Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (City Lights Open Media)

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

A Book Review by Robert Fantina

With the recent acquittal of two more police officers in the deaths of unarmed Black men, the question posed by the title of this book is as relevant as it ever was. Through a series of concise, clear essays, Mumia Abu-Jamal details the racism against Blacks, comparing today's behaviors with the lynchings that were common in the south prior to the decade of the sixties. He points out the obvious: The passage of Civil Rights legislation hasn't changed much; it simply changed the way racism operates.

The ways in which the white establishment has worked to oppress Blacks is astounding. After the Civil War, when slavery was no longer legal, "whites realized that the combination of trumped-up legal charges and forced labor as punishment created both a desirable business proposition and an incredibly effective tool for intimidating rank-and-file emancipated African Americans and doing away with their most effective leaders."

Abu-Jamal states that, today, "where once whites killed and terrorized from beneath a KKK hood, now they now did so openly from behind a little badge." He details the killing of Black men and women in the U.S. with almost complete impunity.

There are two related issues Abu-Jamal discusses. The first is the rampant racism that enables the police to kill unarmed Blacks, as young as 12 years old, for no reason, and the second is the "justice" system that allows them to get away with it.

One shocking crime, amid countless others, occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012; a police officer was acquitted in the deaths of two, unarmed Blacks, after leaping onto the hood of their car and firing 15 rounds from his semi-automatic rifle into the car's occupants. That is 137 shots, at point blank range, into the bodies of two unarmed people.

If this were an anomaly, it would be barbaric, but it is not: it is common practice for the police to kill unarmed Blacks, and, on the rare occasions that they are charged with a crime, for the judges and juries to acquit them.

In the U.S., Black citizens are disproportionally imprisoned. With for-profit prisons on the rise, this injustice will only increase.

Abu-Jamal relates story after story with the same plot, and only the names are different. An unarmed Black man is stopped by the police for any of a variety of reasons ranging from trivial (broken tail light), to more significant (suspect in a robbery). But too often, the outcome is the same: the Black man is dead and the police officer who killed him, more often than not white, is either not charged, or acquitted after being charged.

The Black Lives Matter movement formed to combat this blatant injustice, but it will be an uphill battle. As Abu-Jamal says, "Police serve the ownership and wealth classes of their societies, not the middling or impoverished people. For the latter, it is quite the reverse." As a result, people of color suffer disproportionately, too often winding up on the wrong side of a gun.

What is to be done? Abu-Jamal refers to the writings of Dr. Huey P. Newton, who calls not for community policing, but for community control of the police. Abu-Jamal argues forcefully for a new movement, "driven by commitment, ethics, intelligence, solidarity, and passions; for without passion, the embers may dim and die."

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is powerful, disturbing, well-written, and an important book for our day.

Robert Fantina is the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy. His articles on foreign policy, most frequently concerning Israel and Palestine, have appeared in such venues as Counterpunch and WarIsaCrime.org.

New York Journal of Books, July 2017






Haiti: Stop the Repression. 

No impunity. NO NEW ARMY

 The people of Haiti need our solidarity in the face of the increasing violence of the fraudulently imposed government of Jovenel Moise

Thursday July 14, 2017, in Petionville, Haiti, near Port-au-Prince, a young book vendor was shot to death by a police officer in front of horrified witnesses. The police used tear gas and batons against a crowd outraged by the murder and the quick, forcible removal of the body in a perceived attempt at a cover up. This is the latest of recent extra-judicial killings by the Haitian police and paramilitary forces.

The brutal killing occurred as the occupation government of Jovenel Moise, installed in the fraudulent elections of November 2016, is pushing to restore the brutal and corrupt Haitian military, which was disbanded by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995. Moise has stated that he wants the Army back within two years. Haitians remember the US-supported bloody rampage by former members of this army that claimed thousands of lives during the period of the 2004 coup d'etat against the elected government. The US/UN forces and occupation governments subsequently integrated many of these killers into the Haitian police and government paramilitary units.  

This announcement takes place at a volatile moment in Haitian society. The Haitian police and other government paramilitary forces, accompanied by UN occupation forces, have carried out criminal attacks against protesting teachers, students, factory workers, market women, street vendors and others who are victims of government extortion, theft of land, money and merchandise.

On July 10 - 12, 2017, during three days of peaceful protest for an increase in the minimum wage, Haitian police attacked the workers from the industrial park in Port-au-Prince with tear gas, batons and cannons shooting a liquid skin irritant. One of the beaten workers is a woman who had recently returned to work from giving birth.

·      On June 12, the government-appointed rector of the Haitian State University used his car to hit and run over a protesting university student. The government prosecutor has ignored the complaint filed by the students against the rector and is instead pursuing the victim's colleagues in a blatant attempt to harass and intimidate them. 

·      In May 2017, units of the Haitian police and paramilitary forces again attacked the people of Arcahaie protesting the government's plan to remove the main revenue-generating district from the community, located about 30 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.

·      In May 2017, a food vendor in Petionville was killed after he was deliberately hit and run over by a car of the municipal paramilitary forces according to outraged witnesses.

 ·      On March 20th, 2017, police officers were videotaped shooting at the car carrying President Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas presidential candidate Dr. Maryse Narcisse as they returned from court. The police officers were reportedly observed returning to the national palace; there was no condemnation of this blatant assassination attempt by the government.

Adding a newly organized Haitian Army to this mix is a sign that the Haitian government is planning on more repression. The Haitian military's purpose was to protect Haitian dictatorships and to attack any challenges by the Haitian people.  Whether under the Duvalier dictatorships from 1957-1986 or when the military overthrew the democratically elected Aristide government in 1991, leading to the killing of over 5000 people, the military has been a central anti-democratic institution in Haitian society. When then-President Aristide disbanded the narco-trafficking Haitian military in 1995, the Army was eating up 40% of the national budget in a country with fewer than two doctors per 10,000 people.

Now this infamous military is being restored just as the United Nations is said to begin a staged withdrawal of its troops. This is similar to what happened following the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, a period in which 20,000 Haitians were killed. As the U.S. forces withdrew, they left in place a neo-colonial army with Haitian faces to do their bidding and continue the repression of popular discontent.

Haitians are saying NO to the restoration of an additional repressive military force.  They are demanding an end to police terror and an end to impunity.  We join their call.

E-mail and phone-in campaign to:

·       Say No to the Restoration of the brutal Haitian military

·       Hold the US and UN occupation accountable for the terror campaign by the Haitian    police and security forces they train and supervise.

·       Say No to impunity for police terror in Haiti


-  US State Department: HaitiSpecialCoordinator@state.gov

-  Your Member of Congress: 202-224 3121

- UN Mission in Haiti: minustah-info@un.org

Sent by Haiti Action Committee

@HaitiAction1 and on FACEBOOK




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Table of Contents:












Stand with Rasmea at her sentencing 

August 17

All out for Detroit!
Thursday, August 17, at 1:30 EDT

(rally at 1:30 PM, hearing starts at 3 PM)

U.S. District Court, 231 W. Lafayette Blvd., downtown Detroit, Michigan

The Rasmea Defense Committee, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and U.S. Palestinian Community Network are urging everyone to join us in Detroit, August 17, to show our love and support for Rasmea at her sentencing in federal court. The will be her last court appearance and Rasmea is planning to make a statement.
The plea agreement that has already been reached states that Rasmea will not get additional jail time – but she will have to leave the U.S.
Given the near daily attacks on Rasmea in the right-wing and pro-Israeli media, we expect that a fair amount of attention will be focused on the sentencing. It is critical that the courtroom be filled with her supporters.

A Farewell to Rasmea Odeh Aug. 12

with Angela Davis

Saturday, August 12
7:00 pm

at the International Union of Operating Engineers hall
2260 S. Grove Street, Chicago, IL  60616

Join us for an evening of music, culture, and struggle to honor Palestinian icon Rasmea Odeh. Keynote address by former political prisoner Angela Davis.



California Alliance for Retired Americans

600 Grand Ave, Rm 410

Oakland CA 94610

510-663-4086,  californiaalliance.org


Please join CARA on August 14 to celebrate Social Security's 82nd birthday, and to re-dedicate ourselves to defend Social Security and preserve, improve, and expand it.  Our confirmed speakers so far are Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works and Norman Solomon, author, columnist and activist. 

Monday, August 14, Noon, in Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza

Broadway and 14th St, 12th St BART Station.

Rally and Two-Block March to Federal Building

More program details to be announced.

Please contact 

Michael Lyon, 415-215-7575, mlyon01@comcast.net, or

Jodi Reid, 415-550-0828,  jreid.cara@gmail.com

CARA is sponsoring events across California in July and August to defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in the face of attacks from Washington.  Our Oakland event will draw people from all around the San Francisco Bay Area.  We are hoping you can publicize this event among your members, and bring them on August 14.   We are attaching a copy of our leaflet and a petition your members can sign and return.  Anyone can sign the petition, it is not official, but will be used to show support for these programs.

Over its 82 years, Social Security has provided income and dignity to hundreds of millions of retirees and people with disabilities, their spouses and children, and to deceased workers' spouses and children.  For two thirds of seniors, it's been over half their income.  Half of women and people with disabilities would be in poverty without Social Security. Almost 10% of children get it.  We will NOT go back to the days of workhouses!

Social Security is the nation's most effective anti-poverty program, yet it is entirely funded by us, we who work for a living, through FICA deductions from our paychecks, and by our employers.  Not a cent comes from the government; in fact our $2.4 Trillion Social Security Trust Fund is invested in loans to help the government run. Those loans must, and will, be repaid to Social Security.  It's our program, our money!  Our past, our future!

Forces for austerity want to destroy or undermine Social Security by increasing the retirement age, decreasing the benefits and cost-of-living increases, and converting Social Security from a unified government program of collectively-guaranteed economic security for everyone, to a hodge-podge of private individual accounts for each recipient, invested in the stock market, and managed by expensive Wall Street money managers.  

Now, the Trump administration wants to eliminate the payroll tax that is the financial foundation of Social Security and cut $64 Billion over ten years from Social Security Disability Insurance, an integral part of Social Security, by reducing future enrollment with work requirements.

Given this adversity, it's important we remember that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents won Social Security in the mid-1930s, the depths of the Great Depression, when everything looked stacked against us.  Social Security must be preserved, improved, and expanded.  In the 1930s, Roosevelt said "Make me do it!"  We did. We can do it again!




Millions For Prisoners Human Rights march and rally, Washington, DC, August 19, 2017

March participants are asked to meet at Freedom Plaza, located at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 11:00 am, but may arrive as early as 9 am. The March will begin promptly at 11:30 am from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Park where the Rally will begin at 12 noon and will continue until 5. Individuals who are unable to participate in the Marching demonstration can go straight to Lafayette Square, directly north of the White House on H Street, Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 16th Street NW. 

Millions for Prisoners Human Rights core demands for Action:

A) We DEMAND the 13th amendment ENSLAVEMENT CLAUSE of the United States Constitution be amended to abolish LEGALIZED slavery in America.

B) We DEMAND a Congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment ENSLAVEMENT CLAUSE being recognized as in violation of international law, the general principles of human rights and its direct links to:

  1. Private entities exploiting prison labor
  2. Companies overcharging prisoners for goods and services
  3. Private entities contracted by states/federal government to build and operate prisons. This would also include immigration detentions
  4. Racial disparities in America's prison population and sentencing
  5. Policing: the disproportionate (unaccountable) killings by police in the black and brown communities
  6. Felony Disenfranchisement laws
  7. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 34,000 detention quotas
  8. Producing the world largest prison population

There are multiple ways to get from Union Station to Freedom Plaza and Lafayette Park. The easiest way might be to walk or take a metrobus or train. Please visit WMATA to find the best option. Cars and other vehicles can utilize Union Station Parking Garage, 30 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Buses can utilize Union Station – Bus & RV, 1st St NE, Washington, DC 20002. For specific parking fee information and to make reservations please visit https://www.ecolonial.com/

Supporters across the nation are planning solidarity events to coincide with the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on August 19th in Washington. Thus far events are being held in Riverside CA, San Jose CA, Asheville NC, Montgomery AL, Carrabelle FL, Kansas City MO, St Louis MO, Albuquerque NM, Duluth MN and Omaha NE. 

