Monday, June 24, 2019
Saturday, April 27, 2019
From Counter Punch
APRIL 26, 2019
by STANLEY L. COHEN
APRIL 26, 2019
by STANLEY L. COHEN
When the history of our times is recorded, any volume on domestic political prisoners must, per force, begin with the legendary ones of conscience. To these icons of principle, determination and courage we owe much. It is, after all, not by mere default that they risked, and often paid, all to demand the gale of change sweep away generations of ignorance, hatred and greed that have long fed on communities of color and poverty, from coast to coast, in the United States. For them, it was never about personal risk for they knew all too well the price that can be exacted for such integrity. For them, the alternative of silence was simply an option without a choice.
Leonard Peltier, a founder of the American Indian Movement, is now well into his fourth decade of imprisonment. Wrongfully charged and convicted for the defense of Wounded Knee against an FBI onslaught, his, more than any other continuing political persecution, lays bare the myth that the Department of Justice is committed to the pursuit of truth or equal application of law.
Having failed to secure a conviction in the first trial against his codefendants, at Peltier’s subsequent trial, the government recast, in its entirety, its storyline of what happened that fateful day during the firefight at the Pine Ridge Reservation between some 150 FBI agents, local law enforcement and vigilantes… and forty members of AIM.
At the first trial, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, federal prosecutors argued that two FBI agents were essentially “murdered” during an exchange of gunshots with Native activists barricaded at an AIM compound located some distance away. Rejecting the assertion the agents were targeted, the jury acquitted the defendants on the basis of self defense.
After succeeding in moving the second trial to a more favorable government venue in Fargo North Dakota (long a hotbed of anti-Native animus and violence), federal prosecutor’s concocted a new strategy. Using a patchwork of evidence built of altered or suppressed testimony to remake a case already soundly rejected, prosecutors rewrote the script to now one where the agents were executed by close range gun shots to their heads. Because of this dramatic shift, Peltier was precluded from submitting any self-defense testimony. Inexplicably, the new judge also prevented the defense from establishing, at trial, that the FBI had a proven history… in Native prosecutions… of tampering with evidence and witnesses.
Unlike the first trial, where prosecutors introduced evidence that agents had been pursuing a red pickup truck before the shootout, this time they testified they were looking for an orange and white van… such as the one that Peltier had been seen using on occasion. Likewise, while an FBI ballistic expert testified that a shell casing recovered near the agents’ bodies matched a weapon tied to Peltier, prosecutors suppressed a different ballistic test which proved the casing could not have come from his gun. These changes were part of a conscious effort by government prosecutors to convert the trial… of this high profile political and human rights activist… from a search for truth to a staged performance in which it withheld more than 140,000 pages of discovery from the defense in its desperate drive to convict Peltier no matter what the truth or the cost.
Nowhere is the nature and extent of the government’s misconduct in the persecution of Leonard Peltier better summed up than it was by one of his appellate attorneys, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who branded the evidence used against him as “fabricated, circumstantial … misused, concealed, and perverted.” Different in tenor and tone, yet, essentially the same in conclusion, during one of Peltier’s appeals before the Eight Circuit his former prosecutor conceded “… we do not know who killed those agents. Further, we don’t know what participation, if any, Mr. Peltier had in it.”
Ultimately, this candid admission of a government frame proved worthless when Barack Obama denied Peltier’s request for a sentence commutation via cryptic email, on January 18, 2017, as he raced out the oval office no doubt to ready for his first book signing tour.
Next eligible for parole in 2024, when he is 79 years of age, Leonard Peltier, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who is essentially wheelchair-bound and suffers from a potentially life-threatening internal bleeding condition, is likely to die in prison.
The thirst for vengeance is no less voracious in state court prosecutions that target political dissidents. Though state substantive offenses may vary and the rules of evidence change, prosecutors and judges still adhere to an age-old obedient oath that those who forcefully confront and expose institutional power and authority must be called to task… and damn the truth. While examples abound, no clearer one exists then the decades long political feed on Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Much has been written by and about Abu-Jamal and his journey, over the course of almost 40 years of imprisonment, largely spent on Pennsylvania’s death row, as an ever-present thorn in the veil of institutional isolation and secrecy that consumes its every prison bunk. And while, for some, debate continues over whether he pulled the trigger in the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer, no such disagreement concerns his life as a community activist and full-time challenge to its notoriously corrupt police department and office of the District Attorney.
