[News] Veronza Bowers Update - What you can do!

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 19 12:17:57 EDT 2005


To: Family Members, Friends and Supporters of Veronza Bowers
From: Bryan Gaynor, Alan Chaset & Monty Levenson

Subject: Summary of Recent Developments


Date: July 18, 2005
I. Summary

The National Parole Commission has again blocked Veronza Bower Jr.’s right 
to be released on mandatory parole after serving more than 31 years in 
prison. The Commission’s latest decision is the third in a series of 
high-handed and improper actions to deny Veronza his right to be released 
on parole. It was made in complete disregard of the Commission’s legal 
obligation to follow applicable federal statutes as well as its own rules 
and regulations. We believe this latest and most egregious decision, made 
at the request of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, is politically 
motivated, disregards Veronza’s exceptionally good conduct in prison and is 
an unlawful denial of his right to due process.

Under the circumstances, it is recommended the every effort be made to 
resist the Commission’s blatantly illegal actions by the following means: 
(1) Filing appropriate objections with the Commission itself and with the 
National Appeal Board whom the Commission has designated to hear this 
latest travesty of justice; (2) filing a writ of habeas corpus in Federal 
District Court at the earliest possible date; and (3) initiating 
appropriate legal proceedings to challenge the Commission’s repeated 
failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for documents 
and papers that we believe will shed light on its improper political agenda.

II. Background Information

To the amazement of many familiar with the workings of the U.S. parole 
system, Veronza Bowers, Jr. has not been released from prison after serving 
his full sentence of thirty years plus what will be sixteen months of 
additional illegal detention by the time of his next hearing date. By 
notice of action dated June 14, 2005, the U.S. Parole Commission has 
“retarded” Veronza’s release date for a period not to exceed 60 days. This 
action was taken on the basis of a petition from the Attorney General to 
have the matter of his release on parole reconsidered by the National 
Appeals Board.

This memo explains the legal significance of this latest development and 
why we think it constitutes improper action on the part of the Commission. 
It also outlines actions we encourage Veronza’s supporters to take in our 
continuing effort to secure his release on parole.

a. First Release Date

Some background is needed to understand the legal significance of this 
latest twist in the road to parole: As many of you may know, Veronza had 
the legal right to be released on what is known as “mandatory parole” since 
April 7, 2004 because the Parole Commission failed to find, by that date, 
that (1) there was competent evidence he was likely to commit crimes if 
upon release, or (2) he had frequently violated the rules of the prison 
system or (3) committed serious violations of prison rules during his 
incarceration. Only making one of these three findings could the Commission 
lawfully deny him parole as of that date. What happened instead was that 
only a few hours before Veronza was to be released on April 7th of last 
year, the Commission ordered the Bureau of Prisons to cancel his parole and 
hold him in prison indefinitely. This order was made without any 
explanation, justification or finding whatsoever.

b. Writ Proceedings Before Judge William T. Hodges

On October 26, 2004, Federal Judge William Terrell Hodges of the Middle 
District of Florida ruled on a writ of habeas corpus brought on Veronza’s 
behalf by attorney Todd Scher. After careful consideration, Judge Hodges 
ordered the Commission to hold a hearing within 60 days and release Veronza 
on mandatory parole if, at the conclusion of that hearing, there was no 
competent evidence to support one of the above three findings. Judge Hodges 
is a distinguished jurist who has been a federal judge for over 30 years 
and this year’s recipient of the Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice 
Award. The Devitt Award honors the career of a federal judge of national 
stature whose decisions are characterized by wisdom, humanity and 
commitment to the rule of law.

The hearing ordered by Judge Hodges was held on December 21, 2004. Evidence 
presented included the testimony of Mr. Hans H. Selvog, a 
nationally-recognized criminologist and Clinical Director of the National 
Center of Institutions and Alternatives in Alexandria, Virginia. Mr. Selvog 
administered a battery of psychological tests on Veronza designed to assess 
his suitability for parole and likelihood of success in adapting to life 
outside of prison. It was his expert opinion that Veronza is normal and 
socially well-adjusted with no criminal disposition whatsoever and, 
therefore, an excellent candidate for parole.

c. Second Release Date

At the conclusion of the December hearing, examiner Rob Haworth ruled that 
Veronza was eligible for mandatory parole and recommended that he be 
released from prison on February 18, 2005. At this hearing, Mr. Haworth 
commented that he considered Veronza to be one of the best candidates for 
parole he had ever encountered. In early January, a single Commissioner, 
Cranston J. Mitchell, ordered Veronza’s release on parole based on Mr. 
Haworth’s findings and recommendations. It appeared to us that the 
Commission was finally accepting its legally-mandated duty to act in a 
manner consistent with the law and that Veronza would be released on 
parole, albeit more than 10 month after his statutory release date of April 
7, 2004. We soon learned that this assumption was wrong.

