[Marxism] Fw: Eddie Hatcher still sounding the alarm

John Obrien causecollector at msn.com
Fri Nov 25 12:22:42 MST 2005



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Break Chains" <breakthechains02 at yahoo.com>
To: "Break The Chains Public List" <break_the_chains at yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2005 5:50 PM
Subject: 7 Stars Eddie Hatcher still sounding the alarm


Asheville Global Report
  http://www.agrnews.org

  Eddie Hatcher still sounding the alarm 
Asheville,  North Carolina, Oct. 11, 2005 (AGR)- One wouldn't think it would 
be too easy  for a formerly high-profile political prisoner to become lost 
to the  system. After 18 years of incarceration, however, and with the 
consideration of rural, Native American, HIV-positive status and waning 
health, one's presence in the international human rights arena may  begin to 
subside if it isn't continually cultivated.

  Since 2000, AGR has covered the case of and given updates on Eddie 
Hatcher, a Tuscarora Indian activist, who has spent a lifetime battling 
injustice and corruption in Robeson County, NC. He is currently serving  a 
life sentence and is in seriously deteriorated health from an illness 
which, although he is HIV positive, is as yet undiagnosed.

    The story of Eddie Hatcher starts in Robeson County where he had spent 
many years working around the rights of the poor, African Americans and 
Native Americans, and calling attention to local corruption. In 1987 
Hatcher had become an active figure in Concerned Citizens for Better 
Government, a group formed in response to the death of a local Native 
American believed to have been caused by the Robeson sheriff's son.

    Over a three-year span the county had become plagued by 27 unsolved 
murders of minorities, most killed execution style, the majority 
uninvestigated. The rural farming community had also become mired in 
cocaine traffic and came to be called the "Little Miami" of the South  East. 
In 1987 the county was identified as a major cocaine center by  Assistant US 
Attorney William Webb involving "tens of millions of  dollars" and having as 
"pure cocaine in Robeson as you can find in  Miami and for as cheap a 
price."

    Hatcher had begun, independently and with help from within the Florida 
State Attorney's office and a local FBI informant, to uncover evidence  of 
county officials' collusion in drug trafficking. Having heard of  warrants 
for his arrest and upon discovery of a local police stakeout  of his house 
Hatcher came to believe that he was being targeted. He  conveyed his 
findings to various government agencies, to little  response.

    In a last ditch effort to call attention to injustices by officials, he 
and fellow Tuscarora activist Timothy Jacobs occupied the offices of  the 
Robesonian newspaper.

    The takeover, on Feb. 1, 1988, was according to Hatcher, "a violent 
action as close to non-violence as I could get." They seized the  offices 
with a shotgun and pistol, holding 14 staff members hostage.  All hostages 
would be released, the two pledged, if then-Governor Jim  Martin would 
commit to an independent investigation of allegations of  corrupt county 
government, unsolved murders and drug trafficking in the  area.

    After 10 ½ hours of negotiation, the governor agreed to the demands.

    Hatcher was held on hostage-taking charges and went to trial in October 
1988. He was originally represented by, among others, William Kunstler  of 
the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, but the judge  withheld 
his right to representation. The federal jury, however,  acquitted him, 
stating that Hatcher was "justified in his act of  desperation." He was 
reindicted on the same charges by the state, not  allowed representation by 
anyone other than a public defender, and was  found guilty and sentenced to 
18 years.

    Some heavy handed dealings came to light after he was imprisoned. 
According to a sworn affidavit by his defense committee, three of the 
attorneys that had been associated with his case were either disbarred  or 
heavily fined. In the period leading up to his trial - February to  August 
1988 - at least eight individuals who had provided  corruption-related 
information to Hatcher's attorneys were killed,  their deaths unsolved.

    Hatcher served five years for the hostage takeover. Shortly after he 
was imprisoned, another prisoner stabbed him four times with an  icepick. 
The man claimed he was contracted by prison officials to "take  care of 
Hatcher" in exchange for privileges.

    But the high-profile nature of his case gave him support as much as it 
made him a target. Two years in a row the UN deemed him a political 
prisoner, a letter written by him was shown on Soviet TV, Mumia  Abu-Jamal 
was advocating for him, and his actions were seen by some as  congruent with 
Leonard Peltier's. He had contracted HIV in prison,  however, and after much 
work by his mother, a veteran prisoner  advocate, Hatcher was paroled in 
1995.

    Upon release, Hatcher continued with his activism in Robeson. In 
October 1999 Hatcher was found guilty in the non-fatal shooting of a  man he 
claimed had robbed his home. Hatcher does not deny that he shot  the man, 
but says he was acting in self-defense.