After his beating by white supremacists, as a mere teen, Mumia found his voice through the Black Panther Party, a chapter of which he helped to found in Philadelphia eventually becoming its “Lieutenant of Information” responsible for writing its policy positions and news releases.
Like many others, Mumia was targeted by the FBI COINTELPRO program which in Philadelphia drew upon the cooperation of local police as they targeted community activists and dissidents. Across the country, black “radical” groups were infiltrated and disrupted with hundreds of their members physically attacked, falsely charged and imprisoned; more than a few the subject of outright government assassination.
Over the years, Mumia became a widely recognized and respected voice in alternative news while working at various local, and then national, outlets ranging from university radio stations to NPR… from which he was eventually fired because of his opinions. Ultimately, becoming the President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, whenever controversy arose, Mumia was sure to be found providing a platform for dissenting views otherwise silenced by the long seated powerful of Philadelphia.
Mumia was a relentless criticof the Philadelphia police department… often citing its documented history of excessive force and corruption including fabricating evidence. He was no less critical of Mayor Frank Rizzo, a former police commissioner, accusing him of fostering an environment rife with systemic racial bias and police brutality.
Nowhere is that more evident than in his damning criticism of the police department’s repeated confrontations with MOVE, the communal Black liberation movement that lived in West Philadelphia promoting a revolutionary ideology like that of the Black Panther Party.
Two major confrontations with the police, one an armed standoff which resulted in the death of an officer and another where a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the MOVE compound causing a fire that killed eleven of its members, including five children, and destroyed 65 neighborhood houses, best define the tension between a movement which Mumia at first supported, and then later joined, and the Philadelphia police.
Can it be mere happenstance that Abu-Jamal’s favorable reporting on behalf of the accused, during the trial of the “MOVE Nine” for the death of that officer, presaged his own arrest and prosecution for a like accusation not all that long thereafter?
While legal scholars continue to argue over the weight of evidence at Mumia’s trial, there can be no reasoned disagreement over the fact that it was a racially charged prosecution of a dynamic political dissident from the African American community of Philadelphia in 1982.
Indeed, in exercising eleven out of fourteen peremptory challenges to eliminate prospective black jurors, prosecutors ended up with a jury panel comprised of two blacks and ten whites, all but guaranteeing the trier of fact was tainted with racial bias even before it heard the first witness. Years later, any question about Abu-Jamal’s trial being fueled by racial hate was further evidenced by an affidavit of a courtstenographer who swore that she overheard the trial Judge, Albert Sabo, comment outside the courtroom, “…Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”
Against this light, the trial, itself, was replete with prosecutorial misconduct ranging from suppression of the confession of a man who said he was the actual shootertothe failure to call an eyewitness who told police Mumia was not the gunman. Later, he testified police tore up his original statement and coerced him into signing another one implicating Abu-Jamal. Other witnesses subsequently claimed they had seen another person fleeing from the scene of the shooting. Though this other person’s presence at the crime was known to prosecutors at the time of the trial, it was concealed from the jury. Forensic evidence connecting Mumia to the crime was no more reliable. For example, the coroner testified at trial that the bullet extracted from the deceased was a .38-caliber round which matched the weapon recovered from Mumia. At the time of the autopsy he noted in his official medical examiner records that it was a.44 caliber.
Just this past week, Abu-Jamal prevailed in his decades old battle to obtain justice when the current Philadelphia District Attorney withdrew his opposition to his de novo appeal based upon a conflict of interest by the former Pennsylvania Chief Justice, Ronald Castille, who oversaw Mumia’s state court appeals between 1998 and 2012. Castille, an avid supporter of the death penalty with close ties to police unions, had been Philadelphia’s District Attorney during the early years of Abu-Jamal’s attempt to overturn his conviction.
Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal are but two of the most prominent long-term political prisoners in the United States today. Meanwhile dozens of others now well into their sixties, seventies and older have also spent decades entombed in maximum security state and federal penitentiaries that crisscross the country.
