[News] Long-time Black activists and Grand Jury resisters harassed and jailed

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 21 19:43:10 EDT 2005

Long-time Black activists and Grand Jury resisters harassed and jailed
Claude Marks

Over the last several weeks, five Black activists have been resisting a 
California State Grand Jury investigating incidents over 30 years old. 
Three of them are currently in custody for refusing to cooperate with the 
government investigation.

This afternoon (Wednesday), the California State Supreme Court found that 
the procedures followed to hold one of them, Ray Boudreaux, on contempt 
charges, were defective. The Supreme Court has ordered that he be brought 
to court Thursday morning. It is possible that the other two activists will 
also be brought to court and that they may all be released. However it is 
expected that they will be ordered to return on September 27th at which 
point they could be held in contempt again and re-jailed.

The California Supreme Court ordered Wednesday that the Sheriff of San 
Francisco is ordered to show cause forthwith why petitioner is not entitled 
to immediate release on the grounds that the declaration of the Deputy 
Attorney General in support of the order to show cause fails to state a 
valid court order.The Supreme Court's order was served on Judge Dondero and 
he ordered Ray produced at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Druliner's position is 
that he should be released pending the filing of a new order next Tuesday 
when the grand jury goes back in session. The Supreme Court did not reach 
any other issues. All defendants currently in custody should show up at the 
hearing at 10:30 since they are in jail under identical orders.

Also this week, a San Francisco judge declined to jail Black activist 
Richard Brown Wednesday for refusing to cooperate with a California State 
Grand Jury on the basis that the proper procedures had not yet been 
followed. Richard is due back in court on Tuesday, September 27th. His 
lawyer, Richard Mazer, made a persuasive argument challenging both the 
procedures and the use of this Grand Jury in harassing activists.

A judge in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, September 20, refused to enforce the 
subpoena for Black activist John Bowman’s appearance before the same grand 
jury in San Francisco. His decision was made pending a ruling by the 
California Supreme Court on an appeal involving Grand Jury immunity that 
was filed on August 29th on behalf of another Grand Jury resister and Black 
activist, Ray Boudreaux. John Bowman’s attorney, Doug Parr, argued that the 
current Grand Jury process was abusive and cited the proceedings of a 
previous grand jury that also subpoenaed John Bowman June 30th. Attorney 
Parr also argued that the impact of John Bowman’s torture by police in New 
Orleans in the 1970s and the emotional trauma caused by these current 
proceedings constituted a further abuse of the judicial process. The judge 
gave a lengthy decision from the bench explaining how the court system was 
supposed to work for everybody.

The first person subpoenaed to the current grand jury was Ray Boudreaux, 
another long-time Black activist.  Boudreaux declined to testify.  He 
asserted his Constitutional rights and argued that they would be violated 
if he complied with the Court’s Order.  On Monday, August 29th a contempt 
hearing was held before Judge Robert Dondero of the California Superior 
Court.  Judge Dondero ordered Ray Boudreaux to be held in contempt for 
refusing to give testimony. Despite a lengthy hearing that included 
testimony from attorneys Carol Smith and Soffiyah Elijah about the history 
of government COINTELPRO attacks against the Black movement and 
specifically how activists were tortured in New Orleans in the 1970s to 
gain information, the California judge ruled that Boudreaux had no basis 
for mistrusting the California Attorney General's offers of immunity. Ray 
Boudreaux was a strong presence in the courtroom as he listened to the 
arguments of his attorney, Michael Burt, challenging the coercive and 
punitive nature of the grand jury proceedings.

Since then, Black activists Hank Jones and Harold Taylor were also held in 
contempt for refusing to testify. They and Ray Boudreaux will continue to 
be held in the San Francisco jail until this grand jury term expires, 
October 31.

Background on the Grand Jury targeting Black Activists in San Francisco

Shortly after the founding of the Black Panther Party, FBI Director J. 
Edgar Hoover described it in September 1968 as “the greatest threat to the 
internal security of the country.”

