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.

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