On March 18, 2022, political prisoner Eric King was acquitted by a federal jury of twelve people in the U.S. District Court in Colorado. Eric was charged with assaulting a federal officer, a federal felony with a potential 20-year sentence, after he defended himself from an attack by a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Lieutenant in a storage closet. After Eric was punched repeatedly in the face, he was subjected to retaliatory physical punishment including the use of four-point restraints (in which he was shackled by his wrists and ankles in a spread-eagle position to a concrete bed for more than six hours), “diesel therapy,” additional physical attacks, and nearly continuous solitary confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) for the last 3 and a half years, all at the hands of the BOP. CLDC is currently suing the BOP on Eric’s behalf because of these appalling acts of abuse. As such, this win is incredibly momentous for Eric, his family, his community, and our movement, and we hope you join us in celebrating this hard-fought victory.
Eric’s acquittal is especially significant in the face of the horrific odds most federal criminal defendants face, and the intense pressure and blatant aggression directed from the BOP against Eric, before and during his trial. Less than 1% ofall federal criminal defendants are acquitted at trial. The criminal punishment system is always stacked against defendants, especially political prisoners like Eric.
Before Eric’s trial started, the judge ruled that all evidence related to Eric’s torture at the hands of BOP had to be withheld from the jury, including the illegal use of four-point restraints. This meant that the jury never got to hear that Eric was subjected to violent retaliation by the BOP, or that Eric was suing the BOP—even though this evidence would have shown that the BOP and its employees were engaged in a cover-up, were biased against Eric, and had a motive to lie and justify their torture during the trial.
The jury also didn’t get to hear that on nearly every day of Eric’s trial, the BOP attempted to disrupt Eric’s emotional well-being and his ability to defend himself in court. After the first day of Eric’s trial, he was informed he would be moved to a “suicide cell,” for unspecified “security reasons.” Eric was told the new unit would be for suicide monitoring, with continuous lights on and camera monitoring while Eric was inside his cell, despite the fact that Eric was not suicidal, and needed to sleep and prepare for his trial. Even though Eric was ultimately never moved, his property, including his legal paperwork, was removed from his cell after he left for court and twice inventoried by the BOP. That same inventory paperwork was later destroyed when, according to BOP, a bird flew into Mr. King’s cell, a guard chased the bird into the cell, and somehow upended a cup full of coffee onto Mr. King’s papers. According to BOP, during this same time period, toilet paper ended up in Eric’s sink (also blamed on the bird) which caused Mr. King’s cell to flood while he was in court for his trial, damaging his books, personal photographs, and legal paperwork.
Many of the witnesses called by the government had previously physically attacked or injured Eric during his incarceration, and Eric had to calmly face them all for hours. Even though all criminal defendants have a constitutional right to testify on their own behalf it can be risky and terrifying. As such, many defendants make the strategic choice to invoke their constitutional right to remain silent during a trial. Eric decided to testify on his own behalf, facing dogged cross-examination by the government’s lawyer and despite BOP’s actions during the trial. Not only did Eric testify about what Lt. Wilcox did to him in the storage room, but also about the violent realities of prison life:
So being in prison sucks. Prison is not like normal life. Prison is dark. And there’s good things you can do in prison, but you have to seek out those things. You have to find those things. For the most part, prison is built around violence. It’s built around who can have the most power, who can take the most power, who can inflict most damage.
In the face of hours of frustrating and opaque testimony by BOP employees, Eric’s direct and truthful testimony was a breath of fresh air—he was clearly the most important witness in the case and he rose to the occasion.
During almost the entire trial, including during Eric’s testimony, a BOP lawyer sat in the gallery, within Eric’s eyeshot and directly behind where some of the jurors sat. Spectators in the gallery heard the lawyer scoff or talk during trial testimony, possibly within earshot of the jurors. At one point, Eric’s current SHU Lieutenant, a BOP officer, also sat with that attorney.
