Phone Zap for Akil January 17

from Dreaming Freedom | Practicing Abolition

Important: Please do not mention anyone’s name on the inside when asked how you know about the attack. You do not have to give your name either.

Yesterday, two guards at SCI-Fayette in PA had a calm, compliant man in handcuffs. They punched him in the pack of the head, body slammed him, and threw him in the hole. All of it went down in front of cameras and an entire block of witnesses.

Akil Johnson needs medical care and immediate release from the hole. The two officers who did this–CO Williamson and CO Lacey--deserve to be fired immediately. At the very least, they must be suspended, investigated, and disciplined. At the absolute least, they must never be permitted to be on Akil’s block again.

Today we are calling to voice these demands, and to remind PA-DOC and its racist, violent guards that we see them.

Please call SCI-Fayette and ask for Superintendent Mark Capozza: 724-364-2200

And PA-DOC Deputy Secretary for the Western Region Trevor Wingard: 717.728.4122 ext 4123

Here is a sample script you can use:

“Hello, my name is _______. I am calling to express my concern for the well-being of Akil Johnson, who was attacked yesterday by two COs. Akil needs real medical care, and he should be immediately release back into general population. I am also calling to ask what, if anything, will be done to COs Williamson and Lacey, who attacked Akil while he was handcuffed on camera? [They’ll deflect and say they do not know, etc]. Both COs should be suspended or terminated, or at least disciplined and separated from Akil.”

Thank you to everyone who can call in. When we stood up for our comrade Andre at Smithfield last summer, we got him released and transferred. We can do this again for Akil.

In Struggle,

Outside comrade IJ

Phone Zap for Obadiah Miller

from Twitter


Prison Rebel Birthdays for December

from It’s Going Down

[This post only contains information relevant to Philadelphia and the surrounding area, to read the entire article follow the above link.]

Inspired by the spirit of the Political Prisoners Birthday crew, here’s a short listing of some rebel prisoners who have upcoming birthdays in September. For an an introduction on how to write to prisoners and some things to do and not to do, go here. If you have the time, please also check IWOC’s listing of prisoners facing retaliation for prison strike-related organizing.

Fred “Muhammad” Burton

Fred Burton is one of the Philly 5, a group of men accused of an alleged attack on a police station that left one officer killed. He was sentenced to a life term for murder. Burton has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

Birthday: December 15

Address:

Smart Communications/PA DOC
Fred Burton
AF3896
SCI Somerset
Post Office Box 33028
St Petersburg, Florida
33733
USA

Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz

A former Vaughn 17 defendant. While the state has now dropped its attempts to criminalize Alejandro in relation to the uprising, he is facing continued retaliation, as he has been moved out of state to Pennsylvania, where many Vaughn defendants are being held on lockdown indefinitely (via placement on PA’s Restricted Release List) on vague and questionable grounds. More than two years later, these prisoners are still being abused for staying in solidarity with one another against the state.

Birthday: December 17

Address:

Smart Communications / PA DOC
Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz – NW2883
SCI Camp Hill
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Jonathan Rodriguez

A former Vaughn 17 defendant. While the state has now dropped its attempts to criminalize Jonathan in relation to the uprising, he is facing continued retaliation, as he has been moved to Pennsylvania, where he is being held on lockdown indefinitely (via placement on PA’s Restricted R. More than two years later, these prisoners are still being abused for staying in solidarity with one another against the state.

Birthday: December 31

Address:

Smart Communications / PA DOC
Jonathan Rodriguez – NU0434
SCI Houtzdale
PO Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL, 33733

Call to Support Dwayne & Jarreau of the Vaughn 17 in Court!

from It’s Going Down

Call to support Dwayne and Jarreau of the Vaughn 17 as they go to court on September 13th in Wilmington, DE.

Facebook Event HERE

In February of 2017, 18 prisoners in James T. Vaughn Prison were initially charged with multiple counts of murder, rioting, conspiracy and kidnapping. 1 of the initial suspect turned to a state star witness and Kelly Gibbs took his own life leaving a letter of declaration. Jarreau Ayers and Dwayne Staats already incarcerated with life without parole recieved charges, however the rest of the group received not guilty charges or had their the charges dropped. As their sentencing day is coming up we are asking you on behalf of their families to show up to court and hold signs in front of the court building.

Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers writes:

On September 13, 2019 myself along with our Comrade Dwayne Staats, the only two to be found guilty for the Riot that occurred on Feb 1 of 2017 at James T. Vaughn Prison that left one CO dead, will be called before the “Courts”, a conduit for this white supremacist totalitarian government in the occupied territory of Wilmington, DE. For purposes no other than what Ms. Assata Shakur correctly identified as a public lynching. We ask that you support us with your presence to make it abundantly clear to the authoritarian tyrants that they are being watched. That myself along with our comrade Dwayne Staats will NEVER be left alone, for this system to be psychological torture and isolate to the point of mental deterioration, I ask that you stand with us in solidarity as a clear acknowledgement that we the people determine what’s right and just. That we the people find that the actions of those who stood for the people of oppression on Feb 1, 2017 were righteous and just and deserve to be commended, not condemned.

We ultimately ask that you support us with your presence as a clear signal to those comrades not born yet or who are just consciously coming of age, that when you take action for your beliefs, our collective beliefs and are no longer just an orator of beautiful ideals, you won’t be abandoned! That regardless of the hardships, time/distance or enormity of the enemy, we will stand unflinchingly in solidarity!
Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers

Fore more information on how to support Dwayne and Jarreau on September 13th, go here.

17-17-17 by Dwayne “BIM” Staats

from Support The Vaughn 17

On October 17th 2017, 17 prisoners were indicted for allegedly partaking in the uprising that occurred at James T. Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrna Delaware on February 1, 2017. This miscellany of individuals would eventually be given the moniker “Vaughn 17.”

Contrary to our charge of “conspiracy,” prior to this case many of us had never interacted with one another before. As far as myself I only knew 3 of my co-defendants on a personal level. I believe this unfamiliarity exacerbated the tensions that arise while one is engaged in a struggle for life, freedom or truth. Ultimately our triumph hinged upon surmounting psychological barriers that were buttressed by our diverse array of ideologies, idiosyncrasies, experiences, maturity levels and ways of life. Out of all that, there still remained a sad but proven reality that weighed heavily on our minds. There’s 17 co-defendants — the odds are in favor of at least 4-6 opting to cooperate with authorities to secure some type of leniency for their cowardice. With that being the foremost concern, me and Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers approached individuals and recommended that they first consult with us, if they found themselves pondering thoughts of compromising. Being though the vast majority wasn’t privy to or knowledgeable of any specifics concerning the takeover, we would of provided them with details pertaining to our actions, so they wouldn’t concoct fabrications about anyone else. Figuratively speaking we’d accept being stabbed in the chest to present others from getting stabbed in the back. Only one person gave the proposal any consideration. More than anything he was frightened of the maliciousness of the deputy attorney generals, and felt vulnerable against the power they wield. Imagine going to sleep at night with 4 years remaining on your sentence, then morning comes and your greeted by 3 counts of murder, 3 counts of assault, 4 counts of kidnapping, 1 count of riot, 1 count of conspiracy. Internally a lot of my co-defendants were grappling with this abuse of discretion, but they never expressed any desire to seek a pseudo refuge in anticipation of the metaphorical slaughter that some thought was inevitable.

During these preliminary stages it definitely appeared as though the prosecutors had everything rigged to ensure our guilt. The department of corruption aided their accomplice. By keeping us sequestered in living quarters conducive to the deterioration of one’s mind. Some of our adversaries disguised themselves as court appointed lawyers. The system “tried” to box us in on every level. For the first 8 or 9 months the only discovery (evidence) that “some” of us received was co-defendant statements, DNA analyses, and other reports that were deemed paltry. Any material critical to our defense specifically, information alluding to why we were charged was held under a protective seal by a judge’s order. The cumulative effect of these hinderances (tactics) provoked one of my codefendants to contemplate “throwing in the towel,” somehow he rationalized that pleading guilty to something he had no involvement with was a viable solution towards evading the barrage of mental intrusions. Their schematic design became so overwhelming that it nearly infringed upon his sanity. To a degree, all of us were on the verge of psychological exhaustion. Instead of mentally collapsing, it caused us to start making conscious efforts to morally support each other. This was around the time my motion to go pro se (represent myself) was granted. I filed a subsequent motion stating that I be issued a laptop and be given all the discovery discs that the lawyers were entitled to. My request was granted with the stipulation that I adhere to the rules and regulations of the protective order. Which basically meant that I share nothing with my co-defendants. “Yeah Aight!” Once I started receiving the material “we” began analyzing it. Simply saying that we immersed ourselves within this case would be an understatement. I never witnessed a group of individuals move with such a synchronized mind. “Due diligence” is why truly empowered our collective. After sifting through the discovery, which amounted to 7 boxes of documents and about 45 discs. There was no physical evidence, no surveillance footage, or forensic evidence. It all came down to our 17 against 41 lying snakes.

