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OPEN LETTER TO DIANE FEINSTEIN

by J Sunday, Sep. 28, 2003 at 8:54 AM
http://www.carlagirl.net/activism.html

Sherman's situation remains of critical concern. Please take a moment and e-mail ahurley@stanford.edu to add your name to the signature list.

Thank you to everyone who has faxed Dianne Feinstein. Sherman's situation

remains of critical concern, and every effort matters. While many of you

have contacted Feinstein or sent letters, we are also collecting signatures

for a version of the letter that will be made public and distributed widely.

In the coming weeks, a Free Sherman website will be up and running. That

site will include the letter with a list of signatures, links to information

and ways to get involved, and other relevant material. In the meantime, if

you would like your name to appear on the PUBLIC letter of support, please

send a message to ahurley@stanford.edu. Group endorsements are also

welcome. Please include your title and/or how you would like to be listed.

You should also include your address and contact information in the event

that signatures need to be verified. A work address is also acceptable.

None of this information will be shared or made public. This is simply to

prevent any false signatures from appearing.

A copy with a preliminary list of signatures is pasted below. You'll notice

that the letter is introduced by a statement of support from Noam Chomsky

and that people such as Howard Zinn and Zack de la Rocha have already

signed.



To add your signature to the letter of support below, please e-mail Adrienne Hurley at ahurley@stanford.edu.







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



"The events reported in the statement below are deeply troubling. Sherman Austin appears to be the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I hope that this matter is pursued quickly, fairly, and justly." Noam Chomsky



We, the undersigned, are united in our opposition to the selective prosecution and imprisonment of Sherman Austin, a twenty year-old African American webmaster and activist. Sherman's sentencing sets a dangerous precedent for the future of our right to express dissent and marks a troubling escalation in the criminalization of critical thinking and the erosion of the very civil liberties and rights our society purports to value.

On September 3, 2003 Sherman Austin surrendered himself to begin a one-year term in federal prison for the contents of a website that was authored by another boy and linked to Sherman's site, www.raisethefist.com, on a free-hosting area Sherman provided there. The other boy's site included a direct link to the "Reclaim Guide," a manual that provides crude instructions on how to build explosives. While this boy has not been charged with any crime, Sherman, who had no part in writing or posting any of the offending material, was prosecuted under a 1997 law sponsored by Dianne Feinstein that makes it illegal to distribute information related to explosives with the intent to use that information in a "federal crime of violence."

Numerous websites feature bomb-making instructions, and while such information is easily accessed via the internet and online bookstores such as amazon.com, Sherman, who has no history of violence and who did not write the "Reclaim Guide," is the first person to be charged under this law. The key element in the case against Sherman hinged on the question of "intent." Because Sherman's site is critical of U.S. government policy, police brutality, globalization, and racism, the prosecution and judge maintained that his politics provided grounds for proving intent.

Senator Feinstein, in a press release issued the day Sherman entered prison, expressed "dismay" that prosecutors had not pursued the "bombmaking" law "aggressively" enough as a "tool in fighting terrorism." We ask, why is it that a nonviolent twenty year-old, someone whom the California Department of Corrections Senior Staff Psychologist determined "does not represent a risk to society whatsoever" and described as "a very, very peaceful, mild-mannered" person, has been sentenced under this law while others who present clear and identifiable threats, such as certain white supremacist and anti-choice organizations, have been permitted to distribute bombmaking information and make direct threats on individuals, clinics, and groups? We contend that the selective prosecution of Sherman Austin had everything to do with his race, his politics, his effectiveness as an internet activist, and his mother's lack of financial resources to mount an aggressive legal defense. We find it significant and telling that the actual author of the site directly linked to the "Reclaim Guide" is the son of affluent and conservative white parents.

We also question the validity of Sherman's plea itself. Sherman, who was eighteen years-old when this case began, was told a "terrorism enhancement" would be applied to his case if he went to trial. This meant that he could have been subjected to an additional 20 years in prison if found guilty. We challenge the notion that a plea made under such circumstances could be truly voluntary. Sherman accepted two plea bargain agreements, one of which the judge rejected, sentencing Sherman to a term longer than what the prosecution suggested.

As is evident in the court transcripts, the decisions of U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson were neither fair nor impartial. He stated that he hoped Sherman's case would serve as a deterrent to other activists and "revolutionaries" and that he wanted to "send a message" by subjecting Sherman to a harsher sentence. As activists, educators, artists, and concerned individuals, we stand together to send a message back to Judge Wilson. We will not be silenced or deterred.