CLDC attorneys put BOP’s behavior on the record, while government attorneys tried to say everything that happened was just a mere coincidence—just like getting taken to a storage closet for an “interview.” At one point, Judge Martínez stated in response, “I am just amazed — I have never had anything like this happen in one case in 11-plus years of being on the bench. At some point, the explanation that it was an accident becomes too far removed from reality.”
BOP’s behavior was clearly intended to throw a wrench in Eric’s defense, and another attempt to silence Eric, but they failed. Thanks to Eric’s courage and CLDC’s advocacy, Eric was able to boldly tell his story to the jury, even in the face of this persistent repression. Best of all, despite the limited picture painted for the jury, they were still able to clearly and unanimously see that Eric was not guilty. CLDC is still investigating the BOP’s egregious behavior during the trial to add additional claims to Eric’s civil suit against the BOP.
CLDC is honored to have worked with Eric to win his criminal case. With your help, we will continue to hold the BOP accountable, until there is no such place as prison. Please consider supporting our work with a sustaining donation.
In the past ten years, we’ve also seen state repression of movements coming out of Occupy Wall Street, the Ferguson uprising, Standing Rock, Line 3 and various anti-Trump movements. Green and Red has had numerous episodes on radical movements and state repression of political movements from antifascists in Portland and Austin to water protectors at Line 3 to DAPL saboteur Jessica Reznicek.
But, before that, we had the era known as the “Green Scare,” where radical environmental and animal rights activists were targeted by the “state” (corporations, politicians, law enforcement) for its anti-capitalist politics and escalating tactics that included sabotage, animal liberation, property destruction and arson. The FBI called their operation to stop these radical movements “Operation Backfire.” After 911, they labeled people taking action “domestic terrorists.” Congress passed corporate lobbyist written legislation, such as the Animal Enterprise Terror Act and the Patriot Act, to stop them.
In our latest episode, we talk with Daniel McGowan (@thetinyraccoon), an anarchist organizer, Earth Liberation Front (ELF) member and partisan during the Green Scare era. He was part of two ELF actions in 2001. After another ELF member turned informant, he was arrested by the FBI and charged with arson, property destruction and conspiracy. In June, 2007, McGowan was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and given a “terror enhancement” for his actions. Most of his time in prison was spent in a secret prison unit called a Communication Management Unit.
Daniel tells us about his journey as a radical environmentalist, actions with the ELF, time in federal prison and, now, supporter of political prisoners.
Daniel McGowan is a former political prisoner and former member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). He spent 48 months in experimental Communication Management Units operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons during his seven year sentence. Daniel has been involved with political prisoner support and prison struggles for most of his activist life. He is currently a member of the Certain Days collective, NYC Books Through Bars and the Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF). Daniel works on the campaign to defend and free anarchist political prisoner Eric King and is an advisory board member of the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) & the Coalition for Civil Freedoms. Daniel is a lifelong New Yorker and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, NYC. He works professionally as a paralegal and consults with people preparing to go to prison and their family & friends in setting up defense committees.
We women are standing up during Women’s History Month for Kamau Sadiki. We invite our whole community to join us for a letter-writing workshop. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right words. Join us to gain some guidance on writing to captured Freedom Fighters like Kamau Sadiki. Together we will be in and build community as we learn about Kamau Sadiki, the efforts to bring him home, and the fight for all US Held Political Prisoners.
NYC ABC, along with several other individuals and prisoner support crews, now send hard copies to all political prisoners and prisoners of war we support.
If you consistently mail the latest updates to a specific prisoner, please let us know so we can insure there’s no overlap. The goal is to have copies sent to all of the prisoners we list.
We’ve also been told that some prisoners are not receiving the copies sent in, yet we aren’t getting rejection notices. If you are in steady contact with a prisoner, please ask them whether or not they are receiving the updates and let us know.
