Thursday, 27 May 2004

"I am an old man and I am just speaking feebly and not too well"

Transcript of Proceedings
United States of America vs. February 14, 1970

The Court: The Court now has the responsibility of dealing appropriately with the contemptuous conduct that has pervaded this trial from the very beginning….

Knowingly and deliberately, I find that these defendants and their lawyers have committed numerous acts which have evidenced a total disregard for the proper conduct of my trial….

The Court has withstood continual and repeated insults and interruptions from the defendants and their counsel during the course of the trial….

I will specify here the instances of conduct of record which I consider to have been contemptuous, but I also make the entire record of the case of United States of America vs. David T. Dellinger, et al., 69 CR 180, a part of this [contempt] proceeding….

I will first consider the conduct of the defendant David Dellinger.

Specification 1:…

Specification 32:…

The Court has concluded its reading of the record in respect to the defendant Dellinger. The Court finds the defendant Dellinger guilty of direct contempt of court committed in the presence of the Court with respect to the … specifications enumerated by the Court in reading from the record…. Specification No. 1, the defendant will be committed — by the way, does counsel for Dellinger want to be heard before sentence is imposed?

Mr. Kunstler [defense counsel William M. Kunstler]: Your honor, I have a legal argument on the power of the Court after trial and I would present the legal argument.

The Court: After trial —

Mr. Kunstler: — to judge summary contempt after trial.

The Court: I am giving you the opportunity to be heard in respect to sentence. That is all now.

Mr. Kunstler: Well, your Honor, there is — … I think your Honor is sitting in judgement in a [contempt] case in which you are personally involved and that the rules of criminal procedure … preclude your doing that.

So I think your Honor is acting without jurisdiction and should refer this matter on notice and hearing to another judge for a proper jury trial in this case.

The Court: I do not share your view. Mr. Dellinger, do you care to say anything?

Mr. Dellinger: Yes.

The Court: Not a legal argument.

Mr. Dellinger: No. I want to make a statement on the context —

The Court: Only in respect to punishment. I will hear you.

Mr. Dellinger: Yes, I think it all relates — and I hope you will do me the courtesy not to interrupt me while I am talking.

The Court: I won’t interrupt you as long as you are respectful.

Mr. Dellinger: Well, I will talk about the facts and the facts don’t always encourage false respect.

Now I want to point out first of all that the first two contempts cited againt me concerned, one, the moratorium action and, secondly, support of Bobby Seale — the war against Vietnam, the aggression against Vietnam, and racism in this country, the two issues that this country refuses to solve, refuses to take seriously.

The Court: I hope you will excuse me, sir. You are not speaking strictly to what I gave you the privilege of speaking to. I ask you to say what you want to say in respect to punishment.

Mr. Dellinger: I think this relates to the punishment.

The Court: Get to the subject of punishment and I will be glad to hear you. I don’t want you to talk politics.

Mr. Dellinger: You see, that’s one of the reasons I have needed to stand up and speak anyway, because you have tried to keep what you call politics, which means the truth, out of this courtroom, just as the prosecution has.

The Court: I will ask you to sit down.

Mr. Dellinger: Therefore it is necessary —

The Court: I won’t let you go on any further.

Mr. Dellinger: You want us to be like good Germans supporting the evils of our decade and then when we refused to be good Germans and came to Chicago and demonstrated, despite the threats and intimidations of the establishment, now you want us to be like good Jews, going quietly and politely to the concentration camps while you and this Court suppress freedom and the truth. And the fact is that I am not prepared to do that. You want us to stay in our place like black people were supposed to stay in their place —

The Court: Mr. Marshall, I will ask you to have Mr. Dellinger sit down.

Mr. Dellinger: — like poor people were supposed to stay in their place, like women are supposed to stay in their place —

The Court: I will ask you to sit down.

Mr. Dellinger: Like children are supposed to stay in their place, like lawyers — for whom I thank — I thank you — are supposed to stay in their places.

It is a travesty on justice and if you had any sense at all you would know that that record that you read condemns you and not us.

The Court: All right.

Mr. Dellinger: And it will be one of thousands and thousands of rallying points for a new generation of Americans who will not put up with tyranny, will not put up with a facade of democracy without the reality.

The Court: Mr. Marshall, will you please ask him to keep quiet.

The Marshall: Be quiet, Mr. Dellinger.

