Thursday, December 3, 2009

Last conspiracy charge dropped - Dec 3 court report

In court December 3, the prosecution dropped the conspiracy charge against Francisco (Cisco) Torres, citing lack of evidence. The defense has argued from the beginning that the conspiracy charges against the San Francisco 8 from 37 years ago had no validity because the statute of limitations passed long ago. The state's motion to dismiss this count two (conspiracy) tacitly acknowledges the defense arguments which had already led to dismissing the conspiracy charges against Richard O'Neal, Herman Bell, Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, and Harold Taylor.

Motion to dismiss: prejudicial delay

The next court date is scheduled for February 18 (at 9:00 a.m. in Department 22) set hearing dates on the motion to dismiss and for preliminary examination.

A strong turn out of supporters made clear the continuing attention the case is getting.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Spirited Rally and Packed Courtroom for Francisco Torres


Some one hundred and fifty supporters rallied on October 9 for the court appearance of Francisco Torres, the last of the SF 8 defendants to face charges. San Francisco Supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar joined the rally. Five of the SF 8 were present – in addition to Francisco Torres, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Richard O'Neal participated in the enthusiastic picket line.

Status Conference December 3

In a brief hearing before a packed courtroom, Judge Philip Moscone set a status conference for December 3 to pick a date for oral argument on the motion to dismiss the charges. The judge’s decision was welcomed by the defense, as until now Moscone had indicated that he would not hear a motion to dismiss until the preliminary hearing had been completed.

Support Continues Strong

Organizers were upbeat about today’s developments, stating that in the last week alone the publication of the new Open Letter in the SF Bay Guardian signed by hundreds (see previous post), the fax and phone campaign on October 5 that resulted in the Attorney General's fax machine and phone closing down – as well as the tireless work of outreach and calling – are examples of the pressure that we have to keep on building.





And see the video on SF Indybay.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Open Letter for Francisco Torres published: drop the charges

Today the Committee for the Defense of the San Francisco 8 has published an Open Letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown that appears in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Open Letter demands that all charges against Francisco Torres be dropped, citing the failed, costly and unethical prosecution.

Current signers illustrate the growing broad-based support that Francisco has both nationally and through out the world, including Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, Danny Glover, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the President and Vice President of the San Francisco Board of Education, as well as ministers, educators, organizers and supporters from all walks of life.

Click here to see a copy of the published Letter. (1 page PDF)

Monday, August 31, 2009

On the Unjust Prosecution of the San Francisco 8

STATEMENT FROM SUPERVISORS ERIC MAR, JOHN AVALOS, AND CHRIS DALY

August 27, 2009

To Attorney General Jerry Brown:

We want to express our deep concern over the unjust, costly and flawed prosecution of the San Francisco 8.

Based on “confessions” and other testimony extracted by torture and denial of right to counsel, this prosecution has been a disservice to the people of San Francisco.

For the last six years, prosecution of this case has ripped respected elders from their families and from their community service. It has exacted an incalculable toll on all of them.

The cost of this case to the people of San Francisco has now run into the millions of dollars.

The results to date of this prosecution speak to its inherent weakness and injustice:
  • On July 6, your office was forced to drop all charges against four of the San Francisco 8 (Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Harold Taylor), acknowledging that you had “insufficient evidence” to prosecute them.

  • Your office had already been forced to drop all charges a year earlier against a fifth member of the SF8, Richard O’Neal.

  • Your office offered and accepted pleas to greatly reduced charges from two other SF 8 defendants, Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, in exchange for time served and probation.
Francisco Torres is now the only remaining SF 8 defendant. Your office also offered him probation and time served in exchange for a plea to a lesser charge. He refused your offer, and maintains his innocence.

Mr. Torres was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. He is a Vietnam Veteran who fought for the rights of Black and Latino soldiers upon his return to the states. A former member of the Black Panther Party, he has been a long-time community activist and mentor to youth. He is a husband, a father and a grandfather.

Previous attempts to prosecute this case were dismissed in 1975 when it was revealed that so-called “confessions” were the product of torture by the New Orleans police department.

As members of the Board of Supervisors, we reiterate our opposition to the use of torture against any suspects.
In the name of fairness and justice and human rights, we urge you to reconsider the continuation of this misguided prosecution.

Signed By:

Supervisor Eric Mar
Supervisor John Avalos
Supervisor Chris Daly

[PDF version of this statement]

Monday, August 24, 2009

New e-mail address

We have a new e-mail address:

freethesf8 [pat] gmail [dot] com

The old one (at riseup) no longer works.

