By Stephen Lendman
28 November, 2009
On November 18, Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom) was refused
parole a day after his November 17 hearing. The board called his
record exemplary, but still denied him. Muntaqim thanked everyone who
wrote letters of support and said he'll appeal the decision. Failing
that, his next scheduled hearing is in June 2010. His earlier 2002,
2004 and 2006 hearings were also unsuccessful.
In a November 19 letter to supporters, he wrote as follows:
"The parole board ignored the overwhelming support from the community
for my release, and denied me parole. I have come to the conclusion
after this, my fourth parole appearance....that the parole system is
not a fair and impartial decision making body. It is a political
institution with a law enforcement agenda....incapable of being fair
and impartial in cases where a police officer's death is
involved....The judiciary generally supports the law enforcement
agenda of the parole board."
To rectify this "double standard," he urged his supporters to:
-- "organize a coalition of progressive folks willing and able to
concentrate on this issue;"
-- get the "religious/faith based community" on board;
-- challenge elected officials "for their refusal and failure to
-- New York's "Governor Patterson must be told his choice of parole
chairman and commissioners must reflect the desires of the community."
Short of these actions, nothing will reverse the "institutional
repression and racism endemic (in) the NYS prison and parole system."
Muntaqim is its longest-punished example, an innocent man kept
imprisoned since 1971.
The freejalil.com web site calls him a "political prisoner & prisoner
of war." Some history and background follows.
At age 19, he and Albert Nuh Washington were arrested in San
Francisco on August 28, 1971, charged with the May 21, 1971 killings
of two New York City police officers (Waverly Jones and Joseph
Piagentini). Washington died in prison on April 28, 2000. In 1973,
Herman Bell was also arrested and charged along with Gabriel and
Francisco Torres. The two brothers were later acquitted for lack of
evidence. Muntaqim, Washington and Bell became known as the New York Three.
The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. (odmp.org) said both patrolmen:
"were shot and killed in the 32nd Precinct when they were ambushed by
members of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). (The) three suspects
snuck up behind them and opened fire. Patrolman Jones was struck in
the back of the head and killed instantly. Patrolman Piagentini was
shot 13 times and succumbed to his injuries en route to the hospital.
(The BLA) was a violent, radical group....responsible for the murders
of more than 10 police officers around the country. They were also
responsible for violent attacks....that left many police officers wounded."
In a secret White House May 26, 1971 meeting, Richard Nixon, John
Erlichman, FBI Director Herbert Hoover, and others named the murders
"NEWKILL," (for New York killings). It's believed they decided to
blame them on Black Panther Party (BPP) members as part of the
COINTELPRO conspiracy to destroy them.
The first trial against the New York Five, including the Torres
brothers, ended in a mistrial. The brothers were acquitted in a
second 1975 one, but the New York Three were convicted of first
degree murder, weapons possession, and conspiracy despite evidence
shown to be inconsistent, fraudulent, and based on perjured testimonies.
The FBI claimed a crime scene fingerprint was Herman Bell's. Not the
NYPD, however, but the jury wasn't told. The defense argued that
federal agents took the print from Muntaqim's San Francisco
apartment, and together with the NYPD conspired to assure conviction
in the second trial.
Two firearms were also seized when Muntaqim and Washington were
arrested. The prosecution said one belonged to officer Jones. The FBI
tested the second one, a .45 caliber automatic, compared its
ballistics to crime scene evidence and found no link. The NYPD
claimed its later tests matched the San Francisco weapon. Either the
FBI or NYPD lied, but it didn't help. On May 12, 1975, Muntaqim,
Washington and Bell (the New York Three) were convicted and sentenced
to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life, the maximum penalty at the time.
Prosecutorial charges were bogus as later exculpatory evidence
showed. Linda Torres, Karen Parks and Jacqueline Tabb testified
regarding matters relating to a Bronx, NY apartment the defendants
shared. On October 14, 1971, Tabb and others were there when police
raided it. Everyone was arrested. Tabb, Maria Torres Bailey and
Stanley Bailey were subsequently indicted for hindering prosecution
in the second degree, possession of a shotgun, and criminal
possession of narcotics.
