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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sherman Austin released from Prison

Sherman Austin was released from prison last week, to an L.A. halfway house, and faces 3 years of severely restrictive probation. He had served almost a year in prison.

If you're not aware of who Sherman Austin is, don't feel singled out because most Americans probably don't know who Sherman is either, let alone why he went to prison.

In a plea agreement, Austin agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of ""distribution" of information about making or using explosives with the "intent" that the information "be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence."

What material did Austin distribute? Well, none actually. Austin was the owner and webmaster for the website www.raisethefist.com. He provided free webhosting for anyone that wanted to build a webpage.

One of the people who utilized his service created a webpage and posted information on it that instructed people on protest tactics, flier making, smoke bomb construction as well as crude recipes for home made explosives. Sherman Austin did not write or distribute any of this material but simply provided free space to the person that created it. The person that actually created it was the son of a wealthy, politically connected republican and was not charged with any crime.

The website www.raisethefist.com was unapologetic in it's criticism of crimes commmitted by the U.S government, the FBI, city police departments, and promoted anarchist & progressive views among other things. The website also was utilized by the progressive/activist community to post news and to announce upcoming events and protests around the country. It was also the target of hack attacks by right wingers and it also received continous visits from Government Law enforcement agencies. The intensity of those attacks and the surveillance by the government intensified greatly after September 11, 2001.

On Jan 24, 2002, 25 FBI agents raided Sherman Austin's house and confiscated his computer equipment and other materials. They didn't arrest him or charge him with any crime, however. They left after several hours and most people thought they would be content with their little show of force.

On February 02,2002, Sherman was arrested by NYPD, while attending a protest in NYC. He was arrested on warrants that charged
1. distribution of explosive material with the intent
2. illegal computer activity
3. Possession of an unregistered firearm.
He was held for 13 days, 2 in an Oklahoma City Federal Prison and eventually released back to Los Angeles.

On August of 2002, Sherman Austin was offered a plea bargain. If he pled guilty "distribution," then the other 2 charges would be dropped. Facing 20 years in prison if found guilty, Sherman accepted the plea bargain.
The prosecution originally agreed to a one month sentence in prison but the agreement was rejected by Judge Stephen Wilson, 3 different times. Judge Wilson then imposed his own, harsher sentence.

On August 04, 2003, 20 year old Sherman Austin was sentenced to one year in a federal prison. His case is covered in-depth in the article "A Strange and Tragic legal journey-The Case of Sherman Martin Austin" Please read it as it goes into the ridiculous "evidence" that was the basis for the warrants in the first place. For instance, Chat room logs, "militia members" attempting to entrap Sherman via email, and attributing Chat room monikers to Austin that were in use while AUSTIN WAS IN CUSTODY.


As the cartoon strip observes, White Supremacy organizations are allowed to post "how to manuals" on their sites. One such manual"White Resistance Manual" contains topics like "improvised explosives" "selective assassinations""booby traps" etc. If you want to take a look at it, simply go to this website hosted out of Houston Texas. Nationalist Socialist Skinhead Front. You may be wondering why skinheads are allowed to post this kind of material while a much more rudimentary guide landed Sherman Austin, who didn't even post the information himself, in prison. I'll take a wild guess and say that the politics, ideology and goals of the skinheads are much more in line with this Administration than that of Austin's.

While he is no longer in prison, Sherman Austin faces 3 years of probation that restricts his use of computers and other technoloogical devices. It also restricts his ability to engage in political activities for the next three years. Here is one the restrictions.

"He shall not knowingly negotiate with any organization or member thereof which espouses violence or physical force as a means of intimidation or achieving economic, social or political change."

As one can see, this can be stretched or twisted to apply to all sorts of organizations and individuals that don't meet the approval of the government.

Several of us met Sherman in October of 2001. He travelled out to Denver for the Transform Columbus Day events and prominently featured the events on his website. His website was one of the first "anarchist websites" to make the link with the struggles of indigenous peoples. Sherman's efforts weren't for naught and imprisoning him did not extinguish that connection.

We wish him the best.

Please visit this website Freesherman.org

1 Comments:

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous JMR said...

thank you for posting this article about my son Sherman. Sherman is African American, Native American and Italian and he was targed because of his race and his politics. Please read about his case @ www.freesherman.org. You can contact me for addtional information jmi46@sbcglobal.net

 

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