Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Discovery Issues in Dec. 17 Hearing

Update from SF 8 hearing of Dec. 17

In the matter of discovery, there is still no resolution to defense demands for complete discovery – not that anything new has been produced by the prosecution after over 37 years. Now that we are approaching the 2-year anniversary of the "new" charges (charges that were dismissed in the 1970s by San Francisco prosecutors), the prosecutors are still reluctant to turn over "non-discoverable" evidence, information about FBI wiretaps, contact information for potential key witnesses, forensic tests about weapons (some weapons were destroyed or sold by New Orleans police), and the names of agents and examiners whose fingerprint analysis exonerates all the men charged in the SF 8 case. [Note: results of the weapons tests were finally released in January and they show no match between the alleged weapon and the scene. See court updated from January 23 above.]

To listen to the prosecution explain it, evidence is not being withheld with intent. Yet some of these very requests for information (discovery) were raised in court in 2007 and have still not been met.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

International Human Rights Day Vigil: SF 8 Delegation to Jerry Brown

SF 8 supporters joined some three to four dozen spirited demonstrators participated in the Ecumenical Peace Institute's weekly anti-war vigil at the Oakland Federal Building December 9 in an expanded International Human Rights Day event. Demonstrators celebrated this day by projecting international human rights issues from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Haitian political prisoners (in particular Ronald Dauphin) to the SF 8. Participants included, in addition to the Committee to Free the San Francisco 8: the Ecumenical Peace Institute, the Haiti Action Committee, Gabriela Network, Global Women's Strike, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, Peace & Freedom Party, Women for Peace Mustardseed Affinity Group, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

Open Letter to the California Attorney General

A delegation consisting of members from the SF 8 Committee, Haiti Action, and a legal observer then went to Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office at the Oakland State Office Building to provide him with the Open Letter calling for dropping the charges against the SF 8. According to the delegation, “On the floor where the AG’s office is located, there was absolutely no one there. No one, not even a secretary. Talk about hollow government! Eventually we found a receptionist on another floor who made multiple phone calls about what to do with us, and ultimately agreed to take our packet and to give it to the Attorney General.

Ecumenical Peace Institute, Women in Black, and other groups maintain a weekly vigil each Tuesday noon at the Oakland Federal Building calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq.

Haiti Action Committee highlighted the issue of political prisoners in Haiti, focusing on the case of Ronald Dauphin. Dauphin is a Lavalas political prisoner who has been held in nightmarish conditions since the 2004 coup that overthrew the democratic government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The vigil also raised the continuing demand for the safe return of Haitian human rights activist, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was disappeared on August 12, 2007.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update from SF 8 hearing of Dec. 5

In a brief court hearing today (December 5) for the San Francisco 8, nothing was decided. Everything was carried over.
The purpose of this hearing was to schedule the start of the preliminary hearing to establish whether there is probable cause to bring the case to trial; Judge Philip Moscone had previously stated his intention to start that hearing in early January. However, the prosecutor, David Druliner of the California Attorney General's office, announced that his office was still preparing thousands more pages of discovery yet to be turned over to the defense, and suggested a mid-April start. He has already given the defense 150,000 pages.

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom) requested, through their lawyers Stuart Hanlon and Mark Goldrosen, that the judge impose a cut-off date for discovery and set the preliminary hearing date for January 5, 2009, as they are anxious to move the case forward and the continual delay by the prosecution is unreasonable by established legal standards.

Defense counsel raised the possibility of severing one or more of the defendants and proceeding to separate trials. When Judge Moscone asked whether severance would impact the case, Mr. Druliner responded that the case would then "fragment like a grenade through the court system," tying up his staff as well as court and jail staff. The judge acknowledged the logistical implications of severance, but noted that it might be necessary anyway. He also noted that if the case does proceed beyond the preliminary hearing, there would be an evidentiary hearing on the defense's motion to dismiss the charges. All of this before a possible actual trial.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Targeting Dissent - The SF Eight (new article)

Op Ed News summarizes the case as of October 29, 2008. See the article by Stephen Lendman. And don't forget the vigil in Oakland Dec. 9 -- see post below.

