Thursday, July 09, 2009

SF 8 victory dance: Prosecution admits evidence is insufficient

Join the SF 8 to celebrate this historic occasion Tuesday, July 7, 5:30- 9 p.m., at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, 1050 McAllister at Webster, San Francisco, wheelchair accessible; it’s a potluck – please bring food and drinks to share

by Wanda Sabir
Francisco Torres, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Harold Taylor and Hank Jones of the SF 8 and supporters Wanda Sabir, Kiilu Nyasha, Soffiyah Elijah and Nadra Foster emerge from the courthouse Monday, July 6, after hearing the prosecution admit there is insufficient evidence to sustain nearly all the charges. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Francisco Torres, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Harold Taylor and Hank Jones of the SF 8 and supporters Wanda Sabir, Kiilu Nyasha, Soffiyah Elijah and Nadra Foster emerge from the courthouse Monday, July 6, after hearing the prosecution admit there is insufficient evidence to sustain nearly all the charges. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
I remember when I first learned the names of Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell, along with Marilyn Buck and Albert Nuh Washington: It was on the pages of “Can’t Jail the Spirit.” A friend of mine, Dhameerah Ahmed, gave it to me or told me to get a copy and I did. The book is filled with the profiles of some of America’s Most Wanted – most wanted for their commitment to freedom, justice and equality.
I was also committed to such as well. In fact, those principles were on my national flag which we saluted daily, wore on our lapels, on our clothing, kept sealed in our hearts. It isn’t surprising today to find out how closely the ties between the Nation of Islam and Islam in its various manifestations and interpretations paralleled the development of Black Nationalism. The discipline of the NOI was an important ingredient in the formation of the liberation armies which often didn’t have names as they conducted clandestine operations then and perhaps even now. Discipline and love for one’s people was probably an important ingredient in the philosophies which developed and institutions which even in their weakened states still leave a slight footprint or outline for those interested in fashioning a new shoe or sole.
Another book I enjoyed a lot was Chinosole’s “Schooling the Generations in the Politics of Prison.” Muntaqim has a chapter in it. These books were what I’d call two of my foundation texts on the prison industrial complex. Other books were “Assata!” I think Walter Turner – Professor Turner – recommended it and I bought it and devoured it, along with the book by Assata’s aunt. I read Elaine Brown’s book somewhere in there, along with slave narratives and writings by women from the African Diaspora. I think I also started reading Marcus Garvey.
Growing up in the Nation of Islam, I’d read “Message to the Black Man,” “Fall of America,” “How to Eat to Live” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
I read “Roots,” “Jubilee,” and “Brothers and Keepers” by John Edgar Wideman, everything by James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and African writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and others, like Ken Saro Wiwa. I read asha bandele’s “Prisoner’s Wife” and have started her latest. A friend of mine recommended, “Visiting Life,” which I read. This doesn’t include all the films I’ve seen or my political awakening with Kiilu Nyasha’s radio show, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle,” Saturday evenings on KPFA back in the good ol’ days. I remember the first time I heard the words: Black August.
I’ve read prison writers and writings whose names don’t come readily to mind and others like Angela Davis’ autobiography, which I never finished. I picked up George Jackson’s “Soledad Brother,” even checked it out of the library recently, just like Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul on Ice.” But I read other Black Panther Party writings, like Mumia’s books, starting with “Live from Death Row.” Remember when NPR pulled the series? I have not felt the same about them since.
Kathleen Cleaver and George N. Katsiaficas’ “Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party,” “Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas” and, more recently, Harold L. Bingham’s “Black Panthers 1968” are all books I’d recommend. Professor Curtis Austin’s “Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party” is another valuable resource.
I also read about liberation movements: Black slave revolts, some of the early narratives like ’ and fiction writers such as Nella Larsen and earlier Black writers, both poets and fiction writers. I have a friend who owned a bookstore, The Key Book Shop, Kokovulu Lumakanda, and he would point me in literary directions for a price (smile).
A freed political prisoner (PP) or prisoner of war (POW) is like an escaped captive. These trials are like auctions where flesh is bartered – there’s a direct connection between Africans enslaved during the 15th century and Africans enslaved in the 21st century … at least in my mind.
I am still studying. Most recently I finished Marilyn Buck’s translation of a collection of poetry of an exiled writer, Cristina Peri Rossi: “State of Exile, Pocket Poets Number 58.” Another book I read recently and enjoyed is Mumia’s latest on prison lawyers and, earlier this year, Robert King’s memoir, “From the Bottom of the Heap.” I am still working my way through “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” by Annette Gordon-Reed and so many others like Diana Block’s “Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back” and asha bandele’s “Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story.”
The fact that this government still feels it necessary to destroy Black liberation movements and their elders, those still movin’ and shakin’ stuff up, is, if nothing else, a wake-up call for free-thinkers concerned with justice. It is a call to organize, organize, organize, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate and stay awake and watchful – vigilant, even in this, an Obama Age.
