[Ppnews] Court asked to consider COINTELPRO frame-up of Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 12 19:45:37 EDT 2007

July 12, 2007 at 13:09:08

Judge asked by ACLU to consider COINTELPRO 
frame-up of two Black Panthers in 1970 murder

by Michael Richardson


The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil 
Liberties Union has filed an amicus brief in the 
case of Ed Poindexter in support of his request 
for a new trial. Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, 
formerly David Rice, have been behind bars since 
1970 following the bombing murder of an Omaha 
police officer. The two, serving life sentences, 
were the leaders of Omaha's Black Panther group, 
the National Committee to Combat Fascism.

At the time of the bombing COINTELPRO was unknown 
to the American public. A secret operation of the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation, COINTELPRO did 
not come to light until a break-in at the Media, 
Pennsylvania FBI office the following year. 
Director J. Edgar Hoover had ordered the secret 
program to target and disrupt domestic political 
groups he considered radical. The Black Panthers 
were a prime target across the country for 
ambitious FBI agents bent on sabotaging the growing black power movement.

As a result of suppressed evidence, the emergency 
hotline recording that lured police to a vacant 
house bobby-trapped with a suitcase bomb, 
Poindexter recently gained a hearing before 
Douglas County District Judge Russell Bowie to 
consider his request for a new trial. After 
several days of emotional testimony and 
conflicting police accounts, Judge Bowie is now 
reviewing the trial transcript before rendering a 
decision on Poindexter's request.

The Nebraska ACLU has given the court some 
additional reading material in its brief 
outlining the role of COINTELPRO in the 
prosecution of Poindexter and Langa and other 
cases brought against Black Panthers.

"ACLU Nebraska submits this amicus brief to 
describe the workings of COINTELPRO because it is 
clear Edward Poindexter was targeted by the FBI, 
thus raising questions about whether his 
conviction was part of the FBI's illegal efforts 
to neutralize political activists. While 
COINTELPRO was operating, leaders of several 
targeted groups were arrested and convicted of 
serious crimes. As described in this brief, we 
now know that in some of those convictions, the 
activists were innocent and have been freed after 
habeas corpus proceedings revealed exculpatory 
evidence was deliberately withheld by law 
enforcement agencies. The Poindexter case draws 
parallels to the patterns in other COINTELPRO cases."

Citing the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study 
Governmental Operations with respect to 
Intelligence Activities, also known as the Church 
Committee, the ACLU brief reviews the history of 
COINTELPRO. "There is no question that COINTELPRO 
was one of the worst abuses of law enforcement power in American history."

The ACLU draws Judge Bowie's attention to the 
case of Harllel Jones, a Black Nationalist, who 
had been convicted of murder in Ohio on testimony 
procured by leniency for his criminal accuser and 
the withholding of exculpatory evidence. Jones 
was a COINTELPRO target who has since been 
released when details of the COINTELPRO tactics where uncovered.

The case of Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a Black 
Panther, is also cited. Pratt was convicted of 
murder on the testimony of a single witness, a 
felon who received leniency for his testimony 
against Pratt. Pratt's accuser, Julius Butler, 
was a FBI informant but this information was 
withheld from the defense. Pratt, also a 
COINTELPRO target, was finally released by a 
California appellate court because of the lack of 
credibility of Pratt's accuser.

The New York case of Black Panther leader Dhoruba 
bin Wahad, formerly Richard Moore, is also cited. 
Wahad spent 20 years in prison on falsified 
evidence for attempted murder of two police 
officers. "The evidence against him was based on 
an FBI informant who lied under oath."

"Each of these cases offer a similar pattern with 
elements that fit the COINTELPRO mold. In each 
case, the defendant was charged with a murder, 
based on the testimony of an FBI informant. The 
informant was either expressly under a leniency 
deal or there is evidence of such a deal. 
Exculpatory evidence was withheld in each 
instance. This pattern appears to be symptomatic 
of COINTELPRO-era prosecutions of Black Nationalist leaders."

"It is clearly established that Edward Poindexter 
and the Omaha chapter
was targeted by COINTELPRO 
prior to the events of August, 1970. The FBI 
already had a file on Poindexter, containing 
references to his political activities."

"ACLU Nebraska cannot assert definitively that 
Poindexter is innocent or that he was framed as 
part of a COINTELPRO operation. What we can and 
do assert is that the facts in this case bear too 
close a resemblance to the illegal activities 
that resulted in wrongful convictions of other 
black activists. We urge this court to bear these 
historical facts in mind while weighing the 
evidence in this case, particularly in regard to 
the plausibility of the government's evidence."

Judge Bowie will have plenty to ponder about the 
plausibility of the government's evidence. Vocal 
analyst Tom Owens has testified the voice on the 
emergency hotline call is not that of Duane Peak, 
the 15 year-old accuser of Poindexter and Langa, 
raising a credibility question about Peak's trial 
testimony. Further, Peak obtained leniency in 
exchange for his testimony and was sentenced as a 
juvenile despite his admission as the bomber.

Omaha detective Jack Swanson was the Intelligence 
Division liaison with the FBI and at trial 
testified he found dynamite in Langa's basement. 
That official version was openly contradicted 
before Judge Bowie by another detective, Robert 
Pheffer, who now claims he found the dynamite not 
Swanson. However, the first time the explosives 
turn up in a police evidence photo is in the 
trunk of a squad car and not in Langa's house at all.

The COINTELPRO program was cancelled when it was 
discovered and denounced by the Church Committee 
and members of the federal judiciary. After the 
notoriety of Hoover's illegal operation against 
the Black Panthers and other groups it faded from 
public attention as the years went by. However, 
for two men, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, 
COINTELPRO is not merely a historical memory but 
instead is a bitter reality while they wait in 
the Nebraska State Penitentiary for Judge Bowie's decision.

Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in 
Boston. Richardson writes about politics, 
election law, human nutrition, ethics, and music. 
In 2004 Richardson was Ralph Nader's national ballot access coordinator.

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