[Ppnews] Veronza Bowers - Local judge says U.S. officials botched parole case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jun 6 18:17:57 EDT 2009

Local judge says U.S. officials botched parole case


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The federal Parole Commission denied clemency to 
a former Black Panther imprisoned in Atlanta to 
score political points that would extend the 
commission’s life, a federal judge said.

U.S. Magistrate Susan Cole also wrote in a final 
report and recommendation order that U.S. 
Attorney Alberto Gonzales improperly meddled in the case.

Cole recommended to a federal judge in Atlanta 
that Veronza Bowers Jr., be paroled immediately, 
having served more than 34 years of a life 
sentence for killing a federal park ranger near San Francisco in 1973.

Hearing examiners and commissioners twice agreed 
Bowers should be paroled ­ the first time in 
November 2004 ­ but political pressures caused 
commissioners to reverse themselves, Cole wrote. 
The magistrate observed that Bowers’ case was the 
first time the U.S. attorney had asked the 
commission to review its vote and “render a new 
decision on whether to grant or deny parole for Bowers.”

Gonzales intervened after receiving a 14-page 
memo from then-U.S. parole Commissioner Deborah 
Spagnoli, a former White House aide, asking 
whether the attorney general should appeal the 
commission’s decision to parole Bowers.

Cole wrote, however, that Gonzales had no authority to get involved.

“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.”

Cole determined that the decision to keep Bowers imprisoned “cannot stand.”

Cole’s findings are a recommendation to U.S. 
District Judge Charles Moye, who is assigned 
Bowers’ 2008 lawsuit. The case is in the federal 
court in Georgia’s northern district because 
Bowers, 63, is incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Bowers and two other men were on U.S. Park 
Service land near San Francisco, with the 
intention of poaching deer, on April 26, 1974, 
when park ranger Kenneth Patrick stopped them. 
Bowers shot and killed the ranger.

Bowers has “steadfastly maintained his innocence” 
and insisted he was a “political prisoner” 
prosecuted because of his affiliation with the Black Panthers.

A commission spokesman declined to comment when 
contacted Friday by the Washington Post. Bowers’ 
attorney, Charles Weisselberg, told the Post 
Bowers’ has always maintained his innocence and 
he is confident the federal court will rule in his favor.


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