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The San Francisco 8 – No More! Commentary by Mumi Abu-Jamal

The San Francisco 8 -- No More!
[column written 7/15/09] (c) '09 Mumia Abu-Jamal [Listen to this commentary by Mumia]

It's been 2 1/2 years since the San Francisco 8 – eight former members [and associates – ed.] of the Black Panther Party – were cast into California jails and threatened with life sentences stemming from the 1971 shooting of a cop.

Perhaps the State figured the post - 9//11 paranoia and mania would make this an easy case. Perhaps the government thought that because many of the accused were men of advancing age, decades away from their prime organizing and activist days, it would be a cake walk.

The 8 men fought with dignity, principle and unity – and several days ago – charges for 4 of them were dismissed altogether: Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Harold Taylor.

New York's Jalil Muntaqim pled no contest to conspiracy – and got time served in San Francisco County Jail – almost 2 1/2 years – with 3 years probation.

Herman Bell – another New York former Panther – took a similar deal earlier in July.

One ex-Panther, Francisco Torres, faces a hearing next month [October 9 – ed.], where most observers expect all charges to be dropped. Another, John Bowman, died before trial. The last, Richard O'Neal, was cleared pre-trial.

From the very beginning, back in the '70's – several of the men were brutally tortured by police in Louisiana to elicit false confessions (thus we see that Abu Ghraib really was nothing new).

The cases were dismissed decades ago -- on that basis alone.

That the prosecutions were reinstated at all is due more to the politicized Justice Department under John Ashcroft and George Bush – where torture was a tool of state – than anything else. Also implicated? The political ambitions of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, seeking the governorship.

No charges should've been brought in the first place – or if contemplated, dismissed under double jeopardy principles.

As it is – even the state admits – dismissal is valid due to insufficient evidence.

These results are due, in large part, to the solidarity of the men themselves, and some excellent, aggressive lawyering by assorted defense counsel, among them J. Soffiyah Elijah of Harvard Law School.

Several years ago, in a statement calling for support for the San Francisco 8, I implored supporters to fight for them now – before they fell into the clutches of the state containment system – instead of after.

Many took up that fight – leading to many of the most recent results.

-- (c) '09 maj
=======================
The Power of Truth is Final – Free Mumia!

URGENT Need for Petition Signatures at: www.iacenter.org/mumiapetition
Audio of most of Mumia's essays are at: www.prisonradio.org
Mumia's got a podcast! Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays - Subscribe at the website or on iTunes and get Mumia's radio commentaries online.
mumiapodcast.libsyn.com

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim Back in NY: Write Them

Both Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) have been transferred back to New York. Both will have parole hearings in the next month(s). You can write them at:

Herman Bell # 79D0262
Sullivan Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 116
325 Riverside Drive
Fallsburg, New York 12733-0116

Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) #77A4283
Auburn Correctional Facility
135 State Street
P.O. Box 618
Auburn, NY 13021

Sunday, August 9, 2009

SF 8 Statement: Gratitude for Support, the Struggle Continues

We, The San Francisco 8 - Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Richard O'Neal, Hank Jones, Jalil Muntaqim, Harold Taylor and Francisco Torres, express our deepest gratitude to the people of San Francisco and the world for their support and energy that brought about our success in this ordeal with the "justice system."

We and our support committee are claiming victory in this latest battle. As we go forward and prepare for the next one we ask that you lend your strength, your ideas and your spirit to win the dismissal of the charges against Francisco Torres. We also ask that you give your full support to the effort to gain release on parole by Jalil and Herman.

The many years of fighting this case have depleted our resources. We again ask that you help us raise the necessary funds to keep on battling. All contributions are deeply appreciated.

Let it be known that the San Francisco 8, as the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, will continue to labor in the human rights struggle and the support of Political Prisoners. We depend on the continued support of our friends and allies around the world for without it none of our successes would be possible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Herman Bell's final comment on the SF8 case

The Final Comment on the SF8
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

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Charges dropped - Jalil pleads no contest – Cisco's case continues

Finally, after years of unified resistance by the brothers and a the building of massive support, California State prosecutors were forced to admit that they have insufficient evidence against the San Francisco 8.

On Monday July 6, charges against four of the defendants were dropped and Jalil Muntaqim pled no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter. The State prosecutor asked the court to sentence him to 12 months calling it "a drop in the bucket." Judge Moscone replied "unless you're the one doing the time." Jalil received credit for time served (close to 2 1/2 years in County Jail) and 3 years probation. He will return to New York to fight for parole. See his statement in the post below.

All charges were dismissed today against Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor.

The courtroom at 850 Bryant Street was packed with SF 8 supporters after a rally of hundreds and a huge "Free SF 8" banner was displayed on the hillside of Bernal Heights to be seen from all over the city. For more photos, visit flickr.com/freethesf8.