The results: Me and Ruk was found guilty, for basically admitting to our levels of involvement. Deric Forney, Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, and Roman Shankaras were acquitted. John Bramble and Obadiah Miller had a hung jury on a few of the charges, but a retrial would not be pursued. Cory Smith, Luis Sierra (Abdul Haqq), Janiis Mathis, Robert Hernandez, Jonatan Rodriguez, Alejandro Rodriguez, Pedro Chairez and Lawrence Michaels all got their cases dismissed. R.I.P. to Kelly Gibbs who took a plea during jury deliberations of the first trial. He committed suicide the night the verdicts returned.

This narration of events was shared to provide a fundamental basis to delineate another nuance of “Vaughn 17.” Like I mentioned, we were essentially strangers comprised of different races, affiliations, motivations etc. Some of my co-defendants had real beefs on the streets. We are a microcosm of the prison population, which reflects society as a whole. I just want to put emphasis on how our discrepancies became inconsequential after the true enemy was identified. If the 17 of us along with our comrades and supporters could unify to deliver a blow that caused the political landscape in Delaware to implode imagine what 1,700 or 17,000 strong can accomplish….

The power is the people.
-BIM

Delaware Admits Failure, Drops Last Remaining Vaughn 17 Cases Retaliation Against Prisoners Continues

from Support the Vaughn 17

On Wednesday, June 12, Delaware announced it was dropping its last two cases against former Vaughn prisoners accused of participation in the 2017 prison takeover. Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, whom the state claimed helped subdue correctional officers at the beginning of the takeover, will no longer be facing trial in the fall. The state also announced that it would not be retrying defendant Obadiah Miller, for whom the jury in a previous trial could not come to a decision about whether he had fought and stabbed the officer who later succumbed to his injuries. The other defendant against whom the jury had returned no decision charges on the assaults, John Bramble, had his remaining charges dropped in March. The charges cannot be brought back up.

The announcement is a major victory for all 16 remaining defendants, who chose to stick together and take their cases to trial in spite of extreme retaliatory abuse by the prisons, as well as the betrayal by one of the 18 indicted prisoners (Royal “Diamond” Downs), who was secretly working with the prosecution. Following the first trial, defendant Kelly Gibbs took a non-cooperating plea deal and later took his own life.

The defendants have worked non-stop since their indictment in fall 2017 to expose the lies on which the state has built its case, as well as the systemic abuse they’ve experienced leading up to the takeover and in retaliation. Two of the defendants who are serving life sentences, Jarreau Ayers (“Ruk”) and Dwayne Staats, sacrificed what chance they might have left of getting out of prison by testifying on behalf of the other defendants and taking responsibility for planning and carrying out aspects of the uprising.

Delaware’s announcement followed two trials in a row in which the state failed to obtain any convictions. The most recently exonerated defendant, Roman Shankaras, was released after his not guilty verdict on May 23. This past week, Rome gave damning interviews to the press that completely destroyed whatever credibility the state might have had left. The state’s decision also followed the release last week of a scathing letter written by Jarreau Ayers to mainstream press, which described the fallacies of the state’s case and the corporate media’s unapologetically biased coverage.

But retaliation continues against the defendants who are still on the other side of the fence. Despite having almost all been found not guilty or had their charges dropped, the state is continuing to punish ten of the defendants (Jarreau Ayers, Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry, John Bramble, Deric Forney, Janiis Mathis, Obadiah Miller, Jonathan Rodriguez, Corey Smith, Dwayne Staats) who are now in Pennsylvania, where they are being held on lockdown indefinitely (via placement on PA’s Restricted Release List) on vague and questionable grounds. More than two years later, these prisoners are still being abused for staying in solidarity with one another against the state.

Shoutout to all the defendants and to all rebels inside and outside the prison walls! The struggle for liberation continues!

