Where: Omenala Griot Museum 337 Dargan Place Atlanta Georg’s 30310 http://www.veronza.org
Speakers former Black Panther Party Members & Former Political Prisoners Sekou Odinga & Marshall Eddie Conway
Veronza Bowers Jr. is an inmate at the Federal Correctional Facility in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a former member of the Black Panther Party incarcerated in federal prison for over 37 years making him one of the longest-held political prisoners in U.S. history.In the 37-plus years of his confinement, Veronza has become a “model “prisoner. He is an author, musician, a student of Asian healing arts and has a strong interest in Buddhist meditation as well as “hands-on” healing techniques which he practiced at the various facilities in which he was incarcerated. Veronza is also an honorary elder of the Lompoc Tribe of Five Feathers, a Native American spiritual and cultural group. He is a mentor and founder of the All-Faith Meditation Group, a non-denominational spiritual organization devoted to healing meditation using the traditional Japanese shakuhachi flute.
Why was Veronza sent to prison over 37 years ago?
Veronza was convicted in the murder of a U.S. Park Ranger on the word of two government informers, both of whom received reduced sentences for other crimes by the Federal prosecutor’s office. There were no eye-witnesses and no evidence independent of these informants to link him to the crime. At his trial, Veronza offered alibi testimony which was not credited by the jury. Nor was testimony of two relatives of the informants who insisted that they were lying. The informants had all charges against them in this case dropped and one was given $10,000 by the government according to the prosecutor’s post-sentencing report. Veronza has consistently proclaimed his innocence of the crime he never committed — even at the expense of having his appeals for parole denied — for which an admission of guilt and contrition is virtually required — he insists on maintaining his innocence.The Black Panther Party was targeted by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in its infamous Cointelpro Operation which, during its years of operation from 1956 to 1971, surveilled, infiltrated, manipulated and tried to provoke criminal activities by entirely lawful civil rights and peace demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to oppose government policies. Hoover referred to the BPP as “the greatest threat to the internal security of this country” and authorized surveillance of many black and antiwar leaders including Martin Luther King. Despite letters of support from prominent attorneys, former high-ranking representatives of regional commissions, prison officials and a member of the U.S. Congress, Veronza has continually been denied release due to intervention by the U.S. Parole Commission. A recent decision by the regional federal parole commission to grant his release was overturned by the National Commission. With the truth coming out daily about the high incidence of inmates who have been falsely convicted and imprisoned, exonerations of Death Row prisoners (156 to date), police and prosecutorial malfeasance and other failures of the criminal justice system, Veronza’s case deserves careful review.
How is it possible for a citizen of the USA to:
1. Serve his complete sentence under law;
2. Go thorough the entire parole process having his release recommended at every stage and at each hearing;
3. Have his release date rescinded four times at, literally, the very last minute;
4. Have the highest administrative parole body in the nation vote on and fail to overturn his petition for parole . . . and still be held in prison for 16 moths after this sentence expired?
June 21, 2005, was the day Veronza Bowers was to be released from federal prison on mandatory parole after more than 31 years of incarceration. This date was based on a vote of the five-member U.S. Parole Commission in Washington, D.C., the highest governing body in our nation’s parole system. We just learned that, once again, at the very last moment, Veronza’s release has been cancelled.This action was based on a petition filed by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting that the National Appeals Board “reconsider” their decision granting him parole. The USPC has, thereby, “retarded” Veronza’s release (no pun intended) “for a period not to exceed 60 days”. This order for reconsideration by the Attorney General was made at the behest of a law enforcement group called the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Our legal team strongly feels that this unprecedented action on the part of the USPC is totally illegal and based on no credible evidence whatsoever. It violates the Commission’s own guidelines and procedural regulations. The rule of law that should guide the Commission in this case has clearly been undermined by political pressure exerted at the highest levels of the current administration.The truth of the matter is that Veronza has served his full sentence under law plus 16 months of illegal detention. He has been a model prisoner with the highest possible Bureau of Prison rating and recommended for parole several times, only to have his release rescinded, literally, at the last minute. He received a very favorable review and recommendation for release based on rigorous psychological and personality testing administered by a highly-reputable independent agency. His petitions for parole have been strongly supported by a number of prison officials and administrators who worked closely with him over the years and can’t say enough about his role as a mentor and role model to younger inmates. His efforts to be released have also been supported in writing by a former member of the USPC, head of the NY Parole Commission and a member of the U.S. Congress. Over the last three decades, he has worked hard to improve himself in all ways possible—personally, socially and spiritually. Yet, he continues to languish in prison, be subjected to threats and intimidation, demeaned by the news media and falsely accused by the very group that claims to be the guardian of law and order in our society. Today is a sad day for America and for the spirit of democracy in our land.