Political Crimes and Criminal Activity (fwd)

Fri, 5 Jan 1996 16:26:30 -0500 (EST)

Sender: Nina Daneshvar <nadanesh@ea.oac.uci.edu>
Subject: Political Crimes and Criminal Activity

Dear Sixties People, (particularly Justin Gustainis and Tony Edmonds)

To provide one example from Maggie Jaffe's list of political prisoners,
let me discuss the case of Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt of the Black Panther

Pratt grew up in the South and entered the early stages of the Vietnam
War when he came of age. A very decorated officer, he left the war and
entered civilian life. The FBI (as per memorandums from J. Edgar Hoover
and the like) kept a close eye on Pratt because they suspected he may
become a member of the "subversive" class. Pratt, who had entered the
war on the recommendation of older people of his community (who had
advised him to learn and return to his community to teach African-
American youth what he had learned from his experience in the military,
was now back to do just that. He moved to Los Angeles and became active
in the Panther leadership. Pratt had now, effectively, become a member of
the "subversive" class (FBI terminology-not mine).

Pratt had left for Oakland for a regional meeting of the Panthers (a
monthly occurrence) the night of the murder in question. While in
Oakland, he spoke with another Panther at the Los Angeles Headquarters.
Because the FBI had a wiretap and other so-called "listening devices" in
place, they knew Pratt was in Oakland and that he had spoken to another
Panther that evening (if I remember correctly, the other BPP member was
Kathleen Cleaver, wife of Eldridge Cleaver and key member of the national
Panther leadership in Oakland, CA).

Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, a man was killed and his wife (with whom he
was playing tennis) was wounded in a mugging attempt. The police asked
the woman to describe the two men who had attacked them. Police artists
drew sketches and set out to find the killers. Fast-forwarding just a
little bit, Geronimo Pratt was convicted and sentenced to a prison term
for a crime he could not possibly have committed.

Fact: Pratt was 700 miles away the night in question.

Fact: Pratt looked nothing like the police-drawn sketches and did not
match the height and weight description.

Fact: The FBI and LAPD, who both knew of the listening devices (the
evidence of knowledge is from memorandi from both offices), never
revealed this knowledge of Pratt's innocence. Due to the knowledge that
Pratt could not have simultaneously been in Oakland at the Panther
meeting where tapes of his conversations existed and in Santa Monica at
the time of the tennis court murders, we must conclude Pratt's innocence.

Fact: The wife of the deceased never chose Pratt out of a lineup-- in
fact, there was never a lineup including Pratt at all.

Fact: Friends of the real killers (who matched the police sketches, were
in LA at the time, and later bragged about the crime) who came forth were
told to "keep their mouth shut if they knew what was good for them."

Fact: Other valuable information was kept from the trial by the police
and was later uncovered. When further information was uncovered, three
of the jurors were particularly vocal, advocating a retrial and the
subsequent acquittal of an innocent man.

This is the bare skeleton of the incidents that took place. I apologize
for the lack of a long, detailed story of precisely every incident, but I
think that would 1) bore those who are not particularly interested, and
2) beat a dead horse (for lack of a better phrase). I think this
analysis adequately presents the situation and discusses it in just
enough detail. I would cite sources, but do not have them with me at the
time. The information is gathered from a variety of different books and
I'm sure I can dig up all the sources if you really need them.

However, I think this provides yet another example of what Maggie Jaffe
and I mean as political prisoners. Yes, this man was convicted of
"murder" (technically, at least). However, when you examine the greater
detail of the case of this "murderer," you find the roots of political
imprisonment and the government's ideological warfare.

I hope I have been abundantly clear- if I have failed to mention something,
I would greatly appreciate it if somebody would add to this or further
comment on this.


Nina Daneshvar
UC Irvine