Visit iamweubuntu.com to stay connected or get involved.

LOC's (Local Organizing Committees) are being established in cities all throughout the country to bring awareness and promote the March on Washington!

Additional Support is need in the following areas:

– Lawyers – Legal Observer – Lobbyist – Public Relations – Event Planners – Fundraisers

Please contact us if you want to support us in these or other areas:

Email: millionsforprisonersmarch@gmail.com

Tel.: 803-220-4553

Website: www.iamweubuntu.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/MillionsforPrisonersMarch/

Twitter: Twitter.com/milli4prisoners



P.O Box 58201

Raleigh NC 27658​

Update 6-24-2017:

More details here.



CODEPINK Fall Action at Creech:  

Oct. 5 to Oct. 12    (All welcome!)

(Oct. 7 is the 16th Anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan)

SHUT DOWN CREECH: Spring 2018: Apr. 8-14.  (National Mass Mobilization to Resist Killer Drones)

(Thanks to Sandy Turner, from Ukiah, CA, for sharing this link!)

The Pentagon and CIA now have Brett Velicovich, their own drone veteran and CEO of an "online drone retail store" (Dronepire, Inc. and Expert Drones) , to glorify drone killing. Shameful that NPR couldn't ask the very difficult and important questions.  Lots of public education is needed to help people separate fact from fiction!

Would love for someone to do research on this guy!

Please listen to this interview (filled with misinformation), and consider joining us at Creech in the fall and/or spring to be a voice against the slaughter.  

(Dates below).

Life As A 'Drone Warrior'

NPR interview "with Brett Velicovich about his memoir, Drone Warrior, which details his time hunting and killing alleged terrorists using drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places."


PS:  We should have a massive letter writing and phone calling to NPR for this totally biased and dangerous misrepresentation!





Jun 8, 2017

Department of Justice:

Drop the changes against Ms. Reality L. Winner, the defense contractor who allegedly shared with the media evidence of attacks against US election systems by foreign agents. This information should not have been classified. Ms. Winner's prosecution appears politically motivated.

Courage to Resist will attempt to keep signers of the Reality Winners petition up-to-date with periodic news and alerts from her family and attorney. You will be able to opt out at any time.



Reality Winner is a 25-year-old Air Force veteran who was arrested in Augusta, Georgia on June 3rd. She allegedly released classified NSA documents to The Intercept, which were the basis for a story about Russian hacking efforts against US election systems leading up to last year's presidential election. Reality is currently in the Lincoln County Jail in Georgia, and faces up to ten years in prison.

Reality Winner—yes, that is her given legal name—did the right thing, and she should be defended.

Reality allegedly leaked information regarding attempted interference in an election, tampering that many believe assisted in Donald Trump's presidential win—despite earning nearly four million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The documents published by The Interceptonly confirm earlier accounts of US election hacking attempts and, given the current administration's extreme antagonisms against facts, the release of these documents was clearly in the public interest. Like the vast majority of government documents that are hidden from public view, these reports should have been declassified by now anyway.

Now Trump's own Department of Justice has targeted Reality. It's a sinister move, but on the other hand, simply a continuation Obama's unprecedented zeal in prosecuting whistle-blowers. Trump inherited an atrocious War on Leaks, and Reality is the latest victim of that war. Her arrest is a signal to the world, and the four million other Americans with access to classified information: Only sanctioned leaks benefiting the government will be tolerated.

There's a striking hypocrisy to Trump's crackdown. Less than a month ago the President was criticized for carelessly leaking classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting. We now know this information concerned a bomb that is being developed by ISIS. This is standard operating procedure: lawmakers have no issue leaking classified information if it somehow furthers their interest, but they aggressively prosecute citizens who expose actual wrongdoing.

I believe that Reality Winner's possible actions should be understood within the context of recent heroic whistleblowing. Shortly before leaving office, Barack Obama commuted the remaining sentence of US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was facing 27 more years in prison for exposing war crimes and corruption. Edward Snowden, who leaked information about our government's massive spying program, was granted asylum in Russia but faces espionage charges back home. Just like Manning, it seems that Reality was able to see the inner workings of the United States' war machine.

She served in the Air Force from 2013 until early this year, working as a linguist. Like Snowden, she would have had a better view than most as to how our security state works. Up until last week, she was a military defense contractor with the Pluribus International Corporation in the suburbs outside of Augusta, Georgia, and had Top Secret security clearance.

The US government has spent tens of millions of dollars in better auditing capabilities since the disclosures by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Those that would rather keep the public in the dark as to what their government is doing with their tax dollars and in their name, have redoubled their efforts to identify whistle-blowers much more quickly. Winner's arrest was facilitated by the government's increased ability to more easily identify the relatively small number of people that recently accessed documents in question as well as the yellow-colored, nearly-invisible micro dots that most color printers today use to include a printer's serial number and time stamp on each printed page. This appears to have contributed to the focus on Reality Winner.

Reality is expected to plead not guilty to charges against her today. We don't know exactly why she allegedly released the NSA documents to the press, but we do have some insight into her views about the world. Her social media accounts show a woman who, like a clear majority of Americans, is critical of Donald Trump. She has also voiced support for Edward Snowden, and opposition to the US fabricating a reason to attack Iran.

According to The Intercept, [Winner's leak] "ratchets up the stakes of the ongoing investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives . . . If collusion can ultimately be demonstrated – a big if at this point – then the assistance on Russia's part went beyond allegedly hacking email to serve a propaganda campaign, and bled into an attack on U.S. election infrastructure itself."

We are talking about a potentially monumental story that might require prosecutions, but Reality Winner shouldn't be the one who ends up in jail. While the details of the story continue to unfold, by all indications she deserves our support, and the release of these documents should be celebrated.





Solidarity Statement from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners


CCWP sent the solidarity statement below expressing support with the hunger strikers at the Northwest County Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma Washington, one of the largest immigration prisons in the country.  People at NWDC, including many women, undertook the hunger strike starting at the beginning of April 2017 to protest the horrendous conditions they are facing.  Although the peak of the hunger strike was a few weeks ago, the strikers set a courageous example of resistance for people in detention centers and prisons around the country. 

Here is a link to a Democracy Now! interview with Maru Villalpando of Northwest Detention Center Resistance (http://www.nwdcresistance.org/) and Alexis Erickson, partner of one of the hunger strikers, Cristian Lopez.

For live updates, visit: 

California Coalition for Women Prisoners Statement

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) stands in solidarity with the hunger strikers, many of them women, detained by ICE at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), a private prison operated by the GEO group contracted by ICE in Washington state.  We applaud the detainees at NORCOR, a county jail in rural Oregon, who recently won their demands after sustaining six days without meals. 

Since April 10th, those detained in NWDC have refused meals to demand changes to the abhorrent conditions of their detention, including poor quality food, insufficient medical care, little to no access to family visits, legal counsel or legal documents, and lack of timely court proceedings. Hunger strikes are a powerful method of resistance within prisons that require commitment and courage from prisoners and their families. We have seen this historically in California when tens-of-thousands of prisoners refused meals to protest solitary confinement in 2011 and 2013, and also currently in Palestine where over 1,500 prisoners are on hunger strike against the brutal conditions of Israeli prisons. 

As the Trump administration continues to escalate its attacks on Latinx/Chicanx and Arab/Muslim communities, deportations and detentions serve as strategies to control, remove, and erase people—a violence made possible in a context of inflamed xenophobia and increasingly visible and virulent racism. We stand with the families of those detained as well as organizations and collectives on the ground in Washington State struggling to expose the situation inside these facilities as well as confront the escalating strategies of the Trump administration.

CCWP recognizes the common struggle for basic human dignity and against unconstitutional cruel and inhumane treatment that people of color and immigrants face in detention centers, jails, and prisons across the United States. We also sadly recognize from our work with people in women's prisons the retaliatory tactics such as prison transfers and solitary confinement that those who fight oppression face. Similar abuses continue to occur across California at all of its prisons and  detention centers, including the GEO-run women's prison in McFarland, California.. CCWP sends love and solidarity to the hunger strikers in the Northwest. Together we can break down the walls that tear our families and communities apart. ¡ya basta! #Ni1Más #Not1More

    Northwest Detention Center Press Release May 4, 2017

Despite threats and retaliation, hunger strikers continue protest 

ICE ignores demands for improved conditions 

Tacoma, Washington/The Dalles, Oregon—Immigrants held at ICE facilities in two states—the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), run by GEO Group, and NORCOR, a rural public jail—continued their hunger strike today, despite growing weakness from lack of food. The exponential growth of immigration detention has led ICE to contract the function of detaining immigrants out to both private prison companies and to county governments, with both treating immigrants as a source of profit. ICE has been using NORCOR as "overflow" detention space for immigrants held at NWDC, and is regularly transferring people back and forth from the NWDC to NORCOR. People held at NORCOR have limited access to lawyers and to the legal documents they need to fight and win their deportation cases. They are often transferred back to NWDC only for their hearings, then shipped back to NORCOR, where they face terrible conditions. Jessica Campbell of the Rural Organizing Project affirmed, "No one deserves to endure the conditions at NORCOR—neither the immigrants ICE is paying to house there, nor the people of Oregon who end up there as part of criminal processes. It's unsafe for everyone."

The strike began on April 10th, when 750 people at the NWDC began refusing meals. The protest spread to NORCOR this past weekend. Maru Mora Villalpando of NWDC Resistance confirmed, "It's very clear from our contact with people inside the facilities and with family members of those detained that the hunger strike continues in both Oregon and Washington State." She continued, "The question for us is, how will ICE assure that the abuses that these whistle-blowing hunger strikers have brought to light are addressed?"

From the beginning of the protest, instead of using the strike as an opportunity to look into the serious concerns raised by the hunger strikers, ICE and GEO have both denied the strike is occurring and retaliated against strikers. Hunger strikers have been transferred to NORCOR in retaliation for their participation. One person who refused transfer to NORCOR was put in solitary confinement. Just this week, hunger striking women have been threatened with forced feeding—a practice that is recognized under international law to be torture. In an attempt to break their spirit, hunger strikers have been told the strike has been ineffective and that the public is ignoring it.

Hunger striker demands terrible conditions inside detention center be addressed—including the poor quality of the food, the dollar-a-day pay, and the lack of medical care. They also call for more expedited court proceedings and the end of transfers between detention facilities.   Hunger strikers consistently communicate, "We are doing this for our families." Despite their incredibly oppressive conditions, locked away and facing deportation in an immigration prison in the middle of an industrial zone and in a rural county jail, hunger strikers have acted collectively and brought national attention to the terrible conditions they face and to the ongoing crisis of deportations, conditions the U.S. government must address.Latino Advocacy

Maru Mora Villalpando

For live updates, visit: 

News mailing list: News@womenprisoners.org

Activist Goes on Hunger Strike Outside the Northwest Detention Center

Maru Mora Villalpando Joins the Tacoma 12 and Adelanto 9 in Calling for an End to Human Rights Abuses in Immigrant Detention

Tacoma, WA - On Monday, June 19th, Maru Mora Villalpando, member of the NWDC Resistance, will begin  a hunger strike to call attention to the plight of up to 1,600 immigrants held in detention suffering human rights abuses at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). On June 15, 2017, at least a dozen detainees went on hunger strike to call attention to inhumane detention conditions, refusing to eat for multiple days. By June 18, NWDC Resistance organizers received reports that more than 25 hunger strikers are calling on GEO Group to provide edible, nutritious food, on ICE to provide fair and timely hearings, and on civil society to step up and take action for the injustices in our communities. In response, Maru Mora Villalpando is going on hunger strike, and is joined by other members of civil society who are stepping up their solidarity.