"This is finally the disposition of a case that should never have been brought in the first place," announced attorney Soffiyah Elijah.

Francisco Torres still faces a court hearing on August 10. Francisco steadfastly maintains his innocence according to his attorney Charles Bourdon who intends to file a motion to dismiss the charges against his client.

Herman Bell entered a plea a week ago – see post below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jalil's Statement on the S.F. 8 Plea Agreement

TO: Friends and Supporters
FR: JALIL A. MUNTAQIM
DT: July 6, 2009
RE: My Statement on the S.F. 8 Plea Agreement

First, I would like to thank all my friends and supporters for their tenacious and tireless work in support of the SF 8, especially the San Francisco 8 Support Committee, Committee in Defense of Human Rights, Asian-Americans for the S.F. 8, Freedom Archives, and many others. I wish to thank the excellent legal team whose unwavering commitment to the task was inspiring. I especially want to thank the lawyers who did the majority of the behind-the-scenes legwork by name: Soffiyah Elijah, Jenny Kang, Julie de Almeida, Heather Hardwick, Rai Sue Sussman, and Lori Flowers. This team of women suffering the testosterone of as many as ten male lead attorneys, plus the eight men accused, truly had their feminist code tested. Naturally, I want to thank the most noted private investigators, Adam Raskin and Nancy Pemberton, whose investigative technique and services were outstanding.

Today we were to start the preliminary hearing but because of our strong legal defense team and growing public support, the California prosecutor offered plea settlements that could not be ignored. The entire group discussed whether I would plead no contest to conspiracy to manslaughter. After some discussion, I reluctantly agreed to take the plea and be sentenced to 3 years probation; 1 year of jail time, credit for time served, concurrent with New York State sentence, dismissing 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Also, because of my plea, four other defendants would have all charges dismissed for insufficient evidence. This was a no-brainer especially considering the elder brothers suffered a variety of health issues ranging from high blood pressure, chronic respiratory problems, diabetes, PTSD, and prostate cancer. Although I have my own health issues, in my near 38 years of imprisonment, I believe I am in better shape than all four combined (Ha).

In the last 25 years prior to these charges being lodged, the brothers had been living peaceful and productive lives raising their families, and offering community services. During the period from their release on bail to this date, they had been running themselves ragged across the country telling the story of Cointelpro destruction of the Black Panther Party, the Legacy of Torture, and building support for the case. While I would have liked to have continued the legal fight to what I believe would have resulted in complete exoneration of all charges, I know the jury system is fickle. I have seen too many innocent men in prison who fought with the conviction of being innocent after a reasonable plea bargain was offered, and they ultimately lost due to prosecutorial misconduct, defense attorney errors, improper jury instructions by a judge, and/or a fickle jury. Unfortunately, their loss results in spending decades in prison fighting for a reversal or waiting to be released on parole, or in the worst cases, death row DNA exonerations. The American judicial system is nowhere near being without flaws, as the overwhelming number of Black men in prison sorely attests. Given these circumstances, my taking this plea is a bitter-sweet win-win.

Finally, I would like to thank with profound appreciation my attorneys Daro Inouye, a 30+ year veteran of the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, whose trial experiences and skills are incomparable; and Mark Goldrosen, a remarkable, selfless trial technician and writer whose understanding of both State and Federal law brought the court (and some of the attorneys) to task.

A luta continua – Jalil

Monday, June 29, 2009

Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Manslaughter – No Prison Sentence

Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters today as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd. The following statement was issued by his legal team:

Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Voluntary Manslaughter for a Sentence of Five Years Probation

Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters June 29th as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd.

Herman Bell pled guilty to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the killing of San Francisco police officer John Young in 1971.

Part of the plea agreement is that Herman will not be a witness against his comrades and friends and cannot be called to any hearing as a witness by the prosecution.

His sentence is that he will be placed on informal probation for five years and will be allowed to immediately return to New York. He will receive absolutely no additional prison time for his actions.

Herman and his co-defendants have always maintained that because of the torture used by the New Orleans Police Department to gain alleged confessions and the lack of new evidence, these charges should never have been brought.

Herman's letter to supporters and friends follows.
***************************************
7/2/09

Dear friends,

Your strong showing of support at my plea/sentencing hearing this past Monday was truly heartening. For me, removing the possibility of going to trial when a proposal (though unpalatable) is offered that would leave open a future chance at parole in another jurisdiction was something I could not pass up. So I accepted the AG’s proposal. There is no disunity here, just a tactical legal decision having been made. I could never be at peace with myself if I sat in a prison cell for the rest of my days knowing that I rejected a proposal that left open possible freedom one day. You expect me to think and act responsibly and to make responsible decisions. I expect no less of myself or of you.

