia event April 24, 2009, celebrating the release of Mumia’s new book, “Jailhouse Lawyers,” he told the audience that Judge Albert Sabo, called the “hangman judge” even by the conservative Washington Times, has sentenced more defendants to death than any other judge in the U.S. – and that 75 percent of those death sentences have now been overturned. – Photo: Journalists for Mumia video
Journalism professor Linn Washington has covered Mumia’s fight for freedom from the beginning. Speaking at More Than a Book Party, the Philadelphia event April 24, 2009, celebrating the release of Mumia’s new book, “Jailhouse Lawyers,” he told the audience that Judge Albert Sabo, called the “hangman judge” even by the conservative Washington Times, has sentenced more defendants to death than any other judge in the U.S. – and that 75 percent of those death sentences have now been overturned. – Photo: Journalists for Mumia video

Linn Washington’s 2001 affidavit states that he knew Freeman to be a “close friend of Cook’s” and that “Cook and Freeman were constantly together.” Washington first met Freeman when Freeman reported his experience of police brutality to the Philadelphia Tribune, where Washington worked. Washington says today that “Kenny did not harbor any illusions about police being unquestioned heroes due to his experiences with being beaten a few times by police and police incessantly harassing him for his street vending.” Regarding the police harassment and intimidation of Freeman, which continued after the arrest of Abu-Jamal, Washington adds: “It is significant to note that the night after the Faulkner shooting, the newsstand that Freeman built and operated at 16th and Chestnut Streets in Center City burned to the ground. In news media accounts of this arson, police sources openly boasted to reporters that the arsonist was probably a police officer. Witnesses claimed to see officers fleeing the scene right before the fire was noticed. Needless to say, that arson resulted in no arrests.”
Dave Lindorff argues that the police clearly “had their eye on Freeman,” because “only two months after Faulkner’s shooting, Freeman was arrested in his home, where he was found hiding in his attic armed with a .22 caliber pistol, explosives and a supply of ammunition. At that time, he was not charged with anything.” O’Connor and Schiffmann argue that police intimidation ultimately escalated to the point where police themselves murdered Freeman.
The morning of May 14, 1985, Freeman’s body was found: naked, bound and with a drug needle in his arm. His cause of death was officially declared a “heart attack.” The date of Freeman’s death is significant because the night before his body was found, the police had orchestrated a military-style siege on the MOVE organization’s West Philadelphia home. Police had fired over 10,000 rounds of ammunition in 90 minutes and used a State Police helicopter to drop a C-4 bomb - illegally supplied by the FBI - on MOVE’s roof, which started a fire that destroyed the entire city block. The MOVE Commission later documented that police had shot at MOVE family members when they tried to escape the fire: In all, six adults and five children were killed.
Mumia’s allegiance to MOVE is reciprocated by these MOVE children speaking out for his freedom at last year’s Liberty Bell rally in Philly on the Fourth of July. – Photo: Joe Piette, Workers World
Mumia’s allegiance to MOVE is reciprocated by these MOVE children speaking out for his freedom at last year’s Liberty Bell rally in Philly on the Fourth of July. – Photo: Joe Piette, Workers World

As a local journalist, Abu-Jamal had criticized the city government’s conflicts with MOVE and, after his 1981 arrest, MOVE began to publicly support him. Through this mutual advocacy, which continues today, Abu-Jamal and MOVE’s contentious relationship with the Philadelphia authorities have always been closely linked. Seen in this context, Schiffmann argues that “if Freeman was indeed killed by cops, the killing probably was part of a general vendetta of the Philadelphia cops against their ‘enemies’ and the cops killed him because they knew or suspected he had something to do with the killing of Faulkner.” O’Connor concurs, arguing that “the timing and modus operandi of the abduction and killing alone suggest an extreme act of police vengeance.”

DA suppresses Pedro Polakoff’s crime scene photos

On Dec. 6, 2008, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, where Pam Africa, coordinator of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, spoke about the newly discovered crime scene photos taken by press photographer Pedro Polakoff. Africa cited Polakoff’s statements today that he approached the DA’s office with the photos in 1981, 1982 and 1995 but that the DA had completely ignored him.
Polakoff states that because he had believed Abu-Jamal was guilty, he had no interest in approaching the defense, and never did. Consequently, neither the 1982 jury nor the defense ever saw Polakoff’s photos. “The DA deliberately kept evidence out,” declared Africa. “Someone should be arrested for withholding evidence in a murder trial.”
Advocacy groups called Educators for Mumia and Journalists for Mumia explain in their fact sheet, “21 FAQs,” that Polakoff’s photos were first discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann in May 2006 and published that fall in his book, “Race Against Death.” One of Polakoff’s photos was first published in the U.S. by the San Francisco Bay View newspaper on Oct. 24, 2007.
In this photo taken by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff immediately after Officer Daniel Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal were shot but suppressed by the DA and never made public until May 2006, Officer James Forbes holds both Abu-Jamal’s and Faulkner’s guns in his bare hand, touching the metal parts. This contradicts his later court testimony that he had preserved the ballistics evidence by not touching the metal parts. This is the photo that had never been published in the U.S. until it appeared on the front page of the SF Bay View on Oct. 24, 2007. – Photo: © Pedro P. Polakoff III
In this photo taken by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff immediately after Officer Daniel Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal were shot but suppressed by the DA and never made public until May 2006, Officer James Forbes holds both Abu-Jamal’s and Faulkner’s guns in his bare hand, touching the metal parts. This contradicts his later court testimony that he had preserved the ballistics evidence by not touching the metal parts. This is the photo that had never been published in the U.S. until it appeared on the front page of the SF Bay View on Oct. 24, 2007. – Photo: © Pedro P. Polakoff III