Last month on February 4th guards at FCI Memphis allowed our friend Patrick Rogers to die. Sources in here tell me that he had regularly medical emergencies, falling down unconscious frequently. The staff became agitated with having to respond to these emergencies and the new Captain here accused him of faking and spread the rumor that he was faking medical emergencies and gave instructions to not respond to these incidents. As a result his medical ailments went untreated for a long period of time. I have been told that he was hit by a truck before coming to this prison and had multiple medical conditions as a result. After falling down yet again he was taken to the Special Housing unit. Guards said this was because he “mouthed off to a guard” while witnesses claim he was taken away because he could not walk.
Shortly after being taken to the SHU the entire prison went on lockdown. On Friday the 4th of February, he died. His neighbors in Tennessee Unit A say that he was allowed to die by staff because they were concerned that he had a legitimate case for a lawsuit and they were legally vulnerable to legal action. Lt. King came into the unit after he died and callously remarked, “Well, I guess he wasn’t faking!” He was asked if he thought this was funny and unconvincingly replied no, that it was a potential lawsuit. Legal vulnerability and a fear of taking responsibility trumped this Lieutenant’s sense of what a human life is worth. I won’t speak of his sense of humor. Understandably this upset Big Pat’s friends, not to mention his family. I heard about this exchange from one of his friends in the chow hall today as the lockdown was lifted and lost my appetite. As fellow captives of the prison industrial complex we are all outraged within these walls.
Efforts to spread the word about this deadly medical negligence, deliberate indiference and fatal targeted harrassment have been hampered by staff refusing to sell us paper, stationary and stamps during this lockdown. Thanks to sympathetic guards and our constitutional right to contact family the word has already gotten out. My defense committee has been notified and asked to contact Mr. Rogers’ family while raising awareness on various social medias, spreading pamhplets, articles and writting essays. That ball is already rolling. The cops reading this message may try to censor it, but that would be a useless gesture as the cat is already out of the bag. Any attempt to censor journalism and destroy evidence leaves government employees vulnerable to civil action. As a community we have the resources, the solidarity and the ability to take legal action and win. We will. I request everyone reading this to look into the situation and #RememberPat. Contact the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Legal News and any other groups who you think can be helpful. We need to spread the word about the conditions here before anyone else dies. This can happen to any of us at any time. The current political climate is such that the prison industrial complex wants to incarcerate everyone in the U.$. To be clear their goal is that all Amerikkkans go to jail or prison at some point in their lives. As more laws are invented more and more people’s existances are criminalized and subject to abduction and extortion at the hands of authoritatrian forces. On a long enough time frame more people will have been oppressed by unjust laws and dirty cops than people who have no criminal record. In this was the death of Patrick Rogers and people like him affect all of us. The political is personal. Don’t let them tell you that “that’s just how it is, that life is tough, that it’s just buisiness”.
Take it personally whenever any authority figure makes policies that harm you, your loved ones, your neighbors and your friends. Because it is personal. The gears of justice grind slowly and the creatures of power who have money and power are not ground under these machines, they slide out of under them with a laugh, waving to us as we are destroyed. This machine does not serve us, it serves them.
They say we are faking it when we tell them that they are killing us. They say we are faking it when we tell them to get off our necks. They say we are faking it when we tell them that climate change is genocide for those too poor to migrate. They say we are faking it when we tell them an old prisoner is dying of preventable conditions as prisons are converted into eugenic hospice centers for the elderly poor. Fuck that, fuck them. Please help us raise awareness about these conditions.