On February 18, 2005, approximately 15 minutes before Veronza was scheduled 
to be released from prison, the Commission notified the warden at the 
Coleman Correctional Facility that his parole order had been rescinded and 
the entire five-member Commission would be convened to reconsider his case. 
This 11th hour order to have his parole reconsidered by the entire 
Commission was made solely on the basis of unsupported, spurious 
allegations by the victim’s widow and members of law enforcement acting 
through an organization called the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Their 
petition to the Commission was based, in part, on allegations that Veronza 
had committed numerous violations of prison rules during his incarceration 
including arranging two contract murders. Needless to say, neither facts or 
evidence of any kinds were introduced in support of these patently false 
accusations.

The matter of the rehearing was granted without notice to Veronza’s legal 
team and was issued by the Commission ex parte, (i.e. his attorneys were 
not permitted to appear before the Commission to oppose the request for 
rehearing). Alan Chaset, head of the legal team, made our objections know 
through letters and phone calls to the Commission. Repeated Freedom of 
Information Act (FOIA) requests for copies of the documents relied on by 
the Commission in granting the rehearing have been largely ignored, as have 
been our repeated objections to the entire proceeding.

d. Third Release Date

As part of the rehearing process, another hearing examiner, Mr. Howard, was 
appointed to review the factual allegations of the petitioners and to allow 
Veronza and his attorney an opportunity to respond to them. On March 21, 
2005, Mr. Howard conducted a hearing at the Coleman Correctional Facility 
and made the same recommendation that Mr. Haworth had made in December: 
Because there is no credible evidence to support any one of the findings 
necessary to deny Veronza mandatory parole, he is eligible for and should 
be released on parole. Mr. Howard took Veronza aside after the conclusion 
of the hearing to wish him the best of luck in his efforts to gain release.

Between March 21, 2005 and May 16, 2005, the Parole Commission, exercising 
what is referred to as “original jurisdiction”, reviewed the Mr. Howard’s 
recommendations. This meant that the entire five-member Commission would be 
convened to reconsider the matter of Veronza’s right to mandatory parole 
that had been previously decided by a single Commissioner, Mr. Mitchell.

On May 16, 2004, the Commission issued its decision affirming Veronza’s 
right to mandatory parole based on the following vote: two Commissioners in 
favor, two opposed and one abstaining. Since the law clearly places the 
burden of proof on the Commission, anything less than a majority vote 
supporting one of the required findings meant that Veronza was entitled to 
be released on mandatory parole as ordered by Judge Hodges. Accordingly, 
June 21, 2005 was established as his new release date. However, like all 
other past dates, this too proved to be more fiction than fact.

III. Most Recent Denial of Parole by the Commission

On June 14, 2005 Veronza’s most recent release date was rescinded by the 
Commission acting again without notice to his attorneys and without 
affording him or them an opportunity to object. This time, the Commission’s 
decision was based on a request by the United States Attorney General 
Alberto Gonzales that the National Appeals Board reconsider the 
Commission’s May 16, 2005 original jurisdiction decision.

a. National Appeal Board

We need here to clarify exactly what constitutes the National Appeals 
Board. By statute, [18 USC 4204(a)(5)], the Chairman of the U.S. Parole 
Commission is authorized to appoint three Commissioners to a National 
Appeals Board. That Board, once constituted, is authorized to review the 
following decisions: (1) A decision by a single Commissioner granting or 
denying parole may be reviewed by the Commission itself or the Commission 
may refer the matter to the National Appeals Board for review, provided 
“any such decision so reviewed must be reaffirmed, modified or reversed 
within thirty days of the date the decision is rendered” [18 USC 
4203(c)(4)]; (2) Any decision adverse to a parole may be appealed by the 
parolee [?] to the National Appeals Board [18 USC 4215(a)]; and (3) A 
decision of a single regional commissioner “upon the written request of the 
Attorney General filed not later than thirty days following the decision” 
shall be reviewed by the National Appeals Board within sixty days of the 
receipt of the Attorney General's request (18 USC 4215(c)) [18 USC 4215(c)].
b. Basis of Objections to the Commission’s Recent Action
Any review by the National Appeals Board of the original jurisdiction 
decision of the Commission in this case is improper for the following 
reasons:  (1) The statute granting the National Appeals Board authority to 
act on a request for review by the Attorney General, authorizes such review 
only in the case of a decision by single regional, as opposed to a 
national, Commissioner and there was no such decision in this case; (2) The 
Commission, itself has authority to refer the decision of a single national 
Commissioner to the National Appeals Board, however, it must do so within 
30 days of the date of that decision. In Veronza’s case, it has been more 
than 5 months since Commissioner Mitchell issued his decision in this 
matter; (3) Commissioner Mitchell’s decision was vacated by the Commission 
when it exercised original jurisdiction to consider the matter of Veronza’s 
right to mandatory parole. Under 18 USC 4203(c)(4), the Commission had 
authority to (1) conduct an original jurisdiction review the decision 
itself or (2) refer the matter to the National Appeals Board for review. 
The Commission elected to conduct the review itself and there is no 
authority whatsoever for a second review by the National Appeals Board.