Reuters followed with a Dec. 4, 2007, article, after which the photos made their television debut on NBC’s Dec. 6, 2007 Today Show. They have since been spotlighted by National Public Radio,, Counterpunch, The Philadelphia Weekly and the new British documentary “In Prison My Whole Life,” which features an interview with Polakoff. Since May, 2007, has displayed four of Polakoff’s photos, making the following points:
Photo 1: Mishandling the Guns - Officer James Forbes holds both Abu-Jamal’s and Faulkner’s guns in his bare hand and touches the metal parts. This contradicts his later court testimony that he had preserved the ballistics evidence by not touching the metal parts.
Photos 2 and 3: The Moving Hat - Faulkner’s hat is moved from the top of Billy Cook’s VW and placed on the sidewalk for the official police photo.
Photo 4: The Missing Taxi - Prosecution witness Robert Chobert testified that he was parked directly behind Faulkner’s car, but the space is empty in the photo.
The Missing Divots - In all of Polakoff’s photos of the sidewalk where Faulkner was found, there are no large bullet divots, or destroyed chunks of cement, which should be visible in the pavement if the prosecution scenario was accurate. According to that account, Abu-Jamal shot down at Faulkner - and allegedly missed several times - while Faulkner was on his back. Also, citing the official police photo, Michael Schiffmann writes: “It is thus no question any more whether the scenario presented by the prosecution at Abu-Jamal’s trial is true, because it is physically impossible.”
Pedro P. Polakoff was a Philadelphia freelance photographer who reports having arrived at the crime scene about 12 minutes after the shooting was first reported on police radio and at least 10 minutes before the arrival of the Mobile Crime Detection Unit that handles crime scene forensics and photographs. In Schiffmann’s interview with him, Polakoff recounted that “all the officers present expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook’s VW and had fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the car.” Polakoff bases this on police statements made to him directly and from his having overheard their conversations.
Polakoff states that this early police opinion was apparently the result of their interviews of three other witnesses who were still present at the crime scene: a parking lot attendant, a drug-addicted woman and another woman. None of those eyewitnesses, however, have appeared in any report presented to the courts by the police or the prosecution.
It is undisputed that Abu-Jamal approached from across the street and was not the passenger in Billy Cook’s car. Schiffmann argues that Polakoff’s personal account strengthens the argument that the actual shooter was Billy Cook’s passenger Kenneth Freeman, who, Schiffmann postulates, fled the scene before police arrived.

Robert Chobert’s legal status withheld from jury

At prosecutor Joseph McGill’s request, Judge Albert Sabo blocked Abu-Jamal’s defense from telling the 1982 jury that key prosecution eyewitness, taxi driver Robert Chobert, was on probation for throwing a molotov cocktail into a school yard, for pay. Sabo justified this by ruling that Chobert’s offense was not crimen falsi, i.e., a crime of deception. Consequently, the jury never heard about this, nor that on the night of Abu-Jamal’s arrest, Chobert had been illegally driving on a suspended license (revoked for a DWI). This probation violation could have given him up to 30 years in prison, so he was extremely vulnerable to pressure from the police. Notably, at the later 1995 PCRA hearing, Chobert testified that his probation had never been revoked, even though he continued to drive his taxi illegally through 1995.
At the 1982 trial, Chobert testified that he was in his taxi, which he had parked directly behind Faulkner’s police car, and was writing in his log book when he heard the first gunshot and looked up. Chobert alleged that while he did not see a gun in Abu-Jamal’s hand, nor a muzzle flash, he did see Abu-Jamal standing over Faulkner, saw Abu-Jamal’s hand “jerk back” several times, and heard shots after each “jerk.” After the shooting, Chobert stated that he got out and approached the scene.
Damaging Chobert’s credibility, however, is evidence suggesting that Chobert may have lied about his location at the time of Faulkner’s death. As noted earlier, the newly discovered Polakoff crime scene photos show that the space where Chobert testified to being parked directly behind Officer Faulkner’s car was actually empty.
Yet even more evidence suggests he lied about his location. While prosecution eyewitness Cynthia White is the only witness to testify seeing Chobert’s taxi parked behind Faulkner’s police car, no official eyewitness reported seeing White at the scene. Furthermore, Chobert’s taxi is missing both from White’s first sketch of the crime scene given to police (Defense Exhibit D-12) and from a later one (Prosecution Exhibit C-35). In a 2001 affidavit, private investigator George Michael Newman says that in a 1995 interview, Chobert told Newman that Chobert was actually parked around the corner, on 13th Street, north of Locust Street, and did not even see the shooting.
Amnesty International documents that both Chobert and White “altered their descriptions of what they saw, in ways that supported the prosecution’s version of events.” Chobert first told police that the shooter simply “ran away,” but after he had identified Abu-Jamal at the scene, he said the shooter had run away 30 to 35 “steps” before he was caught. At trial, Chobert changed this distance to 10 “feet,” which was closer to the official police account that Abu-Jamal was found just a few feet away from Officer Faulkner.
Nevertheless, Chobert did stick to a few statements in his trial testimony that contradicted the prosecution’s scenario. For example, Chobert declared that he did not see the apparently unrelated Ford car that, according to official reports, was parked in front of Billy Cook’s VW. Chobert also claimed that the altercation happened behind Cook’s VW (it officially happened in front of Cook’s VW), that Chobert did not see Abu-Jamal get shot or see Officer Faulkner fire his gun, and that the shooter was “heavyset” - estimating 200-225 pounds. Abu-Jamal weighed 170 pounds.
This is the cover of Dave Lindorff’s book on Mumia’s case.
This is the cover of Dave Lindorff’s book on Mumia’s case.

In his 2003 book, “Killing Time,” Dave Lindorff wrote about two other problems with Chobert’s account. While being so legally vulnerable, why would Chobert have parked directly behind a police car? Why would he have left his car and approached the scene if in fact the shooter were still there? Lindorff suggests that “at the time of the incident, Chobert might not have thought that the man slumped on the curb was the shooter,” because “in his initial Dec. 9 statement to police investigators, Chobert had said that he saw ‘another man’ who ‘ran away’ … He claimed in his statement that police stopped that man, but that he didn’t see him later.” Therefore, “if Chobert did think he saw the shooter run away, it might well explain why he would have felt safe walking up to the scene of the shooting as he said he did, before the arrival of police.”