I am so proud of you and all the work you’ve done in our behalf and in waking our movement from its lethargy proud of your speaking, proud of your fund-raising, proud of your organizing (the Labor Council, the City Supervisors, the Caravan to Sacramento such a sweet piece of “main stream” organizing, and the tribute to Panther women). So very proud that you were in court to smile your greetings whenever we appeared; proud that you made bail for those of us who could bail-out, and that you routinely visited those of us who could not. I shall miss your frequent visits, so how could I not go forward in this without a heavy heart. I do so thanking you for being true to yourselves and thanking you for the love and righteous support you gave and are giving the SF8.

I love you all.

Herman

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New photo gallery on Flickr

Check out our photos of the demonstration last week: www.flickr.com/photos/freethesf8.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Open Letter: "Drop the Charges" published

The open letter to California Attorney General Jerry Brown asking him to drop the charges against the SF8 was published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian June 3. You can view it here (4 page PDF) with additional signers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Crowd demands: Drop the Charges

A spirited picket line of some 300 people filled the block in front of the San Francisco County Courthouse chanting "Drop the charges" and "Free the eight." The June 8 rally loudly announced that the community will not allow the persecution of the San Francisco 8 to go forward without a concerted struggle.


The picket line was joined by SF Supervisor Eric Mar, who called the San Francisco 8 case "COINTELPRO 2009" referring to the FBI counter-intelligence program carried out with local police agencies to destroy the Black Panther Party.

The Brass Liberation Orchestra maintained the tempo as the crowd and defendants Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor and Cisco Torres marched along, prompting Ray Boudreaux, another of the eight to remark that "this demonstration takes me back to New Orleans." The marchers raised the spirit so that they could be heard inside the jail by Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, who remain locked up at the same location.

Soffiyah Elijah, one of the lawyers for the eight, thanked the crowd and announced after a day of closed hearings that the preliminary hearing was scheduled to start on Monday, July 6. (See later post, above for the resolution.) The defendants, their support committee and defense attorneys say that the eight are innocent, that they cannot get a fair trial because too much time has passed, that there is no new evidence, missing evidence, and that the prosecution's case relies on statements made under torture in New Orleans and ruled illicit in the 1970s. This same case was dropped over 30 years ago by the San Francisco District Attorney.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Program in SF 6/5: HOMEY Presents: Hands Off the OGs!

San Francisco, June 5, HOMEY Presents: By Any Means Necessary, Hands Off the SF8! Movie screening, discussion, and workshop with folks from the SF8. HOMEY office, 1337 Mission Street at 9th, 6:00–8:30. Sponsored by Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The SF 8 case as an attempt to rewrite history

Why would the state spend millions to prosecute the San Francisco 8, a 38-year old case that has already been dropped several times?

While there are several aspects to the answer, the activist journalist Dan Berger offers one important response in a recent article: "... the current moment is a pivotal one in shaping how society perceives the history and impact of the black freedom struggle." This case is one that is "being reopened in a post–civil rights world that has seen an immense retreat from racial justice ... these cases constitute spectacular intervention by the state in how the black freedom struggle is remembered".

In other words, the charges are an attempt to rewrite the history of the Black Liberation Movement as a mere criminal conspiracy. With political cases such as this one, "... prosecutions emerge out of pre-existing cooperation between state and federal law enforcement agencies. There does not seem to be any visible social movement clamoring for these men to be incarcerated. ... In the prosecution of black radicals ... black power emerges only as villain."

Get the complete article as a 20 page PDF file: "Rescuing Civil Rights from Black Power: Collective Memory and Saving the State in Twenty-First-Century Prosecutions of 1960s-Era Cases" by Dan Berger in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism, volume 3, issue 1 (Spring 2009).

Tribute to Women of the BPP a great success

Rank-and-file women of the Black Panther Party were honored at a program on April 18, organized by the San Francisco 8 and the Black Student Union of San Francisco State University along with the SF 8 support committee. It was a deeply moving, uplifting, and encouraging event featuring a panel of six Panther women ("there is no such thing as a former Panther," said one) sharing their experiences of the Party.

The photo below shows the women of the panel with members of the SF 8 and supporters.


Photo by Scott Braley

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 24 SF 8 Hearing: wiretaps off limits

At the April 24 (2009) hearing, Judge Moscone denied defense requests to force the release of FBI wiretap surveillance of Black Panther phones in the San Francisco 8 case. In doing so, he accepted the affidavit of an FBI "taint team" which has not been seen by the defense and asserts that no FBI wiretaps include any surveillance of the eight. It was argued that it is hard to believe the FBI’s findings about their own surveillance and even more unbelievable that the illegalities of COINTELPRO (the FBI’s counter intelligence program) would not be relevant in this case. Nonetheless, the ruling makes these wiretaps “undiscoverable at this time,” according to the Judge's ruling.

