Imagine being spied on one day by your own government while in Oakland CA, while 340 miles south a married couple is being attacked, and one of them murdered on a Santa Monica tennis court. Four years later you are found guilty of the murder. Only in America!
Twenty seven years later you are finally set free, twenty seven years after conviction, twenty years after the man that falsely accused you of brutally killing Caroline Olsen was outed as a paid informer, but the State of California still denies you a retrial.
Twenty seven years, and eight of them in solitary confinement. Twenty seven years that began a few years after two tours of Vietnam and a stint as Minister of Defense in the local chapter of the Black Panther Party. I don't have to convince you it was the BPP membership that left such a bad taste with law enforcement and judicial authorities top to bottom heavy with white males.
"He was driven to stand up on behalf of the oppressed, while living in a nation that had trained it's young to be so evil, that they learned to hate an entire group of people without even knowing them," said Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University in reference to Elmer Ji Jaga "Geronimo" Pratt. Quiet as it's kept Pratt was trained to do the same. Does White America ever stop to consider that the same attributes that drives some black men to serve in his US military, can be closely related to the same qualities that motivate him to be a Black Panther.
This was very true in Pratt's case where he was a natural-born leader and soldier; returning from the war with 2 Purple Hearts, and 2 Bronze Stars and a Silver Star. Pratt joined the Panthers after being recruited while a Political Science student at UCLA. It turned out to be wartime for them also, a sad and sorry time for the Panthers as they were being torn from within by outside forces.
Pratt's pregnant wife was a casualty of that schism. In spite of this, Pratt was not the type of leader to fly off the handle, and certainly not one for petty crimes like robberies. So badly did the country that he served want him, that they contemplated tying him to the Charles Manson and Patty Hearst episodes of the time.
Eventually the government got the break they felt they needed in the form of a fellow Panther controlled by simple jealousy and the FBI's divisive Counterintelligence Program, who gave false testimony about Pratt being the shooter. Jurors were not aware this man's informant history. Typically Julius Butler became Chairman of a black LA Church's Board of Trustees. You think the fix was in regarding Pratt? Retired FBI agent Wesley Swearingen himself admitted the Bureau knew Pratt was in the Bay area, because they were the ones spying on him and other Panthers. Other than being incarcerated on a date in question, what better alibi than to be under a Federal watch, while in a completely separate town?
In spite of the blatant truth hovering over them, Pratt was found guilty of Murder in 1970. A young Johnnie Cochran joined Pratt's legal team in '71, he admitted that back then even he didn't believe the US Government was setting Pratt up. What was going on was the prosecution refused to share information with Pratt's team, therefore knowledge of the surveillance was never made known.
This cover-up lasted all the way up to the Gil Garcetti era. Best known as the DA during OJ's "Trial of the Century," Garcetti would eventually display truth and evidence tampering that would put LAPD hooliganism to shame, even police have to call it a day at a judges order. Garcetti-oddly enough a Democrat-openly refused to "reverse and remand" Pratt's conviction by order of a known conservative Judge in '97. He was said to have "dithered for months before deciding to not pursue the case further."
To those who knew and followed Garcetti this was not unusual behavior by him. Evidently incarcerating innocent black men was a thrill to him, and the weaker the evidence became, the harder he worked and filibustered. Time and delay was his chief tools of sabotage, even becoming so ridiculous as openly refusing to rescind judgments against men who later proved through DNA evidence that they were not the fathers, in paternity cases.
This incensed even people who worked in his office, one of his deputy DAs quit because she was told to do unethical things. One could only imagine his sentiments towards Pratt. Even more revealing is the story of the feminist who basically coined the phrase "Deadbeat Dad" was outraged over his tactics.
Geronimo's conviction was vacated 6/10/97 on the grounds that the prosecution hid evidence. This turned out to be a 27-year-old understatement, it takes work to convict a man of murder when he was over 300 miles away, and keep him locked up in spite of mounting evidence. Like many corrupt white officials Garcetti was ousted from his position and appointed to head a department he has no business being remotely near; the LA City Ethics Commission. These types of political practical jokes against the taxpayers is more akin to a trucking company promoting an alcoholic, accident-prone driver to head it's safety division, because he's white.
Pratt departed us 6 days (6/2) after singer/songwriter Gil Scott Heron (5/27). Heron's years were marked with government interference that began shortly after the release of his signature tune "The Revolution Will Not be Televised," and climaxed with HIV and an addiction to illegal narcotics. "We were under surveillance for quiet a while, and I think everybody knew it. We were being watched to see what we would do. And we were uncomfortable at the time because we had (Black Panther) Bilal Sunni Ali and other people in the band who had been politically active in different directions, and we felt as though we had a right to be that way," said Heron of being spied on by the then-Nixon Administration in an interview.
Pratt died a human rights activist in Arusha Tanzania on the continent of Africa, where he been living pretty much since his civil judgment. Before Johnnie Cochran's death he was quoted as saying that Pratt's case was the most important he ever had. Both he and Pratt leave blacks with more ruthless DAs and less Defense Attorneys hungry to defend blacks in trials.