[sixties-l] Man who fled anti-war protest conviction valuing new freedom

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Jan 31 2001 - 18:27:55 EST

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    Man who fled anti-war protest conviction valuing new freedom


    Jan. 30, 2001

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- A fugitive from an anti-war protest conviction
    says he tried to give himself up at least twice but that federal officials
    refused to negotiate with a fugitive.
    Howard Mechanic was among the many people President Clinton pardoned just
    before leaving office.
    Mechanic, who was known here as Gary Tredway, had been convicted of
    throwing a cherry bomb firecracker at firefighters during a Vietnam war
    protest in St. Louis nearly 30 years ago.
    When his appeal at the time failed, he fled, ultimately becoming a
    businessman and political activist in Scottsdale and nearby Tempe. His
    identity was uncovered when he tried to run for a City Council post. He
    turned himself in and began serving that five-year sentence from 1972.
    On Monday, he told the East Valley Tribune, a newspaper which broke his
    cover, that he was especially grateful that his civil rights were restored
    by the pardon.
    Mechanic said he couldn't imagine being barred from walking into a voting
    "That's a life sentence," he said. "It's a civil death penalty, that's what
    it is."
    Mechanic walked out of prison on a Jan. 20 pardon.
    He said that over the years, he had contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office in
    St. Louis at least twice to try to work out a surrender but that the office
    refused to negotiate with a fugitive.
    He said there also were many times when it seemed his past was about to be
    exposed, only to have those incidents blow over.
    Mechanic said he went too far when he decided to run for City Council.
    "I wasn't really thinking about the consequences to the community," he
    said. "I thought about the consequences to me. I knew there were risks. But
    I analyzed the risks poorly and ... I didn't figure they were as much as
    they turned out to be.
    "I value our democracy. Something I did caused the election to be in
    disarray, and I'm sorry about that."
    "We felt quite betrayed about it," said Bob Vairo, president of one of the
    organizations which had backed that candidacy. "One of the things we asked
    was if there was anything in his background we should concern ourselves about."
    Mechanic recently called Vairo and apologized.
    "He was quite contrite about it, and genuinely so," Vairo said. "I thought
    that was a nice thing to do."
    Mechanic said he isn't making any long-term plans about what he hopes to do
    or where he plans to live but will never abandon his social activism.
    "Hopefully, people won't hold my past against me," he said. "They should
    understand my past. There's a whole story there.
    "There are people out there who think I should be in prison right now, but
    I am sure there will be projects where people will want my assistance," he
    For now, Mechanic said he is working on a book about his experience in
    living a lie.
    A few days ago, more than 100 friends threw Mechanic a welcome-home party,
    and he's planning a trip back to St. Louis in April to meet with people he
    hasn't seen in decades. He also plans a long visit with his son, who is in
    Mechanic is taking the reins of his hotel and a mail-order health food
    business back from girlfriend Janet Grossman, who tended to his affairs in
    his absence.
    He's about 25 pounds lighter than he was a year ago, and his demeanor has
    changed from the almost confrontational manner of his recent past.
    "People have noticed that I'm more relaxed and more open," he said. "You
    carry a load like that for 30 years, to have it lifted off your back it's a
    big relief, even though you're sitting in prison."

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