Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran Contra’s Dark Secret Revisited With Activist’s Death, Part Two of Four

Later in 1987, after watching Robeson County deputies surround the house of another alleged drug dealer who was later found dead, Eddie tried to get the information he had to state and federal authorities. But some law enforcement in North Carolina, possibly knowing what evidence Eddie had, seemed to have decided to investigate Eddie for “passing bad checks” instead. Eddie never asked to participate in America’s greatest and most whitewashed scandal, but he did not shrink when asked for help. He told me once he liked to argue. I think he may have initially believed that was all he had to do. But Eddie also believed in justice, because, when he was fourteen, his father was killed by someone said to be a deputy in Richmond County, North Carolina and the death of Eddie’s father was ruled a “suicide”. The fourteen year old Eddie did his own investigation and approached the governor for an investigation.

At the end of the hostage siege, Eddie and Timmy surrendered to the FBI and were charged with taking hostages and making demands on the federal government—something they never did. It was to the governor’s aide they spoke to mostly about their evidence, Robeson County, the hostages and to whom they made their “demands”, which were no more than impassioned pleas for an investigation. In fact, the governor said after the hostage taking, “None of their demands were of an unreasonable quality. In fact, if every hostage situation could end up as successfully as this one, and if every hostage situation would involve requests of this sort, the world would’ve had a lot fewer tragedies over the last few years.”

Once in custody, the feds moved Eddie and Timmy from prison to prison to prison until their trial where the judge, conveniently enough, was the son-in-law of Helms’ political mentor. The U.S. Attorney for the trial was the wife of the U.S. Attorney who investigated the drug-running in 1985 and who also went on to become Helms’ re-election campaign manager in 1996 and, in 2007, was sentenced to seventy months in prison for money laundering. Fifteen people who had knowledge of drug running in Robeson County, and had agreed to talk to Eddie and Timmy’s lawyers, were killed. Timmy’s attorney was shot at in broad daylight in Lumberton, and during the trial, gunmen with semi-automatic weapons circled the hotel where Timmy’s attorneys were staying. Meanwhile, the judge refused to allow their trial to be delayed three weeks so that Eddie could have his constitutional right to counsel of choice: famed civil rights attorney, the legendary William Kunstler, and his partner Ron Kuby. Eddie was forced to represent himself. Timmy’s lawyers accused the judge of cooperating with the prosecution to deny evidence, which included indictments filed for forty small time drug dealers, but no kingpins. Despite all of that, Eddie and Timmy were acquitted on all charges. I interviewed Eddie for my then-WBAI radio show during his post-trial visit to New York at the Center for Constitutional Rights offices and we could barely get through the interview from laughing so much at the ineptitude of the judge and prosecutor. But things would soon not be so humorous for Eddie.

Eddie fled when North Carolina committed double jeopardy, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, and decided to try he and Timmy for the same crime, but with kidnapping charges. Eddie fled to the perceived-sanctity of a western Indian nation where the FBI threatened to violate its sovereignty and go on the reservation to haul Eddie away. As Timmy was fighting extradition in upstate New York after being arrested for a school bus accident, Eddie fled to San Francisco to seek political asylum in the old Soviet Union until he was denied and surrendered to waiting U.S. Marshals. Eddie fought extradition with ex-Chicago Seven and Bobby Seale attorney, Charles Garry, and lost. Timmy lost as well and went back to North Carolina where he plea bargained and made public statements against Eddie, who was taken back to North Carolina and again denied his attorneys of choice. Kunstler and others sued North Carolina and local officials for intimidation of Eddie and Timmy’s support group and were sanctioned $120,000 each for filing a “frivolous lawsuit” for which Helms added two friend-of-the-court briefs, proving he was aware of Eddie’s case and perhaps even Eddie’s allegations of cocaine in North Carolina, but apparently Helms sided with the pro-cocaine forces when his public trust required him to do the opposite. North Carolina forced Eddie through a Soviet-style abuse-of-justice charade until they broke him. The judge for that was the son of a pro-segregation gubernatorial candidate who Helms campaigned for in the 60s. Eddie threw pencils at the judge, calling him a “racist son of a bitch”, before plea bargaining and going to prison where an attempt was made on his life. The failed assassin said he was put up to the task. While Eddie served time, Helms denied Costa Rica $80 million in loans because it took back land owned by Helms’ friend where a landing strip had been built which was allegedly used to fly out drugs and fly in guns.
Part Three, tomorrow.