Friday, March 6, 2009

Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial (5 of 6)

Original Content at

March 6, 2009

Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial (5 of 6)
By Michael Richardson

On August 17, 1970, an Omaha, Nebraska police officer, Larry Minard, was murdered in an ambush bombing at a vacant house. Two men, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice), are serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary for his killing. The pair were leaders of Omaha's chapter of the Black Panther Party. Most people assume justice was done in the case and little effort has been made by the news media to dig into the hidden aspects of the crime.

Poindexter has a new trial request pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court and an examination of the record, much of it still hidden by Federal Bureau of Investigation censors, reveals a dozen reasons to question the outcome of the trial.

New Trial Reason Nine: Operation COINTELPRO's falsified documents and secret directives

J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had secretly established a massive, nationwide clandestine operation code-named COINTELPRO to conduct "disruption" activity against the Black Panthers and thousands of other organizations and individuals. Hoover wanted to destroy the Black Panthers and went after them with lethal ferocity.

The Omaha FBI office drew fire from Hoover on December 10, 1969, for a lack of action against the local Panther chapter. Hoover ordered in a COINTELPRO memo, "As long as there are BPP [Black Panther Party] activities, you should be giving consideration to that type of counterintelligence measure which would best disrupt existing activities."

Hoover wanted secret dirty tricks directed at the leaders of the Panthers. "It is assumed that of the eight to twelve members, one or two must certainly be in a position of leadership. You should give consideration to counterintelligence measures directed against these leaders in an effort to weaken or destroy their positions. Bureau has noted that you have not submitted any concrete counterintelligence proposals in recent months. Evaluate your approach to this program and insure that it is given the imaginative attention necessary to produce effective results. Handle promptly and submit your proposals for approval."

The Omaha Special-Agent-in-Charge got the message and a series of COINTELPRO actions were planned against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa. Mondo edited the local newsletter and distributed the Black Panther newspaper. An FBI plan to ambush the Panthers on their way from the airport with newspapers was developed. Contact was made with United Airlines Air Freight to determine pick-up schedules. Irregular delivery of the newspaper to Omaha frustrated the FBI efforts to "disrupt" distribution of the paper.

Next, in March 1970, the Omaha FBI devised, and got Hoover's approval, for a plan to discredit Poindexter with a bogus letter and anonymous phone calls. The recipients of the FBI letters were Black Realities, "a local Negro publication; Everyone Magazine, "a monthly Negro publication published on Omaha's North Side"; and the Omaha Star, "a weekly Negro newspaper." The letters and calls accused Poindexter of falsely soliciting for bail money. Hoover reminded the Omaha FBI office, "Take the usual security precautions to insure this letter and mailing cannot be traced to the Bureau."

Another COINTELPRO proposal was made in Omaha on August 15th, two days before Larry Minard's murder, targeting Poindexter. There was a dispute within the Black Panther Party over the status of the Omaha chapter and the Omaha World-Herald reported on the possible split in an article quoting Poindexter. The Omaha FBI wanted to write another bogus letter trying to drive a wedge in the Panthers and accused Poindexter of cooperating with "Whiteys newspaper" in the ruse.

On August 17th, an unknown caller told police that a woman was screaming in a vacant house. Eight officers responded but only seven would leave the crime scene alive. Instead of a rape victim police found a deadly suitcase bomb.

On August 19th, Hoover would order the FBI Crime Laboratory to not issue a report on a voice analysis of Minard's killer's voice luring police recorded by the 911 emergency call system. The search for truth to the identity of the caller who set the fatal trap ended with Hoover's order.

The new COINTELPRO plan was to convict Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa for the bombing--even if that meant letting the killer who actually made the phone call go free.

New Trial Reason Ten: A mystery, "questionable" adolescent federal informant

The Black Panthers in Omaha were under a concerted and coordinated assault by law enforcement officials. An October 6, 1968, Federal Bureau of Investigation COINTELPRO memo from the Omaha office to J. Edgar Hoover told of local police efforts. "It should be noted that the Omaha Police department has instigated an harassment campaign against the BBP [Black Panther Party] members by stopping vehicles registered to these individuals at every opportunity. This activity has become of great concern to those members involved."

The Omaha FBI office was itself busy with a campaign of misdeeds including a planned ambush, bogus letters and anonymous phone calls against the Panther leadership. The U.S. Attorney, Richard A. Dier, had put Mondo we Langa and others before a grand jury investigation into Panther activities.

Not to be outdone, an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Thomas Sledge, requested a federal search warrant for the Black Panther headquarters. The search never happened and the public never knew about it until later--after Larry Minard's death. The Omaha World-Herald belatedly dug out some of the details.

Sledge got his search warrant on July 20, 1970. As Sledge assembled his ATF task force, he called upon U.S. Marshal Lloyd Grimm who, with police and FBI agents, would stage an early morning raid the next day. Grimm's involvement required a check-in with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. The call to Washington stopped the search.

Sledge claimed in his application for the search warrant that there were ten boxes of machine guns of "Russian manufacture" and dynamite at the headquarters. The dynamite was described as "15, more or less, bundles of 12 sticks in a bundle wrapped with cord or wire." The individual sticks were described as about 12 inches long, an inch in diameter and brown.

Sledge's ATF supervisor, Dwight Thomas, approved use of Sledge's adolescent informant but the choice of snitch was overruled by Justice Department officials. Dier refused to answer questions telling a reporter, "I'm sorry but I cannot discuss the matter." A Justice Department spokesperson said the raid had been cancelled because the search warrant was based on "questionable information."

Sledge claimed his adolescent informant had detailed knowledge of a recent bombing at Component Concepts Corporation. Sledge also claimed he spoke with a man who alleged selling machine guns to the Panthers.

A month later 15 year-old Duane Peak would confess to planting the bomb that killed Larry Minard. Peak said he got the dynamite from Raleigh House, a suspected informant that was never charged for his role in the crime.

The police never solved the Component Concepts Corporation bombing. Nor did they solve a similar bombing at Horace Mann Junior High School. Horace Mann was Peak's school where he had discipline problems.

Could Duane Peak, at fifteen years of age, have been Sledge's "questionable" adolescent informant overruled by the Justice Department?

Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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