[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A convicted murderer whose parole was rescinded should be released 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," 
Cole wrote.

"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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