As hunger strikers on the inside are discussing ceasing their strike on the inside, Maru will keep the hunger strike continuous by holding space on the outside. A female hunger striker in detention said: "I feel more deteriorated every day, more bad, more worse, because of what we are living through and what we are seeing inside. What we are suffering is horrible, horrible. Here they don't care what conditions we are living in… they don't care about anything." To listen to her story, go to: http://bit.ly/2sIyXzZ

GEO Group's human rights abuses are not a case of "bad apples." Just this week, GEO employees have refused to complete basic maintenance, such as repairing a broken air conditioner when projected temperatures are expected to reach 78 degrees. Likewise, people in detention have noted repeated problems with incorrect medications resulting in hospital visits, suicide attempts, and inadequate access to medical treatment -- even in diagnosed cases of malignant cancers.

There are also 9 asylum seekers on hunger strike at the GEO-owned Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California. Rather than releasing asylum seekers pending their hearing, they were subjected to further trauma -- pepper spray, beating and solitary confinement. The #Adelanto9 continue on hunger strike to call attention to these blatant human rights abuses, meaning that people inside and outside detention centers are on hunger strike throughout the West Coast.

Call to Action: Hunger strikers and solidarity supporters are holding down a 24-7 encampment outside the Northwest Detention Center. Please join them to show people held in detention that they are not alone, and the state of Washington will no longer tolerate human rights abuses!

For live updates on the #Tacoma12 and solidarity hunger strikes, visithttps://www.facebook.com/ NWDCResistance/.


NWDC Resistance is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. NWDC Resistance is part of the #Not1More campaign and supported people detained who organized hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions.

Contact: Maru Mora Villalpando, (206) 251 6658, maru@latinoadvocacy.org

#Tacoma12     #Adelanto9     #Not1More      #NoEstánSolos



Labor Studies and Radical History

4444 Geary Blvd., Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94118




(call 415.387.5700 to be sure the library is open for the hours you are interested in. We close the library sometimes to go on errands or have close early) suggested)

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on all major holidays and May Day 

We can arrange, by request, to keep the library open longer during the day or open it on weekends. Just ask.


  • Reference Librarian On-site
  • Email and Telephone Reference
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Online Public Access Catalog 
  • Microfilm Reader/Printer
  • DVD and VCR players
  • Photocopier
  • Quiet well-lighted place for study and research 

For an appointment or further information, please email: david [at] holtlaborlibrary.org 





Thank you for being a part of this struggle.

Cuando luchamos ganamos! When we fight we win!

Noelle Hanrahan, Director




To give by check: 

PO Box 411074

San Francisco, CA


Stock or legacy gifts:

Noelle Hanrahan

(415) 706 - 5222



MEDIA ADVISORYMedia contact: Morgan McLeod, (202) 628-0871




Washington, D.C.— Despite recent political support for criminal justice reform in most states, the number of people serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984. 

A new report by The Sentencing Project finds a record number of people serving life with parole, life without parole, and virtual life sentences of 50 years or more, equaling one of every seven people behind bars. 

Eight states  Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Utah  have at least one of every five prisoners serving a life or de facto life sentence in prison. 

The Sentencing Project will host an online press conference to discuss its report Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences, on Wednesday, May 3rd at 11:00 a.m. EDT.   

Press Conference Details

WHAT: Online press conference hosted by The Sentencing Project regarding the release of its new report examining life and long-term sentences in the United States. REGISTER HERE to participate. The call-in information and conference link will be sent via email.  


Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EDT 


  • Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project's senior research analyst and author of Still Life: America's Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences
  • Evans Ray, whose life without parole sentence was commuted in 2016 by President Obama
  • Steve Zeidman, City University of New York law professor and counsel for Judith Clark—a New York prisoner who received a 75 year to life sentence in 1983

The full report will be available to press on Wednesday morning via email.

Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.




When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


When they knock on your front door: Preparing for Repression


Mothers Message to the NY/NJ Activist Community 

In order to effectively combat the existing opportunism, hidden agendas and to better provide ALL genuinely good willed social justice organizations and individuals who work inside of the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas... with more concrete guidelines; 

The following "10 Point Platform and Justice Wish List" was adopted on Saturday, May 13, 2017    during the "Motherhood: Standing Strong 4 Justice" pre-mothers day gathering which was held     at Hostos Community College - Bronx, New York.......

"What We Want, What We Need" 

May, 2017 - NY/NJ Parents 10 Point Justice Platform and Wish List 

Point #1 - Lawyers and Legal Assistance:  Due to both the overwhelming case loads and impersonal nature of most public defenders, the Mothers believe that their families are receiving limited options, inadequate legal advise and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in gaining access to experienced "pro-bono" and/or activist attorneys as well as the free resources provided by non-profit social justice and legal advocacy groups.


Point #2 - First Response Teams: The Mothers felt that when their loved ones were either killed or captured by the police that they were left in the hands of the enemy and without any support, information or direction on how to best move forward and therefore; WE WANT and NEED community activists to help us develop independently community controlled & trained first response teams in every borough or county that can confirm and be on the ground within 24 hours of any future incident.


Point #3 - Security and Support At Court Appearances: The Mothers all feel that because community activist support eventually becomes selective and minimal, that they are disrespected by both the courthouse authorities, mainstream media and therefore;   WE WANT and NEED community activists to collectively promote and make a strong presence felt at all court appearances and; To always provide trained security & legal observers... when the families are traveling to, inside and from the court house.


Point #4 - Emotional/Spiritual Healing and Grief and Loss Counseling: After the protest rallies, demonstrations, justice marches and television cameras are gone the Mothers all feel alone and abandoned and therefore;                                                                             WE WANT and NEED for community activists to refer/help provide the families with clergy, professional therapy & cultural outlets needed in order to gain strength to move forward. 


Point #5 -  Parents Internal Communication Network: The Mothers agreed as actual victims, that they are the very best qualified in regards to providing the needed empathy and trust for an independent hotline & contact resource for all of the parents and families who want to reach out to someone they can mutually trust that is able understand what they are going through and therefore;           WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in providing a Parents Internal Communication Network to reach that objective.


Point #6 -  Community Offices and Meeting Spaces: The Mothers agreed that there is an extreme need for safe office spaces where community members and family victims are able to go to for both confidential crisis intervention and holding organizing meetings and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                                 WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in securing those safe spaces inside of our own neighborhoods.   


Point #7 - Political Education Classes and Workshop Training: The Mothers agreed in implementing the "each one, teach one"   strategy and therefore;                                                                                                                                                                                         WE WANT and NEEDfor community activists to help us in being trained as educators and organizers in Know Your Rights, Cop Watch, First Response, Emergency Preparedness & Community Control over all areas of public safety & the police in their respective neighborhoods.


Point #8 - Support From Politicians and Elected Officials: The Mothers believe that most political candidates and incumbent elected officials selectively & unfairly represent only those cases which they think to be politically advantageous to their own selfish personal success on election day and therefore;                                                                                                                                WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us in either publicly exposing or endorsing these aforementioned political candidates and/or elected officials to their constituents solely based upon the uncompromising principles of serving the people.


Point #9 - Research and Documentation: The Mothers believe that research/case studies, surveys, petitions, historical archives, investigative news reporting and events should be documented and made readily available in order to counter the self-serving  police misinformation promoted by the system and therefore;                                                                                                                          WE WANT and NEED for community activists to help us by securing college/university students, law firms, film makers, authors, journalists and professional research firms to find, document & tell the people the truth about police terror & the pipeline to prison.


Point #10 - Grassroots Community Outreach and Information: The Mothers believe that far too much attention is being geared towards TV camera sensationalism with the constant organizing of marches & rallies "downtown"  and therefore; WE WANT and NEED for community activists to provide a fair balance by helping us to build in the schools, projects, churches and inside of the subway trains and stations of our Black, brown and oppressed communities where the majority of the police terror is actually taking place. 





My Heartfelt "Thank You!"

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several days ago I received a message from both of our lawyers, Bob Boyle and Bret Grote, informing me that the latest lab tests came in from the Discovery Requests.  

And they told me that the Hepatitis C infection level is at zero and as of today I'm Hepatitis C free. 

This is in part due to some fine lawyering by Bret and Bob who—remember—filed the suit while I was in the throes of a diabetic coma, unconscious and thus unable to file for myself.  

But it's also due to you, the people.  Brothers and sisters who supported our efforts, who contributed to this fight with money, time, protests and cramming court rooms on our behalf, who sent cards, who prayed, who loved deeply.  

I can't thank you all individually but if you hear my voice or read my words know that I am thanking you, all of you. And I'm thanking you for showing once again the Power of the People. 

This battle ain't over, for the State's cruelest gift is my recent diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver. With your love we shall prevail again.  I thank you all. Our noble Dr.'s Corey Weinstein, who told us what to look for, and Joseph Harris who gave me my first diagnosis and who became the star of the courtroom by making the mysteries of Hep C understandable to all.  An internist working up in Harlem, Dr. Harris found few thrills better than telling his many Hep C patients that they're cured.  

This struggle ain't just for me y'all. 

Because of your efforts thousands of Pennsylvania prisoners now have hope of healing from the ravages of Hepatitis C. [singing] "Let us march on 'til victory is won." So goes the old Negro Spiritual, "The Black National Anthem." 

We are making it a reality. I love you all.

From Prison Nation,

This is Mumia Abu-Jamal

Prison Radio, May 27, 2017


Court order to disclose DA files in Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal case [video]

This 9-minute video gives background on new revelations about conflict of interest -- an appeals judge who had previously been part of the prosecution team -- in upholding the 1982 conviction of journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal on charges of killing a police officer:


A ruling to implement a judge's recent order for "discovery" could be made on May 30.

Judge Tucker granted discovery to Mumia Abu-Jamal pursuant to his claims brought under Williams v Pennsylvania that he was denied due process because his PA Supreme Court appeals from 1998-2008 were decided by Ronald Castille, who had previously been the District Attorney during Mumia's 1988 appeal from his conviction and death sentence, as well as having been a senior assistant district attorney during Mumia's trial.

The DA is given 30 days—until May 30, 2017—to produce all records and memos regarding Mumia's case, pre-trial, trial, post-trial and direct appeal proceedings between Castille and his staff and any public statement he made about it. Then Mumia has 15 days after receiving this discovery to file amendments to his PCRA petition.

This date of this order is April 28, but it was docketed today, May 1, 2017.

This is a critical and essential step forward!


Dear Friend,

For the first time- a court has ordered the Philadelphia DA to turn over evidence and open their files in Mumia's appeal.   In a complacency shattering blow, the District Attorney's office is finally being held to account.  Judge Leon Tucker of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court ordered the DA to produce all of the documents relevant to former PA Supreme Court Justice's role in the case. Castille was first a supervisory ADA during Mumia's trial, then District Attorney, and finally as a judge he sat on Mumia's appeals to the PA Supreme Court. 

This broad discovery order follows just days after the arguments in court by Christina Swarns, Esq. of the NAACP LDF, and Judith Ritter, Esq. of Widner Univ.

During that hearing, Swarns made it clear that the District Attorney's practice of lying to the appellate courts would not be tolerated and had been specifically exposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the Terrence Williams case, which highlights Ronald Castile's conflict, the Supreme Court in no uncertain terms excoriated the office for failing to disclose crucial evidence.  Evidence the office hid for years.  This is an opportunity to begin to unravel the decades long police and prosecutorial corruption that has plagued Mumia's quest for justice.  

In prison for over thirty six years Mumia Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence in the death of Philadelphia Police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9th 1981.  

"The Commonwealth  must  produce  any  and  all  documents  or  records  in  the  possession  or  control  of  the Philadelphia  District  Attorney's  Office   showing   former   District   Attorney   Ronald   Castille's   personal   involvement   in the  above-captioned  case  ... and public statements during and after his tenure as District Attorney of Philadelphia."

It is important to note that the history of the District Attorney's office in delaying and appealing to prevent exposure of prosecutorial misconduct and the resulting justice.  At every turn, there will be attempts to limit Mumia's access to the courts and release.   it is past time for justice in this case.  

Noelle Hanrahan, P.I.

Prison Radio is a 501c3 project of the Redwood Justice Fund. We record and broadcast the voices of prisoners, centering their analyses and experiences in the movements against mass incarceration and state repression. If you support our work, please join us.

www.prisonradio.org   |   info@prisonradio.org   |   415-706-5222

Thank you for being a part of this work!



Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Packed Off to Florida!

Rashid: I'm off to Florida and a new phase of reprisals for publicizing abuses in US prisons

July 14, 2017

Readers are urged to share this story widely and write to Rashid right away; mail equals support, and the more he gets, the safer he'll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054

by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson


Packed off to Florida

Following Texas prison officials planting a weapon in my cell on March 26, 2017, then stealing most of my personal property on April 6, 2017, in an ongoing pattern of retaliation for and attempts to repress my writing and involvement in litigation exposing and challenging abuses in Texas prisons, including their killing prisoners, I was unceremoniously packed off to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) on June 22, 2017.

This transfer came as outside protests mounted against the abuses, and Texas officials became more and more entangled in a growing web of their own lies invented in their efforts to cover up and deny their reprisals against me, and also while a contempt investigation was imminent upon a motion I filed in a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of one of the prisoners they'd killed – a killing I'd witnessed and publicized.

Florida, notorious for its own extremely abusive prisons, readily signed on to take up Texas's slack. And being an openly corrupt system unaccustomed to concealing its dirt, FDC officials shot straight from the hip in expressing and carrying on efforts to repress and act out reprisals for my exposing and challenging prison abuses.

The Welcoming Committee

Following a four-hour flight from Texas to Florida, I was driven in a sweltering prison van from an airport just outside Jacksonville, Florida, to the FDC's Reception and Medical Center (RMC) in Lake Butler, Florida. I was forced to leave most all my personal property behind in Texas.

Upon reaching RMC, I was brought from the van, manacled hand and foot into an enclosed vehicle port, where I was met by a mob of white guards of all ranks. I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me.

I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me. "This is Florida, and we'll beat your ass! We'll kill you!" said the spokesman.

Their "chosen" spokesman, a tall goofy guard, R. Knight, stepped forward and launched into a speech consisting of threats and insults. He emphasized that I was "not in Virginia or wherever else" I'd been. That "this is Florida, and we'll beat your ass! We'll kill you!" He assured my "Black ass" that my tendency to protest "won't be tolerated here."

He went on and on, like an overseer explaining the plantation's code of decorum and the "place" to a newly arrived Black slave. The analogy is apt. "You will answer us only as 'no sir' and 'yes sir,' 'no ma'am' and 'yes ma'am.' You forget this and we'll kick your fucking teeth out," he barked.

I was then taken through the various stages of being "processed" in: fingerprinted, examined and questioned by medical staff etc. Knight took possession of my property and stole a number of documents and all my writing supplies (five writing tablets, four ink pens, 19 envelopes, stamps), all my hygiene supplies (deodorant, shampoo, two bars of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers) and so on.

All these items that I brought with me from Texas were inventoried and logged by Texas officials. Knight logged and inventoried me as receiving from him only my watch, some legal papers, 15 envelopes and my eyeglasses.

Next, I was taken into an office and sat before a Sgt. L. Colon, RMC's "gang (or STG, Security Threat Group) investigator." He proceeded in the same hostile terms. He explained that he knew all about me and his displeasure with my published articles about prison abuses, and he assured that FDC would put an end to it. He admitted his purpose was to put an STG profile on me, refer it to FDC's central office in Tallahassee to be upheld, and I would then be put on STG file, which in turn would be used to stop my writings.

He proceeded to ask about me being a "Black Panther leader" and, using a thoroughly amateur interrogation method, attempted to have me characterize myself and my party as a gang. When his efforts failed, he charged me with being a "bullshitter." I told him only that I am a member of a constitutionally protected, non-violent communist party and whatever false stigma he wanted to try and invent against me and us was typical of fascist governments and we'd address it publicly and in court. Our "interview" was terminated.

Another nurse did my medical history check, remarking that my blood pressure reading was extremely high, 145/103. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.

Upon arriving in Florida, I had not received my hypertension medications since the prior morning. The sweltering heat was aggravating my condition. During the intake process a routine blood pressure check was done and my reading was around 145/103. The nurse who did the reading passed me on to another nurse who did my medical history check, remarking that my reading was extremely high. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.

Barbaric housing

Following completing the intake process, I was walked a substantial distance across the prison yard carrying my bag of property in handcuffs and the sweltering midday heat, dizzy from my elevated blood pressure.

I was led to K-building, the solitary confinement unit, where I was put into a cell, K-3-102, which had no bunk in it and had a commode that had to be flushed by guards from outside the cell – often they would not flush it when it needed to be and I asked them to. The commode had otherwise been obviously left unflushed for long periods, because inside the bowl was and is a thick, yellowed layer of calcium and waste residue and it reeked of fermented urine and feces.

Just before I entered the cell, it was wet-mopped, not to sanitize it, but to cover the entire floor with water that would not, and did not, dry for over a day afterward due to the extreme humidity and lack of air circulation in the cells. There is no air conditioning in the cell blocks and, unlike in Texas, FDC prisoners may not have in-cell fans.

My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them and I believe also roaches that frequently crawled into the cell. At night, in the pitch black cells – and even when the lights were on – mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the "regular" smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.

My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them. At night, even when the lights were on, mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the "regular" smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.

The K-building lieutenant, Jason Livingston, posted a special note outside my cell door stating I was on a heightened security status, that I and the cell were to be specially searched any time I exited or entered the cell, that I was to be specially restrained and the ranking guards had to accompany me to and from any destination outside the cell. The pretense was that I was an extreme physical threat.

I was denied my hypertension medications until I briefly fell unconscious on the evening of June 24, 2017.

Following sending word out to an attorney and others about my conditions and experiences, who apparently raised complaints on my behalf, I was moved to a "regular" cell, K-1-204, on June 30, 2017, with a bunk and a commode I can flush. I was repeatedly confronted by various guards who've commented that I'm no dangerous person and they don't understand why I've been profiled or treated as though I am.

A week later FDC officials would come clean, exposing on the record their actual motives for my mistreatment, and "special" security status.

Solitary confinement for publicizing abuses

My readers and others will recall when, in January 2017, I was given a disciplinary infraction by Texas officials for a statement I wrote about suffering their abuses that was published online. When confronted about such retaliatory acts by a PBS reporter, Ms. Kamala Kelkar, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark initially lied, denying that I received any such infractions, until Ms. Kelkar emailed him a copy of the charge I'd received. He then suddenly changed his story, lying yet again to claim the infraction had been overturned, then declined to answer any further questions.[i]

Clark knew enough to deny and try to cover up such acts of retaliation against a prisoner exercising his right to freedom of speech. Florida officials, however, have come right out admitting and exposing such actions.[ii]

On July 6, 2017, I was confronted by RMC classification officer Jeremy Brown, who notified me that I am to be formally reviewed for placement on Close Management I status, which is the FDC's name for solitary confinement. The reason he gave for this review was the exact STG pretext Sgt. L. Colon told me on my first day was going to be created to justify suppressing my writings about prison abuses.

Brown served me written notification stating my CMI review was based upon my alleged "documented leadership in a Security Threat Group that is certified by the Threat Assessment Review Committee in Central Office." Remember, this is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.

My assignment to solitary confinement is for "documented leadership in a Security Threat Group" … This is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.

But FDC officials went much further in supporting "comments" to state their true motives for devising to put me in solitary and for my mistreatment up to that point.

As Colon had threatened, an STG label was invented against the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, a party about which Colon admitted he and the FDC had no prior knowledge. The reason the party was designated an STG and gang was because (get this!) I'd written articles while in Oregon and Texas prison systems that were published online about abuses in the prisons which generated concern and perfectly legal protests from the public, which was characterized as my gang following that "caused disruption in the orderly operations" of the prisons.

The notice went on to admit, as I've long contended in my writings, that these writings are the actual reason I've been transferred from state to state – illegal retaliatory transfers – which was characterized as STG activities.

Passing mention was made that I'd received disciplinary infractions while in Oregon and Texas, but no attempt was made to show those infractions bore any connection to my party affiliation. In fact, those who have followed my writings and the series of official reprisals – which is now being admitted by FDC officials – know those infractions were fabricated retaliations, many of which I was prevented from contesting.

So, according to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations – or in other words throwing a monkey wrench in their business-as-usual abuses.

According to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations.

For this I am to be thrown into solitary, which means any future posting and publishing of writings by me about prison abuses will be characterized as my continuing to engage in STG or gang activities, and any legal public protests as my gang members threatening prison security.

I didn't make this up, it's all in writing; read it HERE (scroll down to "SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS"). This is where taxpayers' monies are going in financing these ubiquitous gang busting units. And should you protest, you will be labelled a gangster yourself. I won't belabor the point.

Dare to struggle, Dare to win!

All Power to the People!

[i] Kamala Kelkar, "Resistence Builds Against Social Media Ban in Texas Prisons," PBS NewsHour Weekend, Jan. 29, 2017, 5:23 p.m. EST

Send our brother some love and light – and share this urgent story widely. The more people who write to him now, the safer he'll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, 7765 S. Cr. 231, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054.











Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw Kindle Edition

by Kevin Rashid Johnson (Author), Tom Big Warrior (Introduction), Russell Maroon Shoatz(Introduction)



Major Battles On

For over 31 years, Major Tillery has been a prisoner of the State.

Despite that extraordinary fact, he continues his battles, both in the prison for his health, and in the courts for his freedom.

Several weeks ago, Tillery filed a direct challenge to his criminal conviction, by arguing that a so-called "secret witness" was, in fact, a paid police informant who was given a get-out-of-jail-free card if he testified against Tillery.

Remember I mentioned, "paid?"

Well, yes--the witness was 'paid'--but not in dollars. He was paid in sex!

In the spring of 1984, Robert Mickens was facing decades in prison on rape and robbery charges. After he testified against Tillery, however, his 25-year sentence became 5 years: probation!

And before he testified he was given an hour and a ½ private visit with his girlfriend--at the Homicide Squad room at the Police Roundhouse. (Another such witness was given another sweetheart deal--lie on Major, and get off!)

To a prisoner, some things are more important than money. Like sex!

In a verified document written in April, 2016, Mickens declares that he lied at trial, after being coached by the DAs and detectives on the case.

He lied to get out of jail--and because he could get with his girl.

Other men have done more for less.

Major's 58-page Petition is a time machine back into a practice that was once common in Philadelphia.

In the 1980s and '90s, the Police Roundhouse had become a whorehouse.

Major, now facing serious health challenges from his hepatitis C infection, stubborn skin rashes, and dangerous intestinal disorders, is still battling.

And the fight ain't over.

[©'16 MAJ  6/29/16]

Major Tillery Needs Your Help and Support

Major Tillery is an innocent man. There was no evidence against Major Tillery for the 1976 poolroom shootings that left one man dead and another wounded. The surviving victim gave a statement to homicide detectives naming others—not Tillery or his co-defendant—as the shooters. Major wasn't charged until 1980, he was tried in 1985.

The only evidence at trial came from these jailhouse informants who were given sexual favors and plea deals for dozens of pending felonies for lying against Major Tillery. Both witnesses now declare their testimony was manufactured by the police and prosecution. Neither witness had personal knowledge of the shooting.

This is a case of prosecutorial misconduct and police corruption that goes to the deepest levels of rot in the Philadelphia criminal injustice system. Major Tillery deserves not just a new trial, but dismissal of the charges against him and his freedom from prison.

It cost a lot of money for Major Tillery to be able to file his new pro se PCRA petition and continue investigation to get more evidence of the state misconduct. He needs help to get lawyers to make sure this case is not ignored. Please contribute, now.


    Financial Support: Tillery's investigation is ongoing, to get this case filed has been costly and he needs funds for a legal team to fight this to his freedom!

    Go to JPay.com;

    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney

    Seth Williams:

    Free Major Tillery! He is an innocent man, framed by police and and prosecution.

