Mohawk protester Brant gets light penalty for blockades

  

cbc news

Facing numerous defence motions that would have laid bare police actions, the Crown dropped most charges Monday against an aboriginal protester who helped organize a blockade last summer of an Ontario highway and rail line, and agreed to a slap-on-the-wrist-penalty for the remaining ones.

Shawn Brant, a Mohawk from the Tyendinaga Territory near Desoronto, Ont., was facing nine counts of mischief and breach of bail conditions for his role in two demonstrations: the June 29, 2007, national day of action for aboriginal peoples and an earlier event in April 2007.

Both protests saw the temporary closing of the CN Rail line that carries Via Rail trains from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal. The day of action also resulted in the shutdown, for several hours, of Highway 401 and Highway 2.

On Monday, as part of a deal with the defence, the Crown dropped all but three of the mischief charges, on which Brant was found guilty. Even though the Crown had previously announced it would seek a jail sentence of 12 years, it agreed to have Brant receive a sentence of time already served in pretrial detention, plus a 90-day conditional sentence to be spent on his reserve.

Brant said outside court he accepted the deal for the sake of his family. It means the Ontario Provincial Police’s “illegal actions” in handling the protests will remain secret, he said, though it will mean OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino will have to face questions about his conduct.

“Commissioner Fantino has always said he couldn’t comment because it’s before the courts. Well, now it’s settled, and it’s time the public hears from Mr. Fantino,” Brant said.

OPP’s ‘broken promises’

Brant’s lawyer Peter Rosenthal was preparing to argue in court in Napanee, Ont., on Monday that, in the case of the April 2007 demonstration, the OPP had agreed not to charge Brant if the blockade was lifted peacefully and promptly — which he says it was.

But police broke their promise, Rosenthal’s defence motion said, at Fantino’s insistence because of his “personal and political attitude towards Brant.”

(In a wiretapped phone conversation, Fantino would later threaten Brant that “your whole world’s going to come crashing down” because the OPP chief would “do everything I can within your community and everywhere to destroy your reputation.”)

The motion to have the resulting charges dismissed argued that “the breaking of the OPP promise of immunity must be considered in the context of the long history of broken promises made by Canadian governments to First Nations peoples in Canada.”

The defence also would have challenged the constitutionality of the Criminal Code’s emergency wiretap provisions, which the OPP used during the national day of action for aboriginal peoples to bug the phones of Brant and his fellow organizers.

Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code authorizes wiretaps without a judicial warrant in “exceptional circumstances” – namely when the situation is too urgent to get a judge’s permission and there is a threat of a crime causing serious harm to any person or to property.

But the OPP knew days ahead of time about the planned day of action protests, meaning there was no reason not to get a judge’s approval beforehand for the phone surveillance, another defence motion said.

Land dispute

Tyendinaga Mohawk leaders are in talks with a federally appointed land claims negotiator to try to resolve their dispute over more than 400 hectares of land on the Bay of Quinte in Ontario – about 25 kilometres east of Belleville – including the site of a quarry and other businesses.

The Mohawk community has been negotiating with the federal government since 2003. Protesters are angry that gravel continues to be hauled off parts of the land while negotiations are ongoing. The protesters, who say talks are progressing too slowly, began an occupation of the quarry in March 2007.

Before Monday, Brant had been free on $100,000 bail, amid tight conditions, since Aug. 31.

Jury of Peers? (Mumia’s message to CR10)

Jury of Peers? (Mumia’s message to CR10)

Check out Mumia’s new radio-essay on the issue of the fair jury, including this special message to the CR10 conference: http://prisonradio.org/JuryofPeersMumia.htm

Read Journalists for Mumia’s interview with CR10’s Rose Braz:
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/07/organizing-to-abolish-the-prison-industrial-complex/

As well as Portland’s KBOO radio interview with Journalists for Mumia: http://kboo.fm/node/9541

Also, the Sept./Oct. flyer update from Journalists for Mumia (Abu-Jamal-News.com), with a new legal update:
http://abu-jamal-news.com/docs/crflyer.pdf

The Batson issue is central to Mumia’s case. These are just a few facts:
—On May 17, before The US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund argued that that there is strong evidence of racist jury selection at the 1982 trial. The LDF Amicus Brief concludes, “it becomes abundantly clear that he has set forth a prima facie case of discrimination,” based on the standards established by the US Supreme Court’s 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling, establishing a defendant’s right to a new trial if proven that jurors were excluded on the basis of race. 