Many of us have published, recorded, performed, or presented work that is critical of U.S. foreign policy, domestic examples of social injustice, and the effects of globalization. Some of us have made statements that could provide even more compelling grounds for applying the standard of "intent" invoked in Sherman's case had we offered free-hosting website space that the author of the "Reclaim Guide" could have used. Because Sherman is now serving time in federal prison for having expressed opinions not unlike our own, we feel compelled to speak out lest we be next.

Two days after entering prison, Sherman was moved into isolation because of death threats made by white supremacist groups. Thanks to numerous calls, faxes, and letters sent to prison officials, Sherman has now been transferred, but his safety in prison remains a concern. In the words of the Department of Corrections Psychologist, Sherman "is likely to become a victim by virtue of his youth, slight build and naiveté. He is totally unprepared to defend himself in such a setting. He is more likely to become brutalized by the experience than to learn from it."

We support the efforts underway to challenge the terms of Sherman's plea and probation, and we demand that prison and government officials ensure the safety of Sherman Austin while he remains in custody.

Tarnel Abbott

Richmond, CA

Michael Albert

Z Magazine and Znet

Kevin Akin

Congressional Candidate

44th Congressional District of California

Peace and Freedom Party

Anarchist Action, Australia

Australian RTF Chapter

Blake Anthony

Irvine, CA

Jim Ausman

San Francisco, CA

Antonio Austin

artist and writer

Los Angeles, CA

Melanie Austin

Englewood, New Jersey

Rachel Austin

graphic artist

Los Angeles, CA

Shermane Austin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Computer Science

Medgar Evers College

The City University of New York

Elena Banales

Retired LaborWorker, Cake Designer

Guadalupe Banales

Environmentalist and Artist

Monica Banales

College Student

Shaymus Banks

Student

Sandra Barbosa

Bloomington, CA

Samir Bitar

Performance Artist/Writer

Brooklyn, NY

Gay Block

Photographer

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Linda Boigon

Teacher

Valley Village, CA

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.

Director, Office of the Americas

Chris Burnett

LA Indymedia

Los Angeles, CA

Mat Callahan

Musician, author

Margaret B. Carey

Attorney at Law

Denver, CO

Willard Carpenter, Instructor

Social Sciences Dept.

City College of San Francisco

John Chionis

Sedona, AZ

Wei-min Brian Chiu, Ph.D.

United Auto Workers

Los Angeles, CA

Alison Chubb, Ph.D.

Biologist and videographer

Redwood City, CA

Schaun Clark

Customer Service Rep.

Compton,CA

Kimberly Claytor

Teacher

Costa Mesa, CA

Paul t Cobbin

aka Captain Wardrobe

artist

UK

Wendy Cohen

Writer/Editor

Los Angeles, CA

Compassion for Farm Animals

San Diego, CA

Michael Covents

Bettendorf, IA

Kate Crosier

San Jose, CA

Kathleen Crume

School Administrator

Roy Culver

writer

Athens, Greece

Soula Culver

Richmond, CA

Vika Culver

sculptor

Athens, Greece

Karin Dalesky

Grad student, Interdisciplinary Studies

University of Washington, Tacoma

Rev. Pondurenga Das

Berkeley, CA

Nicholas De Genova

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Latina/o Studies

Columbia University

Zack de la Rocha

Jesus Diaz

Vancouver, WA

Frank Dorrell

Publisher of Addicted to War

Jim Douglas

Davis, CA

B.R. Dupuis

Activist

Seattle, WA

Jane Fehlberg

UCB/PMB/PGEC

Albany, CA

Folk This!

Zackariah Moore Fosdyck

Metamora,Illinois

Ken Freeland

Houston Coalition for Justice Not War

Houston, TX

Cameron Frost

Victoria, Australia

James Fujii

Associate Professor of Japanese Literature

University of California, Irvine

Donald Herman Collins Gallegos

Riverside, CA

Melissa Garrett

San Diego, CA

Professor Ann Fagan Ginger

Berkeley, California

Paul George

Director, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center

Palo Alto, CA

Warren M. Gold, M.D.

Professor of Medicine

University of California San Francisco

Luis Fernando Gomez

Human Rights Activist

Alexandria, Va

Chantel C. Guidry

Lawrence, KS

Jamie Hagen-Holt

San Diego, CA

Paul Hagen-Holt

San Diego, CA

Darlene Heinz

Registered Nurse

Kansas City, MO

Megan Herrington

Everett, MA

Tomoyuki Hoshino

Novelist

Japan

Theodore Harris

artist

Philadelphia, PA

Patricia Hartz, Ph.D.

