Tuesday, July 14, 2009

San Francisco 8 Update: The Final Comment From Political Prisoner Herman Bell

THE FINAL COMMENT ON THE SF8

BY HERMAN BELL - 11 July 2009

It has been said, though unmaliciously, that I pled in the SF8 case because I am ill and have to get out of the county jail and back to New York for medical treatment. Although I’ve been confined in a tank with psychotic individuals more often than not, who often yell and scream 24 7 for days without stopping (oh yeah!), and I’ve not been in fresh air and sunshine the whole two + years I’ve been here, I still can say unequivocally that my health is reasonably okay.

Let there be absolutely no misunderstanding about this plea I took. The SF8 case was complex, and not everyone in the case had the same legal issues. Because of this, I took a plea because I believed it was the right thing to do for me and the case itself. And this could well make my parole chances in New York even more difficult. Still, the plea was well worth taking because it led to Jalil Muntaqim’s plea, which resulted in charges being dismissed against: Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, Harold Taylor, and Richard Brown – but unfortunately, not Francisco Torres.

There is hope still that charges against Cisco will be dismissed, and if he should go to trial, we support him. The SF8 comradeship remains unbreakable. I say unequivocally that, individually or collectively, we would never dishonor ourselves or you by doing something so unconscionable as to undermine the interests of our historic struggle.

Thus, I regard the outcome of this case as a People’s victory, as one made all the sweeter by the hard work our supporters and legal team put in to make it so. So we thank our lawyers and investigators for the excellent work and dedication that they devoted to our defense: Soffiyah Elijah, Heather Hardwick, Rai Sue Sussman, Julie de Almeida, Jenny Kang, Mark Rosenbush, Lori Flowers, and our investigators: Adam Raskin, Nancy Pemberton, Patricia de Larios, and Keith MacArthur – you guys are pros.

Special thanks and gratitude to my lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, for the sleepless nights and long hours he devoted to this case (lest you all have forgotten, Stuart also fought for over 20 years to free Geronimo Pratt); we were fortunate to have Stuart on our legal team. In addition to my excellent representation, initially in 2005 when this case was at the beginning grand jury stages, Stuart assembled the very finest criminal defense lawyers in the Bay Area to represent the SF8 on a volunteer basis before the grand jury.

These lawyers then went on to represent us once a grand jury indictment failed and the Attorney General filed the criminal complaint against us. I think Stuart is one of the finest lawyers in the country. Yet, my praise and appreciation is in no way to disparage the quality of service and dedicated commitment the other lawyers on our team devoted to our defense: Daro Inouye, Mark Goldrosen, Chuck Bourdon, Mike Burt, Randy Montesano, John Philipsborn, and Richard Mazer – big ups to you all. Also, very big thanks to Dennis Cunningham, Che Hashim, and Kelly Metters for volunteering to facilitate Jalil’s and my weekly Saturday legal visits for the past two years when our legal team was unavailable.

Finally, my profound gratitude to all our friends and supporters. – Herman
_______________________________________________
Please support these brothers by sending a donation. Make checks payable to CDHR/Agape and mail to the address below or donate on line:

http://www.freethesf8.org/donate.html

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR)
PO Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109
(415) 226-1120
FreetheSF8@riseup.net
http://www.freethesf8.org

Free the San Francisco Eight!

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights

Charges against four more dropped; Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell plead no contest/guilty to reduced charge of conspiracy/manslaughter – no prison sentence – see blog at http://freethesf8.blogspot.com for details.

See photos at www.flickr.com/photos/freethesf8.

After 38 years, the government's case against eight former Black Panther Party members and supporters has almost completely unraveled. The eight were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were brought in 1975, but a California judge tossed out the charges, finding that they were based on statements made by three of the men after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation.

Last week, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim were sentenced to probation and time served, after Herman agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Jalil to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter. All charges were then dropped on Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor, and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting it had “insufficient evidence” against them. Charges had already been dropped against Richard O'Neal last year.

Francisco Torres, of NYC, is the last person still with charges; he maintains his innocence and will appear in court on August 10. (See profiles on Who Are the SF 8?).

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim have been in prison in New York for almost 40 years on similar charges based on the US Government's COINTELPRO actions to disrupt and destroy radical organizations, especially the Black Panther Party. Showing the weakness of the prosecution's case, Bell and Muntaqim were given no additional prison time, and will be returned to NY where they will continue to fight for parole.

Two and a half years of mass support for the Brothers, including resolutions from the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the Berkeley City Council, and several San Francisco Supervisors, have almost broken the back of a vindictive prosecution organized by Homeland Security, the FBI, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The defense committee has vowed to keep up the pressure until charges are dropped against Francisco Torres and Herman and Jalil are back with their families and community.

See also reports in IndyBay Media and the SF Bay Guardian and photos at www.flickr.com/photos/freethesf8.

Background: Murder Charges Against Former Black Panthers Based on Confessions Extracted by Torture

Eight former Black community activists – Black Panthers and others – were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were thrown out after it was revealed that police used torture to extract confessions when some of these same men were arrested in New Orleans in 1973.

Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Ray Boudreaux, and Hank Jones were arrested in California. Francisco Torres was arrested in Queens, New York. Harold Taylor was arrested in Florida. Two men charged – Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim – have been held as political prisoners for over 30 years in New York State prisons. The men were charged with the murder of Sgt. John Young and conspiracy that encompasses numerous acts between 1968 and 1973.

Harold Taylor and John Bowman (recently deceased) as well as Ruben Scott (thought to be a government witness) were first charged in 1975. But a judge tossed out the charges, finding that Taylor and his two co-defendants made statements after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation. Such "evidence" is neither credible nor legal.

Support the Defendants

Learn more. Join the e-mail list. Write the defendants. Donate. See their Joint Statement. Distribute flyers. Sign the open letter to the California Attorney General. Host a house party. Organize a video showing. Come to court. Details on these activities and more on our "What You Can Do" page.

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights
P.O. Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109
(415) 226-1120
E-mail: freethesf8@riseup.net

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