The attempts to silence Veronica Jones

Veronica Jones was working as a prostitute at the crime scene on Dec. 9, 1981. She first told police on Dec. 15, 1981, that she had seen two men “jogging” away from the scene before police arrived. As a defense witness at the 1982 trial, Jones denied having made that statement; however, later in her testimony she started to describe a pre-trial visit from police: “They were getting on me telling me I was in the area and I seen Mumia, you know, do it. They were trying to get me to say something that the other girl [Cynthia White] said. I couldn’t do that.” Jones then explicitly testified that police had offered to let her and White “work the area if we tell them” what they wanted to hear regarding Abu-Jamal’s guilt.
At this point, prosecutor McGill interrupted Jones and moved to block her account, calling her testimony “absolutely irrelevant.” Judge Sabo agreed to block the line of questioning and strike the testimony and then ordered the jury to disregard Jones’ statement.
The DA and Sabo’s efforts to silence Jones continued through to the later PCRA hearings that started in 1995. Having been unable to locate Jones earlier, the defense found Jones in 1996, and, over the DA’s protests, obtained permission from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the PCRA hearings for Jones’ testimony. Sabo vehemently resisted - arguing that there was not sufficient proof of her unavailability in 1995. However, in 1995, Sabo had refused to order disclosure of Jones’ home address to the defense team.
Over Sabo’s objections, the defense returned to the state Supreme Court, which ordered Sabo to conduct a full evidentiary hearing. Sabo’s attempts to silence Jones continued as she took the stand. He immediately threatened her with five-10 years imprisonment if she testified to having perjured herself in 1982. In defiance, Jones persisted with her testimony that she had in fact lied in 1982, when she had denied her original account to police that she had seen two men “leave the scene.”
Jones testified that she had changed her version of events after being visited by two detectives in prison, where she was being held on charges of robbery and assault. Urging her to both finger Abu-Jamal as the shooter and to retract her statement about seeing two men “run away,” the detectives stressed that she faced up to 10 years in prison and the loss of her children if convicted. Jones testified in 1996 that in 1982, afraid of losing her children, she had decided to meet the police halfway: She did not actually finger Abu-Jamal, but she did lie about not seeing two men running from the scene. Accordingly, following the 1982 trial, Jones only received probation and was never imprisoned for the charges against her.
During the 1996 cross-examination, the DA announced that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Jones on charges of writing a bad check and that she would be arrested after concluding her testimony. With tears pouring down her face, Jones declared: “This is not going to change my testimony!” Despite objections from the defense, Sabo allowed New Jersey police to handcuff and arrest Jones in the courtroom.
While the DA attempted to use this arrest to discredit Jones, her determination in the face of intimidation may, arguably, have made her testimony more credible. Outraged by Jones’ treatment, even the Philadelphia Daily News, certainly no fan of Abu-Jamal, reported: “Such heavy-handed tactics can only confirm suspicions that the court is incapable of giving Abu-Jamal a fair hearing. Sabo has long since abandoned any pretense of fairness.”
Jones’ account was given further credibility a year later. At the 1997 PCRA hearing, former prostitute Pamela Jenkins testified that police had tried pressuring her to falsely testify that she saw Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner. In addition, Jenkins testified that in late 1981, Cynthia White - whom Jenkins knew as a fellow police informant - told Jenkins that she was also being pressured to testify against Abu-Jamal and that she was afraid for her life.
As part of a 1995 federal probe of Philadelphia police corruption, Officers Thomas F. Ryan and John D. Baird were convicted of paying Jenkins to falsely testify that she had bought drugs from a Temple University student. Jenkins’ 1995 testimony in this probe helped to convict Ryan, Baird and other officers and also to dismiss several dozen drug convictions. At the 1997 PCRA hearing, Jenkins testified that this same Thomas F. Ryan was one of the officers who attempted to have her lie about Abu-Jamal.
More recently, a 2002 affidavit by former prostitute Yvette Williams described police coercion of Cynthia White. The affidavit reads: “I was in jail with Cynthia White in December of 1981 after Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed. Cynthia White told me the police were making her lie and say she saw Mr. Jamal shoot Officer Faulkner when she really did not see who did it … Whenever she talked about testifying against Mumia Abu-Jamal, and how the police were making her lie, she was nervous and very excited and I could tell how scared she was from the way she was talking and crying.”
Explaining why she is just now coming out with her affidavit, Williams says: “I feel like I’ve almost had a nervous breakdown over keeping quiet about this all these years. I didn’t say anything because I was afraid. I was afraid of the police. They’re dangerous.” Williams’ affidavit was rejected by Philadelphia Judge Pamela Dembe in 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February 2008 and, in October 2008, by the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a press conference in Philadelphia Dec. 4, 2007, Hans Bennett shows slides of the Pedro Polakoff crime scene photos. This one, known as “The Moving Hat,” shows Officer Faulkner’s hat on the top of Billy Cook’s VW. For the official police photo, it had been placed on the sidewalk. – Photo: Journalists for Mumia video
At a press conference in Philadelphia Dec. 4, 2007, Hans Bennett shows slides of the Pedro Polakoff crime scene photos. This one, known as “The Moving Hat,” shows Officer Faulkner’s hat on the top of Billy Cook’s VW. For the official police photo, it had been placed on the sidewalk. – Photo: Journalists for Mumia video

Further supporting the contention that police had made a deal with White, author J. Patrick O’Connor writes: “Prior to her becoming a prosecution witness in Abu-Jamal’s case, White had been arrested 38 times for prostitution … After she gave her third statement to the police, on December 17, 1981, she would not be arrested for prostitution in Philadelphia ever again even though she admitted at Billy Cook’s trial that she continued to be ‘actively working.’” Amnesty International reports that later, in 1987, White was facing charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of illegal weapons. A judge granted White the right to sign her own bail and she was released after a special request was made by Philadelphia Police Officer Douglas Culbreth - where Culbreth cited her involvement in Abu-Jamal’s trial. After White’s release, she skipped bail and has never, officially, been seen again.
At the 1997 PCRA hearing, the DA announced that Cynthia White was dead, and presented a death certificate for a “Cynthia Williams,” who died in New Jersey in 1992. However, Amnesty International reports, “an examination of the fingerprint records of White and Williams showed no match and the evidence that White is dead is far from conclusive.”
Journalist C. Clark Kissinger writes, a Philadelphia police detective “testified that the FBI had ‘authenticated’ that Williams had the same fingerprints as White.” However, Kissinger continues, “the DA’s office refused to produce the actual fingerprints,” and “the body of Williams was cremated so that no one could ever check the facts! Finally, the Ruth Ray listed on the death certificate as the mother of the deceased Cynthia Williams has given a sworn statement to the defense that she is not the mother of either Cynthia White or Cynthia Williams.” Dave Lindorff reports further that the listing of deaths by social security number for 1992 and later years does not include White’s number.

