[Pnews] Take Action for 'Soledad Brother' John Clutchette

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 19 10:37:07 EST 2018


  Please Take Action for 'Soledad Brother' John Clutchette - Angola 3

January 18, 2018

As Albert and King take a much needed respite from their last round of 
talks and interviews, they continue to champion the causes and cases 
that address righting past injustices.

Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell, who brought her skills to bear in the 
effort to release Albert and Herman, has been involved in the case of 
John Clutchette and has written a compelling argument in defense of the 
approval of his parole.

The talking points/sample letter for contacting Governor Brown is at the 
bottom of this newsletter. We know that public pressure does make a 
difference, so please take a moment to write to Governor Brown on behalf 
of Mr. Clutchette.

*'Soledad Brother' John Clutchette Granted Parole; Will CA Governor 
Jerry Brown Reverse the Decision?
--An interview with Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell*

/By Angola 3 News/

On January 12, 2018, the California Board of Parole Hearings granted 
parole to an elderly inmate named John Clutchette. However, supporters 
of parole for Clutchette are concerned that California Governor Jerry 
Brown will reverse the Board's decision, and Clutchette will not be 

Supporters have a reason to be concerned. After all, this is exactly 
what happened in 2016 when Clutchette was similarly granted parole by 
the Board but Governor Brown chose to reverse the Board's ruling.

Legal scholar Angela A. Allen-Bell, a professor at Southern University 
Law Center <http://www.sulc.edu/about-sulc/> and students in her "Law 
and Minorities" class 
began researching Clutchette's legal battle over a year ago. Following 
extensive research they have concluded that "the law has been used to 
perpetuate an injustice in Mr. Clutchette's case."

Why did Governor Brown deny parole to 74-year-old John Clutchette?  In 
our interview with Professor Bell, she refers to Brown's written 
explanation for his 2016 parole reversal, where Brown cites the fact 
that in the early 1970s, Clutchette was one of a trio of inmates at 
California's Soledad Prison, who became high profile co-defendants known 
as the "Soledad Brothers 

Since Clutchette was ultimately acquitted of all charges in

the Soledad Brothers case <http://kentakepage.com/soledad-brothers/>

, Professor Bell argues that it is problematic for Governor Brown to use 
this as his reason for reversing the parole board. In our interview, 
Bell further contextualizes Brown's reference to the Soledad Brothers, 
and identifies other troubling aspects of the case.

Professor Bell concludes with a call to action, urging readers to 
contact California Governor Jerry Brown and express their support for 
the California Board of Parole Hearings January 12, 2018 decision 
granting parole to John Clutchette.

*Angola 3 News:* /Can you tell us about the work you and your students 
have done researching the case of "Soledad Brother" John Clutchette?/

*Angela A. Allen-Bell:*     In my "Law & Minorities" class 
the law students explore the use of law both to perpetuate and eradicate 
racial injustice in the United States by exploring past and current 
legal, racial and social justice challenges involving minorities, 
indigenous peoples and others in vulnerable situations. Once such a 
challenge is identified, the students conduct investigative research. 
Restorative justice principles are then employed.

A year ago, when we began our work on the case of Soledad Brother John 
Cluchette, we knew only that he was in custody and that he had some 
historical connection to the late George Jackson. The four law students 
who worked on this case sifted through volumes of dated Federal Bureau 
of Investigation (FBI) documents, numerous era-related court cases, news 
stories, books and interviews. They also conducted their own interviews.

These collective efforts led us to conclude that the law has been used 
to perpetuate an injustice in Mr. Clutchette's case. In conjunction with 
this conclusion and, as a restorative justice measure, we filed a 
complaint to the United Nations through its Special Procedures Division.

*A3N:* /Last week, on January 12, 2018, the California Board of Parole 
Hearings granted parole to Mr. Clutchette, but before he is actually 
released on parole, this ruling will now have to be affirmed by CA 
Governor Jerry Brown. In the past, Governor Brown has rejected parole 
for Mr. Clutchette. On what grounds did he make this decision?/

*AB:*     On November 4, 2016, California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. 
reversed the 2016 California Board of Parole Hearings decision that had 
granted parole to John Clutchette. Governor Brown reasoned:

    /He has told the Board many times that he was not and had never been
    a member of the Black Guerilla Family....Mr. Clutchette has been
    identified as a high-ranking and revered member of the gang since
    the 1970s and as recently as 2008.  Although he was acquitted of the
    murder of a correctional officer in 1970, he later admitted to
    fellow inmates that he had knocked the officer unconscious before
    George Jackson killed him.  The pair, along with Fleeta Drumgo,
    became known as the "Soledad Brothers," and made national news when
    Mr. Jackson's brother made a failed attempt to take the judge, a
    deputy district attorney, and jurors hostage....While Mr. Clutchette
    acknowledged that he knew all of the individuals involved at the
    time and shared the same 'political ideology,' he steadfastly denies
    that he was ever in the [BGF] gang or that he was ever involved in
    'any violence or anything since I've been in prison.' These
    statements are contradicted by ample evidence in the record . . .
    While I appreciate that Mr. Clutchette has completed the stepdown
    program and has now been deemed an inactive gang member, I remain
    troubled by his version of events. His statements, and the evidence
    to the contrary, demonstrate that Mr. Clutchette has not
    acknowledged or come to terms with his key role in these historical
    events or the magnitude of his actions./

    /    *****/

    /I have considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to
    whether Mr. Clutchette is currently dangerous. When considered as a
    whole, I find the evidence shows that he currently poses an
    unreasonable danger to society if released from prison./

To appreciate our conclusions about this being an injustice and a human 
rights violation, Governor Brown's decision must be viewed within the 
larger context of this case.

 From all indicators, John Clutchette was a politically inactive citizen 
in 1966 when he was convicted of burglary. For that charge, he was 
supposed to have been released from prison in April 1970. However, 
instead of seeing freedom, he became a character entangled in a web of 
racial politics and social struggle on a forgotten page in a discarded 
history book.

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the civil rights era was underway 
in the United States. Free citizens and inmates alike were demanding 
civil and human rights. At this moment in time, J. Edgar Hoover was 
leading the FBI. Through COINTELPRO 
a clandestine intelligence program, Mr. Hoover sought to neutralize many 
activists, advocacy groups, dissident voices, artists and innocent 
citizens. His tactics were often unconstitutional and largely illegal. 
For over forty-seven long years, Mr. Hoover declared war on free 
expression, chilled speech, intimidated and bullied dissenters, meted 
out private punishments, invaded privacy rights and engaged in 
discriminatory law enforcement practices. The Black Panther Party (BPP) 
and the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) were two groups that Mr. Hoover had 
a particular disdain for. Mr. Hoover's practices were successfully 
suppressed from the American public until 1975. The full extent of 
COINTELPRO harms have yet to be realized all these years removed.

The late George Jackson is another prominent figure in Mr. Clutchette's 
story. He was a successful organizer, an activist, the founder of the 
BGF, a member of the BPP and a respected prison intellectual. In 1970, 
he released /Soledad Brother/, a book that exposed prison conditions to 
a captive world audience. While this endeared legions of inmates and 
free people to him, this cemented his adversarial relationship with the 
prison staff and administration. His opposition extended beyond the 
prison gates. He was a target of Mr. Hoover's COINTELPRO program.

In the early 1970s, John Clutchette was incarcerated at California 
Correctional Training Facility at Soledad. He was housed in the "Y" wing 
on the tier with George Jackson. At the time, there were documented 
racial problems inside the facility, as well as allegations of excessive 
force and other abuses on the part of correctional officers. In this 
climate, three African American inmates were murdered by a white guard, 
African American inmate witnesses were not allowed to testify at trial 
and the officer was not prosecuted. Shortly thereafter, in January 1970, 
John Mills, a white prison guard was murdered in what some describe as 
an act of retaliation. George Jackson, John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo 
were accused of Officer Mills' murder and, subsequently, indicted in 
February 1970. The trio became known as the "Soledad Brothers." Mr. 
Clutchette was less than three months away from parole.

Months later, in August 1970, heavily armed, seventeen-year-old Jonathan 
Jackson joined this cast of characters. Jonathan, George's youngest 
brother, entered the Marin County Courthouse during a trial. Jonathan 
armed three prisoners before the group left with five hostages, which 
included the judge and district attorney. In an effort to stop the 
escape, officers killed Jonathan, the judge and two of the prisoners. A 
year later, in August 1971, George was killed by San Quentin prison 
guards, leaving his associates, however distant, to pay for his sins, 
both real and imagined.