It doesn’t feel like a week has gone by, but much has happened in the seven days between June 29 and July 6, in a case which has garnered both national and international attention since Jan. 23, 2007, when the FBI under the auspices of Homeland Security rearrested eight former members and associates of the Black Panther Party on charges related to the killing of a San Francisco policeman, part of an alleged plan to kill police and bomb or burn down police stations across the country between 1968 and 1973.
Harold Taylor, John Bowman – now deceased – and Ruben Scott had confessed to crimes connected to the Aug. 29, 1971, shooting after San Francisco police took them to New Orleans, where, under the supervision of FBI agents, New Orleans police tortured them. In the mid-‘70s, charges were dropped in several jurisdictions, including charges for the 1971 killing, when the judges learned that these “confessions” had been coerced under torture.
Thirty years later, the same two San Francisco policemen who had interrogated them while they were tortured by New Orleans police, now employees of Homeland Security, a provision of the USA Patriot Act, show up on the men’s doorsteps – talk about the return of the boogie man! As the government officials made their rounds during the early morning hours two and a half years ago harassing these model citizens with requests for information the former Black Panther Party members and associates had no knowledge of and forcing them to surrender saliva samples for DNA testing – the Grand Jury Resisters once again closed ranks. The eight men are Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Henry (Hank) Jones, Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor and Francisco Torres.
It had been 30 years since some of the men had seen each other and, without conferring first, since they were rounded up individually from across the country, each one decided not to cooperate with law enforcement. Many had moved from their former homes in San Francisco, started new lives, were parents and grandparents, some retired from successful careers – still politically conscious and active, yet, more often than not, flying below the radar. However, this new harassment propelled them to form the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights with a mission to expose injustices, especially those connected to domestic use of torture to elicit testimony for use in U.S. courts.
The men were all eventually arrested after the early morning visits and put in San Francisco County Jail in 2007 to await trial. In August and September, six of them – Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor and Francisco Torres – were released on bail; and on Feb. 7, 2008, the charges against Richard O’Neal were dropped. Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim have remained the entire two and a half years in county jail, having been transferred from New York, where they had been political prisoners for over three decades. Both men are now headed back to New York, eager to attend their parole hearings there, after taking plea bargains for lesser charges.
Last Monday, June 29, Herman Bell accepted the prosecution’s offer. He’d been identified as the shooter of the SFPD officer in 1971 by Ruben Scott, whose testimony was obtained through torture and thrown out for that reason. In January 2007 when the eight men were arrested, Ruben’s testimony was reintroduced, and it was, I guess, on the basis of this flimsy charge that the prosecution offered Bell a plea bargain. Bell accepted the bargain, pled guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and the other charge against him, conspiracy, was thrown out.
One week later, on Monday, July 6, the long awaited beginning of the preliminary hearing to determine whether the SF 8 case would proceed to trial, I raced across the bridge to 850 Bryant, San Francisco’s so-called Hall of Justice, expecting – though somewhat skeptically – to hear some evidence. Whose hat this evidence was going to magically appear from remained to be seen. Lots of folks were out for the spectacle, but instead of a quiet presence in court, there was a tailgate party in the hallway that spilled over into the courtroom. It was really cool – we were a wild, rowdy, loud bunch. We even tempted fate and heckled.
An 8 a.m. rally, complete with a band, where hundreds, I’m told, paraded in the street, had opened the show, with everyone chanting “DROP THE CHARGES!” I think the prosecution heard the demands (I am sooo kidding). When the hearing began two hours late, about 11 a.m., the over 70 supporters who’d been able to wait that long filed into the courtroom. I brought up the rear and had to sit on the opponents’ – the prosecution’s – side of the room. I began my reflections: “I am sitting in enemy territory next to Nadra (Foster) and Gerald and some law student in a suit taking notes like me.”
John Bowman, backed here by Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor and Richard Brown of the SF 8, would have been arrested with them if he hadn’t died the month before. One of the three who were tortured by New Orleans police in 1973 at the behest of San Francisco police, he said in the film, “Legacy of Torture”: “The same people who tried to kill me in 1973 are the same people who are here today, trying to destroy me. I mean it literally. I mean there were people from the forces of the San Francisco Police Department who participated in harassment, torture and my interrogation in 1973 ... None of these people have ever been brought to trial. None of these people have ever been charged with anything. None of these people have ever been questioned about that.” – Photo: Scott Braley
