Prosecutors dropped murder charges Monday against four of the seven men accused of gunning down a San Francisco police officer nearly four decades ago during a violent campaign against law enforcement on both coasts.
The state attorney general’s office dismissed the charges against Henry Jones, 73, Ray Boudreaux, 66, Richard Brown, 68, and Harold Taylor, 60, the alleged ex-members of the Black Liberation Army accused of killing Sgt. John V. Young during an attack on San Francisco’s Ingleside police station in the summer of 1971. A civilian clerk also was injured.
“Certainly, the state’s decision was unexpected,” said Jones’ defense attorney, John Philipsborn. He added, “Our hope all along, especially for the four whose cases were dismissed, was that there was not enough evidence to pursue cases against them.”
A spokesman for California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office declined to comment Monday on why the charges were dropped. The attorney general’s office agreed to take over the case from police in 2005.
The seven men were alleged members of the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers. Authorities allege the group robbed banks, bombed a police funeral and killed officers during a brutal, five-year campaign.
The state brought charges against eight men in 2007, reopening a case that investigators couldn’t ever seem to fully solve and bringing back memories of a violent era. Six of the men had managed to live relatively normal lives in the ensuing decades, with one working as a utility lineman and another as an electrician.
Another defendant in the case, Anthony Bottom, 57, pleaded Monday to no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter after prosecutors and the defense met prior to Monday’s hearing. Judge Philip Moscone sentenced Bottom to three years probation and a year in jail, which he has already served while awaiting trial in San Francisco.
On June 29, Herman Bell, 61, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years probation. Prosecutors say he shot and killed Young.
Both Bottom and Bell are currently serving life prison sentences after being convicted of murdering two New York City police officers before Young’s murder. As part of their pleas, Bottom and Bell will not be called back to testify against any other defendants.
“It’s a case that should’ve never been brought forth,” Bell’s attorney Stuart Hanlon said Monday.
Kevin Martin, vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, said Monday that the pleas enable “some closure for Sgt. Young’s family and some closure to many of his peers and co-workers that, after all of this time, justice, in a sense, has prevailed.”
Now, Francisco Torres, 60, is the only defendant left to stand trial for Young’s murder. Prosecutors say they have Torres’ fingerprint on a cigarette lighter found outside the police station on the night of Young’s murder.
Charles Bourdon, Torres’ attorney, said Monday that his client “steadfastly maintains his innocence,” and has rejected a plea deal.
Bourdon said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
Torres is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 10 when a preliminary hearing date will be set.