For a brief time between the years 2010 and 2012, I had the privilege to correspond in writing with Omaha, Nebraska Political Prisoner Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (born David Rice), also known as Mondo we Langa or simply “Mondo” for short. Our correspondence led me to write a few articles in KUUMBAReport Newsletter about his case. During that period, I would occasionally be invited to Political Prisoner events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City to speak about Marshall “Eddie” Conway, another Veteran of the Black Panther Party as was Mondo, who was also serving a life sentence on what we believe to be trumped-up charges of murdering a police officer, this one in Baltimore, Maryland. I would make it a point to also discuss Mondo’s case as I talked about Eddie. Eddie Conway is now free, having been released from prison two years ago. But Mondo’s freedom would only come through an embrace by the Honored Ancestors.
My communication with Mondo broke off after a few years, an oversight which I had planned to correct later this year as my schedule became less hectic. But time waits for no one, especially not those of us who languish behind the walls of unjust imprisonment. The harsh reality of incarceration for one’s political organizing, under the guise of a trumped-up charge which any cursory review of the evidence would make clear, certainly makes such imprisonment all the more difficult to bear. Eventually, the body weakens, even when the spirit remains strong.
My failure to maintain my communication with Baba Mondo is now a sin – yes, a sin – which I will not have an opportunity to correct. Sadly, Mondo suffered respiratory failure on March 11, 2016 and has transitioned to the Ancestors. What follows is my feeble attempt to pay homage to his memory, with the aid of perhaps Mondo’s greatest champion in the press over the last several years.
Michael Richardson, journalist for the COINTELPRO Examiner (http://examiner.com) is the most prominent and perhaps the only journalist in the country to have consistently reported on the case of the men who came to be known as The Omaha Two over at least the last several years. Thus, it is no surprise that the bulk of the current information on the case of Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter has come from his articles, and there is much more on the Examiner web site than we could relate here. Mr. Richardson is to be saluted for his commitment to uncover the truth about the unjust prosecution of The Omaha Two, especially in light of recent revelations concerning admissions of former president Richard Nixon’s aide John Ehrlichman (http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks-hippie/index.html) about the use of the “drug war” and other fictitious or exaggerated crime statistics to unjustly criminalize Black and anti-war activists in the 1970s.
From Michael Richardson’s articles in The Examiner:
Mondo we Langa died on March 11 of respiratory failure at the Nebraska State Penitentiary where he had served forty-five years of a life sentence. Mondo and Edward Poindexter were convicted of the 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha policeman following a controversial April 1971 trial marred by a withheld FBI Laboratory report, tampered dynamite evidence by ATF, and false testimony by Omaha police and Duane Peak, the confessed bomber. The pair, later called the Omaha Two, had been targeted because they were leaders of Omaha’s chapter of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, a Black Panther affiliate group.
The Omaha Two were convicted after a controversial trial marred by a withheld FBI Laboratory report as a part of the infamous COINTELPRO operation. Additionally, the clothing of both Poindexter and Mondo turned up with dynamite particles, after the clothes were in custody of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division. ATF was engaged in an intense rivalry with the FBI for jurisdiction of bombing cases. A published photograph in the Omaha World-Herald of Mondo with his hands in his pockets disproves that dynamite particles were there at the time of his surrender. Mondo’s hands tested clean despite an allegedly dirty pocket. At the local police level two different detectives, Jack Swanson and Robert Pfeffer, have both claimed under oath to have found dynamite in Mondo’s basement, each one contradicting the other.
Mondo and Poindexter were leaders of Omaha’s affiliate chapter of the Black Panther Party called the National Committee to Combat Fascism. The two men were also named targets of the clandestine COINTELPRO counterintelligence operation conducted by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division was in a fierce rivalry with the FBI over the investigation of bombings and had also targeted Mondo and Poindexter under the so-called Midwest 22 investigation.
