Friday, September 9, 2011

"It took over 4 1/2 years to win this case!"

"The Court, having considered the Stipulation of Facts submitted by the parties…together with the previously submitted motion to dismiss, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this case be dismissed."

Dated August 18, 2011
Philip J. Moscone, Judge of the Superior Court
So concludes a case that was initiated in a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation in 2003, grand jury investigations that locked up former Panthers in 2005, and charged eight brothers in January of 2007.

"It took over 4 1/2 years to win this case!" said Francisco Torres.

This case starts with an attack on the Ingleside Police Station in August of 1971, 40 years ago, in which a San Francisco Police Sergeant was killed. At the time, the attack was claimed to be a response to the assassination of George Jackson the previous week in San Quentin.

In 1973, in a major national police agency offensive and Cointelpro operation designed to destroy the Black Panther Party, over a dozen Party members were arrested in New Orleans. At least three of the men were tortured and forced to sign statements regarding the Ingleside attack. A 1975 prosecution based on the torture-induced statements was thrown out of court in San Francisco.

Then, in 2005, the government’s need to promote an "anti-terrorism" agenda and to re-criminalize the history of the Black Panther Party drove the reopening of this cold case through a Grand Jury decades later. There was strong resistance to the Grand Jury, but in 2007 charges were brought against the men who become the San Francisco 8.

With the same solidarity shown in resisting the 2005 Grand Jury, and with growing community support for the Brothers, and a film, The Legacy of Torture, which exposed the background, the San Francisco 8 case soon began to unravel for the prosecution. In an unprecedented development, five of the men were released on bail.

In 2008 the conspiracy charge against Francisco "Cisco" Torres was dropped and all charges against five were dropped (Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Richard O'Neal and Harold Taylor). Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell, who have spent decades in prison as political prisoners, pleaded no contest to reduced charges of conspiracy and manslaughter with no prison sentences. This left a single charge against Cisco for the last three years, which has just been dismissed.

Four 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 broken the back of a vindictive prosecution organized by Homeland Security, the FBI, and then California Attorney General (now Governor) Jerry Brown.

The Stipulation of Facts leading to the final dismissal of the case against Francisco Torres includes:
  • The loss of the alleged murder weapon
  • Statements about their torture by three men arrested in New Orleans – (police tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation)
  • Insufficient evidence to prove guilt
  • After three decades, memories faded, witnesses died (70 people have died including John Bowman – who was one of those tortured in New Orleans) , and evidence was “lost, destroyed or is otherwise unavailable” (as in illegally obtained or Cointelpro related)
  • In the 1970s, Reuben Scott, who was tortured, refused to testify for the prosecution, but suddenly, more than 30 years later changed his mind
  • Wiretap evidence was ruled not discoverable in 2009 (and these surveillance documents which could prove the Cointelpro campaign against the Panthers became a liability to the prosecution, some became lost or destroyed, or unavailable)

"Against the backdrop of the war on terror, steadfast solidarity among defendants and supporters of all stripes prevailed over conventional wisdom. Again the San Francisco 8 thank the people around the planet and especially the Bay. The success belongs to each and every one of you," commented Ray Boudreaux.

Hank Jones declared, "There’s no doubt in my mind, had it not been for the solidarity committee and the film, Legacy of Torture, we would have been railroaded. Mobilizing the way we did all across the country, put the government on notice that we were a force to be reckoned with!"

The defense committee has vowed to keep up the pressure until Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim are back with their families and community. Hank Jones said, "Now that Cisco is cleared, we can shift our focus to building a movement to release other political prisoners."

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