Thank you. Dan Baker aka Alishare P.S. The following additional note was written by a friend of Patrick’s:
“Pat Injured himself around Oct-Nov 2021- was unsure what- lower spine (disc) or right hip. Asked to be taken out to see Hospital Doctors- *pain became unbearable over a few days period. -He could no longer walk to the chow hall due to pain. -He continued to ask health service for help and all they did was order him an x-ray sometime in the months ahead. As time went on he was in more and more pain. The C.O.’s on the unit would no longer call the food service and order him meals for one of us inmates to bring back for him. Health service began to tell all the officers that Pat was “faking” and that he had been “seen” and was to await his x-ray appointment. I brought him food back from chow as there was no way Pat could go due to pain. -Pat requested the use of a wheelchair just to go to get meals and was denied every time by the people at health service from the order of M. Law. He said Pat was “faking” and just being lazy. Pat filed a BP-8 and BP-9 and was working on the BP-10 just to get the use of a wheelchair. He became very depressed and his health deteriorated quickly. – A group of Lt.’s and Dr.’s came to the unit one day to tell him he was “faking” and if he called them again they would put him in the S.H.U.. This was spearheaded by M. Law and the Captain. He eventually became incontinent and was placed in the S.H.U. where he died from an embolism. The FCI was grossly negligent and could have easily prevented Pat’s death.”
Write Daniel Baker: Daniel Baker, 25765-509 FCI MEMPHIS P.O, BOX 34550 MEMPHIS, TN 38184
Join CLDC on Thursday, March 24th at 6:00pm EST to learn about supporting movement participants through incarceration, release, and transition back home from people who have lived it. Former political prisoners will share their experiences of support as well as how they continue to support people held behind the walls.
Panelists will include Daniel McGowan, Michael “Rattler” Markus, Linda Evans, Ray Luc Levasseur and Luke O’Donovan.
Lauren Regan, Executive Director & Senior Staff Attorney Sarah Alvarez, Staff Attorney (541) 687-9180 [email protected]
Denver, CO — On March –, a jury acquitted anti-racist and anti-fascist political prisoner Eric King on the count of “assaulting” an officer. CLDC is overjoyed at the return of a not guilty verdict from the jury. After hearing hours of compelling testimony from King himself, the jurors were rightly convinced of his constitutionally protected rights to defend himself against threat of death or bodily injury, even when that threat came from a corrections officer at the Bureau of Prisons.
This victory belongs not only to King, but to his family, community of supporters, and most importantly to all those who have fallen victim to the horrific abuses and torture the Bureau of Prisons metes out on a daily basis in facilities across the country.
CLDC executive director, Lauren Regan was thrilled with the verdict, stating “on behalf of the entire CLDC team, we are thankful for the trust and friendship that Eric King shared with us and we feel fortunate for the privilege to defend him and to work with his family and community in order to bring justice to light within the confines of the federal Bureau of Prisons. This was a long and arduous battle against State power, and we are appreciative for the jury’s earnest deliberation.”
“When Eric made the decision to fight back against these trumped-up charges of assault brought against him, he made the choice to extend the same values of anti-racism and anti-fascism that moved him to act in 2014 in solidarity with the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri,” said Josh Davidson, a member of the Eric King Support Committee. This case was fought not only with the goal of returning King home to his family without any additional years of his life being stolen away, but with the goal of holding the BOP accountable in order to make that place survivable for others by at least shedding light on the secretive system of racism and abuse that has been running rampant within the BOP.
This outcome is even more momentous given the government’s fierce opposition to King’s courageous efforts to tell the world about his plight and that of others held in custody.
Despite this victory, the obstacles he continues to face are immense. The BOP and the U.S. Government continue to hold him in some of the most inhumane conditions throughout the system, with only 40 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement for more than a year (Eric King has been held in solitary for more than three years).
CLDC will continue to fight alongside Eric King for justice for himself and others. In May 2021 we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on King’s behalf under Bivens v. Six Unnamed Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the Federal Tort Claims Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act, against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and numerous correctional officers and BOP staff. The complaint alleges that BOP officers have collaborated with each other, and with white supremacist prisoners, to target, harass, and assault King.
“The truth prevailed today,” said Lauren Regan.
We are heartened by the continued resilience and strength of King’s certitude. He is scheduled for release in 2023 and will continue to rely upon outside supporters to make it through. You can learn more about ways to directly support him during his remaining sentence by visiting supportericking.org