John Bowman, backed here by Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor and Richard Brown of the SF 8, would have been arrested with them if he hadn’t died the month before. One of the three who were tortured by New Orleans police in 1973 at the behest of San Francisco police, he said in the film, “Legacy of Torture”: “The same people who tried to kill me in 1973 are the same people who are here today, trying to destroy me. I mean it literally. I mean there were people from the forces of the San Francisco Police Department who participated in harassment, torture and my interrogation in 1973 ... None of these people have ever been brought to trial. None of these people have ever been charged with anything. None of these people have ever been questioned about that.” – Photo: Scott Braley
Jalil Muntaqim was in perfect view. He didn’t wave or lift his fist like Herman did last week. I also noticed chains around his waist which I hadn’t noticed on Herman, but the chains might have been there.
Jalil had glasses sitting on his bald dome, which he moved to his face when he began to read. He looked strong and determined as his attorney, Daro Inouye, read a prepared statement following the prosecution’s offer of reduced charges stemming from the events of Aug. 29, 1971; Muntaqim was accused of conspiracy to commit murder. These charges also applied to the other men seated across from him – Harold Taylor, Richard Brown, Ray Boudeaux, Henry “Hank” Jones and Francisco Torres – and Muntaqim stipulated that the charges be dropped for everyone in one swoop.
What was amazing about the hearing Monday was the prosecution’s admission that it didn’t have enough evidence to convict these men. Duh! What took them so long to figure this out?! It took them almost three years to realize that the reason why justices kept throwing the case out was for this very reason. So as Inouye said of Jalil Muntaqim, who pled no contest to the prosecution’s charge of conspiracy, his client picked up a loaded grenade to save his brothers, his friends, his fellow defendants, and he didn’t plead guilty. That language did not pass his lips.
Judge Philip J. Moscone said “no contest” means “guilty,” but this was his interpretation. No contest to me means, I am not going to argue with you. I am not admitting anything; I am just going to let the charge stand without a fight or without protest.
Jalil’s magnanimous gesture shows how much love and respect the men known as the SF 8 have for one another and for the people they want to continue to serve.
As I listened to the legal jargon, trying to keep up, I heard the defense repeat the prosecution’s declaration that, if accepted, the murder charge would be reduced to manslaughter, and the conspiracy charges dropped for Jalil as well as for Richard, Hank, Harold and Ray. The dismissal did not apply to Francisco Torres, who was accused separately of conspiracy and offered a deal, which he declined. He plans to fight.
Supposedly, Cisco’s fingerprints were found on a lighter discovered at the scene of the crime, yet, according to his attorney, Soffiyah Elijah, 30 years ago none of the fingerprints found on the object matched those of any of the suspects. Yet, in retrospect, witnesses are changing their stories. In the hallway after the session was dismissed, supporters said the prosecution would probably drop the charges before the Aug. 10 date for Torres’ hearing. We shall see.
It was so good to be a witness to this show of love and support. The revolutionary fraternity brought together many arms of the Bay Area movement for social justice. I saw Kiilu Nyasha for the first time since her illness, hospitalization and 70th birthday party. She looked great! I saw Terry Collins of KPOO for the first time since his stay at the hospital a couple of weeks ago. He looked great too. Nadra Foster was also there; she looked much more rested than the last time I saw her. Her kids are in Freedom School this summer.
Pierre Labossiere and other members of the Haiti Action Committee gave me a birthday hug. I got a chance to catch up with poet-activist Nellie Wong, my friend Joan from my anti-apartheid activism days with the Vukani Mawethu Choir, colleagues like Leslie from Peralta Community College District, Javad from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, poets and writers like Mickey Ellinger, Gerald from the Justice for Oscar Grant January 1st Movement. Mama Ayanna Mashama and her husband, Mestre Temba Mashama, Capoiera N’Gola, were there, back from a cross country jaunt … yes, how fun.
I met a woman who is working with Kevin Cooper, a death penalty activist on San Quentin’s death row. Of course former Panthers were everywhere one looked. As I waited to enter the building in an exceptionally long line winding down the block in front of the courthouse, once I made it in, I saw former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas in line and we went up to the third floor together. Emory has a big show opening in New York July 21 and then he is off to New Zealand for two months for an artist’s residency and then on to Australia. We’re going to see how we can have him on the radio show while he is traveling, so stay tuned.
Attorneys for the SF 8 and a few for Herman Bell whom I’d seen last week were also in court Monday. The legal team all had a lot in common: They were also members of the movement for social justice and, as Daro Inouye said, this is why he and the others went into law in the first place. Media was there – film, TV and radio, KPFA, KTVU, SF Bay View and others whose names I didn’t catch.
Microphones were stuck in a lot of folks’ faces and some of the men told me they’d get up early Wednesday to speak to me about what happened today and what it meant for the SF 8 case and what were next steps in this movement for justice. They just can’t seem to retire, even if they wanted to, and they don’t.
Unlike last week, where we all fit on the good side of the room, this time we didn’t and, unlike last week, we were, as I said, a rowdy bunch. It felt really great, except for Gerald’s noisy plastic wrapper in his lap which made it hard to hear at times. But I guess I couldn’t complain when my stomach kept growling. I’d skipped breakfast to drive to San Francisco so I wouldn’t be too late. I found a cheaper parking lot this week – $8 – but Javad beat me with $6 and Omar beat us both with “free.”