Gary Wakshul’s testimony blocked

On the final day of testimony during the original trial, Abu-Jamal’s lawyer discovered Police Officer Gary Wakshul’s official statement in the police report from the morning of Dec. 9, 1981. After riding with Abu-Jamal to the hospital and guarding him until treatment for his gunshot wound, Wakshul reported: “The negro male made no comment.” This statement contradicted the trial testimony of prosecution witnesses Gary Bell, a police officer, and Priscilla Durham, a hospital security guard, who testified that they had heard Abu-Jamal confess to the shooting while Abu-Jamal was awaiting treatment at the hospital.
When the defense immediately sought to call Wakshul as a witness, the DA reported that he was on vacation. Judge Sabo denied the defense request to locate him for testimony, on grounds that it was too late in the trial to even take a short recess so that the defense could attempt to locate Wakshul. Consequently, the jury never heard from Wakshul, nor about his contradictory written report. When an outraged Abu-Jamal protested, Judge Sabo replied: “You and your attorney goofed.”
Wakshul’s report from Dec. 9, 1981, is just one of the many reasons cited by Amnesty International for their conclusion that Bell’s and Durham’s trial testimonies were not credible. There are many other problems that merit a closer look if we are to determine how important Wakshul’s 1982 trial testimony could have been.
The alleged “hospital confession,” in which Abu-Jamal reportedly shouted, “I shot the motherf***er and I hope he dies,” was first officially reported to police over two months after the shooting, by hospital guards Priscilla Durham and James LeGrand on Feb. 9, 1982, by Police Officer Gary Wakshul on Feb. 11, by Officer Gary Bell on Feb. 25, and by Officer Thomas M. Bray on March 1. Of these five, only Bell and Durham were called as prosecution witnesses.
When Durham testified at the trial, she added something new to her story which she had not reported to the police on Feb. 9. She now claimed that she had reported the confession to her supervisor the next day, on Dec. 10, making a handwritten report. Neither her supervisor nor the alleged handwritten statement was ever presented in court. Instead, the DA sent an officer to the hospital, returning with a suspicious typed version of the alleged Dec. 10 report. Sabo accepted the unsigned and unauthenticated paper despite both Durham’s disavowal - because it was typed and not handwritten - and the defense’s protest that its authorship and authenticity were unproven.
Gary Bell, Faulkner’s partner and self-described “best friend,” testified that his two month memory lapse had resulted from his having been so upset over Faulkner’s death that he had forgotten to report it to police.
Later, at the 1995 PCRA hearings, Wakshul testified that both his contradictory report made on Dec. 9, 1981 - “The negro male made no comment” - and the two month delay were simply bad mistakes. He repeated his earlier statement given to police on Feb. 11, 1982, that he “didn’t realize it [Abu-Jamal's alleged confession] had any importance until that day.” Contradicting the DA’s assertion of Wakshul’s unavailability in 1982, Wakshul also testified in 1995 that he had in fact been home for his 1982 vacation and available for trial testimony, in accordance with explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could testify if called.
Just days before his PCRA testimony, undercover police officers savagely beat Wakshul in front of a sitting judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where Wakshul worked as a court crier. The two attackers, Kenneth Fleming and Jean Langen, were later suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, Dave Lindorff and J. Patrick O’Connor speculate that the beating may have been used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.
Regarding Abu-Jamal’s alleged confession, Amnesty International concluded: “The likelihood of two police officers and a security guard forgetting or neglecting to report the confession of a suspect in the killing of another police officer for more than two months strains credulity.”

Conclusion: The DA still wants to execute

You can join the thousands of supporters around the world in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation into Mumia’s case by going to and signing the petition. – Photo: AP
You can join the thousands of supporters around the world in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation into Mumia’s case by going to and signing the petition. – Photo: AP

“The urgent need for a civil rights investigation is heightened because the DA is still trying to execute Mumia,” emphasizes Dr. Suzanne Ross, an organizer of the campaign seeking an investigation. This past March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a new guilt-phase trial, but the Court has yet to rule on whether to hear the appeal made simultaneously by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, which seeks to execute Abu-Jamal without granting him a new penalty-phase trial. In March 2008, the Third Circuit Court affirmed Federal District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision “overturning” the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Albert Sabo’s instructions to the jury were potentially confusing, and that therefore jurors could have mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.
According to the 2001 ruling, affirmed in 2008, if the DA wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a new penalty-phase jury trial. In such a penalty hearing, new evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence could be presented, but the jury could only choose between execution and a life sentence without parole.
The DA is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court against this 2008 affirmation of Yohn’s ruling. If the court rules in the DA’s favor, Abu-Jamal can be executed without benefit of a new sentencing hearing. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the DA’s appeal, the DA must either accept the life sentence for Abu-Jamal or call for the new sentencing hearing. Meanwhile, Mumia Abu-Jamal has never left his death row cell.

How you can help

Actions are being organized throughout the summer to support the campaign for a federal civil rights investigation, including at the upcoming NAACP convention in New York City, July 11-16. Organizers are focusing particularly on July 13, the day that Attorney General Holder will address the convention. Supporters will then be in Washington, D.C., on July 22 to lobby their elected officials and, in mid-September, they’ll return to Washington, D.C., for a major press conference. For more information on how you can support the campaign for a federal civil rights investigation, and to sign the online letter and petition to Attorney General Holder, please visit:
Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media journalist ( and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal ( Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bennett has been researching Abu-Jamal’s case for over 10 years and lived in Philadelphia for seven years, documenting the movement to free Mumia and all political prisoners from the frontlines of the struggle.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lauren Gazzola needs lawyer


SHAC 7 prisoner Lauren Gazzola ( is in need of a lawyer
in Connecticut. Lauren is having a legal issue and is attempting to find a
lawyer near Danbury, Connecticut that would be able to visit her in prison
to have a privileged conversation with her regarding a legal issue.

Unfortunately, due to her incarceration, we are unaware of what the issue
is and are as such unable to give any real details to lawyers who may be
interested or willing to help. So please, if you know anyone willing to
visit her or if you yourself are a lawyer, send Lauren a letter so she may
get you a visiting form for the prison. Her address is:

Lauren Gazzola
FCI Danbury
Federal Correctional Institution

Route #37
Danbury, CT 06811

Thanks so much.
-Lauren's Support Committee

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dutch prisoners need support

Urgent ELP! Bulletin (12th of June 2009)
Dear friends
In April ELP reported the jailing of a Dutch animal rights activist, Peter Janssen, who has been accused of involvement in a raid on a mink farm. A second person who was arrested at the same time as Peter was later released without charge. However since then ELP has learnt of a third arrest. The third person is Naomi van der Pol and she has been remanded into custody. Naomi has been in prison for a month and a half now without any support, so it is vital we send her lots of messages of support from all around the world.
Therefore please send urgent letters of support to both Peter and Naomi to remind them they are not alone and they have our support. Both can receive message of support in English.
Naomi van der Pol
P.I. Breda
Naomi van der Pol 6496122
Celnummer 24b
Postbus 2274
4800 CG Breda

Peter Janssen
PI Noordsingel
Peter Janssen 5102880
Postbus 37066
3005 LB Rotterdam
If you would rather e-mail a message of support please send your e-mails to:
Peter Janssen:
Naomi van der Pol:
Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

Thursday, June 11, 2009

6/15: 10th Annual Peoples’ Reception 4 the United Nations Delegation from Puerto Rico

Monday, June 15, 2009 at 6:30pm

John Jay College

445 West 59th Street, Room 2200, 2nd Floor (between 9th and10th Avenue, Manhattan)

Suggested donation: $5-$10 (no one will be turned away)

Light Refreshments Will Be Served

Proceeds Will Go To Help Pay The Fines Of The DC 6

By Train: A, B, C, D and #1 Trains To 59th Street/Columbus Circle

Every year a delegation from Puerto Rico comes to the United Nations to testify at the De-Colonization Committee hearings to make the case for the liberation of Puerto Rico, Vieques and the release of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and POWs.