H. Rap Brown
To many, Rap Brown is a legendary figure synonymous with revolutionary movements that drove generations of activists in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s to confront Jim Crow, the war in Vietnam and systemic class, race and gender based discrimination through militant action. Now 76 years of age, and known as Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, he sits in the United States Penitentiary in Tucson fighting cancer while doing a life sentence for a state court conviction for a murder that occurred some eighteen years ago. Like so many other prosecutions of high profile black leaders of his day, his is one beset by nagging questions.
Thus, the prosecutor’s theory that Abdullah al-Amin opened fire on police officers who came to arrest him for his mere failure to appear in court for a speeding ticket beggars the imagination. Given his long history as an iconic leader in the national African American community, his then success in local business and prominence as a Muslim preacher and community activist speaking out against drugs and gambling, this inexplicable act of gratuitous violence reeks of intent…looking for motive.
At trial, prosecutors argued al-Amin had failed to provide an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the crime. Nor did he offer any explanation for fleeing the state after the shooting or account for why the weapons used in it were found near him at the time of his arrest.
Against this entirely circumstantial evidence, the defense established that al-Amin was not wounded during the shootout… as the surviving deputy had reported. That same officer described the killer’s eyes as grey… al-Amin’s are brown. Most important, another man, Otis Jackson, while incarcerated on another charge, confessed to the shooting well before the trial but the court did not allow his confession into evidence. That admission matched essential, and not publicly known, details from 911 calls following the shooting… including a report that a bleeding man was seen limping from the scene. Jackson said he knocked on doors attempting to obtain a ride while suffering from wounds that he had sustained during his firefight with deputies.
So Many More
Who among us today remembers the names let alone the history of RuchellMagee or Álvaro Luna Hernández or Kamau Sadiki or Kojo Bomani Sababu or Bill Dunne or Joy Powell or Jalil Muntaqim or Russell Maroon Shoats or Edward Poindexter or Romaine Chip Fitzgerald or Joseph Bowen or Fred Burton or Janet Holloway or the other MOVE Nine who remain imprisoned years after evidence showed that the officer they were convicted of killing likely died of friendly fire. Each of these men and women has been imprisoned for decades; victims of a rush to judgment… of politics and prosecutions and passion all but blinded by the hate and fear of the day.
While movements such as the Black Panther Party, the BLA, AIM, and MOVE still resonate among some in a new generation of activists, many of their former members, now riddled with poor health and buried in prison, have been all but lost to the passage of time as death can be a slow traveler.
More articles by:STANLEY L. COHEN
Monday, April 15, 2019
Former Justice Kennedy Says Democracy Slipping Away
Andrew M. Ballard
Staff CorrespondentPosted April 12, 2019, 10:25 AM
The rule of law, fundamental to freedom and democracy, is being chipped away, according to former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“Democracy is slipping away, in part by deliberate attack,” and Americans must acknowledge that it is under assault and work to restore the system that binds us, Kennedy said. He told an audience that the United States needs to lead the globe in keeping the law superior to the government and preserving the rights and equality of citizens under the system.
Kennedy made his comments at an April 11 award ceremony at Duke University in Durham, N.C., honoring the retired justice for his efforts to promote the rule of law.
“One of the first things we must do is develop in this nation a devotion—a return to—a decent, respectful, thoughtful civic dialogue,” Kennedy said. “The civic dialogue is the basis of consensus and consensus must be the basis for our belief in the rule of law or our belief in freedom,” he told event participants.
“The verdict on freedom is out around the rest of the world,” the former justice said. The globe is looking for leadership from the United States and “they must be impressed by what they see.”
Current Justice Samuel Alito, also speaking at the event, called Kennedy “one of the most important justices of the modern era.”
Alito also spoke on the importance of the rule of law to our diverse nation and democratic government. Key to that system is that “disputes are decided fairly, they are not decided based on political influence or family connections or wealth or social class or ideology or any invidious ground,” he said.
Friday, February 22, 2019
|A woman shows support for sexual assault survivors at the #MeToo Survivors' March in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, 2017. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)|
Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2019
By NANCY ROMMELMANN
FEB 22, 2019
It was 9:30 at night when my husband slid his iPad across the bed to me. On it was an email an ex-employee had sent to current and former staff of his coffee-roasting company in Portland, Ore. The ex-employee explained that a new YouTube series I was hosting, #MeNeither Show, in which another journalist and I discussed, among other topics, some excesses of the #MeToo movement, was “vile, dangerous and extremely misguided.”