SF 8 in D.C. Saturday Dec. 6

December 6 the Black Memorabilia and Collectible Show in Washington, D.C. featured "The Black Panther Party Exhibit ... facilitated by former members of the organization with a special presentation by former Panther Political Prisoners now known internationally as The San Francisco 8." Details of the show can be found at Black News.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim Supported on Nov 19

As reported in the post below, SF 8 defendants Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom) are being held in intolerable conditions in the San Francisco County jail, a facility designed to hold arrestees for only a day or two.

A phone and fax blitz to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was held on November 19 demanding that California return Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) to New York state for their parole hearings. This effort was successful in generating a great many calls and faxes. Updates on this situation will be posted here as they become available.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update from SF 8 Hearing of Nov. 6

At the November 6 court hearing in the SF 8 case, there were two items of business:
  • setting a date for the preliminary hearing and
  • the continued shackling of Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim.
Resolution of both items was put off.

Setting a date for the Preliminary Hearing

January will mark two years since the arrest of the San Francisco 8 and the hearing to determine whether or not there is a basis for a trial is yet to take place. Prosecution maneuvering regarding the tens of thousands of pages of discovery as well as scheduling conflicts of over a dozen attorneys continue to present a logistical quagmire.

As lawyers opened by presenting their respective schedules, filled with major trials in the next several months, Judge Moscone interrupted to state that he would not listen to scheduling problems and that he proposed starting the preliminary hearing on January 5 regardless of conflicts. He said he wanted to conclude this case "while I'm still here." [Update: the preliminary hearing has been scheduled to run from June 8 to September 3.]

However, the prosecution acknowledged that just this week they had given the defense some three thousand pages of new discovery material and added that they have another two thousand or more pages to prepare before disclosing. The judge allowed as to how he had to give the defense time to read the alleged "evidence" against their clients.

Under pressure from the judge, the Attorney General's office agreed to deliver the remaining discovery materials to the defense by next week. In turn, the defense attorneys agreed to look it over quickly to determine how much time might be needed to fully study it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Harold Taylor convicted of drug charge in Florida

Harold Taylor, one of the San Francisco 8, was convicted of a drug charge in Florida October 23, 2008.
UPDATE: Harold was given two years probation at his sentencing January 13, 2009. He is home with his family.
Harold Taylor was arrested last December in Florida on a baseless charge of attempted purchase of cocaine. Several people were swept up in a neighborhood sweep and sting operation at that time. Harold's case has coincidentally received unusual attention by the Florida court which fast-tracked his prosecution after many months of inactivity. A jury of six white women deliberated less than 15 minutes in the one-day Panama City trial. This prosecution is a result of a new judge and prosecutor taking over, not upon any substantial or new evidence. Two prosecutors worked to present this case over a $20 attempt-to-purchase. FBI agents attended the proceedings.

A thorough search of his person and his van resulted in NO seizure of any substances, legal or illegal. Further, NO allegation is even made that any money was produced. He has NO drug use history!!

In short, Harold was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had gone to this neighborhood to thank some of the people that had written letters of support for him when he was seeking release on bail in San Francisco.

As you can read in the letter from his San Francisco lawyer that follows, this prosecution is a result of a new judge and prosecutor taking over, not upon any substantial or new evidence.
Friends,

It is clear from the arrest and all the surrounding circumstances that the charge against Harold in Florida is totally baseless. A thorough search of his person and his van resulted in NO seizure of any substances, legal or illegal. Further, NO allegation is even made that any money was produced. Harold was swept up in a sting operation in which numerous individuals were arrested. All except Harold were alleged to have actually made a purchase. None of them were with him when he was arrested. He has NO drug history!! In short, Harold was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had gone to this neighborhood to thank some of the people that had written letters of support for him when he was seeking release on bail in San Francisco.

News of his arrest spread quickly and he was bailed out shortly after he appeared in a Florida court.

Just days earlier he had appeared on "Democracy Now" with host Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, and attended a press conference held by the World Council of Churches at Riverside Church announcing international support for the SF8 launched by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Laureates.

Harold has every intention of fighting the charges in San Francisco and Florida. In light of the torture he suffered in New Orleans in 1973, his strength and character in the face of this latest ordeal are amazing. The stress this has caused for him and his family is overwhelming.