Mr. Dellinger: You take an hour to read the contempt citation, you have the power to send me away for years, but you will not even give me one tenth the time to speak what is relevant by my deserts and by history’s deserts as well. I sat here and heard that man [U.S. Attorney] Mr. Foran say evil, terrible dishonest things that even he could not believe in — I heard him say that and you expect me to be quiet and accept that without speaking up.

People no longer will be quiet. I am an old man and I am just speaking feebly and not too well, but I reflect the spirit that will echo —

The Court: Take him out —

Mr. Dellinger: — throughout the world —


Mr. Dellinger: — comes from my children who came yesterday —

(complete disorder in the courtroom)

Mr. Dellinger: Leave my daughter alone. Leave my daughter alone.

A Voice: Tyrants. Tyrants.

Mr. Jacques Levy: Leave her alone.

A Voice: Leave that girl alone

Mr. Kunstler: What are you doing to us, your Honor?

A Voice: Justice in the United States today.

A Voice: That’s what you have done, Judge Hoffman. That’s what you have done.

A Voice: That man up there. That man up there. It’s his fault.

Mr. Rubin [defendant Jerry Rubin]: Heil Hitler. Heil Hitler. Heil Hitler. Heil Hitler. I hope you’re satisfied.

A Voice: You mockie [?] Hitler.

Mr. Kunstler: My life has come to nothing. I am not anything any more. You destroyed me and everybody else. Put me in jail now, for God’s sakes, and get me out of this place….

A Voice: She’s not going to yell out.

A Voice: Leave her alone.

The Marshall: Will the press sit down?

A Voice: Get your fucking storm troopers out of here.

The Clerk: Be seated, please. Be seated.

The Marshall: All right, sit down. Have a seat.

Mr. Dellinger: Well, you preserved law and order here, Judge. The day will come when you’ll take every one of us.

Mr. Rubin: Heil Hitler. That’s how you should be greeted.

The Court: With respect to Specification No. 1, and all of the other specifications referred to by the Court this morning and now about to be referred to again, the Court finds the defendant Dellinger guilty of direct contempt in the presence of the Court. With respect to —

Mr. Dellinger: I don’t want to interrupt but there was one thing I wanted to say, namely, that the Court was in contempt of human life and dignity and truth and justice and if that’s the way the opunishment should be decided —

The Court: If you don’t, then don’t.

With respect to Specification 1, the Court commits the defendant Dellinger to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States for imprisonment for a period of six months.

With respect to Specification 2, the Court commits the defendant Dellinger…

With respect to Specification 32, the Court commits the defendant Dellinger to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States for imprisonment for a term of seven days.

Mr. Marshall, the marshalls will please remove Mr. Dellinger into custody. All of these sentences will run cumulatively and consecutively….

February 20, 1970

The Court: I now proceed with the imposition of sentence [for conspiring to cross state lines with the intent to incite to riot].

Mr Kunstler: Your Honor, we were not informed … that sentence would occur today.

The Court: There is no obligation of a Court to notify you of every step it takes.

Mr Kunstler: Well, it is wrong, your Honor, both morally and I think legally.

The Court: If you are telling me I am morally wrong in this case, you might add to your difficulty. Be careful of your language, sir. I know you don’t frighten very easily.

Mr Kunstler: The defendants had no way of knowing there are going to be sentences today. Their families are not even present, which would seem to me in common decency would be permitted.

The Court: … I deny your motion to defer sentencing.

Mr Kunstler: I think my other applications, your Honor, can await sentencing. I have several other applications.

The Court: All right, I will hear from you first then with respect to the defendant David T. Dellinger.

Mr Kunstler: Your Honor, I think for all of the defendants, Mr. Weinglass and I are going to make no statement. The defendants will speak for themselves.

The Court: All right. Mr. Dellinger, you have the right to speak in your own behalf.

Mr. Dellinger: I would like to make four brief points.

First, I think that every judge should be required to spend time in prison before sentencing other people there so that he might become aware of the degrading and anti-human conditions that persist not only in Cook County jail but in the prisons generally of this country.

In a sense, our movement, or the movement in which we play a very small part — much smaller than the government gives us credit for — has helped expose the injustice, the violence, the hypocrisy and illegality of American foreign policy, beginning most notably in 1967. In 1967 the American people as a whole, I think, began to become aware of the futility, the immorality and the illegality of American aggression in Vietnam.

The next year, 1968, at the Democratic Convention, the movement in which we — again — play a small part helped exposed to the American people the undemocratic nature of the electoral process in this country. We came to the convention not only objecting to the war and to racism, but believing in democracy and realizing that the present two-party system, the present convention system, the present methods of running the country are not democratic. We came here to ask that the country be returned to the people — the power of decision-making in the country.

