Drug War Prisoners


 

 

THE COMMITTEE ON UNJUST SENTENCING

Newsletter: July 10, 2000

 

It's been a busy month. June 3 saw the release to a halfway house in Tampa, Florida of Robert Milcher. Robert withstood 8 years of imprisonment after being set up by an informant working for the DEA. Robert is gay and Native American. He did the lighting for rock concerts and was presumably targeted for his advocacy of civil rights. His mother had just died, and he was depressed and lonely after her funeral, when an informant pretending to be down and out (and gay) begged for accommodation in Robert's apartment. Soon the pressure was on for Robert to supply the newcomer with LSD, accessible through a rock concert connection. After the planned betrayal, Robert was tempted with offers of a short term of imprisonment in return for his own betrayal of friends in the music scene, offers he courageously refused.

Robert phoned on June 6 with interesting comments on, to his eyes, the astounding change in civil society awaiting him outside FCI Coleman. In his words, Florida was "security-guard crazy," guns everywhere. Reflective of changes outside the perimeter, razor-wire was going up around the minimum security "camp" Robert had just left. Required to land a job within two weeks or face return to prison, he had secured a job in a travel agency with the help of a friend. Making no bones about his incarceration to clients, Robert was continually surprised at clients' responses. "My boyfriend is doing time in Coleman like you," a young woman told him. Imprisonment on some drug charge, it seems, is practically the norm in Tampa - whether oneself or a friend or family member is or has been the prisoner.

 

July 7 saw the release from prison of another Committee member. Amy Pofahl walked out of FCI Pleasanton and was met by her friend Mark Balsiger shortly before noon. Amy's arrest and conviction on numerous fabricated charges relating to her estranged husband's manufacture of MDMA (Ecstasy) in Germany in the late 80s became the focus of media attention in 1998, continuing right up to the commutation of her sentence by President Clinton last week. The scandalous history of her treatment by agents of the Federal government is still only partly known to the American public. It includes a two-year period of harassment by agents of the prosecutor's office, during which she was several times held up at gunpoint and threatened that if she refused to "cooperate" the prosecutor would "ruin" her life - long before the eventual indictment for "conspiracy." Her home in Los Angeles was repeatedly ransacked, and her business clients and bank manager were warned to stay clear of a "drug dealer" or face trouble themselves. The horrifying details of her trial before Judge Smith of Waco, Texas, and the sentence to 24 years in prison will emerge in Amy's book, chapters of which are in the Committee's files

Word of the impending release came via cell phone, as Mark waited outside the prison to escort his friend to a safe haven. Amy herself phoned the next next day. You sounded remarkably strong, Amy, telling us about your first cup of coffee in ten years and "other firsts" as well!

As far as anybody knows, Amy's release and the release of four other POWs marks the first occasion that federal executive clemency has been won by a Drug War prisoner. The date on which President Clinton signed the clemency petition is not yet known. Conjecture has it that the petition was signed on July 4. If this is correct, President Clinton may be engaged in "testing the waters." Certainly, he has it in his power to release thousands of other federal POWs from prison. It is fair to imagine that the President had this in mind as he extolled the quality of life in the US in his July 4 speech. It is important, therefore - and calls have come in to confirm this - that we make a concerted effort to write to the President and thank him for doing the right thing. Whatever mistakes Clinton has made in his tenancy of the White House, this act of restoring freedom to the lives of essentially innocent people deserves commendation. Everyone should write to President Clinton, The White House, Washington, D.C. 20050 to personally thank him for doing the right thing. If fax is preferred, the number is 202-456-2461. The White House gets a lot of mail from people requesting some action or other on the part of the President. The quantity of mail written in gratitude for an action taken is probably far less. Letters of approval will make a good impression.

Kathleen Wirt looks forward to a good turn-out at this month's pot luck in Los Angeles.

Renee Boje invites people to tune in to her Healing Herb Hour. It's an internet, TV and radio show about medical marijuana that airs every Monday evening from 5 - 6.30 PM (PST) on: www.pottv.net.

The Committee's website (www.drugwarprisoners.org) has not had new entries recently owing to the indisposition of Laney Kehel in Tennessee. It's hoped that she will be back in action soon.

Last, coming up in Toronto this weekend is the event we've all been waiting for. On Saturday July 15 the video of last year's POW conference at York University (The Second International Conference on Prisoners of the War on Drugs) will be shown in public for the first time. Tom Mann the producer is unfortunately not able to be present, but Ashleigh Horricks who did most of the editing, using her skills with Avid, will be on hand to field questions about the project. The timing of this newsletter makes it inconvenient for people outside the Toronto area to attend, but a report will be included in the September newsletter.

The Committee on Unjust Sentencing
P.O. B. 76665, Los Angeles, CA 90076
Suite 280, 615 Mount Pleasant Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4S 3C5

 

 

 

 

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