[Politech] Update on Sherman Austin's prison stay from his girlfriend

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Wed Sep 24 2003 - 23:25:51 PDT

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    [I believe herstory 17 is Sherman's girlfriend. Previous Politech message, 
    which included Sen. Feinstein's statement: 
    http://www.politechbot.com/p-05067.html --Declan]
    From: "herstory17" <herstory17@private>
    To: <declan@private>
    Subject: Important Update on Sherman Austin !
    Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 23:23:53 -0700
    Currently Sherman is being held at the Oklahoma City Transfer Prison
    awaiting to be moved possibly to Tucson, Arizona Prison. He's currently in a
    section known as segregation or the hole on 23 hour lockdown with no contact
    to other inmates, restricted phone calls, no commissary, and no sending or
    receiving letters. He's been in the hole since Sept 15, 2003. He is only
    allowed to call out once every 30 days, until he is transfered.
    We are still in great need of donations and a lawyer. We really need someone
    to help us get in contact with him. They will not allow the family or anyone
    to talk to him for the time being. They will only allow lawyers to talk to
    him. If you would like to help, please contact Jennifer Martin (shermans
    mother) @  Jmi46@private
    The following is a a short thank to individuals that havehelped out, and
    then a Press Release
    in Response to Diane Feintein (which you can find at the end of this
    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, www.freesherman.org will be up
    and running.
    That site will include the letter with a list of signatures, updates on
    Sherman's legal situation,
    links to information, and ways to get involved. In the meantime, if
    you would like your name to appear on the PUBLIC letter of support, please
    send a message to ahurley@private  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
    Here it is:
      "The events reported in the statement below are deeply troubling.  Sherman
    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.  Shermanıs 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
    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,² 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
    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,² 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 ³dismay² that prosecutors had not pursued the ³bombmaking² law
    ³aggressively² enough as a ³tool in fighting terrorism.²  We ask, why is it
    that a nonviolent twenty year-old, someone whom the California Department of
    Corrections Senior Staff Psychologist determined ³does not represent a risk
    to society whatsoever² and described as ³a very, very peaceful,
    mild-mannered² 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 motherıs 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 Shermanıs 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 Shermanıs case would serve as a deterrent to other activists and
    ³revolutionaries² 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 ³intent²
    invoked in Shermanıs case had we offered free-hosting website space that the
    author of the ³Reclaim Guide² 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 ³is 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.
    Michael Albert
    Z Magazine and Znet
    Antonio Austin
    artist and writer
    Melanie Austin
    Rachel Austin
    graphic artist
    Shermane Austin, Ph.D
    Associate Professor, Computer Science
    Medgar Evers College
    The City University of New York
    Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.
    Director, Office of the Americas
    Margaret B. Carey
    Attorney at Law
    Denver, CO
    Alison Chubb, Ph.D.
    Biologist and videographer
    Redwood City, CA
    Nicholas De Genova
    Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Latina/o Studies
    Columbia University
    Zack de la Rocha
    Folk This!
    James Fujii
    Associate Professor of Japanese Literature
    University of California, Irvine
    Paul George
    Director, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center
    Palo Alto, CA
    Theodore Harris
    Philadelphia, PA
    Patricia Hartz, Ph.D.
    University of California, Irvine
    Julie Hoigaard, Ph.D.
    Social Science
    University of California, Irvine
    Adrienne Carey Hurley, Ph.D.
    Stanford Institute for International Studies
    Ramsey Kanaan
    AK Press
    Roger Linn
    Roger Linn Designs
    Josh Lofthouse
    Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
    Futoshi Nakagawa
    Tokyo, Japan
    Anahita New (U.K. National)
    Bangkok, Thailand
    David Remer
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Jennifer Martin Ruggiero
    Teacher of Computer Science & Imaging
    Stephen Ruoss, M.D.
    Associate Professor
    Stanford Medical School
    Carla Williams
    writer and artist
    Oakland, CA
    Deborah Willis-Kennedy
    Professor of Photography & Imaging
    Tisch School of the Arts
    New York University
    Armando Yañez
    San Jose, CA
    Prof. Howard Zinn
    The following is Feinsteins Letter
     >   Wednesday, September 3, 2003
     >   http://feinstein.senate.gov
     >>   Senator Feinstein Urges Department of Justice to
     >   Aggressively Enforce Bombmaking Statute
     >   First person prosecuted under law
     >   is scheduled to be taken into custody tomorrow
     >               Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
     > has called upon the Department of Justice to aggressively
     > enforce a law that makes it illegal to distribute
     > information with the knowledge or intent that the
     > information will be used to commit a violent federal crime.
     >               This statute, which was established through legislation
     > sponsored by Senator Feinstein in 1997, was recently applied
     > for the first time in a case against Sherman Austin, an
     > anarchist who put links to bombmaking information on his
     > website.  Austin, who is scheduled to surrender to U.S.
     > Marshals tomorrow, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, a
     > $2000 fine, three years of probation, as well as other
     > restrictions.
     >               In this case, according to press reports, the federal
     > prosecutor reached two separate plea agreements with Austin,
     > but the presiding judge threw out the initial pleas, saying
     > that they were insufficient and that the government was not
     > taking the crime "seriously" enough.
     >               In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senator
     > Feinstein wrote: "I was pleased to learn recently that
     > Sherman Austin was sentenced earlier this month in federal
     > court in Los Angeles for violating 18 U.S.C. 842(p), a law I
     > authored mandating up to 20 years in prison for anyone who
     > distributes information knowing or intending that
     > the information will be used for a violent federal crime.
