Larry Hoover in the Court of Justice

Revolutionary Worker #905, May 4, 1997

Federal authorities are pressing ahead with the trial of Larry Hoover--charging Hoover and 38 other people with "conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise." Despite the fact that Larry Hoover has been behind bars for 24 years, he is accused of directing a multimillion-dollar drug-dealing operation through the Chicago-based street organization known as the Gangster Disciples (GDs). The openly stated intention of the authorities is to convict Hoover of these conspiracy charges and then cut him off from the world for the rest of his life in a new federal "super-max" isolation unit.

Larry Hoover has been a target of the authorities for many years. He has already served 24 years of a 150 to 200 year sentence for a 1973 murder. He has been repeatedly denied parole--even though his alleged accomplice was released almost five years ago. In the 1970s, the authorities charged Larry Hoover with leading a major prison rebellion at Illinois' Pontiac prison. A significant campaign was waged supporting Hoover and the other "Pontiac Brothers," and the state was forced to drop the charges.

Soon after President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno entered office, the federal authorities decided to target Hoover and his associates in a high profile way. To manufacture their case, the federal authorities put together a massive "Operation Headache" that mobilized agents from the FBI, CIA, DEA, Illinois state prison guards and local police for five years. This federal task force has violated the rights of people in many ways.

Sinister Spy Tactics

To record conversations held by Larry Hoover, federal agents inserted tiny microphones, transmitters and paper-thin batteries into visitors' badges. Then prison guards at Illinois' Vienna Correctional Facility required people visiting Larry Hoover to wear these "hot passes" around their necks. The bodies of human beings were literally being bugged without their knowledge or consent. Hoover's legal team points out that this violates the system's own laws--which forbid using eavesdropping devices for a "general search." The badge spying at Vienna reportedly went on for at least six weeks--until someone uncovered this police trick and exposed the hidden microphones.

The law requires that tapes from electronic eavesdropping be sealed within 48 hours. But in this case the authorities did not seal these tapes for 32 days--plenty of time to electronically tamper with the evidence. For this reason alone, these tapes should be thrown out of court.

Wallace "Gator" Bradley, a supporter of Hoover and an activist against police brutality, argues that there is no reason to believe any of this tainted tape evidence. "They have sliced and diced and pieced conversations together... I saw the movie Forrest Gump, and I saw Tom Hanks shake hands with a dead president." The New York Times recently described how new computer software can easily piece together sounds to completely fabricate conversations.

Ragged Evidence, Selective Transcripts,
and Bribed Witnesses

The Hoover defense points out that the Vienna recordings are full of gaps and garbled sounds. Even federal Judge Lindberg admitted that he couldn't understand them. But then Lindberg admitted the tapes anyway, with the following argument: "The court comes to the conclusion that the main difficulty that these tapes present is a lack of familiarity with the lingo and the manner of communicating ideas by Black Americans as opposed to white Americans, if you will." Lindberg wrote that the tapes "suffer more from a translation problem and less significantly from an audibility problem." President Clinton and virtually everyone in the powerstructure have mocked the idea that Black people speak a distinct language. But when it serves a government frameup, this hypocritical legal system suddenly argues that Black people speak their own language that requires "translation"!

While federal authorities have made the tapes available to Larry Hoover's defense, they refuse to provide more than a few selected transcripts of the tapes--saying it would be too costly and time-consuming to transcribe the full 65 hours of tape. They spent a fortune to assemble this spy "evidence," but claim they can't afford to make it available for the defense or the jury in a readable form! The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals supported the federal plan to transcribe only four hours of selected snippets from the 65 hours of tape.

The federal authorities offered to greatly reduce prison sentences for potential witnesses if they would testify against Hoover. One federal witness, Ricky Harris, had a possible sentence of life-without-parole reduced to 71/2 to 15 years. Another key witness, Bertha Mosby, had charges of a possible life sentence reduced to 60 months in prison. Such testimony--based on bribes --cannot be taken as credible evidence.

In short, the "evidence" in this case has all the markings of a deliberate government frameup.

