Mumia Activist Clark Kissinger Jailed!
Clark Kissinger, Activist in Battle to Stop Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sentenced to Jail
As thousands prepare to rally Saturday to demand a new trial for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, political activist C. Clark Kissinger, one of the key organizers in the growing international movement to stop the execution of Mumia, was taken away in handcuffs from a federal court in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon, to begin serving a sentence of 90 days in jail imposed on-the-spot by a vindictive federal judge. Clark was found to have "violated probation" -- the sentence imposed on "the Liberty Bell 8" for demonstrating at the National Monument on behalf of Mumia and Leonard Peltier last year. The judge also ruled that once Kissinger finishes serving his sentence, the onerous terms of his one-year probation will be reinstated in full. He was sentenced by Arnold Rapaport, a federal magistrate judge for the Pennsylvania Eastern District -- the same judge who had presided over Kissinger's original trial.
Ron Kuby and Anthony Erba, Kissinger's attorneys, immediately filed notices of appeal, as well as a motion to stay the execution of the sentence.
In the hearing today, Clark was charged with violating terms of probation which had been set as a result of a minor charge: "failure to obey a lawful order" to disperse during a demonstration at the Liberty Bell on July 3, 1999. Because Clark and 7 others, including Frances Goldin (Mumia's publisher) and Brooklyn Green Mitchel Cohen, had pleaded "not guilty" to the bogus charges and demanded a trial last April, the judge, after finding them guilty, sentenced them to one year probation, confiscated their passports, nailed the defendants to their home districts, imposed a $250 fine and additional "restitution" fees, and required them to file detailed information on their income and personal contacts. They have been subjected to repeated unannounced home visits by US Probation Officers, and some of them were forced to give urine samples -- "all this for a crime that is the legal equivalent of jaywalking," noted Mitchel Cohen, in a statement released Wednesday evening.
The current charge that Clark Kissinger had violated his probation requirements stems from an August 1 speech Clark gave at a rally in Philadelphia during the Republican National Convention -- a speaking engagement that Clark had not received permission to attend. Clark is believed to be the first political dissident to be sentenced to prison overtly for giving a speech since World War 2.
Mitchel Cohen and other co-defendants called the sentencing "an outrage, a total miscarriage of any semblance of justice." Cohen pointed out that Kissinger and the other Liberty Bell 8 defendants had been denied a jury trial on the grounds that the prosecution was not seeking jail time for them. (Pennsylvania law precludes jury trials on minor charges if no jail time is requested.) "First, they deny us a jury trial based on the claim that they're not seeking jail time, the judge finds us guilty on bullshit evidence, and then finds a way to imprison Clark anyway!" Cohen said. "It's an end run around allowing a jury of our peers to decide our guilt or innocence."
Over 60 supporters rallied in front of the Federal Court House Wednesday, including a number who had been arrested at the Republican National Convention and tortured in Philadelphia's jails, but whose charges have been dismissed. But police allowed only 20 people into the courtroom. At one point during the hearing, the "unbiased" judge remarked, "A trail of disruption follows this man wherever he goes." That appeared to be a signal for the large group of armed federal marshalls to forcibly eject Clark Kissinger's supporters from the courtroom, roughing up several women and taking into custody two Refuse & Resist! Youth Network members. They were later released.
Kissinger is known for his work to bring ever-broader sections of people into the movement to save Mumia's life, and for his hard-hitting, clear exposures of the government's frameup and efforts to kill this political prisoner. Today's unprecedented sentence is another attack on the movement for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal and against the death penalty. It is an indication of how absurd the government is willing to reach to suppress dissent in their efforts to execute Mumia.
It is not known where Kissinger is currently being held. Inquiries can be made to the U.S. Marshall's office at 215-597-7273.
To contact the judge, Arnold C. Rapoport, call 610-776-0369, fax 610-776-0379.
The judge who will rule on the appeal of Kissinger's 90-day sentence is Honorable Bruce Kauffman, U.S. District Court, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. He can be Faxed at: 215-580-2281.
Please, do not be abusive to Judge Kauffman; he is yet to hear the appeals. But be sure to let your voices, and opinions, be heard!
Mitchel Cohen 2652 Cropsey Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11214 (718) 449-0037
Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY, and of the Free Mumia Coalition. He is one of the Liberty Bell 8 defendants appealing a federal judge's guilty verdict and stiff sentencing of activists utilizing their constitutional rights to demand freedom and a new trial for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal and American Indian prisoner Leonard Peltier.