Four years ago we published an article Bill wrote after being denied parole. One of the reasons they listed for denying Bill parole back in 2014 was due to the fact that he maintains ties with anarchist individuals and anarchist organizations. Since that hearing where they did give him a 15 year “hit” (meaning he won’t be reconsidered for parole until 2029) he still gets what is referred to as statutory interim hearings every two years. At these interim hearings the best possible outcome could be that they reconsider the 15 year hit and give him a parole hearing before 2029. He has had two interim hearings so far since receiving the 15 year hit and after both he was denied the possibility of reconsideration. Over four years later they are still punishing Bill for simply maintaining connections with anarchists or anarchist organizations. Here is an article Bill wrote after most recently being denied reconsideration-
The U.S. Parole Commission Just Says No
On Wednesday, 1 May 2019, I attended a statutory interim hearing before U.S. Parole Commission Hearing Examiner [FNU] Asbury. Also, in attendance was my U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Case Manager. Melissa Lawrence. This hearing was more than four months late, for which Ms. Asbury blamed Trump’s government shutdown (though that didn’t stop at least one hearing examiner from coming out here to conduct hearings five months ago). The main topics of discussion at the hearing were: my presence on political, and particularly anarchist, web sites and the continued failure/refusal of the commission to provide documentation for its giving me a 15 year “ hit “ ( postponement of a full reconsideration hearing as opposed to an interim hearing covering only the period since the last hearing) for that reason in 2014; an incident report for fighting in 2017; codefendant disparity; and the elevation of my offense behavior severity category. We also discussed my participation in various recreational and educational programs and my work as a GED tutor.
As a result of my 5 November 2014 reconsideration hearing, Hearing Examiner Scott Kubic recommended, and the commission adopted the recommendation, that I be denied parole and the next full reconsideration of my case be put off until November of 2029. The rationale of this action included, according to the Notice of “ Action, that “ the Commission finds your continued association and affiliation with anarchist organizations is evidence you still harbor anti-authoritarian views that are not compatible with the welfare of society or with the conditions of parole”. Mr. Kubic assured me at the hearing that I would get the documents on which he (and, later, the commission) relied for this claim. Despite repeated requests, I was never provided any such documents because there are none. Maybe that’s why I was not on the docket for a timely hearing here the last time the commission visited: Mr. Kubic was the examiner for that docket. Being associated with, affiliated with, or an anarchist is not necessarily (there are right wing anarchists out there) “not compatible with the welfare of society or [even] the conditions of parole”.
For that reason, I have been asking and asked again at the recent interim hearing where the documentation is. The proposition that association or affiliation with anarchist organizations is somehow inherently contrary to the welfare of society needs further explanation because it is facially counterfactual. I would argue precisely the opposite! Ms. Asbury whipped out a one-page printout of what appeared to be an approximately 10-year-old picture alongside some text. She said, “You’re not hard to find out there. This popped up on my first try.“ She read a line about my being a political prisoner but would not let me have a copy or read it more closely than when she flashed it. “So what?” says I. “Does it attribute to me anything illegal?” She said it did not, which left hanging what was wrong with my appearance in it. She told me to file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request if I wanted it. I said the content was important to defending against the allegation, and illustrated the point with jihadi vs. mainstream Muslim websites where both objectionable and salutary content may appear under the same rubric (even though I support no religion). Without the content, I could not – then nor previously – distinguish threatening material from the protected conduct/opinion/thought expressed in the material the commission alleges is the basis for concluding my anarchist connections warrant denial of parole. But Ms. Asbury said the commission has already addressed that issue in its denial of my 2014 appeal.