Vaughn 17 Trial Begins for Roman Shankaras: Mastermind to Puppet Master, Depending On Who’s Describing Him

from Support the Vaughn 17

The third trial in Delaware’s prosecution of the Vaughn 17 began on Monday, May 6th, 2019. This time, Roman Shankaras is a solo defendant, fighting the same charges that fifteen of his co-defendants also faced — conspiracy, felony riot, assault, kidnapping, and murder — for allegedly participating in the February 2017 prisoner takeover of C-building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (two additional prisoners were also indicted on the same charges except murder). What’s changed is that at this point, the state has been unable to successfully convict five of them, and subsequently dropped their case against another six defendants. Another co-defendant, Kelly Gibbs, died under suspicious circumstances after writing a dying confession to the murder that also named the state’s star rat, Royal “Diamond” Downs. The question is, why does the state continue to pursue a bunk case built on the lies of prison snitches?

In opening statements, we learned that the prosecution is relying on Delaware’s accomplice liability theory in order to convict Roman for the entire uprising. The state doesn’t have any physical evidence related to Roman, aside from two “kites” (prison notes) written from Roman to Royal Downs, who Roman had not known was already collaborating with the police. Although even the state acknowledges that Roman never held a weapon and remained in his cell the whole time, they are trying to hold him responsible for everything that happened during the uprising — including the death of a cop — by alleging that he helped plan the takeover.

So far the prosecution has called in various police investigators and correctional officers to testify against Roman, but the only witness who claimed to identify him was Royal Downs. For anyone who has been following the trials, his lies this time clashed significantly from his previous testimony. Multiple times he identified another defendant, Lawrence Michaels (a.k.a. Smoke), as doing things in the takeover that, during the first trial, he testified to seeing Jarreau Ayers (Ruk) do. The coincidence is not lost that Michaels never had his charges dropped, and his trial is scheduled for October 2019.

Downs also previously claimed to have smuggled the kites out in a visit with his sister, and he is now testifying that he mailed it out in a card. He is no longer claiming for the jury’s benefit that testifying is the hardest thing he’s ever had to do and that given the chance he wouldn’t do it again, after that strategy failed under cross-examination in both the previous trials.

So far media has been silent on the major fallacies and inconsistencies of the case, attempting instead to rile up the public by reporting on new evidence recently found at Vaughn, which is irrelevant to this case.

Meanwhile, for the first time over the course of the three trials in which they’ve testified, both Lieutenant Charles Sennett and Detective David Weaver cried (obviously fake) tears while on the stand in order to influence the jury. The state is desperate, and this time they are resorting to tactics of red herring evidence and emotional play in addition to outright lies.

The state argues that the two kites show that Roman helped orchestrate the prison takeover and that therefore he is legally responsible for everything else that happened during it. So far, Diamond has testified that other Vaughn 17 defendants who’ve said they helped plan the takeover — Dwayne Staats and Jarreau Ayers — were in Roman’s cell during the uprising and consulted with Roman, Lawrence Michaels, and several others to make key decisions. On Wednesday, Diamond characterized Roman as the uprising’s “puppet master,” but the details of Diamond’s testimony indicate that major decisions about hostage negotiations were made spontaneously over the radio by Diamond and Staats in a different room, not in Roman’s cell.

Moreover, the state’s interpretation of the letters themselves is in question. In his opening statement, Roman’s lawyer — Patrick Collins — noted that, as we’ve heard in previous trials, what was planned for February 1, 2017, depends on who you talk to. Some inmates planned to stay in the yard as a nonviolent protest, while Diamond says he’d learned there would be a takeover but that he never heard that violence would be involved. Another plan was a coordinated violent takeover. But it’s still uncertain which prisoners intended to participate in which plan.

This means that the state would first have to prove that Roman’s letters unequivocally show that he helped plan a takeover of C-Building, as opposed to a nonviolent protest, and then also prove that Roman intended the takeover to be violent. In the language of Delaware’s accomplice liability law, they would have to show that Roman planned to commit an “unlawful act” with others in which the assaults, murder and kidnapping was “reasonably foreseeable” as a possible outcome, even if he never personally held a weapon. It is unclear how the state would decisively prove this based on Roman’s letters and the snitch testimony they’ve presented so far — which is supposed to be the strongest part of their case. As Collins pointed out, under the standard of reasonable doubt, even the jury thinking Roman is “probably guilty” is not enough to return a guilty verdict.

