May 21, 2009
BY NADRA KAREEM
A pair of men awaiting trial for their alleged involvement in the
1971 murder of San Francisco Police Sgt. John Young declared their
innocence at the May 12 meeting in Pasadena.
In 2007, Ray Boudreaux, 64, and Hank Jones, 70, were two of eight men
charged with murder and conspiracy in connection with the decades-old
murder. Although a San Francisco judge dismissed the indictments
against the "San Francisco 8" in 1975 and '76, the case was reopened
based on the prosecution's claims of new evidence linking the men to
the killing. But Boudreaux and Jones argue that authorities targeted
them as murder suspects due to their involvement with the Black
Panther Party in the 1970s.
"COINTELPRO was pivotal in pitting the Black Panther Party and police
against each other," Jones said during his visit to the
Pasadena-Foothill American Civil Liberties Union.
COINTELPRO is an acronym for the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program.
Although the Black Panther Party acquired a reputation for being a
militant group, Boudreaux and Jones, both Altadena residents now,
said that it served the community's needs at the time. Boudreaux was
involved in the party's free breakfast program, and Jones was an active member.
"There would have never been a Black Panther Party had there not been
… racism … discrimination," Jones said. But the federal government
"used the police to quiet the unrest in the black community."
He argued that the Black Panther Party enjoyed widespread community
support until COINTELPRO, he says, launched a misinformation campaign
about the group, often casting them as violent aggressors instead of
a group focused on self-defense.
On June 8, the "San Francisco 8" will have a preliminary hearing
related to the cold case. Then, Boudreaux anticipates a favorable outcome.
"We expect the case to be dismissed sometime during this preliminary
hearing," he said. "Many of the motions to have the case dismissed by
the judge were put off to the preliminary hearing."
In Spring 2008, five of the defendants were cleared of conspiracy
charges because the statute of limitations had run out. This
completely cleared one of the eight Richard O'Neal as a defendant
in the case because he was only charged with conspiracy and not
murder. At the preliminary hearing, defense attorneys will seek to
have conspiracy charges against the remaining three men dismissed.
In addition to O'Neal, Boudreaux and Jones, the remaining defendants
include Francisco Torres, Harold Taylor, Herman Bell and Jalil
Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom).
Asked by an audience member if each member of the "San Francisco 8"
was innocent, Boudreaux insisted that was the case. "We had nothing
to do with it," he said.
Both he and Jones claim that confessions obtained by the police
from the '70s about the murder resulted from torture.
Police coercion factored in a judge's decision to dismiss charges
against the men in the '70s. Now that the case has been reopened,
Jones said he felt the prosecution was "… looking for a face-saving
way out of this."
Jones said that no new evidence ties the men to the case.
"They say they have weapons," he said. "There are no weapons."
Jones and Boudreaux also said that before their murder arrests, some
of the eight men did not know each other.
Although his political activism may have factored into why he was
targeted as a suspect in the original case, Jones said he has no
regrets over his involvement in the Black Panther Party.
"I've been an activist since the murder of Emmett Till in 1955," he
said. Till was a teenage boy from Chicago who was killed by white men
for allegedly making a pass at a white woman in Mississippi.
"His mother was wise enough to leave that casket open," Jones said of
Till. "It affected me. Before then, I was a Marine, apolitical. I've
been an activist ever since, and I'll die one."