The prosecution claims not to have any access to these wiretaps either. This assertion is equally incredible given that the FBI always worked with local and state police agencies in conducting its war against the Black Liberation movement. The prosecution also claims that it cannot order the release of FBI files – which is absurd given that the FBI was “involved since day one” according to defense arguments and is borne out by the fact that an early grand jury was called by the federal government in this case.

It was made clear in court today that the FBI made the Black Panther Party the number one target of the FBI at the time and that there is no doubt that this includes these men because of their relationship to the Party. The Judge responded by likening such requests to a defense fishing expedition.

Neither Herman Bell nor Jalil Muntaqim was handcuffed in the courtroom. Lynne Stewart, her husband, Ralph Poynter, and Ward Churchill showed their solidarity with the San Francisco 8 by joining numerous other community members for today’s hearing.

The Preliminary Hearing in the SF 8 Case begins Monday, June 8th. It is scheduled to run Monday-Thursday for 3-4 months. Please check here and the website to sign up for emails, sign the letter to Drop the Charges and organize support!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SF Labor Council stands by their "Drop the Charges" Resolution - supports SF8

Despite attempts at intimidation by the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the brothers and sisters of the San Francisco Labor Council defeated a motion to rescind a February resolution calling for the dropping of charges against the San Francisco 8. (See the resolution here as a PDF file). The final vote on Monday night, April 13th was 45-40. This vote is a tribute to the solidarity of the progressive labor movement in San Francisco and its willingness to value political principles and refusal to endorse a 37-year old prosecution based on statements made under police torture. We thank all the delegates and the rank and file members of the Bay Area unions that voted and signed statements of solidarity - calling for the dropping of charges against the San Francisco 8!

*******************************************************************************
Letter to the voting delegates at April 13, 2009 meeting which was signed by more than 30 SF Labor Council delegates and many other labor and community supporters:

To Our Brothers and Sisters in the San Francisco Labor Council

We, the undersigned union activists, delegates and concerned community members, urge you to uphold the San Francisco Labor Council resolution opposing the unjust prosecution of the San Francisco 8.

As the Labor Council Resolution states, “Therefore be it Resolved, that in the name of fairness, justice and human rights – and to express our outrage that this prosecution based on coercion and tortured ‘confessions’ in this 36-year-old case would be allowed to proceed – that the San Francisco Labor Council calls on California Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop all charges against the San Francisco 8 defendants.”

The resolution was originally passed on February 9th as part of an open and democratic process:

1. Social & Economic Justice Committee discussed the SF 8 case at its Nov.'08, and Jan. and Feb. '09 meetings, and voted unanimously to bring the resolution to the Council.

2. At the February 9th council meeting the Social & Economic Justice Committee introduced one of the SF8 defendants, Richard Brown, who spoke to the delegates, receiving a warm welcome. Under new business, after extensive discussion, the SF8 resolution was amended and then passed resoundingly, with no dissenting votes. No officer or delegate raised any objection to the resolution.

3. The resolution was then posted on the SF Labor Council website, signed by the executive director.

4. At the Feb. 23rd council meeting, delegates approved, without objection, the minutes of the Feb. 9 meeting, signed by the executive director. These minutes reported on the adoption of the SF8 resolution. No officer or delegate present at the Feb. 23rd meeting raised any objection to the resolution.

It was only after a public attack on the resolution by Gary Delagnes, head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, that five members of the Executive Committee backtracked on the resolution and called for it to be rescinded. The statement by Mr. Delagnes is classic McCarthyism, filled with half-truths and unfounded charges.

The Labor Council has a proud history of standing up for social justice in the face of controversy and intimidation. This is not the time to take a step backwards.

The following labor and community members and more than 30 SFLC delegates urge the San Francisco Labor Council to uphold the resolution opposing the unjust prosecution of the San Francisco 8 defendants:

Senior Action Network (SAN)…School Bus Drivers UTU 1741 delegate Shane Hoff… American Postal Workers delegates Jean Taylor, Alice Lindstrom Davis, Vernelle Hawkins, Richard Stone…APWU delegate & SFLC Exec Ccl member Rosa Faye Marshall…SFLC Vice Pres & Pride at Work delegate Howard Wallace…LCLAA Pres., SFLC delegate & Exec Ccl member Frank Martin del Campo…Carpenters delegate Jim Salinas…SEIU 1021 delegates Maria Guillen, Jonathan Meade, Francesca Rosa, David Williams…AFT 2121 delegates Pablo Rodriguez, Allan Fisher, Warren Mar, Rodger Scott…IAM 1781 delegate and retired President Carl Finamore…SEIU 1000 delegate Tami Bryant…OPEIU 3 delegate & SFLC Exec Ccl member Alan Benjamin…Council of Community Housing Organizations & SF Housing Justice Network organizer Rene Cazenave…Letter Carriers 214 delegates Carl Bryant, Dave Welsh…Media Workers Pres. & delegate Gloria La Riva…Ironworkers 377 delegate Mike Daly…Arab American Union Members Council Pres. Monadel Herzallah… ILWU 10 delegate & Alameda Labor Council Exec Bd member Clarence Thomas…SF Day Labor Program director & La Raza Centro Legal organizer Renee Saucedo…Just Cause Oakland & Black Alliance for Just Immigration organizer Phil Hutchings…Poet and UPTE/ CWA 9119 delegate Nellie Wong…Inland Boatmen’s Union (ILWU) delegate Robert Irminger and member Samantha Levens…ANSWER Coalition…Pride at Work member Wendy Lee…SFLC delegate Denise D’Anne…SF Gray Panthers…Sign Display 510 member David Grace…SEIU 1021 member Linda Ray…US Labor Against the War coordinator Michael Eisenscher…AFT 2121 member Bill Carpenter…Former AFT 2121 president & SFLC Exec ccl member Allan Fisher…ILWU 10 Exec Bd memberJack Heyman… Radio host Kiilu Nyasha…SEIU delegate Kathy Lipscomb… Plumbers 393 Exec Bd member & So. Bay Labor Ccl delegate Fred Hirsch…CUE #3 former president Michael-David Sasson…Retired AFSCME, SEIU & IFPTE union rep Linda “Spike” Kahn…Haiti Action Committee and its co-founder Pierre Labossiere… Retired unionist and California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) activist Mary Magill… ATU 1555 member Gene Pepi…Teamsters member Art Persyko…Health Care for All organizer & union activist Don Bechler…People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) Exec Director Steve Williams…Education not Incarceration organizer mesha Monge-Irizarry…SF senior activist Michael Lyon.

For individual signers, organizations listed for ID only

In addition to the above, the following have passed a resolution or signed an Open Letter urging that charges against the San Francisco 8 be dropped:

Center for Constitutional Rights…Archbishop Desmond Tutu and four other Nobel Peace Prize laureates… Actor Danny Glover…San Francisco Labor Council…Union organizer and civil rights activist Aileen Hernandez…Veteran SF and Bayview grassroots activist Jim Queen…Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney…Metropolitan Community Church of SF senior minister Rev. Lea Brown…SF School Board president Kim-Shree Maufas, vice-presidentJane Kim and former president Mark Sanchez…UAW Southeast Region VP & Local 2320 Jeffrey Segal, Esq…SEIU District 1199 officer Bruce Richards… UCSF Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Jess Ghannam…Global Exchange board & radio host Walter Turner…San Francisco Bay View Newspaper publisher Willie Ratcliff… Author and journalist Ron Jacobs…SF Elections Commissioner & NAACP VP Rev. Arnold Townsend… Co-director Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Dorsey Nunn… International Assn of Jurists attorney Lennox Hinds, Esq…Bay Area radio jazz DJ Art Sato… Black Flight Attendants-Detroit chapter member Shaakira Edison…UC-Santa Cruz professor emeritus Angela Davis…Maranatha Christian Center (San Jose) Associate Minister Rev. Steven Pinkston...Ecumenical Peace Institute coordinator Carolyn Scarr…CSU-East Bay Prof. emeritus Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz…Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility director Gary Brouse…Attorneys Anne Butterfield Weills (Oakland), Nadia Yakoob (SF), Mark Merin (Sacramento), Melinda Power (Chicago), Allison Brown, Annette Ensley, Barry Beroset, Bernida Reagan, Carol Smith, Carol Watson, Chris Ford, Colleen Flynn, Collins Pettaway Jr.,David Addams, Florence Morgan, George Lewis, Gilda Sherrod-Ali, Judith L. Bourne, Kafahni Nkrumah, Kaleema Hadera Al-Nur (JD), Lee Goldstein, Marc Fancher, Marlene Archer, Mimi Ghirmay, Regina Jemison, Roger Wareham, Ron Scott, Roslyn Morrison, Sam Feneque (JD), Sarida Scott, Tara Curtis, Terry A. Price, Thomas Ruffin Jr, Helen P. Arnold and Standish E. Willis(Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, Chicago), Ivy Thomas Riley and Jeffrey L. Edison (Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, Michigan), Rev. Khalfani Drummer and Ronald Isaac (Nat’l Conference of Black Lawyers, DC Metro)…Professors Sam Green (USF and SF Art Institute), William Crossman (Berkeley City College), Kathleen Densmore (San Jose State), Adjoa Aiyetoro (U of Arkansas-Law), Bernedene Allen (College of Marin), Jose Palafox (UC-Berkeley),Julia Sudbury (Mills College), Leslie Fleming (Merritt College), Ana Lopez (Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY), Lisa Brock (Columbia College, Chicago)…National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn…Cornell University African Studies & Research Center associate Dr. James Turner… Therapist Beverly A. Jones (specializing in prison-related trauma, Berkeley, CA)…Westchester County Peace Action Coalition Exec Director Connie Hogarth… and hundreds more.