Using "War on Drugs" to Increase Police Powers

The federal authorities justify all they've done in this case by saying they are going after a "drug kingpin." They accuse the GDs of selling millions of dollars in drugs, using the drug business to grab for political power, and laundering money through grassroots groups. This is part of a whole federal pattern--where naked grabs for new police powers are justified as part of a "war on drugs."

Larry Hoover and his defense team deny all charges about running a "criminal conspiracy." They say that the Gangster Disciples have changed their name to "Growth and Development" to reflect a commitment to the Black community. People associated with Larry Hoover have played a role in 21st Century V.O.T.E.--an organization that has mobilized Black youth in Chicago to register voters, participate in local elections, and march in street protests against police brutality. And Hoover's supporters claim this is the kind of activity that "Operation Headache" is really designed to disrupt. The federal authorities started taping Hoover's visitors in the fall of 1993--at the same time as the GDs were involved in the National Gang/Nation Peace Summit.

On April 19, 1996, during the opening stages of the "Operation Headache" trials, Judge Brian Duff openly mentioned that President Clinton might use Hoover as a major campaign issue in the 1996 election. This suggests that federal agents may have cooked up the case against Larry Hoover so that President Clinton would have a high profile case to use during the 1996 election--to promote even more expansion of federal police powers.

Hoover is accused of running a national drug operation from inside state prisons which are run by Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, a front-runner for the vice presidential spot on Dole's ticket. Clinton may well have planned to use this Hoover trial, inflaming the political arena in a racist Willie Horton-type way, while portraying his Republican rivals as "soft on crime."

As it turned out, Edgar wasn't chosen as Dole's running mate and Hoover's trial did not become a national election issue. But this Hoover case is still being exploited to promote police powers. Chicago's Mayor Daley is taking advantage of the constant media coverage of "street gangs" to call for expanding police spying by the Chicago police. Such spying has been restricted by a 1981 federal consent decree, after it was exposed that Chicago's police kept files on hundreds of political organizations and activists. Mayor Daley has responded to scandals involving police drug dealing and corruption by arguing that Chicago police need their spy powers back--so they can infiltrate "street gangs" and spy on meetings with cameras and listening devices.

Who Are the Real Criminals?

One fact stands out around cases like "Operation Headache": This government has no credibility when it makes charges around drug-dealing. We don't support anyone accumulating power through the drug trade. And it is the U.S. government and its Central Intelligence Agency that has done this on a world scale. For 50 years, the CIA has run cocaine and heroin trade to finance secret wars and imperialist powergrabs.

The use and sale of addictive drugs, like cocaine and heroin, is harmful to the people's interests in many ways: It creates conflicts and violence among the people. It contributes to keeping the people enslaved and degraded. It makes it more difficult for the people to rise up against oppression. In short, the use and sale of drugs helps the enemies of the people. It plays into the hands of the system and the powers-that-be--which is why they directly and indirectly promote such use and sale of drugs.

But it is hypocritical for this government to claim that someone like Larry Hoover is the cause of the ghetto drug trade. The system and the powers-that-be have systematically denied the means to a decent life and livelihood to millions of people, especially youth, in the inner cities. And in many ways the system has actually encouraged and promoted the sale and use of harmful drugs. At the same time the government has waged war on these youth and others, increasingly subjecting them to various forms of police-state repression in the name of "war on drugs" and "war on crime."

We must fight against such vicious police-state repression. And we must fight to develop the ways for our youth and the masses of people to meet their basic needs and live with dignity--as part of building a movement to overcome the injustices that the people are subjected to under this system.


"Operation Headache" produced a frameup case completely dependent on tainted and suspicious "evidence." It would be dangerous if the authorities won a conviction using such extreme police-state tactics.

In addition, conspiracy cases like this one are unjust by their very nature: The authorities claim the right to imprison people for the alleged actions of others, simply because of what such a defendant supposedly said. And now in Larry Hoover's case, the authorities claim the legal right to completely isolate so-called "leaders of criminal conspiracies" from the world--imprisoning them under extreme conditions that amount to torture. This is unjust and dangerous for the people. A conviction on this case would develop legal precedents that could be used more broadly--including against revolutionary movements.

The tainted evidence against Larry Hoover should be thrown out of court. These frameup charges should be dropped.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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