She considered the show hostile to assault survivors, and felt it her duty to alert several newspapers that my opinions posed a potential threat to my husband’s female employees and the community at large.
I told my husband it would blow over. After all, there was no suggestion in the email that he’d ever been inappropriate; only that my views were dangerous. And I hadn’t worked in the business in anything but a supportive capacity for two years.
Why ask questions, when it’s more expedient, maybe more kickass, to turn anything you might disagree with into an emergency?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. It blew up, and in less than a month, a 15-year-old business with a spotless track record is now in danger of collapse. Baristas quit and wholesale accounts fled, their unease fed by a local press that keeps banging the drum.
This is the current pitch of outrage culture, where voicing an opinion someone says she sees as a threat qualifies you for instant annihilation, no questions asked. Why ask questions, when it’s more expedient, maybe more kickass, to turn anything you might disagree with into an emergency?
A sense of emergency is what people on all sides have developed an addiction to. Show us the next person to hate and we are so there; we take an animalistic pleasure in destroying the kid in the MAGA hat, in fashioning a decades-old interview with John Wayne into a knife with which to posthumously eviscerate the actor. And then we look for the next target.
Because we need that next hit, we need it right now. Being in a constant state of emergency — a condition in which people notoriously make terrible decisions — is like having a fire raging inside the body, one that needs to be fed. It needs new fuel, and so we seek new enemies.
Meanwhile some of us are watching from the sidelines, trying to stay out of the way, hoping not to be next. (Good luck with that.)
Maybe the fractiousness in which we are currently living, people sectioning themselves into smaller and smaller tribes, is a side effect of the addiction. It needs an unlimited supply of people to hate, and the smaller the in-group, the larger the potential enemy pool. That this creates rancor and instability for everyone is a price addicts are willing to pay; indeed, it may taste like victory.
While those engaging in these fights may be a tiny but vocal minority, they are nevertheless a contagion. They value feelings over facts. They reject direct confrontation, preferring to scrap it out online or letting the media do their work for them. Those of us who can still stomach cable news watch as opponents chew each other’s faces off in prime time. Pundits and politicians who should wait for the truth to be revealed instead turn today’s story into a cudgel and, when proven wrong, refuse to walk it back, and who cares anyway? There will be a new epidemic of hate-shredding in the morning, in an hour, and as soon as it’s there, we engage. Or we don’t, and are spattered with the blood regardless.
Enter the Fray: First takes on the news of the minute »
It can be enlivening, certainly, to get caught up in a fight. However, one should come armed with courage, rather than, say, surreptitiously taking photos of me in public and posting them on social media, or anonymously calling all my husband’s vendors and telling them to stop working with a company that supports “rape culture.” Yes, that’s a quote. This campaign, led by so-called feminists, sees no irony in trying to drive a man out of business because his wife voices opinions of her own.
Still, I don’t regard the people pitching this battle as evil. I see them as unwilling to confront the world beyond their small chosen groups. Humans are hugely nuanced and complex and fascinating, and they are great to talk to. Why anyone, especially young people, who in Portland are in the main the ones waging these campaigns, would want to experience less of humanity strikes me as profoundly sad.
I have been asked whether I hate the people who started this. The answer is I don’t. I see them as afraid of the ideas of others. With this in mind, I have several times offered to have conversations about issues they evidently find dangerous enough to go to war over. No one has taken me up on the offer.
Nancy Rommelmann is a journalist and the author most recently of the book “To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder.” Follow her at Twitter @nancyromm
Monday, February 18, 2019
Anthony Weiner was the husband of Huma Abedin, the senior aide to Hillary Clinton before, during and after the Clinton email scam. If it weren't for Weiner's sexting a 15-year old girl from his computer, we might not have known about his wife Huma and Hillary Clinton using Clinton's private email for classified government materials. See my post on Parentadvocates.org,
"Anthony Weiner Is Released From Prison, Moved To Re-Entry Center in Brooklyn"
As I wrote in that post, Conservative Group Judicial Watch has led the way on exposing the massive corruption of both Hillary and Bill Clinton for decades. JW's work is a part of American jurisprudence history. And the story is continuing today in federal court.