We consider the latest action by the Commission granting the Attorney 
General a hearing before the National Appeals Board to be without a proper 
basis in law.  There is no statutory authority whatsoever for the three 
members of the Commission acting as the National Appeals Board to review 
the decision of the entire Commission in this matter. It is our position 
that the original jurisdiction decision by the Commission constituted final 
agency action and any further action taken in this matter violates due 
process.

We are recently informed that the Commission intends to publish “emergency 
rules” in the federal register in an effort to address the unprecedented 
nature of the Attorney General’s request for and its decision to grant a 
hearing in this matter. The absence of any proper legal basis for the 
Commission’s actions and its attempt to draft rules at this late date to 
justify such actions is a further violation of Veronza’s rights of due process.

What we find most objectionable in this case is the obvious politization of 
what is supposed to be an objective and impartial administrative process. 
This is occurring because of the unwillingness of the Commission to stand 
firmly behind the rule of law in the face of pressure from the Fraternal 
Order of Police and now the administration acting, we contend, improperly, 
through the Attorney General. We see the Attorney General’s intervention as 
illegal, unprecedented and pandering to the political agenda of his 
administration’s constituents. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the 
merits of Veronza’s case. The Commission, in allowing this request to go 
forward, has acted once again in a manner that evidences an arbitrary and 
capricious disregard for Veronza’s legal right to be paroled­a right that 
will be nearly sixteen months past due when his newest release date, August 
21, 2005, comes. . . and goes. . . as it has each time in the past.

IV. Recommended Actions

It is imperative that this latest impropriety by the Commission be 
addressed immediately on three fronts: First, in the pending proceedings 
before the National Appeals Board; second, through court action in the form 
of a writ of habeas corpus; and third, by confronting the Commission under 
the Freedom of Information Act with its refusal to comply with FOIA 
requests made by Veronza’s attorneys.

We will continue to press the U.S. Parole Commission and the National 
Appeals Board with our objections to its arbitrary and repeated denial of 
Veronza’s right to mandatory parole, most recently by granting the Attorney 
General a hearing in this matter at this late date. We also recommend that 
a writ of habeas corpus or other appropriate petition be filed with Judge 
Hodges as soon as possible, given the fact that there is no legal basis for 
the Commission to create, on its own initiative and without any statutory 
authority, the pending review by the National Appeals Board. It will be 
important to lay before this eminent jurist the Commission’s flagrant 
violation of his previous ruling in this matter.

This most recent setback has not lessened our commitment to obtain 
Veronza’s release on parole at the earliest possible date. To accomplish 
this, however, we need the continuing involvement of his family, friends 
and supporters. In this regard, we recommend that you consider taking one 
or more of the following three actions: (1) Stay involved: Write letters to 
the U.S. Parole Commission, the Attorney General and the National Appeals 
Board. It is very important to make your voice heard in this matter. 
Emphasize Veronza’s excellent record in prison and unquestionable legal 
entitlement to parole; (2) Stay involved: Check Veronza’s web site for 
action bulletins and updates on his case. 
<http://veronza.org/>http://veronza.org Do whatever you can to help. You 
input, ideas and suggestions are welcome.  (3) Stay involved: Continue your 
generous financial support. Contributions to the Veronza Bowers, Jr. Legal 
Defense Fund make it possible for all of us to play an important role in 
correcting this injustice and winning his release from prison.

Your opinions, ideas and suggestions are most welcome. Please send them to 
veronzab at yahoo.com


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