Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Jalil A. Muntaqim's Statement re: SF8

The party this evening was fun. Many of the folks at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, by the time I arrived, were the same folks I'd seen yesterday. I was up all night Monday, I just couldn't believe the verdict...all charges dropped for five of the six men, everyone except Francisco Torres.

I don't think I'd ever been inside the building I'd admired for a long time before. There are these great murals of community heroes and activists on the outside. I'm glad I arrived when I did, because I was able to catch Pierre and then not long afterwards Kiilu made it by and we weren't expecting her. She made my trek across the bay totally worth it. In her sunshine-colored top, she lifted our spirits even higher.

As I stood speaking to an intern at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Courtney and her friend Aminah, both graduate students, Aminah at UCSF and Courtney at Brown, Richard O'Neal walked up, and said, "I am SF8." I didn't get it because I didn't know him until he said I'm the other Richard and immediately I remembered his charges getting dropped in 2008. He was in jail nine months.

He was so bubbly. I loved his positive energy, really exuberant.

In speaking to Jalil's attorney Daro G. Inouye, who works out of the San Francisco Public Defender's Office (30 years now), this afternoon before heading to San Francisco, I understand better what he meant yesterday when he said Jalil did a noble thing when he took the plea for a lesser charge.

Prior to the prosecution's offer, Inouye was set to file against the State for holding him on previous charges dropped for insufficient evidence. He was not in San Francisco when the alleged crime was committed and since there was no new evidence the state had no right to hold him for two more years. Inouye said Jalil was certain to have won the suit, but whether or not the other men charged in the SF8 case would have had all charges dropped was not as easily determined.

Jalil's change of strategy and use of this, Inouye called a "calculated gamble to plea" no contest for the release of his co-defendants, was something most of the men were not aware of I found out tonight. Whether this move will jeopardize his freedom when he goes before the New York parole board was something Inouye could not answer. He said they would probably see how frivolous the case was and let it go.We'll have to follow his case closely though and see.

Inouye who said he is carrying a case load of 120 clients when I spoke to him today, had to decline my invitation to join us on the air the following day, Wednesday morning, July 8. Monday, July 6, he was working two courts and had to run after he savored the victory for a few minutes to handle another case. It's too bad he doesn't have a sister like Serena or Venus to help him keep the balls in the air and traveling, something the sisters did well Sunday at Wimbleton. See http://www.williamssisters.org/

Cisco was in a great mood tonight, laughing with well-wishers and friends like Pierre from Haiti, Cisco from Puerto Rico,(though raised in New York). All the men are in great spirits even those who like Ray, Hank and Richard Brown, who lost their positions or jobs when their lives were interrupted two years, almost three years ago. Mortgage payments have been late, pensions have been exhausted, and retirees like Ray have to go back to work. I can't begin to imagine what's going on with Cisco whose ordeal is still not over, but like I said, optimism was the operative word here. Send support (money) to them at http://www.freethesf8.org/ The work is not over.

One supporter said the tee shirts which were on sale tonight: "Free SF8" will be collector's items soon when the SF8 are all released. We were chatting about milestones or victories like the one yesterday. I named a few recent ones like the court's dropping the felony charges on 16 year old David in the Oscar Grant case stemming from his leadership role in the downtown Oakland action January 7. Other successes or victories were getting disabled inmate "Chuck" moved from Solano State Prison to the Medical Facility so he could use a wheelchair. Lastly, the Louisiana courts ruling in Albert Woodfox's (Angola 3) favor this Spring, even though a higher court overturned the ruling to release him on bail.

It was good seeing Maisha Quint, Javad, Donna Willmont, Linda Evans, Diana Block, Scott feeling better and of course the men we were there to celebrate the SF8, those absent, Herman Bell and Jalil A. Muntaqim, and the late John Bowman present in our hearts.

July 6, 2009

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 S.F.8, especially the San Francisco 8 Support Committee, Committee in Defense of Human Rights, Asian-Americans Committee 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 Defenders 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 -



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