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.

Vaughn 17 Trial 2 Verdict

from Support the Vaughn 17

None convicted!


Obadiah Miller

Riot – no decision
Felony murder – no decision
Murder of law enforcement officer –no decision
First-degree Assault, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
First-degree Assault, Officer Winslow Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping Lt. Steven Floyd – not guilty
Kidnapping – Wilkinson – not guilty
Kidnapping – Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping – Patricia May – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


John Bramble

Riot – no decision
Murder felony – not guilty
Murder law enforcement officer – not guilty
First-degree assault, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
First-degree assault on Officer Winslow Smith – no decision
First-degree kidnapping, Lt. Steven Floyd – not guilty
Kidnapping, Officer Joshua Wilkinson – not guilty
Kidnapping Officer Winslow Smith – not guilty
Kidnapping – Patricia May – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


Abednego Baynes

Riot – not guilty
Murder – not guilty
Murder of law enforcement officer – not guilty
Assault, two counts – not guilty
Kidnapping all counts – not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty


Kevin Berry

Riot – not guilty
Murder 1st degree felony – not guilty
Murder in 1st degree law enforcement officer – not guilty
Assault – not guilty
Kidnapping –not guilty
Conspiracy – not guilty

Vaughn 17 Defendant Speaks!: Jarreau Ayers Gives Breakdown on State’s Attempt to Railroad Defendants

from It’s Going Down

One of the Vaughn 17 speaks about the State’s attempt to hide evidence and railroad prisoners throughout the current trial. Produced by the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM).

Jarreau Ayers of the #Vaughn17 gives a breakdown about how the state is trying to bury evidence and railroad the defendants in this trial. The defendants resisted horrendous prison conditions and now they are standing strong together to fight back against the onslaught of the state. They fight back not just for themselves, but all future victims of the judicial system.

[Video Here]

“The majority of the victims of this mischievious court are overwhlemingly minority and lower class citizens when based off ethnicity and economic standards. The subterfuge of vicious, unrelenting racist and classist attacks at times are so subtle that they have the ability to be overlooked and unconsciously accepted by its victims and its future victims.”

Help Needed for Joe-Joe Bowen

from It’s Going Down

Call from New York Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) to support a long-running political prisoner.

New York Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) has received a letter from our comrade and political prisoner Joseph “Joe-Joe” Bowen, aka The Old Man. Last year, after four decades of continuous detention in solitary confinement, Joe-Joe was released into general population. Recently, after a verbal argument with a corrections officer (CO) over the content of a book Joe-Joe is writing, he was transferred to another prison and has been held in solitary confinement since. Joe-Joe needs our help.

Call or email DOC Secretary John Wetzel: 717.728.2577
Ra-crpadocsecretary@pa.gov
ra-contactdoc@pa.gov

Demand that Wetzel not put Joseph Bowen AM4272 on the restricted release list or on permanent lock-down status. Please let us know what response you receive. NYC ABC can be reached by email at nycabc at riseup dot net, or on twitter, instagram, or facebook at @NYCABC

Since his transfer, Joe-Joe has had no access to the very basics to get by in solitary confinement during a winter in Pennsylvania: thermal underwear tops or bottoms, shower sandals, t-shirts, a towel, or washcloths.

Please donate at paypal.me/nycabc or send well-concealed cash, a check, or money order (made payable to NYC ABC) to:

NYC ABC
Post Office Box 110034
Brooklyn, New York 11211

Please note that the funds you are donating are for Joe-Joe.

Support The Vaughn 17!

from Go Fund Me

Support defendants in the Vaughn uprising trial as they face immense repression!

______________________________________________________________________________

After a series of peaceful protests yielded few results, incarcerated
comrades took over a building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in
Delaware on February 1st, 2017. Citing the election of Donald Trump and
worsening prison conditions as reasons for the uprising, prisoners took
control of their unit for over 18 hours until the state used a backhoe
to demolish a prison wall. One of the correctional officers, Steven
Floyd, was found dead following the uprising.

The state of Delaware has since accused 17 prisoners of outrageous
offenses, including three counts of murder for each of 16 of those
inmates. Desperate to assign blame instead of acknowledging the
notoriously abusive conditions at Vaughn that led to the uprising, the
state has been doing whatever it can to put these people away for life,
despite having no hard evidence against any of them. Its case relies
entirely on contradictory witness testimony from prisoners who stand to
gain from testifying.

In spite of this, one prisoner has already been found guilty of all but
one murder charge, and another of kidnapping and assault. Since then,
one of the 17 defendants was tragically found dead in his cell; another
potential witness had died under mysterious circumstances the week
before.

The trial for the next four defendants will begin in mid-January, and
the defendants, their loved ones, and their other supporters expect a
long and difficult road ahead. We are raising money to distribute directly
among the 16 remaining defendants’ commissaries, as well as to put towards
purchasing clothes and legal supplies, so that those of them still facing trial
can be as prepared as possible.

Thank you!!!

Jan 7th: Letter-writing to Eric King and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

from Philly ABC

The new year has arrived! As we kick off 2019, let’s not forget about the struggles of our incarcerated comrades– those who did not get to celebrate, but instead faced increased scrutiny from the state and continue to be retaliated against for their political beliefs. Such retaliation often comes in the form of transfers to other prisons, providing correctional officials an opportunity to say ‘oops, we lost your property,’ in addition to an already torturous process of readjustment. In some cases, a transfer is just part of a three-pronged attack. This is where a prisoner has first been brutally beaten by guards, then gets transferred to special prison that will facilitate the next stages of retaliation, long-term isolation and restricted communication.

On Monday January 7th, 6:30pm at A-Space, join us in sending some extra love and support to Kevin “Rashid” Johnson and Eric King, whom are currently facing the hell described above. We’re going to let them know ‘We got your back!’

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is a politicized prisoner, co-founder of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC), and prolific artist. In his own words, “Because I struggle to give a voice and human face to and to publicize abuses suffered by my imprisoned peers, help them challenge their mistreatment and work to educate them on their human rights and true role within Amerika’s overall exploitative, oppressive and racist political-economic system, officials have always aimed to isolate me from them.” On top of 18 years of solitary confinement, Rashid has also been subjected to several retaliatory transfers since 2012, each time meticulously documenting prison abuses so that outside supporters can better hold prison officials accountable for their actions against prisoners. On November 3, 2018 he was transferred yet again to Indiana where he now is. Let’s send him some love and show Pendelton CI how much outside support he has.

Eric King is a vegan anarchist who was arrested and charged with an attempted firebombing of a government official’s office in Kansas City, MO. Eric allegedly threw a hammer through a window of the building and then threw two lit bottles inside, though both failed to ignite. He was identified as a suspect by local police because he had previously come under suspicion for anti-government and anti-police graffiti, and is allegedly involved with the Kansas City Fight Back insurrectionist collective. Eric accepted a non-cooperating plea agreement to a federal felony charge that carries a sentence of 10 years in prison. He has since been attacked for his politics, taken from his family, and sent to Leavenworth. He has been in total isolation for months now without any disciplinary charges filed. The BOP wasn’t successful at trying to build a new case against him so they are enacting revenge trying to send him to a Special Management Unit (SMU) one of the most horrible programs in the BOP. Eric and his family can use all the love and support we can offer right now.

Please note: If you are writing from home, neither Rashid or Eric can receive letters on colored paper or in colored envelopes. We will also be sending birthday greetings to prisoners with birthdays in January: Fran Thompson (the 4th), Jeremy Hammond (the 8th), Abdul Azeez (the 9th), Sundiata Acoli (the 14th), Joe-Joe Bowen (the 15th), and Marius Mason (the 26th).