Monday, 10 June 2013

Statement by Charlie Hinton for the 2013 Hugo Pinell Fundraiser

A statement by Charlie Hinton for Yogi before last summer's fundaiser for him:

June 10, 2013

One of the most politicizing episodes of my life was when I represented Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) in the San Quentin 6 Defense Committee in 1975-1976. It was the awakening event in helping me understand how prisons work in the politics and economy of this country.

Briefly, the SQ 6 trial grew out of the prison guard assassination of George Jackson, the world renowned author of Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye, on August  21, 1971, 2 days before his trial was supposed to start in SF, attended by journalists from all over the world. Along with Jackson, 2 other prisoners and 3 guards were killed, and 6 black and brown men were put on trial for their murders in Marin County, CA, a lily white and at the time, the 3rd wealthiest county in the United States.

I went to the trial, and saw the prisoners brought out in chains. It cost California taxpayers more than $2 million, and the 16-month trial was the longest in the state's history at the time. Of the six defendants, three were acquitted of all charges, and two others who were convicted have been released. Hugo is the last one of the six still in prison. He's served the 9 year sentence from the SQ 6 trial, but is still being held based on his original plea deal of 2 years to life, made when he was 19 years old.

He and I have corresponded for several years now, and i visited him in November, 2011, at Pelican Bay State Prison, a true hellhole. He's now been in prison for 49 years, 43 in solitary confinement, but he has a parole hearing this October. Keith Wattley of Uncommon Law, will represent Hugo, also known as Yogi Bear, at the hearing, and community supporters are going to have a benefit this Sunday to raise money for the appeal.

I'm writing to inform about Yogi's case and to encourage you to send a donation to:

Uncommon Law
220 4th Street, Suite 103,
Oakland, CA 94607

Here's Hugo's website: [this site will point to this new Campaign-website]

Here's an interview that Kiilu Nyasha did recently with Atty. Wattley about Pinell's case and the CA prison system.

(NOTE: the sound doesn't work for the first 8 minute video, but comes on with the interview that follows)
Here's a letter to the editor i've sent to the SF Chron, LA Times, Sacramento Bee, SJ Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, and Fresno Bee:

To the Editor:

Hugo Pinell is the last of the San Quentin 6 (the case that arose from the George Jackson murder in 1971) still in prison. He’s been held in solitary confinement, now at Pelican Bay, for 43 years - 23 hours a day in a cell smaller than many bathrooms. He can’t hug his mother, make a phone call, or see sunlight. Ever. He’s been eligible for parole since 1985, and has a completely clean record since 1983.

I write and visit Hugo, who is 8 days older than me. When I was 19, I was a sophomore in college. When he was 19, he went to prison on a plea deal of 2 years to life, under which he’s still held.

What does California gain by keeping this 68 year-old man locked up in a tiny cell all these years at a cost to taxpayers of over $3 million? He has another parole hearing in October. Under Proposition 9, the board can deny him for up to 15 years, when he would be 83. As federal courts force California to reduce overcrowding, I urge the Parole Board to release Hugo Pinell, and bring him home to his family and friends.

Charlie Hinton

And here are the haiku i wrote after my visit to Pelican Bay, with a word of explanation about the term "Hombre nuevo", which in Spanish means the "new man" or "new person." Hugo is Nicaraguan, and the term came out of the Sandinista revolution of the 1970's whose goal was to create a politicized and aware "Hombre nuevo." This, combined with the politicization Hugo received through George Jackson and the revolutionary prisoner's movement, indeed makes Yogi the "Hombre nuevo":

Haiku for Hugo in Prison

How spell inhuman?
Pelican Bay State Prison
Concentration camp

Locked in tiny cell
Twenty three hours a day
Never see sunlight

Cold, mechanical
Not one thing green or growing
Pelican Bay hell

Señor Yogi Bear
Amigo compañero
Hombre nuevo

Thanks for your kind attention,