[Ppnews] Omaha Black Panthers - Justice Dept. overruled ATF agent aiding FBI over unreliable informant

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 28 10:23:33 EST 2008

Original Content at 

February 27, 2008

Justice Dept. overruled ATF agent aiding FBI over 
unreliable informant in COINTELPRO plot against Omaha Black Panthers

By Michael Richardson

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's secret and 
illegal war on the Black Panthers and other 
domestic political groups called COINTELPRO was 
closely directed by the top three officials of 
the FBI who oversaw an eight-member directorate 
in charge of the clandestine operation.  At the 
helm, making all important decisions, was 
Director J. Edgar Hoover who had ordered FBI 
agents to "disrupt" the Black Panthers.

William Sullivan, Assistant Director of the FBI, 
was the point person who selected which of the 
thousands of field COINTELPRO memos were to be 
seen by Hoover.  Sullivan testified to Congress 
on November 1, 1975, about the nature of 
COINTELPRO tactics used against the 
Panthers.  "This is a rough, tough, dirty 
business, and dangerous.  It was dangerous at times.  No holds were barred."

The FBI had focused on Omaha's Black Panthers 
early and monitored a 1968 visit to the city by 
Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver where he 
spoke to a rally of 400 people at a city 
park.  In 1969, the Omaha chapter of the Black 
Panther Party was renamed the National Committee 
to Combat Fascism and two leaders of the group, 
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (then David Rice), became targets of Hoover.

On July 20, 1970, agent Thomas Sledge of the 
Omaha office of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms 
division of the Treasury Department applied for 
and was granted a federal search warrant for the 
NCCF headquarters.  The search was to be led by 
Sledge and U.S. Marshal Lloyd Grimm who, along 
with FBI and Omaha Police, were going to stage an 
early morning raid the next day.  A COINTELPRO 
tactic used in other cities was to raid Panther 
homes and offices on any pretext to be able to 
gather documents and other information.

Sledge claimed in his application for the search 
warrant that there were ten boxes of machine guns 
"of Russian manufacture" and dynamite at the NCCF 
headquarters.   The dynamite was "15, more or 
less, bundles of 12 sticks in a bundle wrapped 
with cord or wire."  The individual sticks of 
dynamite were described as about 12 inches long, an inch in diameter and brown.

Sledge's boss, Dwight Thomas, Iowa-Nebraska ATF 
area supervisor, approved the use of Sledge's 
informant, an adolescent, and gave the go-ahead 
for the raid.  The Omaha World Herald learned 
from its Washington bureau that officials within 
the Justice Department initially approved of the 
raid after U.S. District Court Clerk Richard Peck 
signed the search warrant sought by 
Sledge.  Then, later that day, a call came from 
the Justice Department cancelling the raid.

U.S. Attorney Richard A. Dier was asked by the 
Omaha World Herald to explain the cancelled raid 
on NCCF headquarters but declined to 
answer.  "I'm sorry but I cannot discuss the matter."

Dier was no stranger to the 
COINTELPRO-orchestrated focus of law enforcement 
on the Black Panthers as he had impaneled a 
federal grand jury in December 1969 to 
investigate Langa and a school he operated, the 
Vivian Strong Liberation School named for a 14 
year-old girl fatally shot by Omaha Police in the summer of 1969.

The explanation given by a Justice Department 
spokesman for the cancelled search raid at NCCF 
headquarters was that the search warrant was 
based on "questionable information."

Sledge claimed his "questionable" adolescent 
informant also had detailed knowledge of a recent 
bombing at a black-owned business, Component 
Concepts Corporation in Omaha.  Sledge further 
claimed he spoke with a man who had alleged 
selling machine guns to NCCF members.

Ed Poindexter, head of the NCCF chapter, denied 
any machine guns or dynamite were at the 
headquarters.  "We don't have anything to 
.Actually, if they believe everything they 
hear, we'd have an entire National Guard armory 
stuck up here.  We will be glad to let them search all they want."

Less than a month later, another adolescent, 15 
year-old Duane Peak, planted a booby-trap bomb 
that killed Omaha patrolman Larry Minard at a 
vacant house and injured seven other 
officers.  Peak quickly confessed following his 
arrest and gained his freedom after several years 
in juvenile detention in exchange for testimony 
against the two COINTELPRO targets, Poindexter 
and Langa who deny any involvement in the crime.

Two Omaha Police detectives, Jack Swanson and 
Robert Pheffer, both claim to have found dynamite 
in Langa's basement, although their competing 
claims cast doubt on both men.  In Pheffer's 
latest version of the story, told in an Omaha 
courtroom in May 2007, an ATF agent was also 
present at the search of Langa's house.  Pheffer 
did not specify if the ATF agent was Sledge.  No 
dynamite was pictured in Langa's house in 
evidence photographs and the explosives only 
first turned up in photos in the trunk of a police squad car.

Sledge is the older brother of James Sledge, one 
of the seven policemen injured by the bomb that took Larry Minard's life.

ATF agent Sledge did have a role in the case 
against Poindexter and Langa, taking evidence to 
Washington, D.C. for analysis the week after the 
bombing.  Sharing custody of the evidence with 
Sledge on the trip to ATF headquarters, according 
to the Omaha World Herald, was Assistant Chief of Police Glenn Gates.

Gates' duplicity in the case would not be known 
for years until after the trial when a Freedom of 
Information release of COINTELPRO memos revealed 
that Gates had asked the Omaha FBI Special 
Agent-in-Charge to drop Bureau analysis of the 
emergency call tape recording of the lethal 
message luring Minard to his death.  Peak, the 
murderous adolescent witness against Poindexter 
and Langa, had claimed he made the call but the 
voice on the tape did not sound like him.  Gates 
did not want the exculpatory information known to 
defense attorneys and succeeded in withholding the tape from the jury.

The COINTELPRO memo, dated October 13, 1970, was 
from the Omaha FBI office to J. Edgar Hoover:

"Assistant COP GLENN GATES, Omaha PD, advised 
that he feels that any use of tapes of this call 
might be prejudicial to the police murder trial 
against two accomplices of PEAK and, therefore, 
has advised that he wishes no use of this tape 
until after the murder trials of PEAK and the two 
accomplices has been completed."

Poindexter and Langa were convicted of 
first-degree murder for Minard's death by a jury 
unaware of the withheld evidence, Hoover's 
COINTELPRO orders, or false testimony by Omaha 
Police detectives about the case.  Both men are 
serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

The Nebraska Supreme Court is now considering 
Poindexter's request for a new trial.  No date has been set for a decision.
   Permission granted to reprint

Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance 
writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about 
politics, election law, human nutrition, ethics, 
and music. Richardson is also a political consultant on ballot access.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20080228/e30cede2/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list