    Then, a murder charge was brought against him for the drive-by shooting 
death in May 1999 of Brian McMillan. This happened, according to the 
District Attorney, 12 days after Hatcher shot the man he claimed robbed 
him. In order for Hatcher to have committed the crime, he would have  had to 
fire two weapons simultaneously while driving a five-speed truck  down a 
country road at night, with a disabled left arm. The forensics  expert that 
testified said there was "no way possible" the shots were  fired from a 
moving vehicle, as the prosecution claimed. Forensic  reports show that 
bullets found in McMillan's body don't match the  rifle Hatcher carried in 
his truck. There were two types of bullets  found on the crime scene.

    There was also a girl shot and injured at the scene, which authorities 
claim happened at the same time. Hatcher was not charged with shooting  her, 
although the prosecution maintained that he acted alone.

    Hatcher was found guilty in 2001 of first-degree murder and given a life 
sentence.

    Human rights organizations claim that Hatcher was framed by local 
officials who opposed his work for social justice. "The state's case is  a 
pile of nonsense cobbled together in a desperate attempt to try to  show 
that Eddie Hatcher committed this crime. There is no credible  evidence 
against Hatcher," Maurice Geiger, of the Rural Justice Center,  said at the 
time of the conviction.

    He is representing himself in the appeals process, but is not allowed 
his legal materials, which effectively thwarts efforts at building an 
appeal. Maurice Geiger, an attorney with the Rural Justice Center, 
repeatedly tried to visit Hatcher in 2001, but was refused. An  experienced 
human rights observer, Geiger compared Robeson County to an  undeveloped 
country and said it was easier to visit prisons in Haiti  than there.

    Hatcher is not allowed to be interviewed by phone or in person. His 
sister, Ginger Ammerman, holds his legal power of attorney, but is  refused 
access to his medical records.

    Most importantly, since 2002, Hatcher's health has taken a serious 
downward turn which, according to his doctors is not HIV related, but  is a 
chronic illness, which they are not able to diagnose. He has  experienced a 
gradual but massive searing of his colon which a  specialist said "looked 
like it had been torched from beginning to  end." This has made absorption 
of nutrients impossible, which has  caused severe weight loss. Hatcher is 
given 60-70 pills a day,  including HIV cocktails, Prednisone (a powerful 
steroid), and  Belladonna (a poisonous hallucinogen if not taken in small 
amounts). At  Marion, if he refused to take any medications he was put in 
solitary  confinement. Eddie believes that it is the drugs which are making 
him  sick. When AGR spoke with Michael Harney of WNC AIDS Project he said: 
"HIV cocktails are toxic to one's body -  they're like chemotherapy.  There 
can also be malabsorption of nutrients associated with AIDS."  Eddie's 
doctor at the time,
 Asheville-based Polly Ross, was bound by  legal confidence from speaking 
with AGR about his case.

    Currently Hatcher is at Alexander Correctional Institution, which was 
recently cited for employing Abu Graib-like techniques that were not 
approved by the Department of Corrections. Prisoners wrote letters to 
newspapers describing the use of dog collars and leashes, and being  made to 
kneel to have them attached. After the Charlotte Observer  inquired to 
officials about the claims, Alexander was ordered to stop  the practices 
until they could be tested by a security committee. When  AGR spoke with 
Reggie Wiesner, the administrator of Alexander, he said:  "It's a tether 
that attaches to a chain around the waist." He denied  that prisoners were 
made to kneel, and would not comment on the  efficacy of either. Previously, 
however, he defended the practice,  according to the Observer: "Once in full 
restraint is adding a tether  more demeaning? ... It's not like they are 
paraded in front of other  people." He said it was a useful tool and hopes 
to get permission to  use it again.

    Ammerman, referring to Hathcher's treatment, said that "It's just 
because he speaks out about conditions in prison that they treat him 
harshly. Every time he speaks out about something there are  repercussions." 
Sometimes there are reverberations, too.

  Just last year the Sheriff of Robeson County, Glen Maynor, was arrested 
for the very things Hatcher had been trying to have investigated. When 
Maynor's house was  searched, federal agents discovered more than $1 million 
concealed  throughout his home.

    Keeping in mind the effects of persistence it's worth noting that 
Hatcher's mother was the essential cohesive force behind his defense 
campaign. She passed away in 2002 - with her went much of the drive to  keep 
his case in the public consciousness, and to keep his network of  supporters 
connected. At this point Eddie is very isolated, with his  sister carrying 
much of the load of his defense. Also, the  marginalization of prisoners 
with HIV is very real. In addition to  social stigma, the debilitating 
effects of disease and of health care  without the check of accountability 
makes for further isolation from a  potential community of supporters. But 
whether people are still  listening or not, it seems guaranteed that Eddie 
Hatcher will continue  to speak out and make a ruckus. 




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