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.