BOMBING CASE UPDATE
The trial in Earth First!ers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney’s civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police (OPD) begins October 1, 2001. Here is an update of what we’ve been doing on the legal front to get ready.
The “Motion for Justice”
With less than three months left before trial, the legal team is taking one last shot at bringing notorious COINTELPRO operative Richard W. Held back into the case, along with other top FBI supervisors. (In 1997, Judge Wilken ruled inexplicably that Held and the others had immunity from prosecution.) The unconventional motion — the actual title is “Plaintiffs' Status Report and Motion for Revision of Orders”— dubbed the “Motion for Justice,” asks Judge Wilken to revisit some earlier decisions in order to restore the FBI agents, and the integrity of the case as it comes to trial. This would also eliminate the need for an individual appeal after the trial regarding Held, who was in charge of the San Francisco office of the FBI at the time of the bombing, and a second trial just for him.
Restating what would appear to be clear evidence of Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Held’s direct knowledge and involvement in the bombing “investigation,” the motion argues that Wilken’s 1997 ruling giving immunity to Held and three other supervisors distorted the central meaning of the case: that the FBI’s framing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney as bombers was right in line with the overall FBI policy of political disruption. Without the higher-ups, the abuses in the bombing case can be dismissed as the actions of a few rogue agents, instead of deliberate, historically documented FBI “counterintelligence.”
Also pending in the Motion for Justice is a request for Judge Wilken to force the FBI to turn over the many blacked-out and “missing” documents that have been withheld, including the names of alleged informants. In particular, the judge is asked to unravel the long-standing mystery about a purported tip the FBI claims they received soon before the Oakland blast that Earth First “heavy hitters” were going to be involved in a bombing. Most likely, the FBI just made up the tip after the fact to justify the quick arrest. But, in the event that they did have a tip that there was going to be a bombing, the chilling implications of FBI prior knowledge and cover-up are something we want to get to the bottom of.
Our request for full disclosure comes in the wake of the FBI’s failure to turn over key evidence and documents in two high-profile cases; the 1964 church bombing by Ku Klux Klansmen that killed four young black women in Birmingham (see attached Op-ed by Bill Baxley), and the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The delay of McVeigh’s execution triggered ongoing Senate hearings on the need for oversight of the FBI. Now, we’re asking the judge to order an independent review of the FBI’s files on the bombing of Judi Bari.
Air Force Blows Up Subarus in New Mexico
The FBI, too, has been busy preparing for trial. They hired the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB to conduct a series of tests in order to reconstruct the 1990 explosion in Judi Bari’s car.
The Air Force bombers reached the same (false) conclusion as the FBI agents at the scene of the Oakland blast--that the bomb was on the back seat floorboard when it exploded. Never mind that these “unbiased” experts determined there were dozens of variables that could substantially change the outcome of their experiments, or that they utterly failed to reproduce the damage to Judi’s car. Indeed, we’ve managed to stay in court this long precisely because the police’s own photos show the bomb was unmistakably underneath the driver’s seat when it detonated, and that the FBI agents and Oakland Police must have been lying when they said it was visible in the back seat.
The Air Force bomb experts did all sorts of high-tech computer simulations, and blew up pipe bombs in controlled environments to see what happens when they go “boom!” But in each of the four Subarus they bombed in their field study, with test bombs both under and behind the driver’s seat, they used different amounts of explosives. By changing two key variables at once, it is impossible to say whether it was the location or amount of explosives that caused the different results. They readily admitted that there were dozens of other variables that could have dramatically changed the damage to the cars. For instance, they could only guess at the original explosives mixture. And they placed sandbags in the driver’s seat, which would react very differently than a human body to the impact of a bomb.
Amazingly, the Air Force tests ignored the two most reliable pieces of evidence for determining the location of the bomb: Judi’s injuries and the telltale “end cap impact points” in the bombed car itself. Their report states incorrectly that Judi had “back and hip injuries.” In fact, Judi’s shattered pelvis, pulverized coccyx, and massive internal injuries demonstrate the bomb blew up directly beneath her. Most stunning, while the experts acknowledge that pipe bomb end caps blow straight off in a trajectory, they ignored the indentations left by the impact of the end caps against the driver’s door and the inside frame of Judi’s car--proof that the bomb blew up under the seat.
It seems incredible that at trial the FBI is actually going to stand by their original lie that the bomb was on the back seat floorboard, where they say Judi and Darryl would have seen it. It even contradicts the testimony of their own bomb expert from the FBI lab. We hope the jury finds it incredible, too.
Discovery Goes On, and On...
You’d think that ten years would be enough time to prepare for trial, but inevitably we’re in a race to the finish line. After endless delays by the OPD and FBI lawyers, Darryl Cherney was finally deposed in December, 2000. The defendants also subpoenaed members of the lawsuit support team, and several other friends and allies who will be witnesses for our side at trial. They’ve questioned our expert witnesses, too, including Professor Howard Zinn, who is set to testify at trial about the FBI’s long and shameful history of repression aimed at social movements.
Meanwhile, we’ve taken the opportunity to question some notorious timber industry people, namely Pacific Lumber president John Campbell and former Louisiana Pacific Corporation security chief Frank Wigginton. Among other issues, we asked them about their role in creating the climate of violence that preceded the bombing, as well as their meetings with the FBI after the blast where they turned over their files on environmentalists to investigators. We’ve called even more FBI agents, and lots of other law enforcement officers from agencies like the Alameda County Sheriffs, the Berkeley Police, and the Oakland Fire Department.
Each deposition offers juicy little revelations, all of which together will become the basis of our case this October. Bit by bit we come closer to trial, to exposing to FBI’s illicit political policing, and hopefully to finding out who built and placed that bomb in Judi’s car on the eve of Redwood Summer in 1990. Thank you for persevering with us on this long road toward justice for Judi Bari.
If you haven't seen it already, please read the July 13, 2001 Earth First! Letter to Friends and Supporters which accompanies this update. Also, please read the Op-Ed piece by the former Attorney General of Alabama asking "Why Did the FBI Hold Back Evidence" in the Alabama church bombing murders, which was included in the July 2001 mailing.
Click here to jump to the July 2, 2001 "Motion For Justice" and its supplemental statements by Prof. Howard Zinn and former FBI agent John C. Ryan.