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.

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.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

New photo gallery on Flickr

Check out our photos of the demonstration last week:

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.