Mr. Richardson’s articles laid bare the instances of tampered evidence, withheld testimony and fabricated evidence against The Omaha Two. The Examiner article “Former governor condemned Nebraska justice in Omaha Two case” (http://www.examiner.com/article/former-governor-condemned-nebraska-justice-omaha-two-case) shared the accusations of former Nebraska governor Frank Morrison regarding police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case:
The late Frank Morrison, a former Nebraska governer, was appointed Douglas County Public Defender in Omaha in 1971. Three months into his new job, Morrison defended Edward Poindexter, a Black Panther leader, at a murder trial where Poindexter faced the electric chair. Poindexter and co-defendant Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, former David Rice, were charged with the bombing death of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr.
Morrison managed to keep his client out of the electric chair but failed to clear Poindexter of the charge. … However, what neither attorney nor client knew was that the evidence was tampered with in the case and that the two defendants, now known as the Omaha Two, were targets of a clandestine counterintelligence program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Morrison made a public apology to Ed Poindexter in 1997 for his handling of the case.
“As a citizen, a former prosecutor and Governor of this state, I abhor, detest and condemn the cowardly, cruel and unjustified murder of officer Minard. My heart aches for his family. The guilty parties should pay the penalty. The self-confessed murderer was turned loose after a slap on the wrist.”
“In my opinion, it is just as important for the state to protect the innocent as to prosecute the guilty. As Public Defender of Douglas County, it was my official duty to represent Ed Poindexter. He told me then that he was innocent of this crime, and I still believe him. We did not have the resources in the Public Defender’s office to get all of the facts in this case. … Racial feelings in North Omaha were rampant….It was impossible for them to get a fair trial. … I firmly believe that with adequate funds to investigate the case, I could have cleared both Rice and Poindexter in spite of the poisoned atmosphere created by racially inspired rhetoric. … I had been a prosecuting attorney, Governor, and Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. I was acquainted with many of our justice system’s shortcomings, but nothing brought it home to me like serving as Public Defender. In practice, there was no such thing as equality before the law.”
Frank Morrison went to his grave believing in the innocence of Ed Poindexter and considered the conviction of the Omaha Two as the lowest point of his professional career.
But Morrison was not the only prominent official whose investigation concluded that Mondo and Ed Poindexter were railroaded. In the article “Forensic expert suspected ATF tampering of evidence in Omaha Two case” (http://www.examiner.com/article/forensic-expert-suspected-atf-tampering-of-evidence-omaha-two-case), Fred Whitehurst, a retired FBI Laboratory supervisor, makes several shocking allegations:
Retired FBI Laboratory supervisor Fred Whitehurst provided professional consultation to the Nebraskans for Justice beginning in 1999. Whitehurst, a sixteen-year FBI veteran, was for a number of years the FBI Laboratory top explosives expert. Whitehurst turned his forensic investigative skills to the Omaha Two cases of Edward Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (former David Rice).
Whitehurst ended his career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1998 as a whistleblower against sloppy science at the FBI Laboratory. Whitehurst’s disclosures uncovered and reported scientific misconduct which forced the Bureau to adopt forty major reforms, including an accreditation process.
Whitehurst’s critique also impugns the involvement and conduct of ATF Agent Thomas Sledge, a former Omaha policeman, who was in charge of the evidence. Part of that evidence included dynamite particles that were allegedly found in the clothing of Mondo and Ed Poindexter, particles that Whitehurst is certain were planted.
Sledge also spearheaded the Midwest 22 investigation, a four-state conspiracy case the United States Attorney later ordered dropped. Seven of the witnesses at the Minard murder trial were also subjects of Sledge’s Midwest 22 investigation. Sledge’s brother, James Sledge, an Omaha patrolman, was injured at the scene of the Minard bombing.
“I am troubled by the fact…Thomas Sledge was allowed to conduct this investigation. It is not even short of outrageous,” wrote Whitehurst.
“There is mention of dynamite particles found. I still find that suspicious. The dynamite is in cartridges that don’t need to be opened ever except to punch a hole in them and stick a blasting cap in them. But there are dynamite particles in many places. This is not right. …Something doesn’t add up here unless that evidence was salted.”