For individual signers, organizations listed for ID only

Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27 SF8 Hearing: Prosecutors Still Stalling

In a San Francisco courtroom with two to three times more security officers than 'normal,' members of the San Francisco 8 and their attorneys continued to press for release of federal wiretap surveillance of the Black Panther Party offices. More written arguments are now to be filed by mid April with oral arguments scheduled for Friday, April 24 at 9:00 a.m. The Preliminary Hearing is still scheduled to start June 8, 2009 and conclude by September 3, with court four days a week straight through. The Preliminary Hearing will determine whether there are grounds to bring the case to trial.

Prosecutors are reluctant to make these documents public presumably because they would tie the FBI's COINTELPRO program to this prosecution. COINTELPRO illegally targeted the Black Panther Party, its members and associates in precisely the time period covered by the prosecution's conspiracy allegations (1968-1973).

The increased courtroom security included the handcuffing and shackling of Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim. This issue had been argued and resolved twice before, resulting in a court ordered agreement with the San Francisco County Sheriff to allow the two jailed defendants full use of their hands in court and the dignity of not being fully restrained. Their attorneys refused to move forward unless directly ordered by the court, and eventually the defendants were freed of handcuffs for this pro forma hearing. This issue is likely to arise again before the next court hearing.

Next hearing April 24 at 9:00 a.m.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Update from Hearing of March 6: Nothing New

At a brief hearing on March 6 the key matter of discovery was held over (postponed). The Preliminary Hearing is still scheduled to start June 8, 2009 and conclude by September 3, with court four days a week straight through. The Preliminary Hearing will determine whether there are grounds to bring the case to trial.

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 have passed 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 below.]

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.

Despite understandable objections by both Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim over delays, the preliminary hearing in the San Francisco 8 case has now been set for June 8 to September 3, 2009. Both Herman and Jalil are essentially locked down in the SF County Jail, and continue to have their rights to parole hearings in New York state denied.

February Events Supported the SF8

Black History Month Celebrated by SF Labor Council

Racism, Repression and Rebellion: The Lessons of Labor Defense was held February 14 at the ILWU Local 10 Hall in support of the SF8, Mumia, Troy Davis, and Oscar Grant.

The ILWU was born out of the militant 1934 Big Strike in which police killed two strikers in San Francisco, shooting them in the back. Still today police are banned from membership in Local 10. The union has a legacy of defending those under attack by the government, in particular reds and blacks, from Harry Bridges to Paul Robeson to Angela Davis to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Troy Davis. For Black History Month Local 10 organized this rally to teach the lessons of the need for unity of action to defend against government repression and racist profiling. These lessons are never more necessary than today as evidenced by the brutal murder by BART police of Oscar Grant.

Speakers included Richard Brown of the SF8, Angela Davis, Martina Correia (sister of Troy Davis on death row in Georgia), Rev. Cecil Williams, Robert R. Bryan (attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal), Gerald Smith (Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal), Pierre LaBossiere (Haiti Action Committee), and JR (Prisoners of Conscience Ctte). Entertainment was provided by Jack Hirschman, S.F. Poet Laureate; Tayo Aluko, Nigerian Actor portraying Paul Robeson; Upsurge Jazz/Poetry Music and others.

COINTELPRO Repression Opposed in Chicago Programs

Click to enlarge graphic below.Campaign for Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim to Attend Parole Hearings

Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell (of the San Francisco 8) are two of many who sacrificed so much during the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements. Both have been held captive since the early 1970’s. Jalil and Herman are being denied of their right of parole hearings because neither the California nor New York Governor will act on their request to be transferred to NY in order to work on their parole hearings.

“Phone for Parole!” every Monday during Black History Month

SF8 supporters commemorated Black History Month in many ways, including calling and faxing for the immediate transporting of Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell for parole hearings. Please look at the letter below for more details on this injustice. Feel free to use it as a basis for your fax or phone call.

