Herman Bell was supported by a courtroom of supporters today as he entered a plea in the SF 8 case. After legal formalities he left the courtroom raising a clenched fist to the crowd. The following statement was issued by his legal team:
Herman Bell Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge of Voluntary Manslaughter For a Sentence of Five Years Probation
Today, June 29, 2009, Herman Bell, one of the SF8, will plead (pled) guilty in Department 22 of the San Francisco Superior Court to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the killing of San Francisco police officer John Young in 1971. Mr. Bell is charged along with six others with this crime. The other six are still scheduled to go forward with the preliminary hearing beginning on July 6, 2009.
The other six maintain their innocence and Mr. Bell’s plea does not in any way incriminate them; Mr. Bell supports the others innocence. Part of the plea agreement , which will be (was) read in open court, is that Mr. Bell will not be a witness against his comrades and friends and cannot be called to any hearing as a witness by the prosecution.
Mr. Bell’s plea is based on his unique situation. Mr. Bell was convicted in 1975 for the killing of two police officers in New York City. He has been in prison for almost thirty-seven years for those convictions. His fight for freedom is in New York, where he will continue to fight for parole. He has been a model prisoner while in New York where he has gained graduate degrees and started programs to help other inmates and the communities from which they come.
Mr. Bell is pleading to the reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and is, in fact, receiving no punishment based on his admission of guilt. His sentence will be that he will be placed on informal probation for five years and will be allowed to immediately return to New York. He will receive absolutely no additional prison time for his actions. He and his attorneys believe that the resolution in this case will not negatively effect his parole efforts in New York.
The second charge faced by Mr. Bell, conspiracy to kill policemen, will be (was) dismissed.
Mr. Bell and his supporters see this resolution as a resounding victory. Mr. Bell was facing life without the possibility of parole in a maximum security prison in California if convicted. The government, through an informant, originally alleged that Mr. Bell was the shooter of Sgt Young. However, it is difficult to believe that the Attorney General of California, who prosecuted this case, would have allowed Mr. Bell to plead to a lesser charge with a sentence of only informal probation if there was credible evidence he had shot Sgt. Young.
Bell and his co-defendants have always maintained that, because of the torture used by the New Orleans Police Department to gain alleged confessions and the lack of new evidence, these charges should never have been brought.
LAW OFFICES OF HANLON & RIEF
179 11th Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
PH: (415) 864-5600
FAX: (415) 865-0376