Randy Montesano,
Harold Taylor's attorney in the San Francisco 8 case

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Obstacle to Parole Hearings for Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim


New York State letter denies request

The transfer of SF8 defendants Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim from the San Francisco County Jail back to New York State for their rightful parole hearings has been blocked by both state governors for weeks and New York State now wants to deny this right for good. This comes despite previous agreements in the courtroom between the California State prosecutors, the presiding judge and, of course, the brothers and their attorneys.

In a new – but not surprising – development, a letter from Steve Krantz, Assistant Counsel to the Governor of New York to Peter Smith, Deputy Attorney General of California dated October 10, 2008 states:

Procedures in this area are designed to balance a variety of considerations, including the needs of the judicial system and executive concerns such as security and administration. Even assuming that the amendments sought would be consistent with California law, in the absence of a demonstrated need to depart from usual procedures as reflected in the Executive Agreements, the Governor of New York does not plan to seek amendments to those agreements.

Stuart Hanlon, who represents Herman Bell, responded “If the government wanted to move an in-custody snitch, they would do it in a second … none of the government extradition rules would stop them. It is for the punitive impact that the government is hiding behind bureaucratic language in preventing them from being in New York for their rightful parole hearings – to avoid doing what is fair and right. This is bureaucratic b******t.”

Judge Philip Moscone signed an order in May allowing Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim to return to New York State for their parole hearings. All parties agreed at that time that the move would be temporary; Herman and Jalil waived their rights to fight extradition back to California.

This vindictive and mean-spirited procedural obstacle was immediately challenged by defense attorneys. Strong arguments were made to guarantee Herman and Jalil's right to "pursue their liberty interests" and have parole hearings. Both have served over 35 years in prison as model prisoners. Both were targeted originally by COINTELPRO as members of the Black Panther Party.

New York Attorney Bob Boyle argued in a declaration to the San Francisco Court that if the men remain in California, "they would be denied their parole hearing for years." In a subsequent interview, he also said:
The state waited 35 years to bring these spurious criminal charges. Now these charges are being used to deny these men parole hearings to which they are entitled. Whatever concerns the government has can be overcome by a simple modification of the extradition order. All Herman and Jalil are asking for is an opportunity to attend their hearings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New stuff: Drop the Charges newsletter


Yes, the new tabloid newsletter is now available: Drop the Charges. Four pages, newspaper-sized, ready as of September 20, 2008. See it on your computer in PDF format and order copies from the addresses below.

Also the basic brochure is updated -- one sheet front and back, get it as a PDF file Download now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

SF 8 & Political Prisoner Events at the Critical Resistance Conference (Oakland 9/26-28)


Thanks for all your support at CR10, the prison abolition conference that was held in Oakland, California the end of September.

Hank Jones of the SF8 spoke at the opening night celebration. Panels on p0litical prisoners featured Richard Brown and Harold Taylor of the SF8 and attorney Soffiyah Elijah. Others included Ashanti Alston, Bo Brown, Masai Ehehosi, Meg Starr, Dan Berger, Ziad Abbas, Pam Africa, Ramona Africa, Fred Hampton Jr., JR, Julia Wright, and Leslie Jones. Also featured were Leonard Peltier and First Nations political prisoners and women political prisoners with Lucy Rodriguez, Susan Rosenberg, and others from Iran, Palestine and the Philippines.

Preview of new COINTELPRO film
A panel on COINTELPRO – the government's dirty tricks (up to assassination) directed against the Black Freedom Movement and other progressive movements – featured a preview of COINTELPRO 101, a new film from Freedom Archives on the subject with a focus on the SF 8 case. Panel discussion with filmmakers and participants included Cynthia McKinney; Lucy Rodríguez; Soffiyah Elijah; Elliot Monteverde, and Claude Marks.

Benefit Concert for the Angola 3 and the SF 8
After all the talking SF8 supporters put on a party benefitting the Angola 3 and the SF 8, featuring Martin Luther with Silk E, Rico Pabon, Khalil Anthony, and Starchild Dance.

Welcome to the new Free the SF 8 blog

This blog is an unofficial addition or supplement to the web site for the campaign to Free the SF 8, which is at www.freethesf8.org. Here we will concentrate on what's new in the case and the campaign:
  • court dates,
  • reports on hearings,
  • upcoming events,
  • new publications, etc.

For all the background in all kinds of media – print, audio, and video – see the main web site, as always.

Your feedback welcome at freethesf8 [at] riseup [dot] net