—The LDF argues that DA prosecutor McGill’s conduct “strongly suggested discriminatory intent,” and other evidence “strongly suggests” that this discrimination “was common practice,” in the DA’s office. At Abu-Jamal’s trial, McGill used 10-11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors. 

—Philadelphia was over 40% black, but the jury had 10 whites and only 2 blacks. A survey of homicide cases tried by McGill from Sept., 1981 to Oct., 1983, reveals, “the odds that Mr. McGill would peremptorily challenge an African-American potential juror were 8.47 times greater than for non-black jurors.” 

—From 1977-1986 (when current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was the District Attorney), Philadelphia prosecutors struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of the white jurors.

The Batson issue is central to Mumia’s appeal before the US Supreme Court. Check out more below here.
Listen to Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund present on the Batson issue for Mumia on May 17, 2007: http://abu-jamal-news.com/audio/m17/LDF.mp3

And, other shorter clips from Swarns’ presentation: http://abu-jamal-news.com/article?name=May17Audio

LEGAL UPDATE:

New Guilt-Phase Trial Denied!

Ruling against three different appeal issues, the court has refused to grant either a new guilt-phase trial or a preliminary hearing that could have led to a new guilt-phase trial for Mumia. 

However, on the issue of racist jury selection, also known as the Batson claim, the three judge panel of Thomas Ambro, Anthony Scirica, and Robert Cowen split 2-1, with Ambro dissenting. 

The 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling established the right to a new trial if jurors were excluded on the basis of race. At the 1982 trial Prosecutor McGill used 10 of his 15 peremptory strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors, yet the court ruled that there was not even the appearance of discrimination. 

Judge Thomas Ambro’s Dissent 

In his dissenting opinion, he wrote that the denial of a preliminary Batson hearing “goes against the grain of our prior actions…I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents.”

Mumia will be filing an appeal with the US Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 20, unless he applies for a 60 day extension. 
Mumia can still be executed! 

On March 27, the three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Federal District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision overturning the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo’s instructions to the jury were potentially confusing, and jurors could have mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.

A New Penalty-Phase Trial?

Now, if the District Attorney wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a new penalty-phase jury trial where new evidence of Mumia’s innocence can be presented. However, the jury can only choose between a sentence of life in prison without parole or a death sentence. 

Or, the DA can appeal this ruling to the US Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 20. The DA has not stated whether or not it will: 
(1) appeal this to the US Supreme Court, or 
(2) accept the Third Circuit ruling and either request a new sentencing trial or accept life in prison without the chance of parole.

19 killed in second Tijuana prison riot in three days

CBC

TIJUANA, Mexico – Officials say a second riot in three days at an infamous Tijuana prison has left 19 people dead and 12 injured.

Baja California’s Public Safety Secretary Daniel de la Rosa says soldiers and federal police regained control Wednesday at the overcrowded La Mesa prison in Tijuana, just across the U.S. border from San Diego.

De la Rosa says authorities were transferring 200 inmates to other state prisons and were increasing security.

Family members say the inmates rioted again because they have not been given food or water since Sunday, when a separate riot led to the deaths of at least three inmates.

Judge refuses to release anarchists’ literature seized in weekend raids

In case you still aren’t convinced the US is a police state, please look into some of the incredible “security measures” being used at the RNC. ~ Abo.  

Star Tribune

A federal judge refused this afternoon to order authorities to immediately return most of the pamphlets, literature and other material seized during four police raids last weekend.

Six plaintiffs are suing the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Bob Fletcher and investigators and police officers over the searches and seizures at three Minneapolis homes and a St. Paul business office.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim said that although the validity of the searches has been questioned, they were authorized beforehand by two state judges and affirmed by another, in part, after the fact.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the seizure of books, maps and other literature violated their First Amendment rights. Exhibits in court included pamphlets and books with the titles “Anarchism, What it Really Stands For,” “You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship,” “The Ethics of Labor Struggle” and others.

