8 Former Black Panthers Arrested and Indicted in 1971 Homicide
24 Jan 2007 07:08 GMT
January 23, 2007 - New York Authorities in San Francisco today announced the arrests and indictments of former Black Panthers in the 1971 killing of police officer Sgt. John V. Young despite the use of torture to obtain confessions. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) compared the documented torture by law enforcement of Black Panthers arrested in New Orleans in 1973 to the documented torture the U.S. government has practiced recently at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jen Nessel, CCR, 212.614.6449
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000
FORMER BLACK PANTHERS
ARRESTED AND INDICTED TODAY IN 1971 HOMICIDE
CHARGES BASED ON EVIDENCE OBTAINED THROUGH TORTURE
January 23, 2007, New York Authorities in San Francisco today announced the arrests and indictments of former Black Panthers in the 1971 killing of police officer Sgt. John V. Young despite the use of torture to obtain confessions. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) compared the documented torture by law enforcement of Black Panthers arrested in New Orleans in 1973 to the documented torture the U.S. government has practiced recently at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said, “The case against these men was built on torture and serves to remind us that the U.S. government, which recently has engaged in such horrific forms of torture and abuse at places like Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, has a history of torture and abuse in this country as well, particularly against African Americans.”
CCR Attorney Kamau Franklin said, “These indictments are an attempt to rewrite history— the history of the Black Panthers, the history of COINTELPRO, and the history of the Civil Rights Movement.”
In 1973, New Orleans police employed torture over the course of several days to obtain information from members of the Black Panthers who were stripped naked, beaten, blindfolded, covered in blankets soaked with boiling water, and had electric probes placed on their
genitals, among other methods. A court ruled in 1974 that both San Francisco and New Orleans police had engaged in torture to extract a confession, and a San Francisco judge dismissed charges against three men in 1975 based on that ruling. Two years ago, a grand jury
convened in San Francisco to reopen the case, but several of the men involved felt they were being wrongly compelled to testify and refused to attend the proceedings.
CCR represents victims of torture by the U.S. at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, as well as Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar. In addition, CCR has filed suit against
the NSA for the warrantless domestic spying program authorized by President Bush; the COINTELPRO program illegally spied on Black activists in the Sixties and Seventies and engaged in numerous unconstitutional acts against Civil Rights organizations.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights demonstrators in the South, CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
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8 arrested in 1971 cop-killing tied to Black Panthers
SAN FRANCISCO - Eight men with ties to a militant black power group were arrested Tuesday in the brazen 1971 killing of a San Francisco policeman, part of what authorities described as a five-year campaign to assassinate law enforcement officers in California and New York.
Most of the men were former members of the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panther Party, according to police. On Aug. 29, 1971, two members of the group, armed with guns and dynamite, stormed a police station and fired a shotgun through a hole in the lobby's bulletproof glass, killing Sgt. John V. Young, 51, and wounding a civilian clerk.
Authorities said the killing was one in a series of attacks by BLA members on law enforcement officials on both coasts. Carried out between 1968 and 1973, the campaign also included the bombing of a police funeral in San Francisco and the slayings of two New York City police officers, as well as three armed bank robberies that helped fund their operations, police said.
A handful of arrests were made over the years and two of the former BLA members arrested Tuesday are already serving life sentences in the slayings of the New York officers. But previous attempts to bring Young's killers to justice have been unsuccessful.
The investigation of the BLA killing spree was reopened in 1999 after "advances in forensic science led to the discovery of new evidence in one of the unsolved cases," according to a news release from the San Francisco Police Department.
No further details were given and police declined to elaborate.
"It could be fibers. It could be DNA. It could be other biological evidence," said Morris Tabak, the department's deputy chief of investigations.
Seven suspected former BLA members were charged with murder and conspiracy. They are Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena; Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco; Herman Bell, 59, and Anthony Bottom, 55, both currently incarcerated in New York state; Henry Watson Jones, 71, of Altadena; Francisco Torres, 58, of Queens, New York; and Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Fla.
Another suspect, Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, 62, was still being sought on murder and conspiracy charges. Police say he could be in France, Belize or Tanzania.
Richard O'Neal, 57, of San Francisco, was also arrested on conspiracy charges but has not been charged with murder.
It's unclear whether Bridgeforth and O'Neal were members of the Black Liberation Army.
Armed with shotguns, Bell and Torres entered the Ingleside Police Station at 9:40 p.m., according to police officials in New York. Other accomplices were allegedly posted outside as lookouts and getaway drivers.
Bell fired the shotgun blasts through the speaker's opening in the protective barrier, killing Young and wounding the clerk. Torres tried to ignite the sticks of dynamite as the pair fled the station, but the explosives failed. The station was nearly empty that night as most officers responded to the diversionary bombing of a bank by other conspirators, according to the NYPD.
After his arrest Tuesday in Queens, Torres called the case "a frame-up."
Bottom and Albert Washington, another alleged BLA member, were supposed to be part of the attack team, but were arrested the night before after attempting to fire a machine gun at a police sergeant. The gun jammed, and the two were arrested for attempted murder.
Inside their car, San Francisco police found a .45-caliber gun that had been used to kill two New York City officers in Harlem three months earlier. They also found a weapon taken from one of the slain officers, according to the NYPD.
Bell, Bottom and Washington were convicted in the Harlem slayings. Washington died in prison, while Bell and Bottom are serving life sentences. Before Tuesday's arrests, they were due for parole hearings next year.
San Francisco attorney Stuart Hanlon, who represents Bell, called Tuesday's arrests a "prosecution based on vengeance and hate from the '60s."
"There's a law enforcement attitude that they hate these people, the Panthers," Hanlon said. "Now they're going after old men."
Some of the men charged with Young's killing have been suspects in the case for years.
Taylor and two other men were charged with murder in 1975, but the case was dismissed by a San Francisco judge because some of the evidence was allegedly obtained by torture, including beatings and electrical shocks, after the suspects were arrested in New Orleans.
Another of the 1975 suspects, John Bowman of Oklahoma, died in December, according to his lawyer, Ann Moorman of Ukiah. The third, Ruben Scott, was not among those charged Tuesday.
Brown, Boudreaux, Jones and Taylor were jailed in 2005 for refusing to answer questions before the grand jury investigating Young's death.
San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong said Young was a "community-oriented police officer, decades before the term became part of the law enforcement landscape. He worked diligently with at-risk youth and former convicts trying to turn their lives around."
Associated Press Writers Kim Curtis and Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco and Tom Hays in New York City contributed to this report.