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Article TitlePanther given prison term for contempt of Hoffman
SourceThe Manitou Messenger (1916-2014),  No. 20,  Vol.082, November  17, 1969, page(s): 8
Place of PublicationNorthfield, United States
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Panther given prison term for contempt of Hoffman


Walk into the courtroom

I know it's gonna bring me down

That big...bald representative of justice

And the prosecutor begins to frown...

CHICAGO — (CPS) — At 4:10 p.m. on the sixth day of November, 1969, Bobby Seale, chairman of the Black Panther party and one of the eight conspiracy defendants on trial in Chicago, was condemned to three months for each of sixteen counts of contempt. In addition to this four-year jail sentence, a mistrial was declared "on his behalf," with April 23, 1970, being set as the date for a second attempt to secure a guilty verdict in accord with the 1968 anti-riot act.

The morning court session ended before any testimony was given. Seale arose and attempted to cross-examine Bill H. Ray, a deputy sheriff from San Mateo county, California, who previously stated that he had seen Seale board a plane for Chicago and Detroit during the Democratic National Convention last August. Seale did this after defense attorneys William Kunstler and Lennie Weinglass told the judge they did not represent the Black Panther chairman.

Court resumed session at 2:45. Hoffman took one-and-one-half hours to read the contempt charges. He made no mention of Bobby's having fired all counsel except the ailing Charles R. Garry at the very beginning of the trial. He did not discuss the body of legal precedent for self-representation. He failed to mention that Garry had announced on November 3 that poor health would prevent him from attending the trial in even the most limited capacity. Hoffman merely read from the record, his cackling voice cracking the silence that enveloped the room.

Responding to Hoffman's invitation to reply, Seale commented on the irony of his finally being allowed to speak after exactly six weeks of inquisition. Judge Hoffman replied: "This is a special occasion."

After a short statement about his inalienable right to defend himself, Seale sat down. The judge then pronounced sentence.

As Seale was taken into the lockup by a squad of marshals, many in both the press and spectator sections shouted "Right On" and "Power to the People." The marshals cleared the courtroom after defendant Abbie Hoffman spoke about the November 15 march on the "Department of Injustice" in Washington, D.C. and pledged, "We'll take care of business."

An appeal is being made and liberal sentiment will probably result in a reduction of Bobby's sentence. Perhaps a "meaningful compromise" will be arrived at — two years in the penitentiary for trying to defend oneself against trumped-up charges based on a vague and totalitarian law.

Perhaps Bobby will be found not guilty in 1970 when the government, the entity which is so quick to remind us that it presumes innocence until guilt is proven, allows him to leave prison for daily visits to the federal building. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps....

—MOBY GRAPE "Murder In My Heart For the Judge"

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