    Call: 215-686-8711 or

    Write to:

    Major Tillery AM9786

    SCI Frackville

    1111 Altamont Blvd.

    Frackville, PA 17931

      For More Information, Go To: Justice4MajorTillery/blogspot


      Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq. (917) 689-4009RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



      Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

      Sign the Petition:


      Urge Gov. Jerry Brown to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence. Cooper has always maintained his innocence of the 1983 quadruple murder of which he was convicted. In 2009, five federal judges signed a dissenting opinion warning that the State of California "may be about to execute an innocent man." Having exhausted his appeals in the US courts, Kevin Cooper's lawyers have turned to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case. Amnesty International opposes all executions, unconditionally.

      "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." - Judge William A. Fletcher, 2009 dissenting opinion on Kevin Cooper's case

      Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for more than thirty years.

      In 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murder of a family and their house guest in Chino Hills. Sentenced to death, Cooper's trial took place in an atmosphere of racial hatred — for example, an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the N*****!" was hung outside the venue of his preliminary hearing.

      Take action to see that Kevin Cooper's death sentence is commuted immediately.

      Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence.

      Following his trial, five federal judges said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing."

      Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

      Tell California authorities: The death penalty carries the risk of irrevocable error. Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted.

      In 2009, Cooper came just eight hours shy of being executed for a crime that he may not have committed. Stand with me today in reminding the state of California that the death penalty is irreversible — Kevin Cooper's sentence must be commuted immediately.

      In solidarity,

      James Clark
      Senior Death Penalty Campaigner
      Amnesty International USA

        Kevin Cooper: An Innocent Victim of Racist Frame-Up - from the Fact Sheet at: www.freekevincooper.org

        Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California: Doug and Peggy Ryen and their daughter Jessica and their house- guest Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8 year old son Josh, also attacked, was left for dead but survived.

        Convicted in an atmosphere of racial hatred in San Bernardino County CA, Kevin Cooper remains under a threat of imminent execution in San Quentin.  He has never received a fair hearing on his claim of innocence.  In a dissenting opinion in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 565 F.3d 581.

        There is significant evidence that exonerates Mr. Cooper and points toward other suspects:

          The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the murders took four minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a second knife. How could a single person, in four or fewer minutes, wield three or four weapons, and inflict over 140 wounds on five people, two of whom were adults (including a 200 pound ex-marine) who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

          The sole surviving victim of the murders, Josh Ryen, told police and hospital staff within hours of the murders that the culprits were "three white men." Josh Ryen repeated this statement in the days following the crimes. When he twice saw Mr. Cooper's picture on TV as the suspected attacker, Josh Ryen said "that's not the man who did it."

          Josh Ryen's description of the killers was corroborated by two witnesses who were driving near the Ryens' home the night of the murders. They reported seeing three white men in a station wagon matching the description of the Ryens' car speeding away from the direction of the Ryens' home.

          These descriptions were corroborated by testimony of several employees and patrons of a bar close to the Ryens' home, who saw three white men enter the bar around midnight the night of the murders, two of whom were covered in blood, and one of whom was wearing coveralls.

          The identity of the real killers was further corroborated by a woman who, shortly after the murders were discovered, alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend had been wearing a tan t-shirt matching a tan t-shirt with Doug Ryen's blood on it recovered near the bar. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders; it never reappeared; further, her sister saw that boyfriend and two other white men in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

        Lacking a motive to ascribe to Mr. Cooper for the crimes, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Cooper, who had earlier walked away from custody at a minimum security prison, stole the Ryens' car to escape to Mexico. But the Ryens had left the keys in both their cars (which were parked in the driveway), so there was no need to kill them to steal their car. The prosecution also claimed that Mr. Cooper needed money, but money and credit cards were found untouched and in plain sight at the murder scene.

        The jury in 1985 deliberated for seven days before finding Mr. Cooper guilty. One juror later said that if there had been one less piece of evidence, the jury would not have voted to convict.

        The evidence the prosecution presented at trial tying Mr. Cooper to the crime scene has all been discredited…         (Continue reading this document at: http://www.savekevincooper.org/_new_freekevincooperdotorg/TEST/Scripts/DataLibraries/upload/KC_FactSheet_2014.pdf)

             This message from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. July 2015












        1)  Baltimore Drops Dozens of Cases After Video Casts Doubt on Officers

         AUG. 2, 2017




        State attorneys are dismissing dozens of cases in Baltimore after reviewing a video that appears to show a police officer planting evidence at a crime scene while two other officers look on.

        Over a hundred cases that would have relied on testimony from those three officers are now under review. As of Tuesday night, 41 had been dropped or were set to be dropped.

        "The credibility of those officers has now been directly called into question," Marilyn J. Mosby, the state's attorney for Baltimore, said at a news conference on Friday.

        The video, released last month and recorded in January, shows an officer who appears to place a bag of white capsules in an alleyway before walking toward the street, as the two other officers watch. He then appears to turn on his body camera and returns to the alley to retrieve the capsules.

        The body cameras used by the Baltimore police retain footage of the 30 seconds before they are activated, so it is possible the officer did not realize the initial scene was being recorded.

        In a statement last month, a public defender identified Richard Pinheiro as the officer who handled the bag.

        The three officers shown in the video had been scheduled to participate in 123 cases. Ms. Mosby said that of those cases, the ones in which the charges hinged solely on the officers' testimonies had to be thrown out because of a "credibility issue," while others could still be prosecuted on other evidence.

        So far, 27 cases have been cleared for prosecution to continue, 41 have been dropped and the remaining 55 are still awaiting review. The cases that have been dismissed involve drug-related felonies and weapons possession, Antonio Gioia, chief counsel at the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said at the news conference on Friday.

        One of the officers involved was suspended; the other two were placed on administrative duty. On Tuesday, the police did not specify which officer was suspended.

        At a news conference on July 19, Baltimore's police commissioner, Kevin Davis said the idea that officers might plant evidence at a crime scene was "as serious as it gets."

        The Police Department shared additional videos that seemed to show officers seizing illicit drugs from people near crime scenes. Commissioner Davis suggested that it was possible the officers had found a bag of capsules in the alley without recording it, and had tried to stage a re-enactment of the scene as it actually happened. The department is still investigating the episode.

        State attorneys may also have another video on their plate similar to the one from January, according to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, which is not yet sharing the new video.

        News of the other video surfaced on Monday, when the office said in an emailed statement that new footage of the Baltimore police showed a different set of officers "working together to manufacture evidence."

        In response, the state's attorney's office said it was requesting postponements on all cases requiring testimony from two officers involved in the new case. "Before we blanketly characterize their behavior as deceptive and/or a credibility issue, we referred the matter to the Internal Affairs Division of the Baltimore Police Department," wrote Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the office.

        Baltimore is addressing these videos in an era marked by growing concerns about police accountability.

        Protests erupted in the city after the death of Freddie Gray, 25, a black man who died in April 2015 after sustaining a spinal cord injury in police custody. It was a pivotal moment for Ms. Mosby, who — then, at 35, the youngest top state attorney in a major American city — quickly announced that she would prosecute six officers in Mr. Gray's death.

        All officers involved had their charges dropped or were acquitted by July 2016. But the episode also prompted Baltimore to invite the Justice Department to conduct a study on policing in the city.

        Released in August 2016, the report found that the Baltimore Police Department "engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law."

        Body cameras were deployed in Baltimore in 2016. "We have over 1,500 cameras deployed and expect full deployment of approximately 2,500 by early 2018," a Baltimore Police Department spokesman, T. J. Smith, said in an email on Tuesday. He did not comment on the state attorneys' review of the 123 cases.

        "This is kind of a learning and a trial period, right?" Ms. Mosby said on Friday. "All of the body-worn cameras haven't even been implemented, and I think that we're going to go through growing pains."

        Regarding the review of cases associated with the three officers in the video from January, Ms. Mosby said prosecutors "have been working around the clock to ensure a thorough evaluation of each and every case."

        This is not the first group of case dismissals resulting from suspected official misconduct this year. In April, Massachusetts threw out more than 20,000 drug cases because a state chemist had admitted to years of falsifying drug test results.



        2)  Racially Charged Nissan Vote Is a Test for U.A.W. in the South

         AUG. 2, 2017




        CANTON, Miss. — Caught among an administration that is frequently hostile to labor, a long-term decline in membership and a steady shift in jobs to the lightly unionized South, the United Automobile Workerslong ago settled on this Mississippi town as a key to rebuilding its ranks and energizing the entire labor movement.

        But for more than 3,500 employees who will be voting Thursday and Friday on whether to unionize the sprawling Nissan plant here, the concern is more immediate: How much they can expect of their employer in a world of diminishing prospects for blue-collar workers — not just in pay and benefits, but also in status and respect.

        Conversations with 20 workers reveal a workplace bitterly divided on these questions. In one camp are those who feel that Nissan has provided a standard of living that would have been unattainable had the company not opened its nearly mile-long plant in Canton more than 14 years ago.

        "Most of us just have a high school education," said Kim Barber, a quality technician who has been with Nissan since the plant opened, in an overfilled parking lot before her shift last week. "I'm almost 50. I can't go anywhere else."

        Ms. Barber said she made about $26 an hour, roughly twice what she made in her previous job driving a forklift at a storage company, adjusting for inflation.

        In another camp are those workers who believe they should not be asked to grade the company on the curve that is Mississippi's low-wage economy. "Nissan knew what they were doing when they put their plant around here," said Annie Matthews, a union supporter who is also in quality control and a veteran of 14 years at the plant.

        Many people had been working at McDonald's making $7 an hour, she said, "and now this is the best thing that ever happened to them."

        Union supporters complain that the company has been stingy with benefits and bonuses, that workers on the production line are pressured to sacrifice safety to keep the line moving briskly, and that supervisors arbitrarily change policies about discipline and attendance.

        And another issue looms awkwardly over the forthcoming vote: race. A large majority of the nearly 6,500 workers at the Nissan plant are African-American. One does not have to search hard for racial overtones.

        Along with some of her co-workers, Ms. Matthews, who is black, claimed that white supervisors rewarded white workers who were their friends with cushier assignments. "You've got Billy Bob as your manager, you go duck hunting, possum hunting together," she said.

        (The company rejected the accusation, saying that promotions and assignments were made on the basis of merit, and that the rationale for decisions was not always visible to other employees.)

        The U.A.W., for its part, has taken pains to highlight the campaign's racial dimension. In its news release announcing the impending vote, it quoted a worker who accused Nissan of violating African-Americans' labor rights even while marketing cars to them.

        The union has also forged close alliances with local black pastors and community leaders, whose mantra has been that the ability to form a union is a civil right.

        Anti-union workers at the plant have accused the U.A.W. of buying such support with tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to local civil rights and religious groups. The union says it has contributed to such groups for decades.

        Bishop Thomas Jenkins, a local pastor who once led a group of fellow clergymen to the plant to urge Nissan to commit to an evenhanded election process, said Mississippi seemed to have a "spirit of mediocrity," sending a message that workers "ought to be glad to have a job." Mr. Jenkins said neither he nor his church had received money from the U.A.W.

        In some ways the sensitivity about race may have prevented the organizing campaign from becoming more divisive than it otherwise might have.

        During the U.A.W.'s last major campaign in the South, a losing effort at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2014, much of the state's political class conveyed relentless hostility. A conservative group put up billboards tying the U.A.W. to "liberal politicians" including President Barack Obama and suggesting that Chattanooga would go the way of bankrupt Detroit if the union gained a foothold.

        In Mississippi, union officials say, the state's Republican establishment has been relatively subdued, perhaps calculating that more aggressive opposition would be ineffective, even self-defeating.

        "If the governor of the state of Mississippi says it's not good for you, then it must be great for you," said Barbara Blackmon, the Democratic state senator who represents the area.

        Officials at the union, which has been working in earnest to organize the Canton plant since 2012, say a unionized South is crucial to restoring leverage for workers across the country, since employers can rein in wages by locating there, or merely threatening to. "There has to be a floor at some point that workers will not go past," said Gary Casteel, the union's second-ranking official.

        Nissan, for its part, portrays the U.A.W. as self-interested. A slide presentation run repetitively inside the plant states, "It costs a lot of money to run a union!" and concludes, "That's why the U.A.W. is here — it wants a piece of your paycheck." (Mr. Casteel said the union had grown consistently in recent years and was in strong financial shape.)