Scott Braley, who had told me about last week’s hearing, was absent, so I felt obliged to take lots of photos, playing with flash and natural lighting. I got a few good shots, posed and not posed.
I am still excited. It was like, justice wasn’t necessarily served, but something good and noble and unexpected for a lot of us happened. I liked the way Jalil’s legal team advocated for their client, speaking on his behalf when the judge asked for comments. It was a total charge, where last week was kind of bitter sweet. It helped that all the men were there, whereas last week Richard Brown had to carry the team spirit for comrade Herman Bell.
Kiilu said she wasn’t completely surprised because she spoke to Jalil last Friday and put in a call to Cisco, but I was.
I wonder, after all the wasted tax dollars, what was the point of dragging this case back into court to be lost again? What was this an exercise in? The only good is that no one will ever forget the face of domestic torture and the cases of Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell and by extension the cases of so many political prisoners and prisoners of war.
SF 8 puts an entirely different spin on Free ‘Em All!
The bailiff shushed the audience when some protested loudly as the prosecution’s lead attorney went on and on vilifying Jalil to justify his refusal to hear the defense request to reduce a 12-month sentence to time served. Whatever! It was granted anyway.
There was even a deputy in the audience with us, I guess to handle things if we got rowdy – which as I said we did – something else I hadn’t seen before in the sessions I’d attended this week or last or even two years ago when the hearings first started and the men were incarcerated at the 850 Bryant corral.
Listen to Wanda’s Picks Wednesday, July 8, 6 to 8 a.m., for an interview with men from SF 8: Richard Brown, Ray Boudreaux and perhaps Harold Taylor and Hank Jones. Francisco Torres’ attorney Charles Bourdon and perhaps Daro G. Inouye, Jalil’s attorney, will also join us (he hasn’t confirmed) and I will have a prerecorded interview with Kiilu Nyasha about Jalil Muntaqim and her involvement in the PP and POW movement.
From his website, Jalil wrote on March 23, 2007, before he was extradited from Auburn, New York, to San Francisco that he will continue to advocate for justice and encourages students to organize Jericho chapters on their college campuses and to write Congressman Conyers – and I would submit he’d probably update the list to include President Obama – regarding the results of the Church hearings, urging that illegal government surveillance and sentencing based on such evidence be addressed and remedied with restitution for those wronged. He is a warrior in the truest sense of the word and, like a warrior, his allegiance is to his community whom he strives to serve and protect at all costs.
In his March 23, 2007, Extradition Statement, Jalil Muntaqim wrote:
“Despite it all, after 35 years of imprisonment, I remain strong and will resist every step of the way the efforts of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act initiatives to stifle dissent. I am confident that, with strong support from progressive peoples across the country and overseas, the SF 8 will be successful, and the state will suffer defeat. We will have a true people’s victory.
“It will be a victory against fear and state terrorism; it will be a defeat against state torture tactics, threats and coercion. This case will teach today’s activists what to expect from the State in its efforts to prevent dissent and protest of government repression. It will forward a broader understanding of what happened in the movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s and how COINTELPRO disrupted and destroyed the most viable Black political party that emerged out of the civil rights movements. Ultimately, this case will tell of a militant youth movement and how the government sought to destroy it, and today seeks to retaliate because those youths did in fact rebel against oppression and repression not only in their communities, in an international determination in support of all oppressed peoples fighting against colonialism and imperialism at that time.
“So, to organize and fight back against this nefarious persecution of the SF 8, I urge all to organize and sponsor educational programs in your community and invite Jericho representatives and the Committee in Defense of Human Rights to speak about the case of the SF 8 and other U.S. political prisoners. Furthermore, I ask that progressive folks seek to organize a Jericho (Amnesty Movement) chapter on college campuses and in your communities. I urge that letter writing, phone and fax campaigns be initiated directed to Congressman John Conyers, demanding that he conduct the reopening of COINTELPRO hearings. There are many COINTELPRO victims languishing in prison, and while the Senate Church Committee in fact decided the FBI’s COINTELPRO activities were unconstitutional, the Senate Church Committee never established remedies for COINTELPRO victims.
“They are trying to rewrite history and deny the legacy of the BPP/BLA (Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army), and essentially with a broad paint brush label all those involved in those struggles as ‘terrorists,’ ‘criminals’ and ‘wanton killers.’ They will never say those youths were revolutionaries, freedom fighters and progressive organizers. They will never say they sought to relieve the community of all forms of state sponsored terrorism that is too often found in Black and Hispanic communities today. They will never talk about the over 30 Panthers that were killed by police across the country and no one being prosecuted for these murders. They will never admit to the unconstitutional practices of the FBI COINTELPRO activities.
“The task for all of us is to raise consciousness about U.S. political prisoners and build a durable and determined Jericho Amnesty Movement to ensure all of our victory against state tyranny and terrorism.”
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at Visit her website at for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network,