At trial, Tabb testified that from October 16 - October 28, 1971, the
New York County district attorney (DA) questioned her but never
mentioned the May 21 killings. Fearing imprisonment, however, she
then became a prosecution witness, after which she was freed and
given a DA-provided apartment.
Later, an FBI October 30, 1971 teletype showed her testimony was
perjured, and the DA knew it. According to an NYPD inspector Jenkins,
Tabb wanted her charges dropped in return for grand jury testimony. A
deal was apparently struck.
At trial, she testified that on May 21, 1971, the five accused didn't
leave the apartment until 8PM. Later they returned in two groups from
10:45 - 11PM. After news reports of the killings, Bell allegedly said
"we hit the wrong ones" (because one of the officers was Black). She
also swore seeing three weapons belonging to Muntaqim, Washington and
Bell on a table.
However, a November 5, 1971 FBI teletype, undisclosed at trial,
differed from her trial testimony. In it, she said the five men left
about 3PM, returned later, left again at 7PM, returned after several
hours, and Muntaqim, not Bell said "we hit the wrong ones." She also
claimed seeing four weapons, not three.
Linda Torres, the estranged wife of Gabriel Torres, testified that on
May 21, 1971 she was at the Bronx apartment with her husband, his
brother Francisco, Muntaqim, Washington, Bell, Karen Parks, and Tabb.
She said the defendants left together from 8 - 9PM, then returned
from 11 - midnight." She also claimed hearing Muntaqim say "we just
offed some pigs," and the Torres brothers placed guns on her table.
However, in her October 27, 1971 NYPD statement, she said the five
men returned together "during the late hours of May 21 or the early
hours of May 22." Contrary to her trial testimony, she mentioned no
contact with the defendants prior to the shooting nor that guns were
placed on a table.
Three days later on October 30, she changed her story, saying the men
left at 7PM, returned from 11 - 11:30PM, and "one of the individuals
place(d) three pistols on a table," contrary to at trial claiming
each defendant placed a weapon there.
The prosecution also withheld a January 13, 1972 FBI teletype
regarding an interview with Karen Parks, allegedly in the apartment
on May 21, 1971.
At trial, Valerie Wall and Patricia Bryant identified Muntaqim as one
of two shooters, but prosecutors didn't disclose material relating to
a May 29, 1971 FBI interview with Bryant. Also withheld was evidence
proving other individuals, not the defendants, committed the murders.
After the crime, NYPD detective David Gregory told the FBI that he
interviewed a woman named Will Jean Davis who said her boyfriend,
Michael Williams, told her that his brother, Reggie, fit the
description eyewitnesses provided. She also identified photos of
persons she knew as the Davis brothers, not Muntaqim and Washington,
even though they resembled the individuals she knew. Neighbors
identified them as well.
In sum, charges against the New York Three were inconsistent,
fraudulent, aided by perjury, and based on a deal struck between the
prosecution and a key witness. The defendants were denied due process
and judicial fairness, never should have been convicted, and at
minimum deserve a new trial.
Under New York State constitutional law, prosecutorial withheld
evidence entitles a defendant to retrial if what's suppressed creates
a "reasonable possibility" that the verdict might have been
different. Clearly that's true. A new trial should be ordered, or
charges dismissed altogether after decades of injustice.
The trial was a mockery of justice. Testimonies were riddled with
inconsistencies and perjury:
-- from Jacqueline Tabb and Linda Torres;
-- from Willie Jean Davis, who identified two other men, not the
defendants, as the killers;
-- undisclosed evidence that a suspected drugs trafficker, Adolph
Porter, was the real target, and the killings were drugs related;
-- the suppressed exculpatory FBI ballistics test on the .45 caliber
weapon seized after Muntaqim and Washington were arrested;
-- the perjured testimony of NYPD detective George Simmons concerning
the test; and
-- the recanted testimony of one witness, Rubin Scott, who was
intimidated to cooperate at trial.
