Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
Strikes & More
5 MBs, 5:56
Short version: mp3,
3 MBs, 3:54
A man steals
several videotapes from the friendly neighborhood K-Mart, and gets
arrested. When sentenced for these petty thefts, he is cast into
prison, for life!
steals several golf clubs, and he too gets arrested for theft. When
sentenced, he too is sent to prison, for life!
Both men committed
their thievery in California, at a time when the infamous Three
Strikes law was in effect, and as both men had at least two
prior felonies, both fell victim to the statute.
Both men had
the added misfortune in appealing before the present Supreme Court,
which promptly upheld the constitutionality of Californias
law, meaning the two men, Gary Ewing (the golf club guy), and Leandro
Andrade (the videotape guy) will have to serve at least 25 years
to life. Andrade, sentenced consecutively on two counts (one count
each for each videotape) was sentenced to * 50 years to life* in
In 5-4 decisions
in * Ewing v. California* and * Lockyer v. Andrade*, the nations
highest tribunal let stand these extremely punitive sanctions, saying
essentially it would not second guess the legislature.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority in * Ewing*, argued
that Ewing, his recidivism notwithstanding, had made
a strong claim that the sentence was disproportionate,
given the relatively minor charges the theft of three golf
clubs. In * Andrade*, it was Justice David Souter who opined that
the California courts decision was irrational,
saying, Andrade did not
somehow become twice as dangerous to society when he stole the second
handful of videotapes.
Both cases reveal
the power in the nations courts of that old idea of states
rights. In short, almost anything goes.
What makes it
even more alarming is what is happening to California, at the same
time Messrs. Ewing and Andrade have to look at quarter-century,
and half-century prison bits. In San Francisco, California, leading
members and executives of the citys police department have
been indicted by grand juries for their role in the police cover-up
of a brutal attack on civilians.
What is the
connection, one wonders?
Simple. At the
base of the Frisco cop scandal is the charge that three off-duty
cops assaulted two men, after they refused to give the 3 a bag of
steak fajitas. Moments after the fight began, one of the men, Adam
Snyder, flicked open his cell phone, and dialed 911, telling the
dispatcher, I need some cops fast! He tells the dispatcher
that he just got off work (Snyder is a bartender), and they
just started fighting us, over nothing. Snyders cell
phone call proves that he hadnt the slightest idea that the
three men who attacked him and his friend, Jade Santoro, were cops.
They also couldnt have known the three men, Matthew Tonsing,
David Lee, and Alex Fagen Jr., had recently left a celebration of
the appointment of one of the mens fathers, Alex Fagen, Sr.
to Asst. Chief of the Police Department. After celebrating at a
banquet for Fagen, Sr., the three hit a bar on Union Street for
liquid refreshments. An argument could be made that the three, probably
inebriated after a night of celebrating, lost their
cool when, under the haze of alcohol, the arresting aroma of steak
fajitas hit them, and they simply had to have them.
Then comes Alex
Fagen, Jr. According to a series of reports in the * San Francisco
Chronicle*, Junior had at least 16 violent encounters with people
in 13 months, and has sent 6 of them to the hospital. He reportedly
body-slammed a 5-foot-4, 124 pound woman, Monise Brown, after she
kicked a cop car that almost ran over her feet. Two days before
his body slam of a handcuffed woman, Fagen reportedly hog-tied a
man accused of punching a woman. The hog-tie method has caused deaths
in some cases from suffocation. The man was hospitalized for respiratory
problems. Another man, suspected of stealing a car was kicked in
the head by Fagen. Yet another was beaten so badly that several
ribs were broken, and his lung was punctured by the 23-year old
these cases is that Fagen did most of his wilding in
the predominantly Black Bayview area, and except for an occasional
anger management class, the department ignored it. The fajita caper
took place on Union St., an upscale part of town. Oh yeah; and the
Union St. people were white.
the connection, you wonder?
this. One man beats and hurts people, repeatedly, sending half a
dozen to the hospital.
steals 3 golf clubs. Another guy steals several videotapes. All
three may be called repeat offenders, but who goes to jail? For
It may be shown,
on the other hand, that Fagen, as a cop, works for the system, and
because of the rank and power of his father (who was among the indictees),
may never be sanctioned for the legalized violence of which he is
a part. Indeed, after the current scandal plays itself out, neither
he, nor any of the other 9 cops involved, may ever see the inside
of a prison cell.
On may, in fact,
rise to the highest levels of the department, putting others in
jail, for their breaches of the law, and paid well by the citizens
of the city.
While two others
languish in a man-made brick and steel hell, for the rest of their
days, because the nations highest court dared not second
guess the legislature.
That is the
face of the law today as America enters a new century; remarkably
similar to that of the old.
* San Francisco Chronicle*, Sat., Mar. 1, 2003; Sun. Mar. 2, 2003)
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.