     > However, Thus, I write to request your assistance
     > in ensuring that DOJ personnel know about section 842(p) and
     > are aggressively enforcing it.
     >               A few weeks ago, because of Mr. Austin's admitted violation
     > of section 842(p), U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson
     > sentenced him to 12 months of custody, a $2000 fine, three
     > years probation, and as well as other restrictions.
     > However, I was dismayed to learn that Judge Wilson imposed
     > this sentence only after throwing out two previous plea
     > agreements reached with Mr. Austin as too lenient.  The
     > first plea agreement gave Mr. Austin one month in prison
     > followed by five months in a halfway house and the second
     > agreement gave him four months custody and four months in a
     > halfway house.
     >               According to press reports, Judge Wilson stated at a hearing
     > on the second plea agreement that, while the Austin case had
     > 'national and international implications,' the government
     > was not taking it 'seriously' and that in fact the plea
     > agreement was 'shocking.'  Subsequently, upon learning that
     > the plea agreement had not been cleared by top DOJ
     > officials, the judge asked the prosecutor to contact Main
     > Justice as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller and solicit
     > their views on the matter.
     >               In my view-and apparently the view of at least one federal
     > judge-the Department of Justice needs to do a better job
     > making prosecutors aware of section 842(p) and ensuring that
     > they take the law seriously.  It is dismaying that there has
     > only been one conviction under section 842(p) in the four
     > years that the law has been on the books and that, once that
     > conviction was obtained, a federal judge described the final
     > recommended plea bargain for the convicted individual as
     > 'shocking' in its leniency.  Moreover, I was also disturbed
     > to read that Mr. Austin, in an interview after his
     > sentencing, stated that 'The fact that bomb-making
     > information is readily available on the Internet doesn't
     > concern the feds. If someone were to use a bomb to do
     > something illegal, there's plenty of information out
     > there..'
     >               Last May, I met with then Deputy Assistant Attorney General
     > Alice Fisher and FBI Director Robert Mueller.  Both Ms.
     > Fisher and Director Mueller assured me that they would
     > arrange for widespread distribution of information about
     > section 842(p) within their respective agencies.  A month
     > later, Director Mueller informed me that the FBI had sent an
     > electronic communication to all field offices encouraging
     > awareness and enforcement of section 842(p).  However, I
     > never received word that the DOJ Criminal Division had
     > issued any similar communication.
     >               Section 842(p) should be an important tool in fighting
     > terrorism but, unfortunately, it has been little used.  I
     > would greatly appreciate your assistance in getting the word
     > out to all to all appropriate components of the Department Section 842(p)
    should be an important tool in fighting  terrorism   but, unfortunately, it
    has been little used.  I would greatly appreciate   your assistance in
    getting the word out to all to all appropriate
      components of the Department of Justice about this statute."
    From: "Bodhi Man" <bodhiman@private>
    To: declan@private
    Cc: jya@private
    Subject: Zach De La Rocha/ Rage Against The Machine  speaks on RAISETHEFIST.COM
    Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 10:38:06 +0000
    Zach De La Rocha, former frontman for the rock band Rage Against The 
    Machine appeared at a rally/benefit concert at the University of 
    California, San Diego (UCSD) on August 29, 2003 for the embattled webmaster 
    of the RAISETHEFIST.COM website, Sherman Austin.  De La Rocha and his 
    bandmates were known throughout the 90's for their angry, controversial 
    lyrics and their support for equally angry and controversial social or 
    political causes. A concert featuring local bands packed UCSD's collective 
    The Che Cafe (Appropriately named after revolutionary Che Guevara) to 
    capacity.  As a result of this benefit show, Sherman Austin was able to pay 
    off legal fines resulting from his case. Austin surrendered to federal 
    custody one week later where he will serve a one year term.
    Attached are links to the Audio file of Zach commenting on the persecution 
    of Sherman Austin and his reading of two relevant poems.
    Narrative on the show:
    other relevant items:
    Stanford University Professor reponds to feinstain comments on Sherman 
    Austin's sentencing
    Feinsteins press release can be seen here:
    (Thanks to Sherman's Girlfriend for providing this information)
    From: "Thomas Leavitt" <thomasleavitt@private>
    To: <declan@private>
    References: <>
    Subject: Re: Update on Raisethefist.com creator Sherman Austin, now in  prison
    Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 07:33:57 -0700
    Organization: B40
    MIME-Version: 1.0
    Content-Type: text/plain;
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    X-Priority: 3
    X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
    [expletive deleted] Feinstein
    What happened to this kid is just total bullshit!
    This is a despicable and absurd law, promulgated by a despicable and absurd
    If I'm employed when Feinstein comes up for re-election, I'm going to donate
    $1000 to the
    Green Party candidate, and $100 to the Libertarian candidate and the Peace
    and Freedom
    Party candidates running against her! I'd sooner cut off my hand than vote
    for her at this
    Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 10:28:26 -0700
    From: "Major Variola (ret.)"
    To: declan@private, cypherpunks@private
    Subject: raisethefist conviction
    Note that http://www.animalliberation.net/library/publications.html
    has info on arson devices.  Interesting that the feds picked on
    Sherman Austin.
    Should these docs be pulled we're sure they'll be mirrored, of course.
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