In total, these violations create a "reasonable probability" that had
jurors known the truth their verdict might have been different.
The three defendants were named in later revealed COINTELPRO
documents as Black Liberation Army (BLA) and Panther Party (BPP)
members, targeted to be "neutralized" by the FBI's war on dissent,
political activism, and opposition to government injustice against
society's most vulnerable - a war still raging against Muslims,
Latinos, Blacks, activists, and heroic lawyers who defend them.
Some Background on Muntaqim
Born in Oakland, CA, he grew up in San Francisco and engaged in NAACP
youth organizing during the civil rights movement. In high school, he
was a leading Black Student Union member. After Martin Luther King's
assassination, he joined the Black Panther Party for Self Defense to
fight racism and injustice.
More on them below and the San Francisco Eight, that included
Muntaqim and Herman Bell, targeted for their activism against racism,
imperialism and injustice, not crimes they never committed, and
prosecutors knew it.
When arrested in 1971, Muntaqim was a high school graduate, a social
worker, an activist for social justice, and an FBI target to be "neutralized."
His Prison Achievements
Incarcerated since 1971, he's one of the nation's longest held
political prisoners and one of the 10 longest held Black political
prisoners in the world. He has a daughter, two grandchildren, one
great grandchild, and states:
"I came to prison an expectant father and will leave prison a
grandfather....The United States does not recognize the existence of
political prisoners. To do so would give credence to the fact of the
level of repression and oppression, and have to recognize the fact
that people resist racist oppression in the United States, and
therefore, legitimize the existence of not only the individuals who
are incarcerated or have been captured, but also legitimize those
movements of which they are apart."
His prison achievements are impressive:
-- from 1975 - 1977, he organized the first national prison petition
campaign to the UN; the first revolutionary prisoners' national
newspaper called Arm the Spirit, and wrote some of the first Black
political booklets, essays, and an unpublished novel and teleplay;
-- in 1986, he drafted a legislative bill for New York State
prisoners to receive good time off their sentence; former Assemblyman
Arthur O. Eve submitted it to the NY State Assembly Committee on Corrections;
-- in 1994, he established the first Men's Council in the US prison
system; Japanese television and The New York Times reported it;
-- during the same period, he graduated from SUNY (State Univ. of NY)
New Paltz with a BS in psychology and a BA in sociology; he also
taught African studies to other prisoners;
-- twice he got commendations from prison officials for quelling
potential riots, once in the Great Meadow mess hall and again in the
Greenhaven Correctional Facility auditorium;
-- from 1996 - 1999, he was Eastern Correctional Facility computer
lab office manager, responsible for teaching prisoners computer
skills; at the same time, he raised money from inmate accounts for
charitable children's funds;
-- in 1999, he established Auburn Correctional Facility (ACF)
sociology, poetry and legal research discussion classes under the
auspices of the Lifers' Committee he chaired;
-- he co-sponsored the Victory Gardens Project, a program enlisting
Maine farmers to distribute produce to poor urban New York, New
Jersey, and Boston communities;
-- in 1997, he founded the Jericho Movement to gain US and UN
"recognition of the fact that political prisoners and prisoners of
war exist inside the United States despite the United States'
government's continued denial (to win) amnesty and freedom for these
political prisoners;" he's filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of other
prisoners and advocated for humane treatment for everyone; as a
result, he was punished, abused, formally disciplined, and
transferred often to other prisons;
-- after 9/11 while still at ADF, he proposed raising inmate funds
for the Red Cross and was acknowledged by the former deputy
superintendent of programs for his efforts;
-- during the same period, he worked as a pre-GED teacher's assistant
and earned a vocational certificate for architectural drafting; he
proposed and got approval for a Life Skills Program for inmates; and
-- he once initiated a campaign to provide school supplies to AIDS
orphans in Africa.
