LA WEEKLY AND THE AB
This week's LA WEEKLY runs a feature story on the ARYAN BROTHERHOOD. Naturally, it caught our attention. The focus of the piece is US ATTORNEY GREGORY JESSNER. He's the lead prosecutor in what the author, MATTHEW DUERSTEN, states is the "largest death-penalty indictment in the history of the American justice system." He also called it "the most important trial you've never heard of." Whether you've heard about this trial depends on if you're a regular reader of the New Yorker Magazine. The truth is, the New Yorker ran a huge piece written by DAVID GRANN about this trial way back in 2004. Same prosecutor, same players, same trial. A lot of the information in the LA WEEKLY piece came from that New Yorker story. In fact, I handed one of the AB defense lawyers a copy of that New Yorker article when it first appeared because his client was mentioned prominently.
So essentially the AB story, while new to LA WEEKLY readers, isn't new in the strict sense of the word. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld says. It's just interesting because DUERSTEN mentions in his piece that USA JESSNER doesn't eat meat, doesn't wear a watch and is an avid reader of the NEW YORKER. You would think that DUERSTEN would have asked JESSNER, "What did you think of yourself in the New Yorker?" If he did, it didn't make it into his piece.
One item in DUERSTEN's article that caught our interest was JESSNER's connection to FAY STENDER. JESSNER apparently played with STENDER's kids when he was a toddler. DUERSTEN, by the way, spells her first name FAYE, which we've seen before, but in fact, it's spelled it FAY. When the CALIFORNIA WOMEN LAWYERS give out their FAY STENDER AWARD, they also spell it F-A-Y with no e. So you be the judge.
STENDER's story is worth knowing. I've mentioned her in previous posts but her life and times are worth examining because of the cautionary tales they contain. One of STENDER's many claims to fame is that she was GEORGE JACKSON's lawyer. He was accused of killing CORRECTION OFFICER JOHN MILLS. STENDER made JACKSON a cause celebre. She was responsible for editing JACKSON's book, SOLEDAD BROTHER, a collection of JACKSON'S letters from prison and got GREG ARMSTRONG at BOUBLEDAY to publish it. The book was a huge seller and the royalties from it were originally supposed to go to the Jackson defense committe that she founded. The money would be spent for legal fees and a PR campaign to raise grassroots support for JACKSON and other "political prisoners." In fact, the money was siphoned off to the Black Panthers who used it to buy weapons and rural property in the Santa Cruz mountains. The property was used as a training camp where Panthers and other revolutionaries learned weaponcraft, bomb making and unarmed combat. JACKSON's ultimate goal in this was to have this "army" of trained insurgents bust him out of prison and escape to Angola.
HUEY NEWTON, founder of the BLACK PANTHERS, was ostensibly JACKSON's comrade on the outside. JACKSON was relying on NEWTON to organize his escape to the point where NEWTON convinced JACKSON to sign over all the royalties from SOLEDAD BROTHER to NEWTON to raise and train this revolutionary army. NEWTON made JACKSON a FIELD MARSHAL of the BPP. NEWTON took the money and quietly abandoned all pretense of helping JACKSON escape. HUEY bought lots of coke and shoveled it up his nose. He also put himself in a 25th floor penthouse suite where he held court and entertained the female employees of his "modeling agency." He also jacked up Oakland drug dealers and befriended Hollywood celebs like DONALD SUTHERLAND, BERT SCHNEIDER (producer of EASY RIDER), CANDACE BERGEN and others.
Fay Stender got caught between competing interests. She saw JACKSON's trial as a political cause, a non-violent showcase that would bring to light all the racial and class injustices suffered by blacks in the US prison system. Her client, by his own admission, wanted to cut throats and create political change via firing squad like his heroes Che and Fidel. On the other side was Newton, who for all his political rhetoric, was never anything more than a slick street thug. Newton was eventually killed by an Oakland drug dealer who refused to pay tribute.
Stender made the mistake of becoming emotionally and physically involved with Jackson. Her performance in court was more emotional than professional and other Movement lawyers eventually convinced her that she wasn't doing her side any favors. When she apparently refused JACKSON's demand to smuggle in guns and explosives into prison, they had a falling out. She left his case and the defense committee.
In 1971, JACKSON was killed trying to bust out of prison. A 9 mm Astra pistol had been smuggled in to him by means of a tape recorder carried into the visiting room by another of his lawyers, STEVE BINGHAM. Bingham was accompanied that day by VANITA ANDERSON, a BLACK PANTHER member loyal to the NEWTON faction of the party. During the bust-out, JACKSON massacred two white inmates (KANE and LYNN) and three prison guards, KRASENES, DELEON and GRAHAM.
In MAY 1979, STENDER was visited by a former PANTHER and member of the the BLACK GUERILLA FAMILY, the prison gang that JACKSON founded. At gunpoint, he made her sign a confession that she betrayed JACKSON and was the cause of his death. Then he shot her five times and left her for dead. Miraculously, she survived but was left paralyzed. She testified against her attacker and then moved as far away as she could from the BAY AREA -- HONG KONG.
A year later, disillusioned and still in fear from associates of her former client, she took an overdose of pills and died. Stender became a "martyr" to the cause of prison reform and civil rights. Others see her as a gullible dupe of hardened criminals who used political reform as a cover. JACKSON even admitted that, "Marxism was my hustle." Ohers have an even harsher perception. In an unpublished memoir by a reformed Mexican Mafia brother, Stender is portrayed as a provacateur. In her efforts to recruit other races to the cause of prison reform she tried to get the Eme to assault and kill prison guards in order to show solidarity with black prisoners. And bringing this discussion to a complete circle, she tried to do the same with the founders of the ARYAN BROTHERHOOD in the CA prison system. She figured that a full court press of blacks, hispanics and whites would turn the prison system inside out and achieve her political goals.
It never happened, of course. The Eme had no interest in politics or in being protrayed as victims by radicals with an anti-American agenda. They saw themselves as warriors, not a class of victims. And the white inmates, for all their violence and antisocial behavior were revolted by Marxism. And neither group would ever make an alliance, in or out of prison, with blacks. A situation that, with few exceptions, exists to this day.
There's more on this piece I'd like to discuss. But I gotta run.