The following year, largely 1969 but coming over into 1970, it seems to me that our movement has been subjected to the injustice, the bias, the authoritarian nature of the American judicial system. Let me say that like Mr. Kunstler I feel more compassion for you, sir, than I do hostility. I feel that as a judge you are a man who has had too much power over the lives of too many people for too many years. You have sentenced them to the degrading conditions that I’m talking about without being fully aware of what you are doing and undoubtedly feeling correct and righteous, as often happens when people do the most abominable things.

In 1970, I think that perhaps the American people will begin to discover something about the nature of the prison system, the system in which we are now confined and in which thousands of other political prisoners are confined. The Black Panthers have said that all black prisoners are political prisoners, and although it may be hard for people to understand, I think that all people in prison are political prisoners. They are in prison, most of them, because they have violated the property and power concepts of the society. The bank robber I talked to yesterday was only trying to get his in the ways he thought were open to him, just as bankers and businessmen profiteer and try to advance their own economic cause at the expense of their fellows. In a society in which one has to have education, “good family”, connections in order to rise to the top economically, it is not surprising if residents of a ghetto and members of the poor white working class and lower middle class often feel that the only way that they can get what everybody else is getting is to get it that way.

I do not think that the property system and the lack of economic egalitarianism in our society are justified in putting a strain on people, holding up the idea of self-advancement and then putting them away under conditions which, when the American people become enlightened, everybody will be ashamed of. I think it is impossible to think of the United States as being a civilized country when it has prisons such as those we are now confined in.

My second point is that whatever happens to us, however unjustified, will be slight compared to what has happened already to the Vietnamese people, to the black people in this country, to the so-called criminals with whom we are now spending our days in Cook County jail.

I have already lived longer than the normal life expectancy of a black person born when I was born — or born now. I have already lived longer — far longer, 20 years longer — than the normal life expectancy in the underdeveloped countries which this country is trying to profiteer from and keep under its domain and control. One of the main reasons for the war against Vietnam is to set an example to the people of the underdeveloped countries that they dare not fight for freedom and self-determination and democracy or else their children will be napalmed, their villages will be bombed and their citizens will be, if not killed, put in concentration camps.

Thirdly, I want to say that sending us to prison, any punishment the government can impose upon us, will not solve the problems that have gotten us into “trouble” with the government and the law in the first place; will not solve the problem of this country’s rampant racism; will not solve the problem of its economic injustice; will not solve the problem of its foreign policy and its attacks on the underdeveloped peoples of the world.

The people of this country managed to get rid of President Johnson, but they didn’t get rid of the war against Vietnam. They managed to get rid of General Westmoreland, but they didn’t get rid of the war. Similarly, the government can put us away, falsely thinking that we are some kind of magical leaders of the antiwar movement and the movement for racial equality in this country, but they will not kill the movement by doing that.

The government has misread the times in which we live. Just as there was a time when it was possible to keep black people in slavery and then it became impossible, so this country is growing out of the time when it is possible to keep young people, black people, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, antiwar people, people who believe in truth and justice and really believe in democracy, when it is going to be possible to keep them quiet or suppress them.

The government misread the Vietnamese people when it thought it could intimidate and terrorize and destroy them, and thus win them over and pacify them. It is similarly misreading the American people today as the war that began as a war against the Vietnamese people has become a war against the American people and against the American ideals of justice and democracy and freedom.

The government is bound to fail in its war against the American people just as it has failed in its war against the Vietnamese people.

Since the time when perhaps ten or fifteen thousand people came to Chicago to oppose having the issue of the war swept under the rug in a rigged convention in a city purged of demonstrations and protest, over ten thousand G.I.’s have been killed because of the government’s refusal to listen to what we and the others were saying. Perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand Vietnamese people have been wiped out needlessly in that time. For calling attention to that we have been brought up here in the dock and handled in this courtroom by Prosecutors Foran and Schultz in a manner that reminds me of Prosecutor Vyshinsky and the other Russian prosecutors in the time of the political purges in the Soviet Union in the thirties.