On June 9th, the General Assembly of the U.N. held a Thematic Dialogue on Democracy, Decolonization and Human Rights and
Puerto Rico was included. This can be an important step towards placing Puerto Rico on a future agenda.

This year our reception/forum is an opportunity to hear and dialogue with activists from Vieques, the independence movement, the socialist movement, political prisoner work, the labor movement and much more. Updates
will also include:

Labor Struggle in Puerto Rico, FBI Repression of the Independence Movement, and the current Economic Crisis!

Invited Panelists*

Benjamin Ramos
Rosado, The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign

Myrna Pagán, Comité
ProRescate y Desarrollo de Vieques

Luis Suarez, DC 6
and DC 6 Attorney Manuel Rivera

Frank Velgara,
Movimiento de Afirmación Viequense (MAVI)

Manuel Rodriguez
Banchs, Esq., Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS)

Juan González
Pedrosa, Comité de Familiares y Amigos de Avelino González Claudio

Jorge Limeres,
Comité Pro-Independencia de Hartford, Connecticut

Angelica Costa
Buono, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico (FS)

Ricardo Santos,
Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST)

*Partial list all petitioners are invited to participate.

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign For more information on the reception/forum please contact: or call the ProLibertad Hotline: 718-601-4751, or visit our website:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keep Daniel McGowan's Post Alive!

Please keep Daniel's blog active - POST A COMMENT, even if you just say a few words. It is VERY IMPORTANT that this story remains in the public eye as much as possible. We need all the attention we can get.
Twitter, Share, Buzz up, Digg, Facebook, etc - do it up!!

For the rest of the article (resources, citations, endnotes, links) and to download as a PDF, please go here:


Thank you.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan

Court won't hear appeal by arsonist

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday in Washington, D.C., it will not consider an appeal of the prison sentence of an arsonist who pleaded guilty to torching a Medford timber company office.

Kendall Tankersley, 31, of Arizona pleaded guilty in 2006 to arson and attempted arson of a U.S. Forest Industries Inc. office on Whittle Avenue in Medford in December 1998. She appealed her 41-month sentence. The blaze caused damage estimated at $500,000.

She argued her sentence was excessive because she was one of the least culpable of those arrested.

Tankersley and nine others were convicted in federal court in Eugene of a conspiracy involving 20 arsons in five Western states from 1996 through 2001 which authorities estimated caused some $27.8 million in damage.

Some were linked to the Earth Liberation Front while others were believed to be part of the Animal Liberation Front.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Tales from Inside the U.S. Gitmo (Daniel McGowan on Huffington Post!!)


Hello Friends,

Daniel has an article on The Huffington Post today!
Please comment on the article so it gets seen by all and makes it on the home page!
Digg it, Twitter it, Share, become a fan, Buzz up, etc. Do it all! Please spread the word in every way possible.

It is very important that people read this article and investigate the Communication Management Units.

Thank you!!!
Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan

Tales from Inside the U.S. Gitmo

As of May 2009, I have been at USP Marion's "Communication Management Unit," or CMU, for roughly nine months and now is a good time to address the misconceptions (and the silence) regarding this unit. I want to offer a snapshot of my day-to-day life here as well as some analysis of what the existence of CMUs in the federal prison system implies. It is my hope that this article will partially fill the void of information that exists concerning the CMU, will help dispel rumors, and will inspire you to support those of us on the inside fighting the existence of these isolation units -- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion.

It is best to start from the beginning -- or at least where my story and the CMU meet. My transfer here is no different from that of many of the men here who were living at Federal Correctional Institutions (normal prisons) prior to the genesis of the CMUs. On May 12, 2008, on my way back from a decent lunch, I was told to report to "R&D" (receiving and discharge). I was given two boxes and half an hour to pack up my meager possessions. After complying I was placed in the SHU (secure housing unit or "hole") and put on a bus the next day. There was no hearing and no information given to me or my attorneys -- only after a day was I told I was on my way to Marion, Illinois' CMU.

Hearing the term "CMU" made my knees buckle as it drummed up some memory I had of the infamous "control units" at Marion (closed in 1995 and replaced by Florence ADX: the lone Federal "Supermax" prison). Then it hit me. The lawyers, in challenging the application of the terrorist enhancement in my case, made the prescient argument that if I receive the enhancement, the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) would use that to place me in the CMU at FCI Terre Haute, Indiana (at the time just 5 months old). In fact, on the way to FCI Sandstone in August 2007, I not only saw the CMU but met one of its residents while in transit. Let me back up and offer a brief history of the Communication Management Units.

The CMU I reside in, at USP Marion, received its first prisoner in May 2008 and when I arrived, held about 17 men, the majority of whom were Muslim. Currently, the unit has 25, with a capacity of 52 cells. In April 2009, we received seven new people, all of whom were from the CMU at FCI Terre Haute. The unit is overwhelmingly Muslim with 18 men identifying as such. Most, but not all of the prison, have so-called terrorism cases. According to a BoP spokesperson, the unit "will not be limited to inmates convicted of terrorism-related cases through all of the prisoners fit that description." Others have prison disciplinary violation or allegations related to communication and the misuse of telephones etc. Here, almost everyone has a terrorism related case -- whether it is like my case (destruction of property characterized as "domestic terrorism") or conspiracy and "providing material aid" cases.

Before the Marion CMU opened, there was the original CMU, opened in December 2006 at the former death row at FCI Terre Haute. According to early articles, the unit was intended for "second tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims and a less restrictive version of the Supermax in Florence, Colorado."

Additionally, BoP Director Harley Lappin, in a July 2008 hearing on the 2009 BoP budget request, said of the CMUs, "A lot of the more serious offenders, terrorists, were housed at ADX Florence. So, we are ramping up two communications management units that are less restrictive but will ensure that all mail and phone calls of the offenders are monitored on a daily basis."