 From all appearances, officials deemed the Soledad Brothers guilty on 
the day they were arrested and viewed the surrounding legal process as a 
mere formality-something akin to a pit stop on the way to their final 
destination toward literal or figurative death in prison. Fate would 
write another ending for John Clutchette. In February 1972, John 
Clutchette was acquitted by the all-white jury that presided over his 
case. He further defied odds when he was granted parole on November 13, 

Significantly, none of the "Soledad Brothers" were found guilty of the 
murder of Officer Mills.  Also noteworthy is the fact that John 
Clutchette was not charged or convicted in the 1970 Marin County 
Courthouse matter that was onset by Jonathan Jackson nor was he charged 
or convicted in the 1971 Adjustment Center incident that resulted in the 
death of George Jackson.

John Clutchette remained a free man from 1972 until 1980 when he was 
placed in custody to stand trial for the murder of Robert Bowles. Mr. 
Bowles' lifeless body was found in a parked car with two gunshot wounds 
to the head. Mr. Clutchette, then a substance abuser and a party to 
illicit drug operations, testified only to participating in the cover up 
of the murder. Despite his testimony, he was convicted of first degree 
murder. An indeterminate sentence of seven years to life was imposed. 
Two additional years were added for use of a weapon.

Mr. Clutchette presently speaks of this crime with great remorse and 
sorrow. His moral convictions led him to pen a heartfelt letter to the 
Bowles family. In that letter, he expressed:

    /"I...extend[] my deepest apologies and sincere regrets to the
    entire Bowles family for the devastating and irreparable harm that I
    have caused with my callous disregard for Robert's life...I'll
    forever live with the shame of my actions...It did not happen
    overnight...I am taking full advantage of the rehabilitative
    process; in my long journey of self-discovery, I have matured and
    learned to use my care and concern when I know that my actions have
    the potential to affect the lives of my fellow man/woman and
    community...I am on my perpetual road of atonement...."/

*A3N:* /Do you know how Gov. Brown arrived at the conclusions that led 
him to reject the Parole Board's decision granting Mr. Clutchette parole 
in 2016?/

*AB:*    His written reasons suggest he used subjective, unvetted, 
unreliable information and inaccuracies from John Clutchette's prison 
file. This includes statements from prison snitches, memoranda from 
confidential sources, statements from prison staff and the like. Many of 
the documents are self-serving.  Others are little more than 
speculation.  They are not the product of any vetting, or credible or 
fact-finding process; yet they have been given the veracity of such.

This is more than speculation.  In 1997, the appellate court made such a 
fact-finding: "We agree that Clutchette's file contains false 
information. He produced uncontroverted declarations which provide that 
he was neither involved in nor prosecuted in connection with [the 1971] 
San Quentin Adjustment Center takeover attempt."

This same court urged California officials to correct Mr. Clutchette's 
records, stating that: "[T]his false information suggests that 
Clutchette was involved in a serious breach of institutional security 
and implicates him in the death of inmates and correctional officers. 
Because of the seriousness of this implication, the Department 
voluntarily should expunge the false information from Clutchette's file. 
Removing the false information from Clutchette's file might avoid 
litigation each time Clutchette is considered for parole in the future."

Unfortunately, California officials undertook no such action, leaving 
the inaccuracies in place to fulfill the court's prophecy about the 
potential for harm this false information could cause.

California's standards governing eligibility of parole board 
commissioners are high. The individuals who make parole decisions must 
have a broad background in criminal justice and experience or education 
in the fields of corrections, sociology, law, law enforcement, medicine, 
mental health, or education. Additionally, they must fulfill rigorous, 
annual training requirements. Such a highly distinguished Board 
thoroughly reviewed Mr. Clutchette's prison record and determined some 
of the salacious contents not worthy of their use.

Moreover, a 2007 appellate court deemed much of the content 
"historically interesting but otherwise irrelevant" for purposes of 
parole eligibility. In his 2016 reversal of parole, the Governor 
imprudently relied upon these contested contents in Mr. Clutchette's 
prison file. In so doing, he completely ignored the wisdom of the board 
that he appointed, a Board that spent considerable time examining the 
records in this case, and the guidance of the judicial system and 
rendered a decision that defies logic.