By July 1969, the Party had become the primary focus of COINTELPRO and was 
the target of 233 of the 295 authorized “Black Nationalist” COINTELPRO 
actions.  The FBI placed illegal wiretaps on Party headquarters in Oakland, 
San Francisco, and nationally, infiltrated the organization with numerous 
agents, used every possible means to provoke violence within the 
organization and engaged in a number of schemes to arrest, detain, falsely 
accuse, incarcerate and murder members of the Black Panther Party.

The San Francisco Police Department worked closely with the FBI during the 
sixties and seventies to promote the goals of “neutralizing” and destroying 
the Black Panther Party. Two of the San Francisco Police Department 
Inspectors who worked in tandem with the FBI to promote these goals were 
Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz.

In August 1973, several Black Panthers were arrested including John Bowman, 
Ruben Scott and Harold Taylor were arrested in New Orleans.

McCoy and Erdelatz were on hand in New Orleans immediately after their 
arrest (as were detectives from New York City) and participated in the 
interrogation that took place over the course of several days.  They were 
investigating the killings of two San Francisco policemen that took place 
in the early 1070s.

When Bowman, Scott and Taylor didn’t answer questions by McCoy and 
Erdelatz, the San Francisco policemen exited the room and members of the 
New Orleans Police Department proceeded to torture the detainees using 
various methods including the following:
·        Stripping them naked and beating them with blunt objects
·        Blindfolding them and throwing wool blankets soaked in boiling 
water over their bodies
·        Placing electric probes on their genitals and other parts of their 
·        Inserting an electric cattle prod in their anus
·        Punching and kicking
·        Slamming them into walls while blindfolded

Their screams were heard throughout the jail. After a period of torture, 
McCoy and Erdelatz would return to the room, and continue questioning 
them.  Each time the answers they sought were not forthcoming, the San 
Francisco police would leave the room and the torture would resume.  This 
process lasted several days. The three men were interrogated separately and 
were held in solitary confinement. Bowman, Scott and Taylor all suffered 
permanent physical and psychological damage.

These two Inspectors are not new to accusations of physical abuse as the 
San Francisco Examiner ran a series of stories in the 1970s suggesting 
McCoy and Erdelatz had coerced testimony from a witness connected to a 
Chinatown slaying.

In 2003, McCoy and Erdelatz began roaming the country in an apparent 
attempt to interview numerous individuals alleged to be involved with or 
have knowledge of the 1970s incidents.  At times they were joined by San 
Francisco Police Inspector and FBI Special Federal Officer Joseph Engler. 
They went to people’s homes and places of employment.  They visited 
prisoners in the New York State prisons where they were incarcerated. They 
attempted to interview spouses, former spouses and family members. At least 
one person in the Bay Area was commandeered off the street as he drove home 
from work and taken for interrogation.  They used thinly veiled threats, 
intimidation and harassment. They demanded that some individuals provide 
saliva samples. Some people were served with federal grand jury subpoenas 
to provide fingerprints.

The actions of McCoy, Engler and Erdelatz in 2003 and 2004 were connected 
to a federal grand jury sitting in the Northern District of California also 
investigating the incidents that are the focus of these grand juries.  In 
the summer of 2004, the federal grand jury expired.

In May 2005 a California State grand jury was convened and began taking 
testimony regarding these same incidents.  That grand jury was purportedly 
investigative in nature. It was expected that the government would next 
present evidence to an indicting grand jury.  However in August 2005 
another investigative grand jury was convened. This time a group of people 
identified by the government as targets were subpoenaed. Both of these 
grand juries were conducted by the California State Attorney General rather 
than the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.  Working in tandem with 
the state AG was an Assistant United States Attorney.

The full role of the federal government in this investigation is yet to be 
revealed. What is clear is that no federal, state or city agent or police 
officer nor government agency has ever been held culpable for the illegal 
acts, violence, imprisonment and murders conducted in the name of 
COINTELPRO nor has there been any admission that these activities are 
continuing under the Patriot Act or under any other name.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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