Finally, you yourself, for whom I was so happy to read in jail that Bill Kunstler had said he felt more compassion than anger: All the way through this, I have been ambivalent in my attitude towards you, because there is something spunky about you that one has to admire, however misguided and intolerant I believe you are. All the way through the trial, sort of without conscious effort, almost against my own will, I keep comparing you in my mind to George III of England. Perhaps because you are trying to hold back the tide of history, although you will not succeed; perhaps because you are trying to stem and forestall a second American Revolution which is in the cards, which will take place and which neither you nor Foran nor Schultz, nor any of the other people who are doing the dirty work for the Establishment, no matter how convinced they are in many cases of their righteousness in what they are doing — none of them will be able to stop.

Our movement is not very strong today. It is not united; it is not well organized. It is very confused and makes a lot of mistakes. But there is the beginning of an awakening in this country which has been going on for perhaps the last fifteen years, and it is an awakening that will not be denied. Tactics will change, people will err, people will die in the streets and die in prison, but I do not believe that this movement can be denied, because however falsely applied the American ideal was from the beginning, when it excluded black people and Indians and people without property, nonetheless there was a dream of justice and equality and freedom and brotherhood. I think that that dream is much closer to fulfillment today that has been at any other time in the history of this country.

I only wish that we were all not just more eloquent — I wish we were smarter, more dedicated, more united. I wish we could work together better. I wish we could reach out even to the Forans and the Schultzes and the Hoffman’s, and convince them of the necessity of this revolution.

That is why I said the other day that I don’t ever call human beings pigs, and that that was one of the numerous misquotes in my contempt citation. That is why I objected to being accused of having screamed in the courtroom or having been “obscene.”

It is an unreal world, typical of the isolation of the court, when the word “bullshit” is considered so obscene that it cannot be spoken among grown people; just as it is an unreality to say to the jury: “Don’t read the newspapers; don’t listen to the radio; don’t look at television; don’t discuss the case, even among yourselves.” As if somehow that would make them more sanitary and wise and would help resolve the deep problems that underlie the country.

I think that I shall sleep better and happier and with a greater sense of fulfillment in whatever jails I am in the next however many years, than if I had compromised, if I had pretended that the problems were any less real than they are, or if I had sat here passively in the courtroom while justice was being throttled and the truth was being denied.

I learned that when I spent three years in jail before. When I ended up in the hole and on a hunger strike for sixty-five days, I found out that there are no comforts, no luxuries, no honors, nothing that can compare with having a sense of one’s own integrity — not one’s infallibility, because I’ve continued to make mistakes from that day to this, but at least one’s knowledge that in his own life, in his own commitment, he is living up to the best that he knows.

I salute my brothers in Vietnam, in the ghetto, in the Women’s Liberation movement — all the people all over the world who are struggling to make true and real for all people the ideals on which this country was supposed to have been founded, but never, never has lived up to.

The Court: … I call on the Government to reply to the remarks of the defendants and each of them.

Mr. Foran: The Government has no comment on their remarks, your Honor. I think the evidence in this case speaks for itself.

The Court: Mr. Clerk, the defendant David T. Dellinger will be committed to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States or his authorized representative for imprisonment for a term of five years. Further, the defendant Dellinger will be fined the sum of five thousand dollars and costs of prosecution, the defendant to stand commiteed until the fine and costs have been paid….

Not only on the record in this case, covering a period of four months or longer, but from the remarks made by the defendants themselves here today, the Court finds that the defendants are clearly dangerous persons to be at large. Therefore the commitments here will be without bail.

Does the defense have any observations?

Mr. Kunstler: In conclusion, your Honor, speaking both for Mr. Weinglass [defense counsel Leonard Weinglass] and myself, we didn’t need to hear our clients speak today to understand how much they meant to us, but after listening to them a few minutes ago, we know that what they have said here has more meaning and will be longer remembered than any words said by us or by you.

We feel that if you could even begin to understand that simple fact, then their triumph would have been as overwhelming today as is our belief —

The Court: I gave you an opportunity to speak.

Mr. Kunstler: — as inevitable —

The Court: I gave you an opportunity to speak at the very beginning. You said counsel did not desire to speak.

Mr. Kunstler: Your Honor, couldn’t I say my last words without you cutting me off?

The Court: You said you didn’t want to speak.

Mr. Kunstler: Your Honor, I just said a moment ago that we had a concluding remark. Your Honor has succeeded perhaps, in sullying it, and I think that maybe that is the way the case should end, as it began.

Mr. Hoffman [defendant Abbie Hoffman]: We love our lawyers.

The Court: Mr. Marshall, the Court will be in recess.

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 27 May 2004, 22:15 (10:15 PM)
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