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
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