Free the SF 8!!

______________ SAMPLE LETTER _____________
Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of the State of New York
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
FAX: 1-518-474-1513, 1-518-474-3767
david.paterson@chamber.state.ny.us
phone: 518-474-8390

February, 2009

Dear Governor Paterson:
I call upon you to immediately approve the already agreed upon transfer
of Herman Bell (DIN 79C0262) and Anthony Bottom (DIN 77A4283)
(aka Jalil Muntaqim), back to New York State custody to attend their
parole hearings.

The San Francisco County Jail does not have the proper facilities or capacity to hold people for an extended period of time, and two years in sub-standard living conditions, woefully limited visits and little to no access to proper medical care or activities has had devastating effects on Mr. Bell and Mr. Bottom and their families. Both of these men have been incarcerated for over 35 years and are model prisoners. Their return to New York State is essential in order for them to be present for crucial parole hearings. It is unfair and cruel to deny them this right.

Additionally, Mr. Bottom has submitted a fully documented application to you for clemency/commutation of his New York sentence. Please do not allow Mr. Bottom's custody in California to lessen the urgency of acting on his compelling case.

Please act now to end this injustice.

Sincerely,

(Print Name)
(Signature)
(Address)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SF8 on TV: watch it here

A recent Grit TV show with Laura Flanders featured Kamau Franklin and Francisco Torres (one of the defendants) on the case. See it on Blip TV at blip.tv/file/1714182

Monday, January 26, 2009

SF8 Presentation at Oklahoma University Jan. 17

On Saturday, January 17, a distinguished panel presented a discussion of the San Francisco 8 case at Oklahoma University. Five of the SF 8 shared the panel with actor and civil rights activist Danny Glover, Harvard Law professor Soffiyah Elijah and Emory Law professor Kathleen Cleaver. See the Oklahoma Daily for a full report and photo.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Court Update - "Big Surprise": Shotgun Bought on Internet is No Match

Update from SF 8 hearing of January 23
In a brief court hearing on Friday, January 23, attorneys for the San Francisco 8 once again tried to pry discovery (potential evidence) from the prosecution.

California State Prosecutors revealed that federal wiretaps of the defendants were reviewed by a US Attorney’s “taint team” which deemed them non-discoverable (not to be made available to the defense) because they lack relevance. This was immediately challenged by defense attorneys who argued that the federal government cannot be expected to determine the relevance of their own surveillance given the history of COINTELPRO (the FBI’s counter intelligence program) which targeted the Black Panther Party and these very defendants for the last 40 years. In light of this history and the fact that this very prosecution was started by the federal government after 2000, several defense attorneys argued, you can’t say that the Federal Government and the FBI have no interest in this case, and those same agencies cannot determine the relevance or lack of relevance of these wiretaps.

John Philipsborn, who represents Hank Jones, made it very clear that there is substantial evidence of close FBI surveillance of several of these defendants along with many other people associated with the Black Panther Party. It is more than reasonable, he argued, that the defense team determine the relevance of the wiretaps, not just a federal “taint team.”

Judge Moscone agreed to review an affidavit from this “taint team” and rule on these wiretaps.

Chuck Bourdon, who represents Francisco Torres, once again argued that all fingerprint evidence be turned over by the prosecution. These requests were originally made at the beginning of these hearings and still have not been fully complied with.

Close to 200 pages of additional materials are being deemed “non-discoverable” by the California prosecutors on behalf of New York prosecutors. These documents date back to the 1970s and the New York 3 case – which was tried twice and resulted in the convictions of Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim and Nuh Washington (now deceased). The events connected to that New York case are being re-raised in one of the conspiracy counts against Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim and Francisco Torres. Not only is the prosecution raising more than 30-year old legal issues that have already been tried, but they are clearly trying to limit raising issues of COINTELPRO, the use of torture, and the government conspiracy to destroy the Black liberation movement.

Before the hearing ended, prosecutors revealed that the highly touted shotgun that was purchased through the Internet and sent to the FBI labs last October for testing as the “missing murder weapon” has now been found to NOT match any other weapons evidence in this case. That weapon, much like the highly touted DNA swabs taken in June of 2006 and only last year determined to not match any of the defendants, only served as the prosecutor’s “new evidence” argument to the media, and turns out to be yet another lie.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Harold Taylor Gets Probation, Asserts Innocence

Harold Taylor, one of the San Francisco 8, was sentenced today, January 13, to 2 years probation and a one-year drug program for "purchase" of $20 of drugs that were never found. He was released after over two months in County Jail in Panama City, Florida.

Harold maintained his innocence throughout the case. He thanks everyone for their letters, their love and support.