Dearest Maroon supporters,
We send you Revolutionary Greetings as Black August concludes, and welcome you back to the Free Maroon newsletter. This month, we’re pleased to bring you a brief message from Maroon to the Black Lives Matter movement, some information and artwork from Maroon’s comrade, Ernest Nedab, AKA Brother Yaquin, and a photo essay from an event in New York City earlier this month featuring Albert Woodfox and Robert King of the Angola 3.
Maroon’s Black August Salute to Black Lives Matter
It is fitting that the initials BLM are short for Black Lives Matter. After all, BLM is also short for the Black Liberation Movement. And the two are one and the same.
In memory of all of the Martyrs who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of Black Liberation, from the slave ship rebels, to John Brown, to Malcolm and
Martin, to the Panthers and Black Liberation Army, to Marilyn Buck, Hugo Yogi Pinell, and our Political Prisoners who breathed their last in captivity, I say:
Right On Black Lives Matter! I salute you this Black August for continuing the Struggle.
Maroon’s Comrade, Ernest Nedab, Seeks New Trial and Reduction of Charges
Maroon has asked us to share with his supporters some information about Ernest Nedab, AKA Brother Yaquin, who is also incarcerated at SCI Graterford in Pennsylvania. Yaquin has been locked up since the age of 17, nearly 35 years ago, for his involvement as an accomplice in a robbery. He is currently seeking legal support in an attempt be granted a new trial and a reduction of charges, in accordance with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision finding life and near-life sentences meted out to juveniles unconstitutional, and retroactively alterable. As Joe Betz, a retired philosophy teacher and co-moderator of the Gray Panthers (aged inmates) chapter at SCI Graterford, wrote last April:
“Mr. Nedab tells us that, at only 17 years of age, he was on the scene as an accomplice, and was not the principal perpetrator, of serious crimes. The principal perpetrator, Claude Opher, received a lesser and suspended sentence. Mr. Nedab pled guilty to burglary, robbery, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and criminal conspiracy. His much longer sentence was 45 to 90 years. He has now served 34 years of this sentence.
On March 21, 2016, he filed with the Criminal Division of the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia: 1) a Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition, and 2) a Memorandum of Law in support of that petition. Both seem well-written to me, and I judge him to be very honest in admitting fault and in being genuinely contrite. He has taken and passed a polygraph test. But he now has no lawyer and needs pro bono legal help.
His list of accomplishments, programs, treatment, and volunteer activities during the past 34 years is impressive.
He asks for a new trial, a reduction of the charges against him, and a correction of his sentence. He claims that he is eligible for release because of ineffective assistance of counsel, because his sentence is in violation of the Pennsylvania constitution, and because his sentence is disproportionate and greater than the lawful maximum.
You are likely aware that the U.S. Supreme Court has changed the law making unconstitutional life sentences, and, it is urged, near life sentences of 45 to 95 years, for crimes committed by juveniles. Juveniles wrongly sentenced have the retroactive right to a court review to determine a more proper sentence. Mr. Nedab seems to me to have a strong case in claiming this as his right.
Can you please help him obtain legal assistance?”
In addition to his Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition, Memorandum of Law in support of that petition, and numerous accomplishments while incarcerated, Yaquin has long been understood as innocent of the most serious charges on which he was convicted. As Claude Opher stated in a sworn affidavit to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2006, regarding Yaquin’s conviction on charges of sexual violence:
“Ernest Nedab had no knowledge of what I was going to do and did not agree with me that I should do this. He is totally innocent of any of the sexual criminal acts.I would be willing to come and testify on his behalf if I have the opportunity.”
During his near 35 years of imprisonment, Yaquin has also become an accomplished artist, often using the only materials he’s allowed access to, such as toilet paper, to create works of beauty. Here are a series of flowers and cards he created out of toilet paper for Maroon and his legal team, following their successful suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
As Maroon states, “The prisoners who were forced to submit petitions to
the courts on toilet paper are real and legendary. Necessity IS the Mother of invention.”
Please contact us directly with ideas on generating further support and legal assistance for Brother Yaquin.
New York City Honors the Angola 3
As stated on the Angola 3’s website, and as many of Maroon’s supporters are no doubt aware:
“44 years ago, deep in rural Louisiana, three young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the U.S., an 18,000 acre former slave plantation called Angola.
Peaceful, non-violent protest in the form of hunger and work strikes organized by inmates caught the attention of Louisiana’s elected leaders and local media in the early 1970s. They soon called for investigations into a host of unconstitutional and extraordinarily inhumane practices commonplace in what was then the ‘bloodiest prison in the South.’ Eager to put an end to outside scrutiny, prison officials began punishing inmates they saw as troublemakers.
At the height of this unprecedented institutional chaos, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, and Robert King were charged with murders they did not commit and thrown into 6×9 foot solitary cells, where they remained for decades.
Their struggle for justice continued until Robert was released in 2001, Herman in 2013, and Albert in 2016.”
This past August, Robert King and Albert Woodfox, the two surviving members of the Angola 3, were honored at several events in New York City, including the National Lawyers Guild’s Law For The People Convention, where the recently freed Woodfox was awarded the Guild’s Arthur Kinoy Award. Their weekend of public appearances and speaking engagements concluded with a book party celebrating the launch of King’s autobiography, From The Bottom Of The Heap, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center in midtown Manhattan. Maroon’s children, Theresa, Sharon, and Russell, all spoke at the event, as did Woodfox, King, fellow former political prisoner Sekou Odinga, and members of the Jericho Movement, which is committed to winning amnesty and freedom for U.S.- held political prisoners. The following photos document just a few of the night’s many inspiring moments.
Pictured above: Russell Shoatz III interviews Albert Woodfox and Robert King following the event. Look out for video of the interview coming soon! Russ embraces Albert Woodfox after welcoming him home, as Robert King looks on and applauds. Russ speaks on the need for holistic restorative justice with regard to the families of political prisoners and police officers
As always, our deep gratitude to Maroon’s entire support network for your solidarity and steadfastness in the struggle for Maroon’s freedom and that of all political prisoners. Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly with your thoughts, ideas, or questions.
Please also consider contributing to our ongoing fundraising for Maroon. As we mentioned last month, though Maroon’s recent settlement includes financial compensation for his three decades in solitary confinement, he plans to redirect much of those funds to various efforts supporting other long-held prisoners and their families. As such, your direct contributions to his well-being at SCI Graterford remain important.
And Maroon wants to hear from his supporters! You can write him at: Russell Shoats #AF-3855, SCI-Graterford, P.O. Box 246 Route 29, Graterford, PA 19426 – 0246
The Shoatz Family and Friends
Raphael Cohen, Albert Woodfox and Russell Shoatz III