In addition, he's a published poet and essayist with writings found
in several university sponsored books containing the works of prison
writers. He says, "Remember, we are our own liberators!"
Muntaqim's Legal Challenges
Muntaqim v. Coombe challenged New York State's law disenfranchising
convicted felons. He argued that the law disproportionately impacts
Blacks in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act
regarding the denial of the right to vote based on race.
-- in September 1994, he filed a pro se complaint in US District
Court for the Northern District of New York alleging various
constitutional and civil rights violations, one regarding the Voting
-- in October 1999, defendants in his complaint moved for summary
judgment dismissal; the motion was referred to a magistrate judge;
-- in July 2000, the magistrate recommended that defendants' motion
be granted and Muntaqim's complaint dismissed;
-- in January 2001, the District Court judge accepted the
recommendation; Muntaqim appealed to the US Federal Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit regarding the dismissal of the Voting Rights
Act allegation alone;
-- in March 2003, the case was argued before a three-judge panel;
-- in April 2004, his appeal was denied; he applied to the US Supreme
Court for a writ of certiorari to have his case heard;
-- in November 2004, the High Court declined;
-- in December 2004, the Appeals Court agreed to a rehearing;
-- in March 2005, it ordered his case heard with a similar one,
Hayden v. Pataki;
-- in June 2005, the case was argued;
-- in May 2006, it was dismissed on grounds that Muntaqim lacked
standing as a convicted felon.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP)
As this writer earlier explained, they stood for ethnic justice,
racial emancipation, and economic, social, and political equality
across gender and color lines - radical ideas once and more than ever
now in a climate of fear and intimidation targeting anyone opposing
state policies - ones waging global wars against humanity
masquerading as a democratic crusade.
Founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the BPP's 10-point
program stood for:
(1) freedom and "power to determine the destiny of our black community;"
(2) full employment for everyone, including Blacks;
(3) "an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black community;"
(4) decent housing;
(5) education to expose "the true nature of this decadent American
society (and teach) us our true history and our role in the
(6) for "all black men to be exempt from military service" at a time
they were drafted for foreign wars;
(7) "an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people;"
(8) "freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and
city prisons and jails" as political prisoners;
(9) in court, for Blacks "to be tried....by a jury of their peer
group or people from their black communities;" and
(10) "land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace."
Words echoing the Declaration of Independence's message that "all men
are created equal (and) whenever any form of government (destroys
democratic freedoms), it is the right of the people to alter or
abolish it, and institute a new government."
Fifty signers endorsed it, including John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel
Adams, Benjamin Harrison (father of America's 9th president),
Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.
The San Francisco Eight, Former BPP Members
On January 23, 2007, they were arrested in early morning raids in
California, New York and Florida, charged with killing a San
Francisco police officer and various conspiracy acts from 1968 -
1973. They were framed following decades of harassment, a ruthless
vendetta against former Panthers, and anyone challenging imperial
America. Included were:
-- Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Richard O'Neal, Harold
Taylor and Francisco Torres;
-- Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell, imprisoned since 1971 and 1973
-- Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, believed still sought.
For decades, no new evidence was found against any of them. On
February 7, 2008, the conspiracy charge against Boudreaux, Brown,
Jones, Taylor, and O'Neal was dropped, the result of successful
defense motions challenging it on grounds that the three-year
California statute of limitations expired.
Similar motions for Muntaqim, Bell and Torres were heard by the
California Appeals Court. Despite their innocence, Muntaqim pleaded
to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter and Bell to voluntary
manslaughter charges. Both men were sentenced to time served and
probation. Torres is the last one still charged, but maintains his
innocence. O'Neill is now cleared of all charges.
Nearly three years of struggle and mass support included resolutions
from the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the Berkeley City
Council, and several San Francisco Supervisors. As a result, they've
nearly thwarted the racist, vindictive persecution by the Department
of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and California prosecutors.
No matter. Muntaqim and Bell remain imprisoned for crimes they never
committed, because of them activism for social justice.