The state’s entire case against the Vaughn 17 has been based on snitch testimony, and it’s important to note that the two kites that the state is presenting as hard physical evidence in this case were written in communication with a snitch. In cross-examination, the defense has already established Diamond’s extensive influence in the prison as someone with time, and these letters seem to be a sting set-up.

So far, the state has failed to secure any convictions in its entire case against the Vaughn 17 except for what the defendants personally attested to having done. In the fall, Dwayne Staats was found guilty on all charges but intentional murder after he explained to the court that he had helped plan the uprising, knowing it could turn violent. Jarreau Ayers, also serving a life sentence, was found guilty of conspiracy, riot, kidnapping and assault based on his own testimony that he helped facilitate the takeover once it began. Deric Forney (called Twin) maintained his innocence and was found not guilty.

Following the second trial, in which all four defendants maintained their innocence, the jury found Abednego Baynes and Kevin Berry not guilty on all charges and came to no decision on a few final charges for John Bramble and Obadiah Miller, effectively acquitting them as well. The state has since quietly dropped those final charges for good.

After the second trial, the state also dropped most of the remaining defendants’ cases. Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz are still facing trial in October of this year.

Having completed his sentence soon after the uprising, Roman should have already been released from prison. Instead he is still being held on $2.8 million cash bail pending the outcome of this trial.

The seven Vaughn defendants who have already stood trial, along with an additional four whose charges were dropped, have since been moved to different prisons in Pennsylvania. After more than two years of state retaliation and abuse, they are all still being held in solitary and denied privileges, despite almost all having been exonerated by Delaware’s so-called justice system.

Roman’s trial will resume on Monday, May 13, at 9:45am in Room 8B of New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington and will be in session every day for the rest of this coming week except Wednesday, May 15th. Court support is welcome and encouraged!

For more information on the Vaughn 17.

#Vaughn17: Call for Court Support as 3rd Trial Set to Begin

from It’s Going Down

A call to support prison rebels as the third of the Vaughn 17 trials is set to begin. To read more about the Vaughn 17th case, go here.

April 29th is jury selection for trial round number #3 of the Vaughn17! Roman Shankara’s, will go into trial by himself facing the in-just , supremacist courts of Delaware’s by himself. We need you out there to show your support for Roman, who has been a target since day one in this corrupt and oppressive court preceding.
Come out to court starting May 6th, bring everyone, join us!
Where : 500 N King St, Wilmington, DE 19801
Everyday starting May 6th : 9 am to 4:30 pm

Vaughn 17 Defendants Moved Out Of State In Spite Of Exoneration

from It’s Going Down

The State of Delaware retaliated against defendants in the Vaughn uprising trial last week, by moving them out of state to Pennsylvania.

Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, Obadiah Miller, Johnny Bramble, Dwayne Staats, and Jarreau Ayers were all transferred to solitary confinement at SCI Camp Hill, a maximum security facility. They joined Deric Forney, who was transferred weeks earlier in January. Berry, Baynes, and Forney have all been fully acquitted on all charges.

“It’s unusual to move prisoners with short terms left in their sentence out of state,” said Fariha Huriya, an organizer working closely with Vaughn 17 prisoners. “They’re being held in solitary confinement, with no showers, no access to commissary, and limited phone calls. It’s the same inhumane conditions that they faced at James T. Vaughn.”

“The State’s vindictiveness will cost them,” said Betty Rothstein, who also organizes with the prisoners. “The Vaughn 17 have resisted these charges, and will continue to resist and expose the corruption of the DOC and abuse on prisoners.”

There are nine defendants who are still awaiting trial. New trial dates for groups 3 and 4 are scheduled for May 6th, 2019, and October 21st, 2019.

Phone Zap for #Vaughn17 Comrades

from It’s Going Down

Call-in campaign to support two #Vaughn17 comrades.

Two defendants from the latest #Vaughn17 trial, Kevin Berry and Abednego Baynes, were just acquitted on all charges and are still being held at James T. Vaughn Correctional. This is the same facility where the prison riot took place on February 1st, 2017, and conditions have not changed! Prisoners have reached out and asked for people on the outside to call the warden and demand that Kevin and Abednego get transferred to a lesser security facility.

Call:

Warden Dana Metzger

(302) 653-9261

Here is a suggested call script:

Hello, my name is _____ and I’m calling to demand that Kevin Berry and Abednego Baynes get transferred immediately to another facility. Both defendants were just acquitted on all charges related to the February 1st prison riot, they should not continue to be held at the same facility.