        Facebook page created by workers opposed to the union has drawn attention to the indictment of a former Fiat Chrysler official accused of diverting millions from a training center to himself and a U.A.W. counterpart. The U.A.W. said it had no knowledge of the scheme and was cooperating with the investigation.

        Nissan says that its wages are significantly higher than the average in central Mississippi, and that while it ended eligibility for its pension plan after 2005, it makes two forms of contributions to employees' retirement accounts — one matching a portion of what workers contribute, and one independent of their contributions. (The major American automakers contribute a roughly equivalent percentage of workers' income to their retirement funds.) Nissan distributes annual "thank you" bonuses to workers, worth $4,000 in each of the last two years, though the bonuses are not based on profitability, as is the practice with American automakers.

        In an ad campaign, Nissan testifies to its efforts to improve the lives of its workers. One ad features an African-American supervisor who describes struggling to pay her bills as a single mother before landing at Nissan, which later promoted her and even helped her finish college.

        "If anything, it should be the opposite argument," said Scott Waller, interim president and chief executive of the Mississippi Economic Council, a business advocacy group, alluding to the potential for racial polarization. The high proportion of African-Americans that Nissan employs at the plant, he said, "speaks to the great progress, the positive things that are happening in this state."

        Still, workers say there is more than one way to divide them than along racial lines — namely, by inciting fear. And Nissan — which unlike Volkswagen before it has refused to stay neutral in the union campaign — has not forsworn this tactic.

        In a video shown to workers, Steve Marsh, the plant's top official, warned that the employees of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler represented by the U.A.W. "experienced significant instability in recent years, and suffered from many layoffs and plant closings."

        Managers have also held frequent discussions with workers in which they make similar suggestions about how a union could hurt job security. Nissan says the meetings are intended to counter misinformation.

        On Friday, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Nissan, charging, among other things, that the company had illegally warned workers that the plant could close if they chose to unionize.

        Workers say there are also fault lines between those who have more to lose and those who have less. For example, workers hired in the plant's early years make about $26 an hour and receive six days of paid time off each year; workers hired more recently top out at about $24 (and often make less) and receive only three paid days off.

        Some workers are also promoted into less physically demanding jobs like quality control, while others languish on the assembly line for a decade or more.

        Many of the anti-union workers are "in a job where they're just walking around with a clipboard, they're not on that line," said Eric Hearn, who has worked on one of the plant's assembly lines for five years. "They're willing to say anything."

        At a meeting of workers at the local U.A.W. office last week, union supporters fumed about a recent slide presentation in which managers explained that Nissan could not guarantee most workers their old jobs in the event of a strike.

        One worker, Chip Wells, later said in an interview that many colleagues were worried by the presentation, even though strikes are a rarity.

        "It just scared a lot of people," Mr. Wells said.



        3)  Nations Will Start Talks to Protect Fish of the High Seas

         AUG. 2, 2017




        UNITED NATIONS — More than half of the world's oceans belong to no one, which often makes their riches ripe for plunder.

        Now, countries around the world have taken the first step to protect the precious resources of the high seas. In late July, after two years of talks, diplomats at the United Nations recommended starting treaty negotiations to create marine protected areas in waters beyond national jurisdiction — and in turn, begin the high-stakes diplomatic jostling over how much to protect and how to enforce rules.

        "The high seas are the biggest reserve of biodiversity on the planet," Peter Thomson, the ambassador of Fiji and current president of the United Nations General Assembly, said in an interview after the negotiations. "We can't continue in an ungoverned way if we are concerned about protecting biodiversity and protecting marine life."

        Without a new international system to regulate all human activity on the high seas, those international waters remain "a pirate zone," Mr. Thomson said.

        Lofty ambitions, though, are likely to collide with hard-knuckled diplomatic bargaining. Some countries resist the creation of a new governing body to regulate the high seas, arguing that existing regional organizations and rules are sufficient. The commercial interests are powerful. Russian and Norwegian vessels go to the high seas for krill fishing; Japanese and Chinese vessels go there for tuna. India and China are exploring the seabed in international waters for valuable minerals. Many countries are loath to adopt new rules that would constrain them.

        And so, the negotiations need to answer critical questions. How will marine protected areas be chosen? How much of the ocean will be set aside as sanctuaries? Will extraction of all marine resources be prohibited from those reserves — as so-called no-take areas — or will some human activity be allowed? Not least, how will the new reserve protections be enforced?

        Russia, for instance, objected to using the phrase "long term" conservation efforts in the document that came out of the latest negotiations in July, instead preferring time-bound measures. The Maldives, speaking for island nations, argued that new treaty negotiations were urgent to protect biodiversity.

        Several countries, especially those that have made deals with their marine neighbors about what is allowed in their shared international waters, want regional fishing management bodies to take the lead in determining marine protected areas on the high seas. Others say a patchwork of regional bodies, usually dominated by powerful countries, is insufficient, because they tend to agree only on the least restrictive standards. (The United States Mission to the United Nations declined to comment.)

        The new treaty negotiations could begin as early as 2018. The General Assembly, made up of 193 countries, will ultimately make the decision.

        A hint of the tough diplomacy that lies ahead came last year over the creation of the world's largest marine protected area in the international waters of the Ross Sea. Countries that belong to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, a regional organization, agreed by consensus to designate a 600,000-square-mile area as a no-fishing zone. It took months of pressure on Moscow, including an intervention by John F. Kerry, then the United States secretary of state.

        The discussions around marine protected areas on the high seas may also offer the planet a way to guard against some of the effects of global warming. There is growing scientific evidence that creating large, undisturbed sanctuaries can help marine ecosystems and coastal populations cope with climate change effects, like sea-level rise, more intense storms, shifts in the distribution of species and ocean acidification.

        Not least, creating protected areas can also allow vulnerable species to spawn and migrate, including to areas where fishing is allowed.

        Fishing on the high seas, often with generous government subsidies, is a multibillion-dollar industry, particularly for high-value fish like the Chilean sea bass and Bluefin tuna served in luxury restaurants around the world. Ending fishing in some vulnerable parts of the high seas is more likely to affect large, well-financed trawlers. It is less likely to affect fishermen who do not have the resources to venture into the high seas, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In fact, Mr. Lundin said, marine reserves could help to restore dwindling fish stocks.

        High-seas fishing is not nearly as productive as it used to be. "It's not worth the effort," he said. "We've knocked out most of the catches."

        Currently, a small but growing portion of the ocean is set aside as reserves. Most of them have been designated by individual countries — the latest is off the coast of the Cook Islands, called Marae Moana — or as in the case of the Ross Sea, by groups of countries. A treaty, if and when it goes into effect, would scale up those efforts: Advocates want 30 percent of the high seas to be set aside, while the United Nations development goals, which the nations of the world have already agreed to, proposes to protect at least 10 percent of international waters.

        Why is such a treaty necessary? At the moment, a variety of regional agreements and international laws govern what is permitted in international waters. The countries of the North Atlantic must agree, by consensus, what is allowed in the high seas in their region, for instance, while the International Seabed Authority regulates what is allowed on the seabed in international waters, but not much more.

        That patchwork, conservationists argue, has left the high seas open to pillage. Enforcement is weak. Elizabeth Wilson, a project director at the Pew Charitable Trusts, wrote in a recent paper that they "lack the coordination to protect and conserve their immense but fragile biodiversity."

        Pew offers a list of fragile high-seas ecosystems that should be protected. At the top of the list is the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is under increasing pressure from fishing trawlers, Ms. Wilson writes, and home to 100 species of invertebrates, 280 species of fish and 23 types of birds.



        4) Federal Jail in Brooklyn Faces a String of Sexual Assault Cases

        The Metropolitan Detention Center has relatively few female inmates. Yet it accounts for a disproportionate number of sexual assault cases involving them.

         AUG. 1, 2017






        Even the female inmates who kept to themselves realized something was off. There was the way certain correctional officers took a special interest in which female inmates worked on the overnight cleaning crew. And how some of the women returned from cleaning assignments with their mops and buckets dry, apparently unused.

        Those were hints of what would turn into one of the largest sexual assault investigations to confront the federal Bureau of Prisons in at least a decade. The case became public in May when three officers, including two lieutenants, at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn were arrested on charges of sexually abusing at least half a dozen female inmates. The alleged assaults were often carried out late at night when the inmates were directed to leave their dormitories to clean other parts of the detention center, known as the M.D.C.

        While most of the assaults cited in the indictments occurred in 2016, prosecutors have suggested that the pattern may have begun years before. In a recent court filing, prosecutors disclosed that an inmate had told the F.B.I. in 1995 that one of the two lieutenants indicted in May had raped her while she was on cleaning duty. That accusation did not result in charges.

        The accusations underscore the particular challenges that officials face in trying to curb sexual predation in correctional facilities.

        It has been nearly 14 years since the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law that has been credited with reducing sexual violence and forcing prison authorities to do more to protect vulnerable inmates, like juveniles.

        In interviews and correspondence, women who have been incarcerated at the M.D.C. pointed to a striking gender dynamic that they say contributes to the likelihood of sexual assault. During the overnight shift, an entire dormitory of women was sometimes supervised by only a single male correctional officer, who was sometimes in turn, supervised by a male lieutenant, inmates said.

        "They're just asking for trouble," said Catherine Riascos-Hurtado, a former inmate who was sexually assaulted in 2007 by a former M.D.C. guard who had returned to work there as a counselor and who was later convicted of the crime. "In the middle of the night, it was just men."

        The women interviewed noted that female inmates were often assigned to cleaning duty in the middle of the night. That is because the jail is overwhelmingly male — of the roughly 1,800 inmates usually there, women typically account for between a few dozen and more than 150. To minimize contact between male and female inmates, the correctional staff tended to let women out of their dormitories for cleaning assignments at odd hours when men were locked in their units. That led to female inmates often being alone, or in small groups, with male officers during the jail's quietest hours, according to court records and interviews.

        "Coming to get someone to do cleaning after hours, when we should all be secured in our dormitory — that shouldn't be normal," Ramona Brant, who was an inmate at the M.D.C., said.

        Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, Democrat of New York, whose district includes the jail, said she was troubled to learn that female inmates might be supervised primarily by men on some nights. "I want to get a commitment that if there are women inmates, that there have to be female officers," said Ms. Velázquez, who has previously written to the Bureau of Prisons raising concerns about the conditions at the jail.

        A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, Justin Long, wrote in an email that "the general practice of the Bureau of Prisons is to have at least one male and one female staff on each shift at correctional institutions housing both male and female inmates."

        Sex crimes at the jail are not confined to male correctional officers abusing female inmates: Five years ago, a female correctional officer was impregnated by one of the jail's most notorious inmates, a man who had been sentenced to death for killing two police officers.

        Research has found that nationwide, female employees, while a smaller share of the personnel at correctional institutions, are disproportionately involved in sexual misconduct with inmates.

        But the number of sexual assaults reported by the relatively small number of women held at the M.D.C. is striking, pointing to a problem that may be larger than statistics kept by the Bureau of Prisons indicate. In a June report, the Bureau of Prisons stated that in 2016 there werethree substantiated cases of "staff-on-inmate" sexual misconduct across its more than 100 jails and prisons. Yet prosecutors from the United States attorney's office in Brooklyn claim that at least that number of women were sexually abused by staff members in 2016 at the Metropolitan Detention Center alone — a single facility that houses only around 1 percent of the bureau's inmates.

        The warden of the jail, Herman Quay, did not respond to interview requests.

        "It raises a lot of questions," Ms. Velázquez said, referring to the discrepancy in statistics.

        Several women incarcerated at the M.D.C. said that a few correctional officers did little to hide their sexual interest in certain inmates.

        A former inmate, Gladys Sanchez-Loqui, described in a 2013 deposition how in the middle of the night she would listen for approaching footsteps. "I would jump out of the bed," Ms. Sanchez-Loqui said, after she once awoke to a jail staff member touching her breast.