Terre Haute's CMU has 36 men (27 of whom are Muslim) and is roughly comparable to Marion's CMU. The rest of this place focuses on the latter, in which I have resided and of which I have seen firsthand.

You may be curious about just what a CMU actually is. From my correspondence, I can tell that many correspondents do not know much about what goes on here. I hope this can clear up any misperceptions. According to the BoP,

The CMU is [sic] established to house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public...The CMU is a self-contained general population housing unit.

There are, of course, alternate views to the above definition including the belief that the CMUs are Muslim units, a political prisoner unit (similar to the HSU operated by the BoP in the 80's, and a punishment unit.

The CMUs have an extremely high Muslim population; here at Marion, it is 65-75%. An overrepresentation of any one demographic in a prison raises constitutional issues of equal protection as well as safety issues. Nowhere in the BoP will you find any group represented in such extreme disproportion. To counter these claims, the BoP brought in a small number of non-Muslims to be used as proof that the units are not strictly Muslim (an interesting note is that some of the Muslim men here have cases unrelated to terrorism). Does the inclusion of six people that are non-Muslim really negate the claim of segregation though? What are the criteria for determining who comes to the CMU? The BoP claims there are 211 international terrorists (and 1000 domestic terrorists) in their system. Yet, the CMUs have no more than 60 men at the present time. Where are the rest of these people? How does the BOP determine who of those 1200 are sent to a CMU and who to normal prisons? These are questions that need to be asked -- in court and in the media.

Many of the men here (both Muslim and non) are considered political prisoners in their respective movements and have been engaged in social justice, religious organizations, charities and humanitarian efforts. Another conception of the CMU is that it is a location designed to isolate us from our movements and to act as a deterrent for others from those movements (as in "step outside the line and you too will end up there"). The intended effect of long-term housing of this kind is a profound sense of dislocation and alienation. With your mail, email, phones, and visits monitored and no human touch allowed at the visits, it is difficult to feel a connection to "the streets." There is historical evidence of the BoP utilizing political prisons -- despite the fact that the Department of Justice refuses to acknowledge the concept of political prisoners in US prisons, choosing to call us "criminal" instead.

The Lexington High Security Unit (HSU) was one such example. Having opened its 16-bed facilities in 1988 and housing a number of female political prisoners, the HSU functioned as an isolation unit -- underground, bathed in fluorescence, and limited interaction with staff. In the opinion of Dr. Richard Korn, speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the unit's goal was " reduce prisoners to a state of submission essential for their ideological conversion. That failing, the next objective is to reduce them as efficient, self-directing antagonists. That failing, the only alternative is to destroy them by making them destroy themselves."

After an arduous campaign by human rights advocates and supporters, the BoP capitulated, stating it would close its facility (when it did not, it was sued). The judge ruled that the plaintiffs were illegally designated based on their past political affiliations, statements and political beliefs. The unit was closed and the women were transferred to other prisons.

The correlations between the HSU and CMU are many and seem to have some of the same goals as well as methods used to designate us here. Knowing they are dealing with people committed to ideals and the movements they are a part of, we were placed here in order to weaken those connections and harm our relationships. An example is the horrendous strain that the CMU puts on our familial relations -- especially our marriages. It was certainly considered by the architects of the CMU that preventing visits that allow human touch for long-term prisoners would have a disastrous impact on our relationships and would lead to weaker inmates.

Finally, the CMU can be viewed as "the stick" -- a punitive unit for those who don't play ball or who continue to express political beliefs anathema to the BoP or the US government. Although I am not aware of the BoP's criteria for sending people here (due to their refusal to release specific CMU information), it is curious who is and who is not here. Out of roughly 18 codefendants in my criminal case, I am the only one at a CMU (the remainder of them are at low and medium security prisons). The same goes for a member of the SHAC7 campaign, Andrew Stepanian, one of 6 defendants in his case who was sent here for the last 6 months of his sentence. Other men here have codefendants at the Terre Haute CMU while others have codefendants at normal federal prisons. Despite numerous Freedom of Information Requests, the BoP refuses to grant the documents that specify the rules governing transfer to the CMU. Remember, hardly any of the men here have received any disciplinary violations and some have been in general population over 15 years! How can someone be okay in general population for that long and then one day be seen as a communication threat?

So, I have hypothesized about the goals of the CMU. Let me discuss the many problems and injustices associated with the existence of the CMUs.

Due process

More appropriately, a lack thereof. A term I never thought much about before my imprisonment, due process is:

...the conduct of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for the protection and enforcement of private rights, including notice and the right to hearing before a tribunal [my emphasis] with the power to decide the case.

I was moved from FCI Sandstone, against my will and at a moment's notice, with no hearing and thus no chance to contest the reason for my transfer. A FOIA request recently received states I was redesignated May 6th, my transfer was signed the next day and I was moved on May 13th with the reason given as "program participation". Since I got here, I have not had a hearing to contest the claims made in the "Notice to Inmate of Transfer to CMU, " some of which were woefully inaccurate. Instead, I was told I can utilize the administrative remedy process (which I have done to no avail) and request a transfer after 18 months of "clear conduct".

The irony is that all prisoners who violate prison rules are subject to a series of disciplinary hearings in which they could offer their defense. For legal units such as Florence ADX (Supermax) or the control unit program, there exists a codified set of rules and hearings for transfer to these locations. The BoP has deliberately ignored this process and has instead transferred us to this special, brand-new CMU without due process. My notice of transfer was given to me 12 days after I arrived!

Similar to the callous disregard for due process (and the US Constitution), there is no "step down" process for the CMU. Unlike the ones that exist at Florence ADX, control units or even the gang units, the CMU has no stages, no requisite amount of time we are to spend here before being sent back to a normal prison.

Because these preceding programs are specifically for prison misbehavior, there is a logical and orderly way to finish the program and eventually transfer. For us, the BoP has set up a paradox -- if we are here for our offense conduct, which we cannot ever change, how can we reasonably leave the unit? In its "Admissions and Orientation" guide for Marion's CMU, here is what they say:

Every new commitment to the CMU will be evaluated by his unit team regarding his suitability for incarceration in this institution. If, for some reason, the inmate is deemed not acceptable for confinement in this unit, he will be processed as expeditiously as possible...

[I am still roughly 10 months from my 18-month period in which I must wait before requesting a transfer. Considering the fact that all my remedies have been denied, I am not hopeful about this.]

CMU as Secret

In addition to the due process and transfer issues, there is the secretive and illegal manner that the CMU was created (Note: for historical perspectives, it needs to be stated that the CMU was established roughly halfway through the second term of George W. Bush and his Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.)