Attorneys for the defendants have said the materials are part of a criminal investigation against members of the anarchist group the RNC Welcoming Committee.

Tunheim said that while it was “a bit far-fetched” to believe that authorities needed hundreds of copies of a document as evidence in a criminal case, he refused to order their immediate return because “plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate sufficient irreparable harm.”

That doesn’t mean, however, the judge said, that the plaintiffs can’t ask for the release of materials at a later date or seek monetary damages for their seizure.

The plaintiffs also had sought an order prohibiting authorities from prosecuting them in the future for possessing and distributing political literature similar to that which was seized. Tunheim said the court can act to prevent continued police misconduct when First Amendment rights are threatened, but four raids over two days do not constitute a “pattern of harassment.”

The federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday. A few days earlier, the same six plaintiffs plus two others had sued the same defendants in Ramsey County District Court.

District Judge Kathleen Gearin refused Tuesday to issue a temporary retraining order for the return of the documents. Tunheim’s decision was the result of the plaintiffs’ appeal to federal court.

Posted in USA

RNC 8 Charged as Terrorists Under State Patriot Act

Infoshop News

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002
Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act, Ramsey County Prosecutors
have formally charged 8 alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee
with Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. Monica Bicking, Eryn
Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert
Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7 1/2 years in
prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50%
increase in the maximum penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement which were filed in support of the
search warrants used in raids over the weekend, and used to support
probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential
informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They
allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC,
assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage
airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these
allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these
allegations than the claims of the informants. Based on past abuses of
such informants by law enforcement, the National Lawyers Guild is
concerned that such police informants have incentives to lie and
exaggerate threats of violence and to also act as provacateurs in raising
and urging support for acts of violence.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade
traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This
both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political
views of the Defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, President of the
Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an
abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person
organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil
disobedience, he said.”

The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege
that any of the defendants personally have engaged in any act of violence
or damage to property. The complaints list all of alleged violations of
law during the last few days of the RNC — other than violations of human
rights carried out by law enforcement — and seeks to hold the 8
defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals. None of
the defendants have any prior criminal history involving acts of violence.
Searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any
physical evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on law
enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe that gunpowder,
acids, and assembled incendiary devices would be found, no such items were
seized by police. As a result, police sought to claim that the seizure of
common household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter, nails, a
rusty machete, and two hatchets, supported the allegations of the
confidential informants. “Police found what they claim was a single
plastic shield, a rusty machete, and two hatchets used in Minnesota to
split wood. This doesn’t amount to evidence of an organized insurrection,
particularly when over 3,500 police are present in the Twin Cities, armed
with assault rifles, concussion grenades, chemical weapons and full riot
gear,” said Nestor. In addition, the National Lawyers Guild has previously
pointed out how law enforcement has fabricated evidence such as the claims
that urine was seized which demonstrators intended to throw at police.

The last time such charges were brought under Minnesota law was in 1918,
when Matt Moilen and others organizing labor unions for the Industrial
Workers of the World on the Iron Range were charged with “criminal
syndicalism.” The convictions, based on allegations that workers had
advocated or taught acts of violence, including acts only damaging to
property, were upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In the light of
history, these convictions are widely seen as unjust and a product of
political trials. The National Lawyers Guild condemns the charges filed in
this case against the above 8 defendants and urges the Ramsey County
Attorney to drop all charges of conspiracy in this matter.

Bruce Nestor, President
Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild
3547 Cedar Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Posted in USA

Angela Davis urges release of ‘Omaha Two’ convicted with COINTELPRO dirty tricks in 1971

Infoshop News

by Michael Richardson

University of California professor and internationally acclaimed political prisoner advocate Angela Davis will make another trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to meet with Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa who are imprisoned in the state maximum security penitentiary.

Ed Poindexter, head of Omaha’s unit of the Black Panthers called the Nebraska Committee to Combat Fascism, and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) who served as the information officer of the 1970’s group are serving life sentences for the bombing murder of an Omaha policeman. Both men deny their involvement in the death of patrolman Larry Minard.

