Free the San Francisco 8: Black community activists arrested and prosecuted based on ‘evidence’ obtained by torture


After 38 years, the government’s case against eight former Black Panther Party members and supporters has almost completely unraveled.

Open Letter thumb

Harold Taylor and John Bowman (recently deceased) as well as Ruben Scott (thought to be a government witness) were first charged in 1975 with the murder of a San Francisco police officer in 1971.

A California judge tossed out the charges, finding that Taylor and his two co-defendants made statements after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation.

Nevertheless, the SF 8 were arrested in 2007 based on the same illegal “evidence” obtained by torture. Richard Brown, Richard O’Neal, Ray Boudreaux, and Hank Jones were arrested in California. Francisco Torres was arrested in Queens, New York. Harold Taylor was arrested in Florida. Two men charged – Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim – have been held as political prisoners for over 30 years in New York State prisons.

Two and a half years of mass support for the Brothers, including resolutions from the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the Berkeley City Council, and several San Francisco supervisors, broke the back of  this vindictive prosecution organized by Homeland Security, the FBI, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The prosecution was forced to drop charges against Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor and Ray Boudreaux, with prosecutors admitting they had “insufficient evidence” against them. Charges had already been dropped against Richard O’Neal last year. Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim were sentenced to probation and time served, after Herman agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Jalil to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter.

Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim have been held as political prisoners for almost 40 years on similar charges based on the US Government’s COINTELPRO actions to disrupt and destroy radical organizations, especially the Black Panther Party. Showing the weakness of the prosecution’s case, Bell and Muntaqim were given no additional prison time, and have been returned to NY where they will continue to fight for parole.

The defense committee has vowed to keep up the pressure until charges are dropped against Francisco Torres and Herman and Jalil are back with their families and community.

For actions you can take to support the SF 8:

An important educational resource in “Legacy of Torture: The War on the Black Liberation Movement,” a 28 DVD from Freedom Archives. Visit their site to watch the DVD:

Profiles of the SF 8

Francisco "Cisco" Torres of the SF 8Francisco Torres, 58, of New York City. Cisco was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. He is a Vietnam Veteran who fought for the grievances of Black and Latino soldiers upon his return to the states. A former Black Panther, he has been a community activist since his discharge from the military in 1969. He worked with troubled youth up to the day of his arrest.

Freed on bail September 2007, Cisco is the sole defendant to still face charges.

Write to him c/o Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, P.O. Box 90221, Pasadena, CA 91109.

Herman Bell of the SF 8Herman Bell, 59, of Mississippi, a political prisoner since 1973. Herman accepted a plea to a reduced charge of manslaughter, with no additional incarceration. Cointelpro’s “pattern of manipulation and lies, continuing into the present, indicates something more than the ordinary corruption and racism of everyday law enforcement. It can be understood only in terms of the power of the political movement that [we] were part of, and the intensity of the government’s efforts to destroy that movement and to disillusion and intimidate future generations of young activists.”

He has returned to New York where is eligible for parole. Write to him at:   Herman Bell # 79D0262, Sullivan Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 116, 325 Riverside Drive, Fallsburg, New York 12733-0116.

Ray Boudreaux of the SF 8Ray Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena, CA – all charges have been dismissed against Ray.

“Actually for the last 25 years I’ve lived a pretty peaceful and quiet life. My politics are still the same. It’s just that I’m not active. People come to me sometimes as a peace-maker. And all of that has to do with all of my experience.”

Richard Brown of the SF 8Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco – all charges have been dismissed against Richard.

“For the past six years I have been a Community Court Judge Arbitrator working with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. We place a lot of emphasis on restorative justice, so most of the community service done will be done in our own community where the offender can give back to the community.”

Richard explained in an interview (San Francisco Bay Guardian) “that the Black Panthers were about ‘serving the people… and I continued to serve the people as an individual by working with community-based organizations.’ [He also] works to push alternatives to violence among black and brown youth, Brown has over 30 years experience working in support of affirmative action. … ‘I’ve always been an advocate, and have worked with all kinds of people to see that women and minorities got what they deserved.’ He also has years of experience with the African-American Community Police Relations Board, which works to improve neighborhood interactions with the SFPD.”

Henry Jones of the SF 8Henry W. (Hank) Jones, 70, of Altadena, CA – all charges have been dismissed against Hank.

“I [have lived] under the constant threat of another … incarceration. In essence I have been robbed of peace of mind, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am therefore compelled to resist these tactics and inform the public of my recent experience, feeling that something similar could happen to anyone given the climate of fear, paranoia, and abuse of authority that is rampant in our country today.”

Anthony Bottom Jalil Muntaqim of the SF 8Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), 55, of San Francisco, a political prisoner in New York since 1978. Jalil accepted a plea to a reduced charge of conspiracy, with no additional incarceration, leading to the dropping of charges against Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor.

“The United States does not recognize the existence of political prisoners. To do so would give credence to the fact of the level of repression and oppression, and have to recognize the fact that people resist racist oppression in the United States, and therefore, legitimize the existence of not only the individuals who are incarcerated or have been captured, but also legitimize those movements of which they are a part.”

He has returned to New York where is eligible for parole. Write to him at:  Anthony Jalil Bottom #77A4283, Auburn Correctional Facility, 135 State Street, P.O. Box 618, Auburn, NY 13021.

Richard O'Neal of the SF 8Richard O’Neal, 58, has worked for the City of San Francisco for 25 years, most recently at the Southeast Community Center in Bay View – all charges against Richard have been dismissed (since February 7, 2008).

“People who work there said they were stunned by his arrest, recalling him as a kind and gentle man who always had a smile on his face and would stay late to fix lights or other things.” (SF Chronicle) The dean of the campus noted, “He is a trusted employee who would do anything to help us…He would take the shirt off his back to try to help you.”

Harold Taylor of the SF8Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Florida – all charges have been dismissed against Harold.

“In 1971, two brothers and I were set up by the FBI. We didn’t learn about COINTELPRO until years later. In 1973 I was arrested in New Orleans and was beaten and tortured for several days. in 2003 the detectives that were responsible for my torture came to my house to try and question me. I have not been the same since.”

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights

P.O. Box 90221, Pasadena, CA 91109 (415) 226-1120


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