Humanities

University of California, Irvine

Carl Henriksson

Solidarity Organization Twiga

Sweden

Julie Hoigaard, Ph.D.

Social Science

University of California, Irvine

Sophia Hronopoulos

Obirin University

Tokyo, Japan

Adrienne Carey Hurley, Ph.D.

Stanford Institute for International Studies

Dave Ijams

Richmond, CA

Ramsey Kanaan

AK Press

Erich Keefe

legal worker

Berkeley, CA

Brandon Kikuyama

Mission Viejo, CA

Janet Kobren

Oakland, CA

Sarah Kotzamani

artist

Berkeley, CA

Keith Lampe

Cha-am, Thailand

Lawrence Anarchist Black Cross

Lawrence, KS

Thomas Leavitt

Santa Cruz, CA

Roger Linn

Roger Linn Designs

Josh Lofthouse

Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Timmy Lu

Baldwin Park, CA

Christine Lynch

Lawrence, MA

John Martin

Palo Alto, CA

Stephen A. Martin

Fort Madison, Iowa

Adam Marx

Hopkins, Minnesota

Robert T McQuaid

Ontario, Canada

Peggy Miller

activist, craftsperson, and reporter

Richard Moreno

President, Not In Our Name (Mt. SAC) Student Alliance

Leuren Moret

Citizen Scientist

President, Scientists for Indigenous People

Berkeley, California

Liv Murphy

Santa Fe, NM

Chizuco Naito

Tokyo University

Japan

Futoshi Nakagawa

Tokyo, Japan

Nicholas Napolitano

Granada Hills, CA

Anahita New (U.K. National)

Bangkok, Thailand

Laro Nicol

Activist and father

Devin O'Keefe

Richmond, CA

Guy Oosterhoff

Sydney, Australia

Ozomatli

Jody Paulson

Fort Wayne, IN

George Peabody

Editor, Molokai Advertiser-News

Kaunakakai, Molokai, HI

Joe Peacock

Hampton, GA

Monika Penner

BC, Canada

Csaba Polony

Editor, Left Curve

James Pratt

Richmond, CA

Edessa Ramos

poet, writer, theater artist

Zurich, Switzerland

Amy Ray

Indigo Girls

David Remer

Frankfurt, Germany

Revolution Summer

San Diego, CA

Jennifer Martin Ruggiero

Teacher of Computer Science & Imaging

Stephen Ruoss, M.D.

Associate Professor

Stanford Medical School

Rob Santucci

High Bridge, NJ

Emily Saliers

Indigo Girls

Al Sary

Mountain View, CA

Fiona Searson

Assistant in Nursing

Australia

Steven Slap

anti-racist activist

Lake Pleasant, MA

Michael Slate

writer, Revolutionary Worker newspaper

host, Beneath the Surface, KPFK Radio, Los Angeles

Ashley Smith

Flushing, MI

Carolyn Spidle

Santa Fe, NM

Brian Squadrilli

Huntington Beach, CA

Starhawk

author and international activist

Jeffrey G Strahl

Berkeley, CA

Samina F. Sundas

Palo Alto, CA

Sue Supriano

Berkeley, CA

Colin M. Sword

CEO & Chairman

Delta Engineering Corporation

Bruce Tanner

San Jose, CA

David Torres

Labor Worker

Susana Torres

Human Resource Support

Linda Tran

Stanford, CA

Serena Turley

Co-editor, The G-Spot

Arizona State University

Alissa Van Nort

Civil Servant

Berkeley, CA

Deirdre Visser

Artist and teacher

San Francisco, CA

Megan Wallis

Los Angeles, CA

Professor Dana Ward

Executive Director

International Society of Political Psychology

Pitzer College

Claremont, CA

Jonathan Weiner

San Francisco, CA

Heidi Werntz

Activist, Photojournalist, and Law Student

Los Angeles, CA

Susan Whitmyre

Long Beach, CA

Carla Williams

writer and artist

Oakland, CA

Cynthia (Cindy) Williams

Political Activist, Stained Glass/Mosaic Artist

Brittney Willis

Nashville, TN

Deborah Willis-Kennedy

Professor of Photography & Imaging

Tisch School of the Arts

New York University

Steve Withers

Electoral Reform Coalition

Wellington, New Zealand

Gordon Wright

Berkeley, CA

Armando Yañez

San Jose, CA

A. Daniel Yavuzkurt

Student, Penn State University

Melissa Yang

Dayton, Ohio

Howard Zinn

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