Black Liberation Activist Herman Bell Granted Parole
Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom), Albert Nuh Washington, and Herman Bell were charged and convicted for the 1971 killings of New York City police officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini.
They became known as the New York Three. In a secret May 26, 1971 White House meeting, Richard Nixon, John Erlichman, FBI Director Herbert Hoover, and others named the murders “NEWKILL,” (for New York killings).
It’s believed they decided to blame them on Black Panther Party (BPP) members as part of the COINTELPRO conspiracy to destroy them.
The New York Three were convicted of first degree murder, weapons possession, and conspiracy – despite evidence shown to be inconsistent, fraudulent, and based on perjured testimonies.
On May 12, 1975, Muntaqim, Washington and Bell were convicted and sentenced to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life, the maximum penalty at the time.
Later exculpatory evidence showed charges against them were bogus – based on a deal between the prosecution and a key witness.
The defendants were denied due process and judicial fairness, never should have been convicted, and at minimum deserved a new trial not gotten.
Under New York State law, prosecutorial withheld evidence entitles a defendant to retrial if what’s suppressed creates a “reasonable possibility” that the verdict might have been different – clearly the case for the New York Three.
Their trial was a mockery of injustice. Testimonies were riddled with inconsistencies and perjury – exculpatory evidence suppressed.
Had jurors known hard truths about the case, their verdict might have been for acquittal, not conviction.
The three defendants were named in later revealed COINTELPRO documents as Black Liberation Army (BLA) and Panther Party (BPP) members.
They were targeted to be “neutralized” by the FBI’s war on dissent, political activism, and opposition to government injustice against society’s most vulnerable – a war still raging against, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, activists, and heroic lawyers defending them.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) stood for ethnic justice, racial emancipation, as well as economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines – why they were targeted for elimination.
Founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the BPP’s 10-point program stood for:
(1) freedom and “power to determine the destiny of our black community;”
(2) full employment for everyone, including Blacks;
(3) “an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black community;”
(4) decent housing;
(5) education to expose “the true nature of this decadent American society (and teach) us our true history and our role in the present-day society;”
(6) for “all black men to be exempt from military service” at a time they were drafted for foreign wars;
(7) “an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people;”
(8) “freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails” as political prisoners;
(9) in court, for Blacks “to be tried…by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities;” and
(10) “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.”
Revolutionary activism for long denied justice in America is considered intolerable by federal, state and local authorities.
Despite no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the New York Three were convicted anyway.
Now aged-70, Bell was granted parole after 45 years in prison – denied it seven previous times.
In response, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), government officials concerned about reelection, not justice, and hate-mongering media scoundrels condemned the parole board’s ruling, arguing that the nature of the 1971 crime demanded never freeing Bell.
Along with its war on humanity and a whole lot more, America’s gulag prison system is the shame of the nation, notably for people of color, Muslims, and others most vulnerable – unable to afford competent counsel to represent them in court proceedings.
Bell was a model prisoner. He explained the following:
“I have spent most of my adult life in prison, and I like to think that the time has been spent productively.”
“I’ve been a mentor and father-figure. I’ve encouraged countless young men along the way to take advantage of every academic and vocational program they can get in prison so that their time spent in prison will mean something to themselves when they get out.”
“I went to school myself. I earned a dual Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and sociology, and a Masters degree in sociology.”
“Through self-study, I’ve learned music theory and am mastering the flute. I’ve coached football and basketball to enhance my communication skills with these young men.”
“Ive participated in many educational and cultural activities benefiting prisoners throughout these three and a half decades of my confinement (including Black History, English grammar, and writing skills), opening doors in hope that this dispirited underclass of prisoners can see their lives within the context of their history and culture, and claim the pride, dignity, and responsibility that comes with their knowledge.”
He never should have been imprisoned in the first place. Parole was long overdue. Reversing it under pressure would compound longstanding injustice against a man for his race, activism and courage of his convictions.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”