Tributes for Mondo we Langa
Mr. Richardson also included tributes to Mondo from those who knew him. Indeed, his articles are a treasure trove of information on one if the United States’ longest-held Political Prisoners. A witness for Mondo ay his trial, Rae Ann Schmitz, not only believes in Mondo’s innocence but she also credits him with having been a positive influence on her life and the lives of many others (http://www.examiner.com/article/mondo-s-alibi-witness-wants-exoneration-for-former-black-panther-leader):
Rae Ann Schmitz, the alibi witness for Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, formerly David Rice, at his April 1971 murder trial, still stands by Mondo’s innocence and credits him with changing her life. Schmitz told the Scottsbuff Star Herald that she is certain that many people have been influenced by Mondo who died March 11 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Mondo was serving a life sentence for the 1970 murder of an Omaha policeman.
“He was in a place where he could affect people in a very profound way….I think there were hundreds of people positively affected by his life behind those walls,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz was Mondo we Langa’s alibi witness for a bombing murder that claimed the life of Larry Minard, Sr. However, Schmitz was also an alibi witness for Mondo when he was supposed to have met with fifteen year-old Duane Peak to give him the bomb.
David Herzog, Mondo’s defense lawyer, failed to question her regarding the alleged meeting between Mondo and Peak, and also failed to adequately question Peak on inconsistencies in his testimony.
Mondo raised the issue of ineffective assistance by counsel in a recent appeal. An Omaha judge tossed out Mondo’s appeal, in part, because Mondo purportedly did not allege his innocence properly in the appeal. The Nebraska Supreme Court then dismissed Mondo’s appeal without bothering to issue a written opinion explaining the decision.
Schmitz told the Scottsbluff newspaper, “People don’t want to believe that our justice system is so [messed] up.”
Pete O’Neal, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in Kanssas City who is now living in self-imposed exile in Tanzania, commented on Mondo’s passing for The Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/article/exiled-black-panther-pete-o-neal-on-waposhitwe-mondo-eyen-we-langa):
“The passing of brother Mondo we Langa was shocking and disturbing, I think most of us imagined and looked forward to the day when he and Poindexter would walk out of the prison in which they have been unjustly held for more than four decades. … When I recall the many visits both brothers made to Kansas City an image comes to mind of two strong young men, totally committed to our struggle, I recall their participating in our community programs and never flinching from the heavy workload that all the members of the Kansas City chapter were required to perform, they were involved in our political education classes and never hesitated to criticize where criticism was needed. Mondo and Poindexter were an inspiration to us all and most importantly they continue to inspire by the manner in which they held fast to their principles and convictions. … I recently saw current photos of these political prisoners and it was obvious the toll these many years of inhuman imprisonment had taken on their physical bodies, but at the same time I noticed with admiration that the fire of righteous conviction was still in their eyes.”
“Mondo is free. He has slipped his bonds and embraced a well deserved freedom, and in doing so I like to believe he left us with a challenge, a challenge to redouble our efforts to free Poindexter and all political prisoners. … What a great testament to his life and struggle it would be if brother Poindexter were to walk free from the gates of confinement into the welcoming arms of his family and comrades. … Mondo we Langa lives! Free all political prisoners. Free them all!”
Amnesty International investigator Claus Walishewski also made statements concerning Mondo’s life and the unjust prosecution of Mondo and Ed Poindexter (http://www.examiner.com/article/amnesty-international-investigator-on-wopashitwe-mondo-eyen-we-langa-s-death).
A German investigator, Claus Walischewski, was assigned the case. Walischewski and his team studied the case for two years before concluding Mondo and Ed Poindeter were political prisoners: “The cooperation with the FBI, the FBI’s own activities, the promise of leniency to Peak, even evidence—all these were kept secret at the trial. The key witnesses disappears after the trial. There is only one conclusion to these peculiarities: Rice and Poindexter were readily implicated with a murder because they were the most prominent political activists in Omaha and had to be silenced.”
“They became victim of a frame-up by the police and the FBI and of the racial and political biases in court. Mr. Kingman Brewster, President of Yale University, stated in 1970 that he was ‘skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States’,” wrote Walischewski.
The Amnesty International work group stated their opinion: “David Rice and Ed Poindexter are political prisoners. They were sentenced for a crime they didn’t commit because of their radical political beliefs. … The murder of patrolman Minard appeared to be a welcome pretext to incriminate the two activists and strike a blow against the NCCF from which it couldn’t recover. The legal system was misused and they were unjustly convicted.”
