The International Communist League newspaper Workers Vanguard has spotlighted the case of imprisoned Black Panther leader Edward Poindexter and calls for his release in the latest issue. Calling Poindexter “an unbending fighter for black freedom” the newspaper declares that death is the only way the “racist capitalist rulers” after forty-eight years will let the former Vietnam veteran “leave his prison hell.” Co-defendant David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) died in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary serving a life without parole sentence. The two men were accused by Duane Peak, the confessed teenage bomber in the August 17, 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha policeman.
The article recaps the controversial 1971 trial, choreographed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the clandestine COINTELPRO operation. The secret counterintelligence program was directed against American citizens that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover deemed dangerous. The Black Panther Party was the primary target of Hoover’s lethal fury. In December 1969, after FBI orchestrated raids against Panthers in Chicago and Los Angeles, Hoover ordered Special Agent in Charge Paul Young of the Omaha FBI office to get Poindexter and Mondo off the streets. Both men were on the Security Index, Hoover’s secret detention list.
“The sinister motivation for the frame-up of Poindexter and Mondo was made clear two decades later by Jack Swanson, the Omaha Police Intelligence Division liaison with the FBI. In a 1991 documentary by George Case, Black Panthers, Swanson boasted: “I think we did the right thing at the time, because the Black Panther Party…completely disappeared from the city of Omaha.” For his role in the frame-up, Swanson was promoted to lieutenant and later became Omaha’s chief of police.”
“FBI head J. Edgar Hoover declared the Panthers to be the “greatest threat to the internal security of the U.S.” He said of an expanded COINTELPRO: “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalists.” Hoover spelled out what he meant in 1968, when he stated: “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”
The article cites the new book Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two Story which “lays bare the racist conspiracy by the FBI and Omaha police to frame up Poindexter and Mondo as part of the murderous FBI COINTELPRO vendetta against the Panthers. Based on a decade of meticulous research, the book exposes the lies of cops, prosecutors and FBI agents. It details collusion at the highest levels of the FBI with the Omaha police to suppress evidence, as well as prosecutorial intimidation and coaching of Duane Peak to concoct a scenario that tied Poindexter and Mondo to Minard’s killing.” The book “points out that within hours, the FBI knew from its informants that Mondo and Poindexter were not involved in Minard’s death—but it is the two of them that the cops and FBI targeted.”
“Peak confided in a letter from jail to a family friend, Olivia Norris: “From now on I refuse to call myself a man, or anything close to a man, because I did what I did.” He added, “I not only turned against those two bloods, but I turned against myself and my own people.” That letter, which prosecutors knew about, was suppressed along with other evidence.
“Four witnesses, including two cousins of Peak, testified that Peak was never together with Poindexter and Mondo at the times and places that Peak claimed. Peak also testified that it was he who made the 911 call. A recording of the 911 call was never played for the jury. Omaha police had sent a copy of the tape to FBI headquarters for analysis but later asked that no written report be issued, putting a stop to the search for the identity of the caller. An FBI memo pointed to a warning by the Omaha assistant chief of police that use of the tapes “might be prejudicial to the police murder trial.” Hoover himself signed off on this suppression of evidence. Testifying at a 2007 hearing on Poindexter’s petition for a new trial, vocal analyst Tom Owen confirmed that Peak could not have made that phone call.”
The Workers Vanguard explored dynamite evidence: “The cops also claimed that residue recovered from Mondo’s pants and Poindexter’s pockets tested positive for dynamite. A photo of Mondo taken moments before he surrendered his pants showed him with his hands deeply thrust in his pockets, yet swabs from their hands tested negative. In 1999, a retired top FBI explosives expert, Fred Whitehurst, submitted an analysis. “I still find that suspicious. The dynamite is in cartridges that don’t need to be opened ever except to punch a hole in them and stick a blasting cap in them. But there are dynamite particles in many places. This is not right.” He concluded: “Something doesn’t add up here unless that evidence was salted.”
The Workers Vanguard is not the first leftist publication that has championed the case. The January 2007 issue of International Socialist Review magazine featured an article entitled “Justice for the Omaha Two.”
“It is a testament to the vibrancy and breadth of the civil rights and Black Power movements that even small cities like Omaha, Nebraska, felt its impact.”
“The American media and the political establishment scoff at the very idea that there are political prisoners in the United States. Yet many sixties militants—especially Black and Native American revolutionaries—were deliberately framed by the police and FBI in their efforts to suppress the radical movements of that period. The Omaha Two were also caught in that dragnet.”
“Currently, Black journalist and Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal and Ed Poindexter have the possibility of new trials. A victory in one or both cases could have an enormous impact in unlocking the doors of the American gulag.” Eleven years later, both prisoners continue to be denied new trials and still languish behind prison bars.
The Workers Vanguard newspaper article concluded: “COINTELPRO was formally terminated two weeks after the conviction of the Omaha Two in the early 1970s. But it lives today not only in the ongoing imprisonment of a generation of Panthers and other fighters for black freedom but also in the surveillance, harassment and state terror directed against those who oppose depredations of racist American capitalism….Ed Poindexter is an innocent man—Free him now!”
For more information on the case see FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition from Amazon or in ebook format. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.