        Another inmate said it was not uncommon for certain female inmates to get to share in the pizza or wings that correctional workers often ordered for themselves from nearby restaurants — the food was widely perceived as a reward for providing officers with sex. Prosecutors have, in court papers, hinted at the possibility that food and sex might be linked, noting in court papers that one correctional officer "ordered food from an outside vendor for himself and Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2" on the same night that the two women performed oral sex on the officer.

        In interviews, a number of women also said it appeared that some of the female inmates were trying to initiate sexual contact with correctional officers, for reasons ranging from loneliness to exploitation. "I'd hear women talk about it all the time: 'If I get an officer to do this, I'll claim rape and I'll get some money and get paid, cause the government took years away from me,'" said Lorraine Rehm, who was in the M.D.C. from 2014 to 2015.

        It is a crime — sexual abuse of a ward — for federal correctional employees to have sex with federal inmates, regardless of whether inmates agree to it. In charging the two lieutenants, prosecutors said they sometimes used physical force or their administrative power to coerce women into providing sex.

        One of the lieutenants, Carlos Richard Martinez, is accused of overpowering and raping an inmate who had been assigned to clean the lieutenants' office — one of the few parts of the jail that is largely out of view of the jail's 600 surveillance cameras. He raped the woman — a drug trafficker from the Dominican Republic — on several occasions, prosecutors said, including "one last time," before her sentence ended and she was handed over to the immigration authorities for deportation.

        Lieutenant Martinez, who is being held in a New Jersey detention facility, pleaded not guilty. His wife said in an interview that she believed the accuser had made up the accusations in order "to stay in the country because she was going to get deported."

        In court filings, prosecutors have said that Lieutenant Martinez was accused of raping a female inmate in 1995 but was never charged in that case.

        The other lieutenant, Eugenio Perez, is accused of sexually abusing four female inmates in 2016 and of attempting to sexually abuse one in 2013. The women reported that the assaults occurred while they were assigned to clean the lieutenants' office area. Shortly before sexually abusing one inmate, prosecutors say, Lieutenant Perez reminded her of how he had previously "saved" her by ordering her early release from solitary confinement.

        Lieutenant Perez has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have not said whether they suspect he had sexual contact with any other inmates.

        In interviews, a number of female inmates described Lieutenant Perez as outgoing, with a demeanor some found friendly, others inappropriate. He would sometimes tell female inmates that "when we get out, we're all going to hang out," recalled Ms. Sanchez-Loqui, the former inmate, speaking by phone from Ecuador.

        She recalled one odd encounter: Lieutenant Perez, then a more junior officer, had asked her to introduce him to another inmate, "a Dominican girl."

        What for? Ms. Sanchez-Loqui recalled asking.

        "I just want to chat with her," she recalled the officer saying.



        5)  Monsanto Emails Raise Issue of Influencing Research on Roundup Weed Killer

         AUG. 1, 2017


        Documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit against Monsanto raised new questions about the company's efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup.

        The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the most common weed killer in the world and is used by farmers on row crops and by home gardeners. While Roundup's relative safety has been upheld by most regulators, a case in federal court in San Francisco continues to raise questions about the company's practices and the product itself.

        The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes's website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.

        A similar issue appeared in academic research. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, "I can't be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication." He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: "We call that ghost writing and it is unethical."

        A Monsanto official said the comments were the result of "a complete misunderstanding" that had been "worked out," while Mr. Acquavella said in an email on Tuesday that "there was no ghostwriting" and that his comments had been related to an early draft and a question over authorship that was resolved.

        The documents also show internal talk about Roundup's safety.

        "If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern," one Monsanto scientist wrote in an internal email in 2001.

        Monsanto said it was outraged by the documents' release by a law firm involved in the litigation.

        "There is a standing confidentiality order that they violated," said Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto. He said that while "you can't unring a bell," Monsanto would seek penalties on the firm.

        "What you're seeing are some cherry-picked things that can be made to look bad," Mr. Partridge said. "But the substance and the science are not affected by this."

        R. Brent Wisner, a partner at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, the firm that released the documents, said Monsanto had erred by not filing a required motion seeking continued protection of the documents. Monsanto said no such filing was necessary.

        "Clearly Monsanto's lawyers made a mistake," Mr. Wisner said. "They didn't properly take action to preserve the confidentiality of these documents."

        He added, "Now the world gets to see these documents that would otherwise remain secret."

        Mr. Miller's 2015 article on Forbes's website was an attack on the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization that had labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen, a finding disputed by other regulatory bodies. In the email traffic, Monsanto asked Mr. Miller if he would be interested in writing an article on the topic, and he said, "I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft."

        The article appeared under Mr. Miller's name, and with the assertion that "opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own." The magazine did not mention any involvement by Monsanto in preparing the article.

        Mr. Miller did not respond to calls or a Twitter message asking for comment, and the Hoover Institution, where he is a fellow, could not reach him.

        "That was a collaborative effort, a function of the outrage we were hearing from many people on the attacks on glyphosate," Mr. Partridge of Monsanto said. "This is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It's an op-ed we collaborated with him on."

        Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.

        "All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing," Mia Carbonell, a Forbes spokeswoman, said in a statement. "When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed his blog from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him."

        Mr. Miller's work has also appeared in the opinion pages of The New York Times.

        "We have never paid Dr. Miller," said Sam Murphey, a spokesman for Monsanto. "Our scientists have never collaborated with Dr. Miller on his submissions to The New York Times. Our scientists have on occasion collaborated with Dr. Miller on other pieces."

        James Dao, the Op-Ed editor of The Times, said in a statement, "Op-Ed contributors to The Times must sign a contract requiring them to avoid any conflict of interest, and to disclose any financial interest in the subject matter of their piece."

        The documents also show that a debate outside Monsanto about the relative safety of glyphosate and Roundup, which contains other chemicals, was also taking place within the company.

        In a 2002 email, a Monsanto executive said, "What I've been hearing from you is that this continues to be the case with these studies — Glyphosate is O.K. but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage."

        In a 2003 email, a different Monsanto executive tells others, "You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement."

        She adds, however, that "we can make that statement about glyphosate and can infer that there is no reason to believe that Roundup would cause cancer."

        The documents also show that A. Wallace Hayes, the former editor of a journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, has had a contractual relationship with Monsanto. In 2013, while he was still editor, Mr. Hayes retracted a key study damaging to Monsanto that found that Roundup, and genetically modified corn, could cause cancer and early death in rats.

        Mr. Hayes said in an interview that he had not been under contract with Monsanto at the time of the retraction and was paid only after he left the journal.

        "Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract," he said. "It was based on input that I got from some very well-respected people, and also my own evaluation."



        6)  A Communist Icon Toppled in Ukraine Is Restored. In England.

        AUG. 6, 2017




        MANCHESTER, England — After 147 years, Friedrich Engels is back in town. Statues of Engels, Karl Marx's collaborator, may have been ripped down all over the former communist world, but he has returned here, to the city that made him famous.

        His resurrection in Manchester, where he conducted research on the working class in the 1840s, is thanks to Phil Collins — the acclaimed artist who has made Engels the centerpiece of his most recent project, "Ceremony."

        "I started working on this theme about 10 years ago," said Mr. Collins, who was nominated for the Turner Prize for British visual arts in 2006. Immersing himself in the history of the Industrial Revolution and of socialism in Manchester, he stumbled upon a quote by a local civil servant, who raised the idea of transporting an Engels statue from Ukraine to Manchester.

        Since most Soviet-era statues were removed from their pedestals and destroyed after 1989 — and an Engels likeness was rather rarer than the ubiquitous Lenin — finding the statue was not easy. Mr. Collins traveled for about a year across Eastern Europe before finally finding his prize in an agricultural compound in a district that he said was once named after Engels in the Poltava region of eastern Ukraine.

        The statue, 12 feet tall, had been cut in half and dumped. But on May 15, the halves were hauled onto a truck and sent on their way to Manchester. On its travels through Europe, captured on film, the truck stopped in Engels's birthplace, Barmen, now part of the city of Wuppertal in northwestern Germany.

        The Engels project was funded by the Manchester City Council and was featured recently as the closing event of the biennial Manchester International Festival of the arts. The statue was ceremonially welcomed in front of an art theater called HOME, as a high-spirited crowd gathered in the parking lot to watch the film. The singer Gruff Rhys performed "Communism's Coming Home."

        "Engels changed the course of history," said Noel Callaghan, 45, a local resident.

        The ceremony also marked the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which was inspired by the ideas of Marx and Engels in their "Communist Manifesto" of 1848. And much of their analysis was based on Engels's own masterwork, "The Condition of the Working Class in England," published three years before.

        In Manchester, Engels is still revered. Alexandra Prodan, a 27-year-old medical secretary from Romania who has been living in Manchester for eight years, said the problem with communism was not with Marxist theory per se. "In practice," Ms. Prodan said, communist regimes "became totalitarian and oppressive."

        Mr. Callaghan agreed. "Corrupt people," he said, "they corrupt things, don't they?"

        Ms. Prodan added: "Even in the countries where people were oppressed, people were looking out for each other in a way. There was still a feeling of togetherness against the regime. This is basically what Engels wrote about. You know, it's about the people coming together."

        Manchester is still mourning after a terrorist attack in May. "We're still conscious of it," Mr. Callaghan said. But in some respects residents seem more united than ever. "You saw people mobilizing and coming together," Ms. Prodan said.

        The newly erected statue is not the only tribute to Engels in the city. At the University of Salford, not far from where Engels worked at his family-owned mill, an innovative sculpture of Engels's iconic beard, meant to be climbed, is intended, the university claims, "to inspire the next generation of artists, musicians and performers."

        The statue is now installed in the city center to grant Engels "official recognition," Mr. Collins said. Of course, things have changed a bit since his day. The statue now stands among such temples of Western capitalism as a McDonald's and a Hilton.

        The festival's artistic director, John McGrath, said he expected the statue's new location to "invite people to think and ignite debate." In Mr. Collins's words: "What's interesting about socialism is that it announces itself."

        Why Engels? To Mr. Collins, it's all about contradictions, "the contradictions we all live in."

        "Engels ran his family's factory," and yet he was dedicated to the emancipation of the working class, Mr. Collins said.

        "He was a capitalist by day and a communist by night," he added.

        Like Engels, Mr. Collins suggested: "Nobody's outside of a system. We're all kind of bound to it." He deemed Manchester to be home to "important movements connected with social justice and with resistance."

        Manchester retains a strong air of socialism. Not only did it elect a Labour member of Parliament in the recent general election, but 94 of the 96 city councilors are members of the Labour Party.

        "We've got lots of statues for other 19th-century figures," said the leader of the Manchester City Council, Richard Leese. "Why not give one to a German Manchester socialist?"

        It was hard to find a dissenting voice at the dedication of the statue. When asked about possibly glorifying a figure whose life's work came to be associated with political regimes that ended up immiserating countless millions of people, Mr. Callaghan said that was not the point.

        "I don't think we're necessarily celebrating it," he said. "With time, you've got to acknowledge what happened in the past, don't you?"

        Barbara Woods, 70, who had accompanied her husband to the event, was practically alone in mildly criticizing the idea. "We are for the working class," she said. "But I'm not 100 percent sure about a statue.

        "Personally, I don't see any need for it," she continued. "I think we should let things lie and rather have a statue of somebody representing the region, not somebody who's come from somewhere else."

        She suggested another influential part-time Mancunian, who worked at The Manchester Evening News for three years: "Why not George Orwell?"



        7)  Defendants Kept in the Dark About Evidence, Until It's Too Late 

        New York is one of 10 states where prosecutors can wait until just before trial to share evidence, which critics say is unfair. But a new bill could change the rules.

        AUG. 7, 2017






        In September 2013, a fight broke out on the sidewalk outside the Bronx nightclub where Aaron Cedres worked as a bouncer. It was a confusing scrum of about a dozen people, and one man suffered a broken jaw and deep slashes to his head and back.

        A month later, Mr. Cedres — then a 25-year-old father with no criminal record — was charged with gang assault, which carried the prospect of 25 years in prison. Cameras had been posted outside the club, and the prosecutor said the tapes looked bad for Mr. Cedres, his lawyer recalled.