Forty-five years later, Claus Walischewski still believes in Mondo’s innocence. Walischewski commented on Mondo’s recent death at the Nebraska State Penitentiary: “I just want to express my shock and disbelief when I learned of Mondo’s death….I had heard that Mondo’s health problems had worsened but I had no idea how serious they were, that’s why the news of his death took me by surprise.”
“I deeply deplore the fact that he had to spend most of his life in prison for a crime I believe he didn’t commit. He was born the same year as I and that makes it the more horrendous to me: so many years confined in prison, such injustice, no chance of living a normal life – how could he endure all this? Amnesty International took on his case in 1977 and only one year later I joined AI and started working on this case. In the 1990s I went to Nebraska and Minnesota and had a chance to meet Mondo and Ed in prison and thus developed a more personal commitment to their case. Numerous letters I wrote on their behalf – to no avail,” complained Walischewski.
“It makes me sad to know how harshly the US legal and political system deals with supposed enemies and is rarely willing to make up for injustices and manipulations that victims of racism have suffered. Another precious life spent! Can we hope that one day Mondo will be rehabilitated and cleared of the crime? That is still important, not only for Ed Poindexter, but also for Mondo’s relatives and friends and for all US citizens and people around the world like me who want justice to prevail.”
Mr. Richardson also has transcripts of interviews with Mondo on the Examiner website (http://www.examiner.com/article/prison-interviews-with-wopashitwe-mondo-eyen-we-langa).
Finally, the New York Jericho Movement, along with Mr. Richardson, have shared what is considered the last poem of Mondo we Langa:
The Last Poem of Political Prisoner Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa
Michael Richardson, March 13, 2016
Political prisoner Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (former David Rice) died March 11 at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary. Mondo suffered from respiratory failure after forty-five long years in prison for a crime he denied, the murder of an Omaha policeman.
Mondo had been targeted, along with fellow inmate Edward Poindexter, by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, because of affiliation with the Black Panther Party. Convicted after a controversial trial in 1971 that was marred by withheld evidence by the FBI, tampered evidence by ATF, and conflicting police testimony, the men became known as the Omaha Two.
Mondo stayed engaged in the outside world commenting on current events with essays and poetry. Two weeks before his death, Mondo mailed out a poem entitled “When It Gets To This Point” about shootings of unarmed black men around the country. Mondo’s last poem follows:
I had never heard of him
had never heard of anything he’d done before
the news of his death came
whoever he might have become
whatever he might have achieved
had he lived longer
not been riddled lifeless by
bullets from Darren Wilson’s gun
and crumpled on the pavement of a ferguson street
for more than four hours in
the heat of that august day
I’d never known of Trayvon Martin
had known nothing of who he was
until I learned of his demise
and cause of death
a bullet to the chest
George Zimmerman, the shooter
a badge-less, pretend police
with a pistol
and fear of the darkness
and after a while
the pictures, the names,
like so much colored laundry in the wash
that bleeds on whites
was it Eric Garner or Tamir Rice
who was twelve but seen as twenty
Hulk Hogan or The Hulk
with demonic eyes it was said
who shrank the cop in ferguson
into a five-year-old who
had to shoot
and John Crawford the third
in a walmart store aisle
an air rifle in his hands he’d picked up
from the shelf
and held in the open
in an open-carry state
was it John or someone else
killed supposedly by mistake
in a dark stairwell
I know Akai Gurley fell
I hadn’t heard of him before
nor of Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell
prior to their killings
which of these two took slugs in the greater number
I don’t recall
my memory is too encumbered
with the names
of so many before and since
the frequent news reports of
and duplicitous presentations by “experts in the field”
the consultants put out front
to explain away
that which is so often plain as day
to coax and convince us that we’re the ones
who can’s see straight and
can’t hear clearly
who are the ones replacing facts with spin
to mislead and mystify
as the beatings and the chokings and shootings
of our boys and men
by these wrong arms of the law
proceed in orderly fashion
before the sometimes sad
sometimes angry faces of
Rest in Power Baba Mondo. I wish I had stayed in closer contact with you over the last several years. I hope that what I and others do from this time forward can in some small way truly honor your memory and the memory of all those who have unjustly passed on to the Ancestors in the captivity of this oppressive judicial system.