The following is an update on the State’s continuing attempt to frame eight veterans of the Black Liberation Movement for the killing of a San Francisco cop over thirty years ago. Similar charges against some of the same men were thrown out in the 1970s when a judge found that the men had “confessed” following days of torture by police: electrical shocks, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, suffocation with plastic bags and hot, wet blankets… the cops who got their jollies this way back then are the same ones behind this new round of persecution…
This update is written by Kiilu Nyasha, herself a movement elder, a revolutionary artist, and a veteran of the Black Panther Party:
It’s not often the Movement can celebrate a victory. So I’m delighted to report that we’ve won the release on bail of five of our six elders eligible for bail — with one more expected to be out within days. Richard O’Neal and Richard Brown were first, out August 29 and 30th respectively, followed by Ray Boudreaux and Harold Taylor, September 11 and 12th. Hank Jones was released September 18th and Francisco “Cisco” Torres should be out soon.
The generation gap took a big hit on September 11 when the two Richards, dressed in suits and ties (instead of orange jumpsuits and chains) warmly embraced supporters outside the Department 23 courtroom before the hearing. Joining the largely elder group of supporters for a joyous and spontaneous celebration in the hall were 20 10th-grade students from Met West High School in Oakland.
Surprisingly, Judge Philip Moscone stopped the afternoon proceedings to make sure the necessary documents for Bourdreaux’s bail were signed and delivered by the 3 p.m. deadline so he could be released later that day.
Unfortunately, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom), previously known as the New York 3, are not eligible for bail having spent 34 and 36 years, respectively, in New York prisons. They are eligible for parole and both will go to board again in 2008. Since this case has been partly responsible for their continued incarceration, if it’s thrown out (as it should be for lack of evidence), a significant barrier to their being granted parole would be removed. For more information on the NY3, go to
On August 22, to a courtroom filled with supporters and three rows of police and FBI agents including the infamous torturer, Detective Erdelatz, Judge Moscone announced, “No one is going to be pleased by everything that happens.” That said, he reduced the bails of all six brothers, virtually ignoring the Attorney General’s call for the original bails to apply. The prosecution wanted bail raised from $3 to $5 million each!
When I visited Harold following the hearing, he asked me what my reaction was to the judge’s bail reduction. I confessed I was shocked. He said so was he. We never expected the judge to reduce the bails enough for all to get out. And I surely didn’t anticipate his noting the various activities and honors accrued by the defendants or that they posed no danger to “public safety.”
For example, in reducing Harold Taylor’s bail to $350,000, he cited the dismissal of this same charge in 1975; the acquittal in the so-called “L.A. shootout” in 1976 (John Bowman, Ray Boudreaux and Harold were fired on by police and shot back in self-defense); Harold’s employment for 21 years or until his medical condition prevented him from working any longer, as well as his community service.
The judge also noted Hank Jones’ honorable discharge from the U.S. Marines (Jones is a veteran, along with Boudreaux and Torres.), Richard O’Neal’s Commendation from the S.F. Fire Department for rescuing two people from a fire, and Boudreaux’s 30-year marriage and 25 years of employment as an electrician for L.A. County.
The Bail Hearings:
During the bail hearings, defendants’ attorneys described these elders’ community service. Hank and Ray were founders of the Black Student Union at S.F. State University that achieved organizing the first Black studies programs in colleges and universities nationwide. Richard Brown, 66, spent 23 years mentoring countless young people in the Western Addition, worked 20 at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, has been a good father to his 11 children and raised five more, received awards from the Ca. State Senate and Legislature, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.
Richard O’Neal, who lost his wife to random homicide in 1979, raised his son and another child alone, was employed by the City for 35 years. The judge received 60 supportive letters from O’Neal’s friends, neighbors and coworkers. One such friend of 45 years, Fannie Sanders, testified that Richard had purchased two burial plots when his wife died; more recently, a friend couldn’t afford one for his deceased loved one so O’Neal gave him his plot.
Francisco Torres’ attorney described how Cisco, father of two, has been the primary caretaker of his severely disabled son who has sickle cell anemia. Having seen the video Exhibit, the judge commented on how his son, 34, “looks 14.” Known for his activism with Vietnam Vets Against the War and his mentoring of troubled youth, Cisco is loved and highly respected in his neighborhood.
More information about all eight defendants is available at www.freethesf8.org.
We must not forget that all these elders were either members of the Black Panther Party or active supporters, committed to serving and defending Black and other oppressed people for life. And their lives are living testimony to that commitment. But it also subjected them to all the dirty tricks of the FBI’s vicious counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO. Over 37 Panthers were killed and no one has been held accountable! Not to mention countless others still suffering incarcerations of up to 40 years.
Take a good look at Amerikan racism and injustice clearly illustrated by such cases as the Scottsboro 9, Mississippi 11, Wilmington 10, New York 21, Queens 2, New York 3, Angola 3, Soledad 7, The Soledad Brothers (3), Los Siete de la Raza, San Quentin 6, MOVE 9, and now the Cuban 5, San Francisco 8 and Jena 6. You’ll see a historic pattern of the police State blanketing groups of Black/Brown activists with multiple charges in hopes some will stick so they can jail them for life or execute them.
The real criminals are the fascists in power who continue to conduct illegal wars killing thousands of soldiers, committing genocide on civilians, ripping off other nations’ resources as well as our own (At least $9 billion in cash was lost in Iraq and the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of your tax dollars!), sanctioning and encouraging massive and illegal incarceration and torture of its own citizens and immigrants, often denied due process or their constitutional and human rights, the most egregious of which is Guantanamo Bay.
This case is based on the Ingleside shooting of a police officer in August, 1971. Three Panthers, Rubin Scott, John Bowman (deceased), and Harold Taylor were captured, tortured in New Orleans in ’73, and charged with the murder. In 1975, a judge dismissed the case citing inadmissible evidence, namely, confessions exacted under torture (See Legacy of Torture, a 28 minute video available from Freedom Archives’ website: www.freedomarchives.org ).
Discovery issues are yet to be settled by opposing attorneys. The next public hearing will be Monday, September 24, at 9:30 a.m., preceded by a rally at 8:30. This is an important session because the judge will hear arguments about the admissibility of statements made under torture.
With six of the eight out on bail, the Court will hear the collateral estoppel motion for Harold arguing that since a judge excluded coerced statements in Taylor’s 1976 L. A. trial in which he was acquitted, that judge’s rulings should be respected,
The State has no new evidence despite their claims. The murder weapon was “lost.” The DNA taken from all eight prisoners produced no matches, nor did the fingerprints.
Apparently, all the prosecution has is the coerced testimony of Rubin Scott whose past statements were proved perjurious by two courts.
So come to court on September 24 and bring your friends with you for the rally at 8:30 and to pack the courtroom at 9:30.
Free the SF8!
Long live the spirit of John Bowman!
Free em all!