Mr. Cluchette has paid for his past crimes.  He is not a public threat. 
This is evidenced by the California Board of Parole Hearings granting 
him parole in 2003, 2015, 2016 and again on January 12, 2018. Notably, 
the District Attorney's office that originally prosecuted him for the 
1980 crime, also supported parole on each occasion. Because of pending, 
parole-related litigation, Mr. Clutchette postponed at least seven 
parole suitability hearings, resulting in even more time in custody. He 
has been eligible for parole since 1988.

The Governor is wrong for his: (1) reliance on the false and unreliable 
information in Mr. Clutchette's prison records; and, (2) display of an 
animus to, through the parole process, "sentence" or punish Mr. 
Clutchette for the 1970s Soledad murder that he was acquitted of, the 
1970 Marin County Incident with which he was never charged and the 1971 
Adjustment Center Incident with which he was never charged.

Tragically, the Governor's decision to disregard the legal dictate that 
his actions be guided by some evidence of current dangerousness has come 
at the expense of an elderly man who is afflicted with a host of health 
problems. Worse, without intervention, Mr. Clutchette will never be able 
to establish his suitability for parole because these flawed records 
will always serve as a bar to his freedom (or can be used as such). Such 
decision-making is in conflict with California law, as well as human 
rights tenants.

*A3N:* /What's the official status of John Clutchette's case at this 

*AB:*     In addition to the pending human rights complaint, Mr. 
Clutchette has formally brought his challenges to the court (in the form 
of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by his incredibly 
talented attorney Keith Wattley).

In December 2017, the Attorney General (AG), in defense of the governor, 
filed a request to keep the records the governor used under seal. In 
support of this request, the AG argued:  "Disclosure [of the documents 
the Governor used to support his decision that John Clutchette is 
unsuitable for parole] would reveal the identity of the confidential 
informants from whom the confidential information was obtained and would 
release information that poses a threat to institutional security."

These records have been openly considered and discussed by the various 
parole boards over the years. In each of those instances, the respective 
boards deemed many of these records unreliable and consistently felt 
they did not amount to a showing of present dangerousness.

In concert with all of this, Mr. Clutchette appeared before the parole 
board again on January 12, 2018.  He was once again granted parole. 
However, Mr. Clutchette will not actually be released on parole without 
Governor Brown's formal approval.

*A3N:* /How can our readers best help his effort to finally be paroled?/

*AB:*     Brother Clutchette is approaching seventy-five years of age. 
He has lost too many years to this injustice. Readers have to become his 
voice at this critical time. They must create a theatre of agitation 
that makes elected officials uncomfortable abusing power and partaking 
in racial or social injustices. Officials need to know that political 
accountability will await them for doing so.

Readers must make John Clutchette's story a topic of robust discussion. 
Most importantly, they must speak their immediate opposition to Governor 
Brown. Supporters can mail a written letter, send a fax, make a phone 
call, and/or send an email to his office.

*Contact Information for Governor Brown, Suggested Talking Points and 
Sample Letter:*

Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, California 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841

Fax: (916) 558-3160

Office email (

click here <https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/>


Link to email submission page: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

Governor Brown,

Elderly inmate John Clutchette was again granted parole on January 12, 
2018. I urge you not to oppose his release.

In February 1972, John Clutchette was acquitted by the jury who heard 
and evaluated the evidence against him for the murder of Officer John 
Mills. In November 1972, he was granted parole. I remind you that none 
of the "Soledad Brothers" were found guilty of the murder of Officer Mills.

Also noteworthy is the fact that John Clutchette was not charged or 
convicted in the 1970 Marin County Courthouse matter that was onset by 
Jonathan Jackson, nor was he charged or convicted in the 1971 Adjustment 
Center incident that resulted in the death of George Jackson.

Despite this, your reasons for opposing his release appear to involve 
your desires to punish Mr. Clutchette for these things, extrajudicially. 
If so, this is an abuse of your powers and it is a violation of 
California law and of human rights principles.

Mr. Clutchette has fulfilled the 1980 sentence that was imposed in 
conjunction with the Robert Bowles case. The judicial system did not 
impose any other sentences upon him.  Please respect that.

As determined by your very capable parole board on multiple occasions, 
he is not a present danger and the record, when contextually considered, 
does not hold "some evidence" of current dangerousness. Please respect 
this too. I thank you for your attention to this request.

/*--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free 
the Angola 3. At our website,  www.angola3news.com, we provide the 
latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we create our own media 
projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 
3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement 
as torture, and more.*/

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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