Charges narrow in 1971 slaying of S.F. cop
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
State prosecutors are narrowing the charges against a group of
reputed former militants accused of taking part in the 1971 slaying
of a San Francisco police officer, dropping conspiracy charges
against five of the eight defendants because they were filed too late.
The amended charges, to be filed in San Francisco Superior Court on
Thursday, will remove one defendant, Richard O'Neal, from the case
altogether, and leave the other seven men charged with murder,
lawyers said Tuesday. A defense attorney said the change would force
the prosecution to scale back its case, but a prosecutor disagreed.
The defendants are charged with murdering Sgt. John Young, 51, who
was killed in August 1971 when at least three men burst into the
Ingleside Police Station and one of them fired a shotgun through an
opening in a bulletproof glass window.
O'Neal, a city custodian, was not charged in Young's death but was
accused of conspiring with the others in the shooting and wounding of
a uniformed special officer, Lawrence Heap, in February 1971.
Prosecutors described the defendants as former members of the Black
Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers. All have denied
involvement in Young's slaying, saying the prosecution's case is
based on coerced and fabricated evidence.
Three men, including current defendant Harold Taylor, were arrested
in New Orleans in 1975 and charged with murdering Young, but a judge
dismissed the charges after finding that New Orleans police had tortured them.
The charge of conspiring to murder police officers is being dismissed
against five defendants - O'Neal, Taylor, Ray Boudreaux, Richard
Brown and Henry Watson Jones - because the statute of limitations was
three years at the time of the alleged plot, from 1968 to 1973. There
is no statute of limitations for murder.
Of the three defendants who are still to be charged with conspiracy,
two, Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom, have been in prison since 1971
for killing two New York police officers. The third defendant,
Francisco Torres, was also charged in that case, but the charges were
dropped after the jury deadlocked, and he has remained in New York.
California prosecutors argue that the three-year deadline for a
conspiracy prosecution must be suspended while a defendant is out of
the state. But Michael Burt, an attorney who represents Boudreaux,
said defense lawyers will contend that the deadline should be
suspended only when the defendant is a fugitive.
Burt also said the dismissal of the conspiracy charges against his
client and others would limit the scope of the case. He said
prosecutors sought to prove there was a wide-ranging conspiracy to
murder police officers in several states, with evidence including
crimes that the defendants were convicted for or accused of
committing from 1968 to 1973.
"The strategy was to use these allegations to dump as much
prejudicial information into the record as they could to shore up a
fairly weak homicide case," Burt said. "Without that conspiracy
charge, it's going to narrow the issues considerably."
But David Druliner, a senior assistant attorney general heading the
prosecution team, said the reduction of the charges should have
little effect on the case. Other crimes committed by the defendants
should still be admissible as evidence that they plotted to kill
Young, he said.
E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist Women's Division Defends Alleged Black Panther Police-Killers
"Why is the United Methodist Women's Division, which is oddly silent
about torture in places like North Korea and Iran, suddenly concerned
with aging militants from the 1970s who almost certainly killed
police officers?" -- Mark Tooley, Executive Director of UMAction
Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell,
email@example.com; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton,
firstname.lastname@example.org; both with the Institute on Religion and Democracy
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Women's Division of
the United Methodist Church is vigorously defending eight former
Black Panthers accused of conspiracy and killing a police officer
after California's attorney general re-opened the case last year.
Three of the "San Francisco 8" confessed to the 1971 murder of San
Francisco Police Sgt. John Young and conspiracy related to numerous
crimes from 1968-73, including attempted murder and bank robbery.
Those charges were dismissed in 1975 because the statements used as
evidence were allegedly made after torture by New Orleans police. Two
of the 8 are already serving time for killing two New York police
officers in 1971.
The case was reopened after the discovery of new forensics evidence.
The United Methodist Women's Division, with the World Council of
Churches, are defending the so-called political prisoners because
they are allegedly victims of police torture. The defenders of the
"San Francisco 8" are making broader claims of routine torture by law
enforcement agencies and the U.S. military. A hearing on the case is
scheduled for Thursday, January 10 in San Francisco.
The "San Francisco 8" specifically belonged to the Black Liberation
Army (BLA), which was a radical offshoot of the Black Panthers, and
which is believed to have killed 13 police officers in the late 1960s
and early 1970s.
UMAction Executive Director Mark Tooley Commented:
"The United Methodist Women's Division remains infatuated with
radical identity politics at the expense of their supposed central
mission: spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"There are so many worthy causes around the world that the United
Methodist Women's Division could give themselves to: fighting for
women's rights in repressive Islamic societies, denouncing
international sex trafficking that is so exploitative of women and
children, and affirming marriage and the family against the assaults
of modern secular culture.
"Instead, why is the United Methodist Women's Division, which is
oddly silent about torture in places like North Korea and Iran,
suddenly concerned with aging militants from the 1970's who almost
certainly killed police officers?"