Davis, now a respected college professor and lecturer, was once a fugitive in another Black Panther case and was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation “Ten Most Wanted” list. Serving 18 months behind bars before being acquitted of participation in a California police-Panther shootout, Davis is sympathetic with targets of the FBI’s secret war on the Black Panthers called Operation COINTELPRO.

Davis was cleared of the charges against her in 1972, the year after the Omaha Two were convicted of the August 1970 murder of Minard. Unknown to the defense or public at the time of the Omaha trial was that critical evidence was withheld as part of the COINTELPRO conspiracy against Poindexter and Langa. Further, five Omaha police officers gave false sworn testimony about the case but the problems in their testimony did not emerge until years later.

J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful director of the FBI had secretly established a clandestine COINTELPRO directorate headed by William Sullivan to orchestrate dirty tricks to “disrupt” the Black Panthers. Sullivan would later testify to a U.S. Senate committee “no holds were barred” in the secret war on the Black Panthers. Tactics included encouraging local police to make raids and arrests of Panther leaders, anonymous mailings, unauthorized entries, withholding of evidence, planting of evidence, and abuse of informants.

The Omaha FBI office worked with Assistant Omaha Chief of Police Glenn Gates to withhold the tape recording of the emergency call that lured Minard to his death to keep the tape from the jury. Captain Murdock Platner testified, falsely, to the U.S. House Committee on Internal Security that Langa had supplied the dynamite used in the bomb. Lt. James Perry’s story to justify a search warrant was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Warren Urbom who said, “[I]t is impossible for me credit his testimony.” Sgt. Jack Swanson claimed he found dynamite in Langa’s basement only to be later contradicted by Sgt. Robert Pheffer who bragged he was the one who found the dynamite incredibly contradicting his own trial testimony in a 2007 hearing.

Pheffer’s recently embellished version of events strongly suggests perjury. Not only has he now contradicted his own 1971 testimony but he is claiming to also have found bombmaking supplies (suitcases with wires) at two locations, Langa’s house and NCCF headquarters. The only catch with Pheffer’s suitcases is that they have disappeared into thin air with no other witnesses to their discovery. In fact, Pheffer’s sworn allegations of finding the suitcases were never reported by him in any police report, were not entered on the inventory sheets of the searches, never submitted to the police evidence locker, and appear in no crime scene photographs.

Davis has followed the Omaha Two case since the beginning. In 1975, Davis made a trip to Lincoln to raise money for a legal defense fund and also attended a post-conviction court hearing. In 1982, Davis appeared at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and called freedom for Poindexter and Langa as a “first priority” vowing, “We are going to continue to fight until they are both free.”

In a 2006 visit to the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Davis said, “They’ve been in prison much too long and they should be released. It makes me think about how much we are haunted by our own history.”

Davis told the Lincoln Star, “It is important for people to understand the way in which two men could basically be framed up and kept in prison for 36 years even though they’re innocent.”

The bomb that killed Larry Minard was planted by 15 year-old Duane Peak who confessed to the crime but was only sentenced to 33 months of juvenile detention in exchange for his testimony that Poindexter and Langa put him up to the crime and assisted with assembly of the bomb. Peak, in turn, testified that the dynamite was supplied by 23 year-old Raleigh House, a suspected COINTELPRO informant, who only spent one night in jail and was never formally charged for his role in the crime.

The unknown caller who lured Minard into the lethal trap was never identified after police dropped the search for the caller under orders from Asst Chief Gates. A 2006 forensic analysis of the emergency call tape revealed that Duane Peak was not the caller as he has maintained leaving an unidentified accomplice on the loose while Poindexter and Langa sit in prison.

Davis will speak to the Nebraskans for Justice on September 17, 2008 at the Malone Community Center in Lincoln. An update on the legal status of the two prisoners will also be provided. Poindexter currently has an appeal pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court seeking a new trial over Pheffer’s contradictory testimony and the vocal analysis that undermines the prosecution case. A decision is expected this fall.

Permission granted to reprint

Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, election law, human nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant on ballot access.