[Update: The blog post below was published 11/05/09. Later that evening, word broke that the University of MA, apparently under pressure from the office of MA Governor Deval Patrick, canceled Ray's appearance scheduled for 11/12/09.
Organizers worked hard to find an alternate venue so that this event could proceed as planned, and on 11/10 a new set of sponsors and new venue on the UMass campus were announced so that the talk could go forward as planned at 7:15 pm on Thursday, 11/12/09.
However, on 11/11, the parole commission to which Ray reported, rescinded his permission to travel to this event, so he was not able to be present. Instead, attorneys from his sedition trial, a juror from that trial, and Ray's former wife, Pat Levasseur, were among the participants. Police groups from across the region turned out en masse to protest this event.
Media coverage and other information about the UMass event is available at the "Let Ray Have His Say" Facebook Group page here.]
Next Thursday night Ohio 7 defendant, Ray Levasseur will make his first public speech in our local area in twenty years. In late 1989, after a 10-month trial in Springfield, MA, Ray, along with his fellow defendants, was acquitted of Seditious Conspiracy to overthrow the US government by force and violence. Since he was already serving a multi-decade sentence after being convicted of politically motivated crimes while engaging in clandestine activity during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, he was imprisoned until being paroled just a few years ago. Although he remains on parole to this day, he was finally granted permission to return to our area to speak about his case at the University of Massachusetts.
I am looking forward to his talk with great anticipation for two reasons.
I first heard about the Ohio 7 in the fall of 1988. I’d been working as a business and tax lawyer for a firm in Springfield for a little over two years and was becoming increasingly unhappy with my work. I learned that these defendants were called the Ohio 7 because they were three married couples, and a single man who were arrested in Ohio in 1985 after evading capture for almost ten years. The three couples had nine children between them. The government seized three of the children, interrogated them and held them incommunicado for weeks. They were not released to the custody of relatives until their parents began a hunger strike.
This horrible story evoked distressing memories of my childhood, but what happened to these kids, aged 1l, five and three, seemed even worse. Their plight percolated in my subconscious only to reemerge five months later with the realization that my dream of starting a foundation in my parents’ name had found its focus. The foundation would help children today suffering the same nightmare I endured as a child. While there were other factors involved, it is no exaggeration to say that the case of the Ohio 7 gave birth to the RFC.
The second reason I’m eagerly awaiting Ray’s talk is that the last time I heard him speak was when he gave his final statement (he defended himself) at the close of his trial. He gave one of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard.
Judge Young, who presided, was fond of reminding the Jury to pay no attention to what the clock on the courtroom wall read, he would determine when they recessed for lunch or the day’s session would end.
Ray, in his summation, pointed out that there were many points he wished to make in his defense to provide a context for his actions, but the Judge ruled they were irrelevant and would not allow him to present them to the jury.
I could see the Judge fuming because while he could prevent Ray from telling the jury what those points were, he could not stop Ray from saying he’d been prevented from making them. And then Ray drove his point home by saying essentially, “It’s like the clock. We know it tells us what time it really is, but we have to ignore it because the Judge says so.”
I could see that the jury got Ray’s point. There was a real world out there, and the Jury should take that world into consideration no matter what the Judge told them to do. I believe Ray’s speech helped sway the jury towards dismissal.
Ray was taking a terrible chance. If the jury did not acquit him, the Judge would surely vent his fury during sentencing at being outwitted by someone whom this elite and very arrogant man considered light years beneath him. But Ray carried the day, and I’ll never forget that speech for as long as I live.
Join me if you can on Thursday, November 12th, at 7pm, in the Amherst Room on the 10th Floor of the UMass Campus Center, Amherst, MA
(Ray's prison writings and his statements from the Springfield sedition trial are available at the following links: http://home.earthlink.net/~neoludd/ and http://home.earthlink.net/~neoludd/statement.html.)
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