[Ppnews] Ojore Lutalo says accusations unfounded

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jan 30 11:16:15 EST 2010



Amtrak passenger detained in Colorado after overheard threats says 
accusations unfounded



Man accused in Colo. train threat denies charges




By P. SOLOMON BANDA | Associated Press | Jan 29, 10

http://www.newser.com/article/d9dhneho1/amtrak-passenger-detained-in-colorado-after-overheard-threats-says-accusations-unfounded.html

A man pulled off an Amtrak train after passengers reported hearing 
him talk about al-Qaida and make threatening statements is well known 
among prison rights advocates after spending more than 20 years in 
solitary confinement.

Ojore Lutalo, 64, from Elizabeth, N.J., denies making any kind of 
threats while aboard an Amtrak train during an interview in Denver on 
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. He was arrested Tuesday in La Junta, 
Colo.,...   (Associated Press)

Ojore Nuru Lutalo, 64, of Elizabeth, N.J., was arrested Tuesday at 
the La Junta train station in southeastern Colorado and faces a 
felony charge of endangering public transportation. He was free on 
$30,000 bond and faces another hearing Feb. 5 in Otero County District Court.

Lutalo, a self-described anarchist, told The Associated Press in an 
interview Friday that he was returning to New Jersey after speaking 
at a Los Angeles book fair sponsored by the Anarchist Black Cross 
Federation when passengers apparently overheard his cell phone conversation.

"I was talking to people about what transpired at the book fair," 
Lutalo said, quickly adding: "I never made a threat or a reference to 
Amtrak period, so I'm waiting for court so I can challenge my accuser."

Lutalo was released from a New Jersey prison in August after serving 
28 years for armed robbery and weapons offenses involving a shootout 
with a police officer in 1975 and another shootout with a drug dealer 
in 1981. He served more than 20 years of that sentence confined in a 
cell alone for 23 hours a day because the anarchist material he was 
reading was a deemed a security threat, according his New Jersey 
attorney, Bruce Afran.

Lutalo said he had washed his clothes and had covered himself with 
his robe when he laid down to sleep in a coach car on the train 
headed to Chicago.

"The next thing I know I'm looking down the barrel of semiautomatic 
pistols," he said. "They didn't tell me what I had done, who was 
supposed to have called, what I was supposed to have done. They 
didn't tell me anything."

In an affidavit filed in La Junta, a small farming and ranching 
community about 140 miles southeast of Denver, police said passengers 
reported hearing Lutalo saying he hadn't killed anyone yet, and that 
he talked about going to jail.

"We have to work in small groups. They can hold you for 18 months. Do 
they have security on these trains? Are you with me or not?" 
passengers reported hearing Lutalo say.

One passenger said he heard Lutalo mention al-Qaida, saying, "17th 
century tactics won't work, we have 21st century tactics."

Lutalo was arrested at the La Junta train station. Police said he was 
not armed or carrying explosives. He was carrying was police 
described as propaganda for an anarchist group called Afrikan 
Liberation Army. Lutalo said the "propaganda" was literature he had 
picked from tables at a book fair.

La Junta Police Chief Todd Quick did not return messages.

FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright said the Joint Terrorism Task Force in 
Colorado Springs was notified but no federal charges were expected.

According to New Jersey Parole Board spokesman Neal Buccino, Lutalo 
served more than two decades behind bars for armed robbery and 
weapons offenses. Authorities said he tried to rob a man at gunpoint 
in Asbury Park, N.J., in September 1981 and shot him in the arm.

At that time, Lutalo had only been paroled from prison for nine 
months. He was first incarcerated in 1975 for an armed bank robbery 
in Trenton with two other men.

Lutalo had been denied parole in 2005 and was released after he maxed 
out his sentence. He is not on parole now.

Afran, who filed a lawsuit challenging Lutalo's treatment in prison, 
said Lutalo committed no violent infractions of any kind during his 
entire prison sentence.

"Whatever comments he was making on the phone may have been just a 
case of him not being sensitive to the world we live in now. Based on 
my knowledge of his life over the past 27 years, I'm quite certain he 
didn't make any threats of any kind."

Bonnie Kerness, with the Newark, N.J.-based American Friends Service 
Committee Prison Watch Program, said Lutalo's treatment in prison 
made him a political prisoner and groups like the Anarchist Black 
Cross Federation raise money to help those prisoners. She described 
Lutalo as mild-mannered and polite and said she had spoken with him 
by phone several times while he was on the train.

"It seems like so much ado about nothing," she said from the group's 
offices in Newark, N.J.

Lutalo said he took a train instead of flying because he was worried 
that his criminal record and known anarchist political views would 
subject him to extra screening.

"It's understandable in light of 9/11 and the Christmas Day bombing 
plot. People expect that," Lutalo said of tight airport security.

Lutalo said the Asbury Park robbery involved a drug dealer who had 
confronted him with a gun as Lutalo tried to raise awareness about 
the danger of drugs, and he said he was simply a better shot. He 
acknowledges he was involved in the Trenton robbery.

"But that's old history, now," Lutalo said.

___

Associated Press Writer Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., contributed to 
this report.




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