Jalil's Statement on the S.F. 8 Plea Agreement

TO: Friends and Supporters
DT: July 6, 2009
RE: My Statement on the S.F. 8 Plea Agreement

First, I would like to thank all my friends and supporters for their tenacious and tireless work in support of the SF 8, especially the San Francisco 8 Support Committee, Committee in Defense of Human Rights, Asian-Americans for the S.F. 8, Freedom Archives, and many others. I wish to thank the excellent legal team whose unwavering commitment to the task was inspiring. I especially want to thank the lawyers who did the majority of the behind-the-scenes legwork by name: Soffiyah Elijah, Jenny Kang, Julie de Almeida, Heather Hardwick, Rai Sue Sussman, and Lori Flowers. This team of women suffering the testosterone of as many as ten male lead attorneys, plus the eight men accused, truly had their feminist code tested. Naturally, I want to thank the most noted private investigators, Adam Raskin and Nancy Pemberton, whose investigative technique and services were outstanding.

Today we were to start the preliminary hearing but because of our strong legal defense team and growing public support, the California prosecutor offered plea settlements that could not be ignored. The entire group discussed whether I would plead no contest to conspiracy to manslaughter. After some discussion, I reluctantly agreed to take the plea and be sentenced to 3 years probation; 1 year of jail time, credit for time served, concurrent with New York State sentence, dismissing 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Also, because of my plea, four other defendants would have all charges dismissed for insufficient evidence. This was a no-brainer especially considering the elder brothers suffered a variety of health issues ranging from high blood pressure, chronic respiratory problems, diabetes, PTSD, and prostate cancer. Although I have my own health issues, in my near 38 years of imprisonment, I believe I am in better shape than all four combined (Ha).