        Mr. Cedres was offered a plea deal: five years behind bars. He insisted that he had thrown one punch to help break up two men, and he urged his lawyer to get the footage.

        But Mr. Cedres was up against entrenched legal practices. New York is one of 10 states where prosecutors can wait until just before trial to turn over witness names and statements and other key evidence known as discovery, which backs up criminal charges. It is a strategic advantage that critics call unfair and unnecessary.

        Some discovery — such as video footage — is supposed to be turned over on request, but defense attorneys complain that the requests are often countered, delayed or ignored. They say the restrictive discovery rules put people like Mr. Cedres into a high-stakes dilemma: Plead guilty without seeing all the evidence, or risk a trial that could end in a prison sentence much longer than what they might get under a plea.

        Most take the deal. According to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, more than 98 percent of felony arrests that end in convictions occur through a guilty plea, not a trial, a slightly higher number than national figures.

        For decades, legislation to require prosecutors to turn over evidence earlier has run into stiff opposition from New York's district attorneys, who present a powerful counterargument: the safety of witnesses. More than a dozen such bills have failed in the past quarter-century.

        Now, the politics show signs of shifting, and a renewed effort is underway to push the Legislature to overhaul state discovery rules, following the example of traditionally more conservative states such as North Carolina and Texas.

        This year, the New York State Bar Association for the first time is throwing its weight behind a new Assembly bill requiring prosecutors to automatically turn over police reports, witness names and statements, and grand jury testimony early in a case. Their endeavor is backed by the Legal Aid Society and the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that helps exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted, although it faces a difficult road. There is no companion bill in the Senate, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not embraced the idea.

        At the same time, the state court system is considering providing judges with a new tool to ensure that prosecutors turn over potentially exculpatory information.

        The disadvantage that defendants face in New York has begun to draw more attention, said Carlton Berkley, a retired New York City police detective. He leads Discovery for Justice, a Bronx group founded in 2013 to oppose the discovery rules that some critics deride as New York's "blindfold law."

        "When I was a cop, I always believed the criminal justice system was on the level," said Mr. Berkley, who was a critic of some departmental practices and who has four brothers who have served time in prison. "I'm embarrassed now to say that."

        The efforts in New York reflect a national trend toward more open discovery laws. Ohio broadened its laws in 2010. New Jersey and Utah now require that discovery be provided before a guilty plea. The American Bar Association, whose standards often serve as models for state laws, has convened a task force to update its criminal discovery standards for the first time in more than 20 years.

        Even in New York, some prosecutors already go beyond what the law requires. The Brooklyn district attorney's office has long provided open and early discovery in most cases. The acting district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, said his office sometimes sought protective orders to shield vulnerable witnesses or, more rarely, to relocate them.

        "We've been able to find the right balance in how to keep our witnesses safe and also make sure the process is as transparent and open as possible," Mr. Gonzalez said.

        State lawmakers, facing resistance from prosecutors, have been reluctant to follow that tide.

        Prosecutors describe frightening encounters between the accused and witnesses and warn of violence in a "no snitching" culture intensified by social media. Prosecutors say the current law helps protect witnesses by allowing them to withhold witness information indefinitely, since so few cases go to trial.

        Jack Ryan, the chief assistant district attorney in the Queens district attorney's office, recalled a recent case in which a witness was photographed on his way into the courthouse.

        "Before the witness even testified, that video was uploaded on Facebook identifying the guy as a snitch," Mr. Ryan said. "There's a legitimate fear."

        'Our Guy Was Going to Prison'

        Mr. Cedres and his lawyer, Kristin Bruan, said that at first he had refused the plea deal, but that as the months had worn on, he had begun to consider it. Pending felony charges meant that he lost his job, then his apartment and car. His girlfriend moved into her mother's house with the couple's infant daughter, and Mr. Cedres was homeless.

        Ms. Bruan wondered if Mr. Cedres accurately remembered the chaotic event, or if his single punch was enough to make him guilty under the law. Prosecutors in this case turned over police reports indicating that the victim and his girlfriend had found Mr. Cedres on Facebook, identified him as a leader of the assault and were willing to testify. But they still had not turned over the surveillance video.

        "Without that video, our guy was going to prison," said Ms. Bruan, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

        Ms. Bruan filed a motion for discovery shortly after Mr. Cedres was arrested. Under the law, the prosecution had 15 days to hand over the material or explain why it would not. Fifteen days passed with no reply, then 30, Ms. Bruan said.

        Judges have few available sanctions for prosecutors who do not comply with discovery requests.

        The judge who presided over a later stage of Mr. Cedres's case, Troy K. Webber, said a judge could have ordered the video tossed out of the case. But that would have wrongly punished the defense, she said in an interview.

        "You have to hope the people will turn over the video," said Justice Webber, who now sits on a state appellate court.

        More than two months after Ms. Bruan's initial request, the prosecutor wrote that the video "does not show anything/is corrupted," an email shows. Ms. Bruan pushed back, and after five more months of wrangling, the videos appeared in her inbox.

        They showed almost exactly what Mr. Cedres had said they would: In the mayhem, he threw two punches to free the club owner's son from a bear hug. A separate fight spilled down the street, where a crowd of people beat the man who was ultimately seriously injured. After a year and a half and 22 court appearances, the charges were dismissed.

        Patrice O'Shaughnessy, a spokeswoman for the Bronx district attorney's office, declined to comment on the case.

        After Mr. Cedres lost his job, he was arrested a number of times for petty offenses such as jumping subway turnstiles. He now lives with his mother and earns money as a driver, but he said his stability felt fragile.

        "I'm getting little things back, but I shouldn't have lost it to begin with," Mr. Cedres said.

        Ambiguity and Inconsistency

        Prosecutors are supposed to turn over evidence that is favorable to the accused — called Brady material after a landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision — regardless of other discovery rules. But the Supreme Court never set deadlines, and lower courts have split over whether Brady material must be turned over before a plea.

        What constitutes such evidence is left to prosecutors to determine, and the line is not always clear.

        The New York court system is expected to approve a rule change soon: Judges would issue an order in criminal cases reminding prosecutors of their Brady obligations. The order would not change what prosecutors must turn over, but it would for the first time allow judges to hold in contempt prosecutors who willfully violated the obligation.

        But the deadline in the order would be 30 days before trial — well after most plea negotiations have taken place.

        The pressure to plead can be enormous, especially because offers tend to go up as time goes by. Mr. Cedres was able to post bail with a loan from his parents, but more than 35,000 people in New York City are jailed each year because they cannot make bail, according to the Independent Budget Office. People held in jail are more likely to plead guilty, two University of Pennsylvania studies show, not because they are more likely to be guilty but because that is often the surest way to get home more quickly.

        Kimberly Overton, a prosecutor who runs training programs for the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, said a 2004 state law requiring prosecutors there to turn over most of their files automatically very early in a case helped to clear up any potential ambiguity over Brady material. "There is no decision for a prosecutor to make now," she said.

        Adding to the ambiguity is that discovery policies vary not only by state but also by prosecutor.

        While Brooklyn has a more open policy, the Queens district attorney's office will negotiate pleas only before a grand jury indictment, a point when the law requires no discovery at all — and sometimes before there is time to thoroughly examine the evidence it has.

        "We disclose what we need to disclose," Mr. Ryan said.

        More than a dozen defense lawyers and judges who practice in Manhattan said the district's attorney's office there hewed closely to the restrictive state law. Even the name of the accuser is routinely withheld until the eve of trial, they said.

        The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., disputed the characterization. "We do provide more than the law allows already," Mr. Vance said. "If it's in the file, we tell our assistants to turn it over, except in situations that involve witness safety."

        In late May, Mr. Vance's office announced a new policy to provide discovery at arraignment in some felony cases when the main witness is a police officer.

        Mr. Ryan and Mr. Vance acknowledged that defense lawyers who had good relationships with prosecutors were apt to get an earlier crack at discovery than others.

        "When serious lawyers understand they're dealing with serious lawyers on the other side, that usually leads to a level of trust that accelerates discovery," Mr. Vance said.

        Faster discovery, advocates of the change argue, can lead to fairer outcomes. This happened in the case of Winston Jones.

        In November, Mr. Jones was arrested and charged with breaking into a Brooklyn bodega and stealing Red Bulls, cigarettes and cash. At 35, Mr. Jones had been arrested in connection with dozens of petty crimes, but this time he was charged with burglary, a felony.

        Prosecutors offered him a plea: one and a half to three years in prison if he took the offer on the spot, said his attorney, Scott Hechinger of Brooklyn Defender Services.

        Mr. Jones's memory of the night was blurred by alcohol, but he did not view the crime as serious. He refused, and was sent to Rikers Island.

        Because of Brooklyn's discovery policy, three months after his arrest Mr. Jones was able to read the grand jury testimony of an employee who recognized him from surveillance videos. He saw himself on tape, rummaging through coolers and slurring his words.

        After insisting that he had done nothing, Mr. Jones began to talk about a lifetime of alcohol abuse. Mr. Hechinger took this back to the negotiating table, and in June, Mr. Jones pleaded guilty to attempted burglary in exchange for inpatient drug and alcohol treatment. If he does well, he will avoid prison, and the case will be dismissed and sealed.

        Opposition From Prosecutors

        James Yates, who in 1979 helped draft New York's current discovery law as a young Assembly staff member and who went on to serve more than 18 years as a state judge, said he believed the law had been "abused, twisted and turned" to withhold information.

        But he said he was skeptical that the new bill pending in the Legislature would overcome opposition by prosecutors.

        If the law changes, "we're going to see a huge increase in crime because no one's going to cooperate," said Scott McNamara, the district attorney of Oneida County and the president-elect of the state district attorneys association, which has opposed changes to New York's discovery rules.

        As one of many examples, Mr. McNamara cited the 2013 case of David McKithen, who was facing drug possession charges in Buffalo when he obtained grand jury testimony of witnesses through discovery. Soon after, witnesses said, they and their families began receiving threats. One refused to answer questions on the stand. Mr. McKithen was found guilty of witness tampering and intimidation.

        A New York State Bar Association report concluded that states with more open systems did not have worse problems with witness intimidation than New York. In Brooklyn, Mr. Gonzalez said, threats to witnesses occur because the defendants already know who they are.

        Aside from safety concerns, some prosecutors scoff at the notion that defendants need an earlier peek at evidence to know if they are guilty.

        "What the defendant may not know is the strength of the prosecution's case, and therefore how likely it is that he can 'beat' the charges despite his guilt," wrote three prosecutors who dissented from the state bar association report.

        Defense lawyers respond that they need discovery to know whether the facts of the case warrant the charges or whether there are witnesses who might provide an alternative view. In New York, prosecutors do not have to provide witness names at all if the witnesses are not expected to testify.

        Isaiah Spry learned this lesson in December 2012, when he was bewildered to discover that he had been charged with attempted possession of a loaded firearm, a violent felony that carried up to seven years in prison. He was celebrating his 27th birthday with his girlfriend, he said, when the couple began fighting in the lobby of their Manhattan apartment building.

        When the police arrived, he kicked and flailed, according to court documents. A police captain later said Mr. Spry had tried to wrest an officer's gun from his holster.

        Prosecutors offered him a plea deal of two years in prison, said his attorney, Robert Bickel of the Legal Aid Society. Mr. Spry refused. He spent five months in jail before finally agreeing to plead guilty to the felony in exchange for probation.

        "I knew I was innocent, but I didn't know what they had against me," he said.

        Just as Mr. Spry was entering his plea, the judge called the lawyers up to the bench and advised the defense to go to trial, Mr. Bickel recalled. The judge had seen something the defense had not: the grand jury testimony.

        When prosecutors eventually turned over the testimony, Mr. Spry learned that the officer did not recall his grabbing for the gun.

        The judge, Justice Gregory Carro of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, confirmed Mr. Bickel's account but declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment on the case.

        At trial, Mr. Spry was convicted of two misdemeanor counts but acquitted of the weapons charge.






































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