Kudos to Judicial Watch for protecting the public interest in transparency and political integrity. President Tom Fitton's book The Corruption Chronicles is a wonderful book which should be read in its entirety.
I believe in second chances, but someone should keep an eye on this guy. Please.
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
NY POST, February 18, 2019
By Cedar Attanasio, Bruce Golding and Lia Eustachewich
Anthony Weiner has gone from hard time to a Bronx halfway house after being convicted for sexting an underage girl.
But even a registered sex offender’s got to eat — and The Post was there Sunday as Weiner popped outside his new Bronx digs to grab a delivery order.
Wearing his signature Mets baseball cap, the 54-year-old disgraced ex-congressman — who served 15 months of a 21-month federal prison sentence for sexting with the 15-year-old — briefly exited to greet a food deliveryman ferrying his $22.50 order.
He’ll serve out the next three months in the Bronx facility before being released outright in May with an accumulated three months off for good behavior.
On the menu for Weiner was hearty Italian fare from Brother’s Pizza a few blocks away. He ordered a $9.50 dish of homemade lasagna and $10 penne alla vodka with grilled chicken, along with two Snapples at $1.50 apiece to wash it all down.
“Hold on a second here. Hold on a second. They’re in here?” Weiner grilled the deliveryman around 2 p.m. after he was handed a large pizza box and brown paper bag with straws poking out at the door of the GEO Care Inc. facility in Fordham Heights.
“Everything’s in there,” the worker answered.
But Weiner could be in hot water for the Sunday feast: The food exchange took place right next to a sign that reads in all caps: “You May Not Bring Food or Beverages Into This Facility. Stop. No Exceptions!!”
After grabbing his food, Weiner couldn’t beat it fast enough.
“How you doing, buddy? Not allowed to talk, I’m sorry, my friend,” he told a Post reporter with a meek smile before ducking back inside.
The former politician left a paltry $2.50 tip on his online order, employees said.
The convicted pervert — dressed in a blue fleece zip-up and baggy navy sweatpants — spent the bulk of his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Mass.
But Federal Bureau of Prisons records show he was transferred from the lockup to the halfway house, one of many facilities across the nation under the Residential Reentry Management program.
Before Weiner emerged from the halfway house, his visibly impatient deliveryman — ironically named Carlos, given Weiner’s sexting alter-ego was “Carlos Danger” — paced back and forth while calling the fallen politician repeatedly and asking passersby how to get in.
A restaurant receipt obtained by The Post showed no name on Weiner’s order — just an address, phone number and direction to “ring the silver buzzer.”
“He wasn’t answering his phone,” Carlos later groused about Weiner, saying he had no idea he was delivering to the infamous sex addict.
“He’s a f–king pervert,” Carlos said after being told.
The food worker said that after he completed the delivery, Weiner was so clueless that he rang him back.
“He was like, ‘You called?’ ” Carlos recalled.
Weiner is set to be released from federal custody May 14, thanks to good conduct behind bars that shaved about three months off his sentence.
His political career flamed out starting in 2011, when he resigned from Congress after being forced to admit sending lewd photos to women he’d met online.
Two years later, his comeback bid for mayor was torpedoed by revelations that he sexted with a woman under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger.”
His creepy behavior took a more disturbing turn in 2016 when he started up an online relationship with the teen — despite knowing full well that she was underage.
The fall from grace was capped in May 2017, when he pleaded guilty to exchanging X-rated texts with the North Carolina teen.
“I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” Weiner sobbed in court at the time.
After the halfway house, Weiner will spend three years on supervised release, pay a $10,000 fine and register as a sex offender.
Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife and the mother of their young son, filed for divorce just hours after he pleaded guilty. Abedin later withdrew the petition to settle matters out of court.
Neither the BOP nor Weiner’s or Abedin’s lawyers returned messages seeking comment.
An employee at the halfway house feigned ignorance when asked about Weiner’s stay — after he was spotted there.
“Who?” she said, before slamming the phone.