In April 2006, the BoP proposed a "Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates" policy, which suggested new restrictions for "terrorists" and "terrorism related inmates" such as:

1) One 6-page letter per week.

2) One 15-minute phone call a month.

3) One 1-hour visit a month.

A coalition of civil rights organizations signed a letter of protest criticizing the proposed rules and raising numerous constitutional, practical and ethical objectives. The outcry appears to have caused the BoP to reconsider it and just 6 months later, open the CMU at FCI Terre Haute quietly. Since the BoP never sought public comment on the new CMU, it certainly appears to be a violation of the Administrative Procedural Act (APA), an argument a federal judge in Miami raised in response to a prisoner's legal challenge to transfer to the CMU.

The unit is functionally an open secret. While the BoP circumvented the standard public comment (and feedback process), it has sought to get around this by describing the CMU as a "self-contained general population unit," implying that the unit is legally and penally no different than a normal unit at an FCI. There is no mention of the CMU on the BoP's website ( or USP Marion's subpage on the same site. You will not find extensive Congressional hearings on the subject -- other than a July 2008 subcommittee hearing in which it appears that the BoP director was not fully forthcoming on the CMU36. Letters here are stamped "USP Marion," not CMU, and the unit is called "I Unit" by staff. (An interesting anecdote: while on transit in Winter 2009, I met men from the FCI here and asked them what they knew about I Unit. Without hesitation, they said, "That's where the terrorists are." They informed me this is what BoP Staff routinely told them.)

Media queries are met with silence or vague information. Requests by the media to interview me by coming to Marion have been denied -- due to it "being detrimental to the safety, security and good order of the institution." There still is no Program Statement on the CMU -- a legal requirement, outlining the specific rules of the CMU and its designation criteria.

Because of this, and the general refusal of the BoP to hand over relevant documents through FOIA, it is impossible to determine the specific reasons why one is sent here -- and thus, how to contest this process. In effect, the CMU was created on the fly, with no eye toward legality; they are free to operate it in whatever manner they choose.

Communication Management (The Promotion of Isolation and Alienation)

The most painful aspect of this unit, to me, is how the CMU restricts my contact with the world beyond these walls. It is difficult for those who have not known prison to understand what a lifeline contact with our family and friends is to us. It is our link to the world -- and our future (for those of us who are fortunate enough to have release dates). Prison authorities and architects are well aware that those with strong family ties and in good communication with their loved ones are well behaved and have significantly lower rates of recidivism. The BoP, in theory, recognizes this by claiming they try to situate us within 500 miles of our homes. Mostly, this is a cruel farce for many prisoners -- I have not been within 1000 miles of my family in 2 years.

The most Orwellian aspects of the CMU are in how they manage our communications:

A) Telephones- at my previous prison, I was able to use the phones for 300 minutes a month -- days, nights, weekends and holidays -- basically at any point I was not in my housing unit (6am-10pm). Here, we receive one 15-minute phone call a week. The call can only take place between 8am and 2:30pm, never on weekends or holidays and must be scheduled one and a half weeks in advance (we can choose a back-up number to call but if neither picks up, we don't get a call). The call is live-monitored and recorded. Not only do we receive one fifth of the minutes granted to other federal prisoners but the call is also very trying for our families -- all of whom have day jobs and many of whom have children in school. The CMU requires calls be made in English only -- a difficult demand considering over half of the men here speak English as a second language (this restriction is not present at other federal prisons).

B) Visits- At FCI Sandstone, I received up to eight visiting days a month (56 hours) -- contact visits in which I could embrace my wife, play cards with my nieces and share vending machine food with my visitors. These visits were my lifeline. I got about twelve of them in eight months and it aided in my adjustment to prison.

The CMU restricts our visits to one four-hour non-contract visit a month. One short visit through two inches of plate glass with cameras hanging overhead and my visitors stuffed in a four-and-a-half by three-and-a-half-foot stuffy booth -- a tight squeeze for two. The visits can only take place on weekdays from 8am-2pm -- no more Christmas or Thanksgiving visits -- and worse, no physical contact (Consider what it would be like to have no contact with your loved ones. What if you couldn't hug or kiss your lover, partner, wife, husband? What would that do to you?) I find myself riddled with guilt when I ask friends to spend $500 to fly across the country, drive three hours (and repeat) for a four-hour non-contact visit. I'm lucky though, having people who will do this. Many of the men here can't afford it or don't want to subject their children to this reality.

C) Mail- We can only send out mail once a day and we cannot visit the mail room to send out packages. We are one-hundred-percent reliant on the one staff person who deals with our mail to do so and sending a box home is a laborious procedure. We must leave our envelopes unsealed so that staff can read, copy, scan and send to whatever other agency studies our correspondence. A letter to NYC takes roughly seven to nine days (which should take five). Letters sent abroad, especially those not written in English, could take a month or more -- a common complaint of some of my fellow prisoners.

Staff here has an interesting reading of the rules governing legal mail leading to the charge that they open our legal mail (this is the subject of an administrative remedy I filed with the BoP Central Office in Washington DC). The rule states that the lawyer's name must be clearly identified and that the envelope must say "Special Mail- Open only in the presence of inmates" and yet staff has opened my legal mail that said "Law Offices of Jane Doe" stating that it should have said, "Jane Doe, Attorney at Law"! The staff looks for any reason to disqualify our legal mail as protected and gather intelligence this way. In doing so, they violate the sanctity of the attorney-client confidentiality principle.

Most of my violations have been petty -- a package has more than twenty pieces of paper or a friend kindly enclosed stamps. A few instances though amount to censorship and a limiting of political _expression and dialogue. See Appendix B for a detailed discussion of these instances.

D) Media Contact- Although requests have been made to interview people in the CMU, none have been granted to date. This is a violation of the spirit of the BoP's own media policy. There is an imperative on the Bureau's part to control and ultimately suppress information on the CMU from making it to a mass audience.

Daily Life at the CMU

Neither one of the two CMUs were built for long-term habitation. The Marion CMU was the site of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), the USP that closed here in 2005. Terre Haute's CMU is in "D-wing" -- the site of the former federal death row.