The second thing Ms. Asbury was exercised about was an incident report (infraction) I was given for fighting a couple years earlier. According to the infraction, a guy (to whom I’d never spoken and did not know) punched me in the nose without provocation (on camera!), and we adjourned to the bathroom (no camera!!) to address the issue that raised. The reporting employee wrote that when he entered the bathroom, he saw us “hugging “. The DHO didn’t think we were just making up, and he avoided having to dismiss the incident report on technical grounds with sleight of paperwork. We were found guilty, dude was released to population, and I was shipped, inverting the usual practice. Ms. Asbury said the commission relied on the DHO findings in such cases, so that is another issue for the court. I, in fact, want to litigate the incident report, not only for the improper finding, but also because the BOP keeps such negative records forever, but only keeps positive records like good work reports or grades for 18 months.
I also reraised the issue of codefendant disparity. Ms. Asbury (as did Hearing Examiner Mark Tanner at my previous hearing) said we were not there to discuss that issue because the commission had already “spoken” on it in its denial of my 2014 appeal of the new 15-year hit. I protested that no, it hadn’t, because the only reasons it has given for the now 15-year disparity (I’m not entitled to an identical release date and no infractions versus infractions) do not explain it. Plus, it is now two years greater. It appears the commission made my codefendant do about 200 months for his role in the offense and, according to the commission’s own guidelines, all my infractions are worth about 100 months. That would argue for a release date in the 300-month range. But even by the BOP’s count, I already have around 400 months served. Well, Ms. Asbury insisted on dodging the issue.
She also ducked on the same grounds the related offense severity issue. For 14 years my “offense behavior” had been rated at “Category Seven severity”. Then, in 2014, the commission raised it to category eight, the highest, which has no upper guidelines by so much and without explanation. My upper category seven guideline, infractions included, passed in 2006. The commission did two things wrong in raising my offense severity: it conflated vicarious liability and offense behavior; and it mischaracterized the wounding of a cop during an offense as attempted murder where the state had found only assault. But the hearing examiner wasn’t hearing any of that.
We also discussed at the hearing what the commission views as positive things I’ve done over the last two years. These included participating in various educational and recreational programs, working as a GED tutor, ad helping other prisoners with their paperwork. To my surprise, my BOP case manager saw all of that in a favorable light and did not interject anything bad. I tried to get a recommendation from the commission that I be permitted to participate in the electrical apprenticeship program. The BOP is denying me access to the apprenticeship programs on the allegation I am an escape risk (which would not enjoy club fed’s hospitality?), even though I don’t meet the escape risk criteria in the only program statement (BOP policy) to address the issue. But the commission don’t play that, Ms. Asbury said, not even a recommendation.
When Ms. Asbury got tired of evading the things, I was trying to make a record on, she announced she was ready to make her recommendation to the commission, as if she hadn’t been when I walked in. Her recommendation was that there be no change in the 2029 reconsideration date due the infraction and the disinformation that anarchist associations/affiliations were contrary to the welfare of society. The other fighting charge I received, in 2000, only warranted 0-2 months added to my parole guidelines range. Ms. Asbury apparently tried to avoid making the anarchist association/affiliation charge too explicit on the record by saying, “the infraction and this”, pulling the folder into which she’d slipped the screen print of me on a web site forward and putting her finger on it, in stating her reasons. I don’t recall her mentioning what it was when she pulled it out, either. I didn’t catch it at the time, but still think the issue is sufficiently recorded as an illegitimate basis of the action against me.
I didn’t really expect favorable action from the commission, notwithstanding the favorable treatment of a few political prisoners in the last few years. But I did get another opportunity to resist my own oppression in court on the basis that I was denied parole (again) for improper reasons. I will challenge the codefendant disparity and increased offense behavior severity and disciplinary charge. More importantly, I will challenge the denial of parole to any extent for political reasons. Fill in the blank the U.S. Parole Commission here filled in with “anarchist” with any other “-ist” displeasing to the apparatus of oppression and its imperial capitalist owners, and it is clearly an attack not only on political prisoners. It is also an attack on people outside whose consciousness compels them to struggle for the most equitable social reality and against the political use of the U.S. gulag archipelago to control their expression of that consciousness. Continuing and defending such struggle, however, is necessary push back against exploitation and oppression in all its myriad forms.
FCC Victorville FCI-1
28 May 2019
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