In the last 25 years prior to these charges being lodged, the brothers had been living peaceful and productive lives raising their families, and offering community services. During the period from their release on bail to this date, they had been running themselves ragged across the country telling the story of Cointelpro destruction of the Black Panther Party, the Legacy of Torture, and building support for the case. While I would have liked to have continued the legal fight to what I believe would have resulted in complete exoneration of all charges, I know the jury system is fickle. I have seen too many innocent men in prison who fought with the conviction of being innocent after a reasonable plea bargain was offered, and they ultimately lost due to prosecutorial misconduct, defense attorney errors, improper jury instructions by a judge, and/or a fickle jury. Unfortunately, their loss results in spending decades in prison fighting for a reversal or waiting to be released on parole, or in the worst cases, death row DNA exonerations. The American judicial system is nowhere near being without flaws, as the overwhelming number of Black men in prison sorely attests. Given these circumstances, my taking this plea is a bitter-sweet win-win.

Finally, I would like to thank with profound appreciation my attorneys Daro Inouye, a 30+ year veteran of the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, whose trial experiences and skills are incomparable; and Mark Goldrosen, a remarkable, selfless trial technician and writer whose understanding of both State and Federal law brought the court (and some of the attorneys) to task.

A luta continua – Jalil

Monday, July 6, 2009

Charges dropped - Jalil pleads no contest – Cisco's case continues

Finally, after years of unified resistance by the brothers and a the building of massive support, California State prosecutors were forced to admit that they have insufficient evidence against the San Francisco 8.

Charges against four of the defendants were dropped and Jalil Muntaqim pled no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter. The State prosecutor asked the court to sentence him to 12 months calling it "a drop in the bucket." Judge Moscone replied "unless you're the one doing the time." Jalil received credit for time served (close to 2 1/2 years in County Jail) and 3 years probation. He will return to New York to fight for parole.

All charges were dismissed today against Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor.

The courtroom at 850 Bryant Street was packed with SF 8 supporters after a rally of hundreds and a huge "Free SF 8" banner was displayed on the hillside of Bernal Heights to be seen from all over the city.

"This is finally the disposition of a case that should never have been brought in the first place," announced attorney Soffiyah Elijah.

Francisco Torres still faces a court hearing on August 10. Francisco steadfastly maintains his innocence according to his attorney Charles Bourdon who intends to file a motion to dismiss the charges against his client.

Herman Bell entered a plea a week ago – see post below.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Manslaughter – No Prison Sentence

Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters today as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd. The following statement was issued by his legal team:

Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Voluntary Manslaughter for a Sentence of Five Years Probation

Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters June 29th as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd.

Herman Bell pled guilty to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the killing of San Francisco police officer John Young in 1971.

Part of the plea agreement is that Herman will not be a witness against his comrades and friends and cannot be called to any hearing as a witness by the prosecution.

His sentence is that he will be placed on informal probation for five years and will be allowed to immediately return to New York. He will receive absolutely no additional prison time for his actions.

Herman and his co-defendants have always maintained that because of the torture used by the New Orleans Police Department to gain alleged confessions and the lack of new evidence, these charges should never have been brought.

Herman's letter to supporters and friends follows.

Dear friends,

Your strong showing of support at my plea/sentencing hearing this past Monday was truly heartening. For me, removing the possibility of going to trial when a proposal (though unpalatable) is offered that would leave open a future chance at parole in another jurisdiction was something I could not pass up. So I accepted the AG’s proposal. There is no disunity here, just a tactical legal decision having been made. I could never be at peace with myself if I sat in a prison cell for the rest of my days knowing that I rejected a proposal that left open possible freedom one day. You expect me to think and act responsibly and to make responsible decisions. I expect no less of myself or of you.

I am so proud of you and all the work you’ve done in our behalf and in waking our movement from its lethargy proud of your speaking, proud of your fund-raising, proud of your organizing (the Labor Council, the City Supervisors, the Caravan to Sacramento such a sweet piece of “main stream” organizing, and the tribute to Panther women). So very proud that you were in court to smile your greetings whenever we appeared; proud that you made bail for those of us who could bail-out, and that you routinely visited those of us who could not. I shall miss your frequent visits, so how could I not go forward in this without a heavy heart. I do so thanking you for being true to yourselves and thanking you for the love and righteous support you gave and are giving the SF8.

I love you all.


1 comment:

Ahma Daeus said...

Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"

Please visit our website for further information:

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"...