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SF8 Upates

August 10, 2009

Herman Bell

Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters on June 29, 2009, as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd. The following statement was issued by his legal team:

Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Voluntary Manslaughter For a Sentence of Five Years Probation

Today, June 29, 2009, Herman Bell, one of the SF8, will plead (pled) guilty in Department 22 of the San Francisco Superior Court to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the killing of San Francisco police officer John Young in 1971. Mr. Bell is charged along with six others with this crime. The other six are still scheduled to go forward with the preliminary hearing beginning on July 6, 2009.

The other six maintain their innocence and Mr. Bell’s plea does not in any way incriminate them; Mr. Bell supports the others’ innocence. Part of the plea agreement, which will be (was) read in open court, is that Mr. Bell will not be a witness against his comrades and friends and cannot be called to any hearing as a witness by the prosecution.

Mr. Bell’s plea is based on his unique situation. Mr. Bell was convicted in 1975 for the killing of two police officers in New York City. He has been in prison for almost thirty-seven years for those convictions. His fight for freedom is in New York, where he will continue to fight for parole. He has been a model prisoner while in New York where he has gained graduate degrees and started programs to help other inmates and the communities from which they come.

Mr. Bell is pleading to the reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and is, in fact, receiving no punishment based on his admission of guilt. His sentence will be that he will be placed on informal probation for five years and will be allowed to immediately return to New York. He will receive absolutely no additional prison time for his actions. He and his attorneys believe that the resolution in this case will not negatively effect his parole efforts in New York.

The second charge faced by Mr. Bell, conspiracy to kill policemen, will be (was) dismissed. Mr. Bell and his supporters see this resolution as a resounding victory. Mr. Bell was facing life without the possibility of parole in a maximum security prison in California if convicted. The government, through an informant, originally alleged that Mr. Bell was the shooter of Sgt Young. However, it is difficult to believe that the Attorney General of California, who prosecuted this case, would have allowed Mr. Bell to plead to a lesser charge with a sentence of only informal probation if there was credible evidence he had shot Sgt. Young.

Bell and his co-defendants have always maintained that, because of the torture used by the New Orleans Police Department to gain alleged confessions and the lack of new evidence, these charges should never have been brought.

Charges dropped – Jalil pleads no contest – Cisco’s case continues

Finally, after years of unified resistance by the brothers and the building of massive support, California State prosecutors were forced to admit that they have insufficient evidence against the San Francisco 8.

On Monday July 6, charges against four of the defendants were dropped and Jalil Muntaqim pled no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter. The State prosecutor asked the court to sentence him to 12 months calling it “a drop in the bucket.” Judge Moscone replied “unless you’re the one doing the time.” Jalil received credit for time served (close to 2 1/2 years in County Jail) and 3 years probation. He will return to New York to fight for parole. See his statement in the post below.

All charges were dismissed today against Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor. The courtroom at 850 Bryant Street was packed with SF 8 supporters after a rally of hundreds and a huge “Free SF 8” banner was displayed on the hillside of Bernal Heights to be seen from all over the city. This is finally the disposition of a case that should never have been brought in the first place,” announced attorney Soffiyah Elijah. Francisco Torres still faces a court hearing on August 10. Francisco steadfastly maintains his innocence according to his attorney Charles Bourdon who intends to file a motion to dismiss the charges against his client.

Statement on the SF 8 Plea Agreement

July 6, 2009

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.

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