Veronza's letter on the events leading up to April 7th.
Mailed: after 34 days unlawful detention
I send each and everyone one of you my very warmest greeting from 31 years deep inside of the Belly of the Beast.
As you know I’m a former member of the original Black Panther Party and even though government officials claim that there are no political prisoners in this country’s prisons and jails, it’s a simply not true. Having already “served” over 3 decades in continuous custody in federal prison, I’m one of the longest held political prisoners in the U.S. of A…there are quite a number of us scattered about…but, that’s a very long story.
Picture this in your mind...if you dare:
After 30 years of being denied release on parole, despite the fact that your conduct has been exemplary for over 20 years and you have long since met the criteria to be released on parole, finally your Mandatory Release date rolls around. April 7th, 2004. Everything is set, viz: you daughter, who was 5 years old when you were taken away to prison and is now 36, sent you a top-of-the-line fashion suit of clothes so that you would be properly dressed to “step in the name of freedom with love”. She, along with 3 of your sisters fly in from across the country to be there at the prison fate to pick you up…in fact, there will be a whole entourage of dear friends and well-wishers who will be out in front of the prison with planed to all gather at the home of a friend about an hours new red Cadillac’s ride away. A grand celebration is planned: a grand celebration is planned: a big cook-out at which your Godmother had cooked hot-wings and made home-made strawberry cheesecake, another friend from Tonga, in keeping with their cultural traditions has roasted under-ground several baby pigs, others are bringing all kinds of foods. There will be a live band playing jazz and blues, a swimming pool, etc, etc, etc. In a word, a lot of caring people have gone though a lot of effort, not to mention expenses, to welcome you in their brave new world far removed from the world of prison walls that had kept you on ice for so long…they are there to welcome you with unconditional love and support.
On the inside of the prison there has been “going home” gathering put together by friends, all replete with food, music, emotion-filled, open-hearted, teary-eyed talk and laughter. Everyone came together to wish you well and a prosperous new life. You’d given away to friends all of your possessions: watch, alarm clock, sweat clothes, running shorts and tennis shoes, had-balls, weigh-lifting belt, visiting clothes and shoes, commissary items, rain-poncho and winter coat…the only things you kept were your 3 Tai Hei Shakuhachi, silver flute and some books. You’d used up all of your 300-for-the month telephone calling minutes because after April 6th you wouldn’t be needing any more from the BOP. You’d make the rounds, shaking hands and hugging so many men you’d probably never see again…you’d even tried to give words of encouragement and hope to young and old men alike who you were leaving behind in very desperate and hopeless situations. Yes, the time was growing near you to leave the world of concrete and steel and razor-wire and gun-towers…the land of the living dead…and you were very happy and at the same time very sad.
The last “official thing” that you were required to do, you did. All prisoners, on the day before his/her actual release date, are required to “go on the merry-go-round”, i.e., you must take a “check-out” form around to each department head for their signature which means that you are cleared of all obligations to that department, viz: commissary account is closed; your telephone access is shut off; clothing and issue is satisfied that you don’t have any institutional clothing (you can’t imagine why they would think a prisoner would want to keep any!); the education dept.; ditto for religious services; a perfunctory signature from the psychology dept.; Lt’s office; hospital; and Receiving and Discharged. You did all of that on April 6th. Everything is all set to and good to go. “We have a lift-off Houston”!
After doing all of that, you’re sitting outside in the Sweat Lodge area with your two closes friends just enjoying each other’s company in SILENCE. A loud announcement over the loud speaker ordering you to “report to your unit-team immediately” beak your peace. You know that something is not right…years 6th sense (maybe even a 7th one!) that let’s you know the “hidden” right away.
As you walk into your Counselor’s office, you know what he’s about to say, even before he say it. So, you focus upon that one thing that has sustained you and always pulled you though the roughest of times…even pulled you though those time when knife blades were slashing at flesh, when bullets were flying thought the air trying to fin your body, when you learned of the passing of your Dear Mamma and the officials wouldn’t allow you to attend her funeral even though you had only 7 months left until your Mandatory Release date – yeah…One breath at a time.
“You won’t be leaving tomorrow.”
You already that, but you didn’t know why…so you breathe deeply…1 full breath, 2 full breaths – a strange silence fills the room, and since it’s quite obvious that some reaction is expected of/from/by you, you just continue focusing upon the Breath. “Why?”
“Well, all we know is that the National Parole Commission called the institution and ordered that you not be released tomorrow. The Warden is very upset and he’s been on the phone with them all day trying to get some clarity.”
Just like that! A simple phone call from a National Commissioner in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and all of the plans for you to be “Steppin’ in the Name of Freedom, with Love” are cancelled, wiped out, voided until further notice.
How do you feel?…….Me, too!!!!!
Monty and Garf have already given you the details of what went on the afternoon of April 6th. Since that terrible day, a number of things have happened.
1. I, with the help of some friends here, put together a very good draft of an “Emergency Petition Unlawful Detention Beyond April 7th, 2004, His Statutory/Mandatory Release sate Under 18 U.S.C. 4206 (d.).
2. I tired to get the prestigious law firm of Willie E. Gary to take my case. To date, I don’t know whether his firm will get involved.
3. On May 2nd, I met in the visiting room with attorney Gilda Sherrod-Ali (0f Washington, D.C.) and presented her with the draft of my 2241 motion. We discussed it at length and it was agreed that she would file it in the U.S. District Court in Ocala, Florida. (Note: It will go before Judge Hodges, the same judge who denied and dismissed my last action against the Parole Commission. My situation now is that I am being held in prison UNLAWFULLY since my Mandatory Release date of April 7, 2004.
Also, I asked Gilda to file, at the some time, a motion for a bond hearing. Because of my unlawful detention and because of the high probability that I will prevail on the merits of my 2241 seeking immediate release, I am entitled to be released on bond (bail) pending the out-come of this litigation. Plus, such a motion will necessitate that the entire proceeding be expedited.
Of course, if I prevail, then I will file a civil lawsuit against the appropriate parties.
I’m hoping that when the time come for this hearing that we’ll be able to pack the court-room in Ocala with people who are concerned and willing to make known their reasons for being there…”concerned observers.”
Sooo…that’s about it from this side of hell, my friends. I want to thank you with all of my heart all of the love, concern and support, you’ve given me. Without each and every one of you, I can’t imagine.
I know that in the past whenever Monty or Garf put out the call for financial contributions to cover attorney fees, you didn’t hesitate. I also know Monty and Garf very well and I don’t want to ask either of them to ask any of you for money again. But, I have to ask you. There will be one more round and unfortunately there are not many lawyers around like it was in the 60’s. So, please, any contribution you can spare for my Legal Defense fun, as you know, will be greatly appreciated.
I remain steadfast and looking toward. A Better Future For Us All