The CMU was seemingly converted to its current use with the addition of televisions, steel tables, and new wiring and yet it is not suitable for long-term use due to its "open cell" design (i.e. with bars). With 25 prisoners, our movements are restricted to two housing ranges (hallways about 100 by 12 feet); a recreation range where we also eat (consisting of seven cells with a computer, typewriter, barber shop, religious library, social library, art room and recreational equipment); and a small rec yard (all concrete, a lap equals one-eighteenth of a mile, four cages with two basketball hoops, one handball court, a weather awning with tables and some sit-up benches). We are lucky to be visited daily by a resident bird population of doves and blackbirds, and overhead, the occasional hawk or falcon (ironically, as I write this, I overhear warnings from staff that if we continue to feed the birds, we will receive violations). The appearance of the yard with its cages, concrete, and excessive barbed wire has earned it nickname "Little Guantanamo" (of course a punitive unit with seventy-five percent Muslims also contributes to the name as well).

The conditions here are not dire -- in fact, the horror stories I have heard over the last two years have convinced me it is far worse at many prisons and yet, I believe it is important to be descriptive and accurate -- to dispel fears (about violence, for instance) but also to demonstrate just how different life is for us at the CMU.

There are many things we lack here that other prisons in the federal system have to offer:

1- A residential drug/alcohol program- despite at least one person here having completion of it ordered by the court.

2- Enough jobs for the prisoners here- There is not nearly enough jobs for all the men here and most are extremely low paying.

3- UNICOR- This is Federal Prison Industries which has shops at many federal prisons (including this one outside the CMU). These jobs pay much more, allow men to pay their court fees, restitution and child support and, as the BoP brags, teaches people job skills.

4- Adequate educational opportunities- Until recently, we did not have GED or vocational programs. Due to inmate pressure and persistence, we now have both of those as well as a few prisoner-taught classes but no college courses at all.

5- Access to staff on a daily basis- At other federal prisons, you are able to approach staff members at lunch every day, including the Warden. Here, we get (at most) two quick walk-throughs a week, usually taking place early in the morning. You are often left waiting days to resolve a simple question.

6- Law library access- We have a very small law library here with only twenty-five percent of the books required by law. We can only request books twice weekly and those are only delivered if the other nine hundred prisoners at the adjacent Medium are not using them. We lack Federal Court and Supreme Court reports as well as books on Immigration Law (fifty percent or more of the men here face deportation). This lack of access makes for an arduous and ineffective research path.

7- Computers- We have four computers for our email system (two for reading, one for printing and one that we were told would be for legal but it still isn't working). Unlike my previous prison, where we had forty computers with a robust computer-class program, or like other prisons that teach a vocational computer course, we have no such thing.

8- Access to general population- Being in an isolation unit makes for a situation in which we cannot have organized sports leagues and tournaments due to not having enough people at all. This may not seem crucial but sports are a very useful diversion from the stress of prison life and separation.

After reading the preceding sections, perhaps like me you are wondering what really is the purpose of the CMU. In short, the SMU is Florence ADX-LITE for those men whose security points are low and present no real problems to staff. From my interactions with the men here, I can say with certainty, that people here are remarkably well-behaved and calm -- many without any disciplinary violations. If these men, like myself, don't get in trouble, and have been in the system for some time, why are we here? Consider my case.

My short time in prison prior to coming to the CMU consisted of two months at MDC Brooklyn and eight months at FCI Sandstone. I had never gotten in trouble and spent my days as a clerk in psychology, working toward a Master's degree, reading, writing and exercising. My goal was to get closer to home and my loved ones. In April 2008, I filed a "hardship transfer" request due to my mother's illness and her inability to travel to Minnesota to visit me. I had my team meeting, and my security points were lowered. Weeks later, I was moved to the CMU.

The irony is that I was moved to the CMU to have my communication managed, but what changed in that one year to justify this move? If I was a danger, then why did the BoP house me in a low-security prison? The same applies to many of the men here-- some have been in general population for twenty years and then suddenly a need to manage their communication is conjured up. During my pre-CMU time, I had used 3500 phone minutes and sent hundreds of letters. If there was a problem with my communication, shouldn't the BoP have raised this with me? My notice stating their rationale for placing me here attributed it to me "being a member and leader in the ELF and ALF" and "communicating in code." But if this is true, then shouldn't I have been sent to the CMU as soon as I self-reported to prison in July 2007?

The CMUs were crafted and opened under the Bush administration as some misguided attempt to be tough on the "war on terror." This unit contains many prisoners from cases prosecuted during the hyper-paranoid and over-the-top period after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act.44 The number of prosecutions categorized as terrorism-related more than doubled to reach 1,200 in 2002. It seemed that every other week, there was some plot uncovered by overzealous FBI agents -- in Lackawanna, NY, Miami, FL, Portland, OR, and Virginia and elsewhere (never mind the illegal wiretaps and unscrupulous people used in these cases). These cases may not be headlines anymore but these men did not go away -- they were sent to prison and, when it was politically advantageous for Bush, transferred to the CMUs. The non-Muslim populations of these units (although definitely picked judiciously) were sent there to dispel charges that the CMUs were exclusively Muslim units.

The codified rationale for all prisoners being transferred here are "contact with persons in community require heightened control and reviews" and "your transfer to this facility for greater communication management is necessary to the safe, secure, and orderly function of Bureau institutions..." Should an increase in monitoring of communication mean a decrease in privileges? If the goal is to manage our contact with the outside world, shouldn't the BoP hire enough staff so that we can maintain the same rights and privileges as other prisoners (since the party line is that we are not here for punishment)? The reality is the conditions, segregation, lack of due process and such are punishment regardless of whether the BoP admits it or not.


Where to from here, then? Does the new President and his Attorney General take issue with segregation? Will Obama view the CMU, as he did with Guantanamo Bay, as a horrible legacy of his predecessor and close it? Many people are hopeful for an outcome like that. On April 7th, 2009, Mr. Obama, while in Turkey, said, "The United States will not make war on Islam," and that he wanted to "extend the hand of friendship to the Muslim world." While that sounds wonderful, what does that look like in concrete terms? Will he actualize that opinion by closing the CMU? Or will he marry the policy of Bush and condone a secret illegal set of political units for Muslims and activists? What of the men here? Will he transfer us back to normal prisons and review the outrageous prosecutions of many of the CMU detainees? If it can be done with (former) Senator Ted Steven's case, it can be done here.

While lawsuits have been filed in both Illinois and Indiana federal courts, what is needed urgently is for these units to be dragged out into the open. I am asking for your help and advocacy in dealing with this injustice and the mindset that allows a CMU to exist. Please pursue the resource section at the end of this article and consider doing something. I apologize for the length of this piece -- it was suggested to me (by people way smarter than myself) that it would be best to start from the beginning and offer as many details as possible. I hope I gave you a clearer idea of what's going on here. Thank you for all your support and love -- your letters are a bright candle in a sea of darkness.