[Ppnews] Veronza Bowers - Magistrate rules Parole Commission & Gonzales unlawful
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jun 6 12:30:13 EDT 2009
Parole Actions By Gonzales, Commission Are Faulted
By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 6, 2009
A convicted murderer whose parole was rescinded should be released
because then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the U.S. Parole
Commission engaged in a string of improper and unlawful actions to
keep him behind bars, a federal magistrate has determined.
In a harshly worded opinion on Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Susan S.
Cole of Atlanta wrote that the parole commission showed bias in its
dealings with Veronza Bowers Jr., a former Black Panther serving a
life sentence in connection with the 1973 slaying of a federal park
ranger near San Francisco. Gonzales intervened to keep Bowers in
prison after a memo from then-Commissioner Deborah Spagnoli, a former
White House aide. Cole concluded that the attorney general "had no
statutory or regulatory authority" to seek a review of the matter.
"The impartiality of the Commission as a whole was affected by the
actions of Commissioner Spagnoli, the Attorney General and others,"
"The taint on the Commission's decision-making could not be
eradicated simply by an order from this Court directing the
Commission to grant [Bowers] a new parole hearing." As a result, she
wrote, the decision to keep Bowers imprisoned "cannot stand."
A federal judge will review Cole's recommendation. A commission
spokesman declined to comment. Bowers's attorney, Charles D.
Weisselberg, said his client, who has always maintained his
innocence, was confident that a court looking closely at his case
would rule in his favor. "It was wonderful to hear the excitement in
his voice," Weisselberg said.
Irregularities in the Bowers case were
subject of an investigation published last week in The Washington
Post. It recounted how the commission granted Bowers parole in 2005
but did not release him after
behind-the-scenes campaign by Spagnoli, who later resigned.
Without the knowledge of other commissioners, The Post reported,
Spagnoli wrote a 14-page memo about Bowers to Gonzales's office and
had a number of exchanges with senior Justice Department officials.
Eight days after the memo, Gonzales took the apparently unprecedented
step of asking the commission to "clarify" its "initial decision."
The commission then reversed itself.
Spagnoli did not respond to a message left at her home. She told The
Post last month that she did nothing improper.
"The decision-making process . . . was rife with impermissible
considerations," Cole wrote. She called Spagnoli's memo "a polemic
against the decision to parole" that omitted all information
favorable to Bowers.
Cole noted that the commission was up for reauthorization at the time
and that Gonzales had the power to recommend it be closed.
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