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Eight Radicals Face Trial For ‘Struggle Against Racism and Imperialism’

June 14, 1987

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ If it weren’t for the Vietnam War, some of the eight radicals facing trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government would have become conservative, mainstream Americans, a lawyer for one says.

Instead, the five men and three women are facing trial for what the attorney called ″a struggle against racism and imperialism.″

Hearings on preliminary motions begin Monday. The trial is expected to start in mid-July and to last at least six months because of a lineup of 380 witnesses.

The eight are charged with seditious conspiracy and racketeering through 10 bank robberies and several bombings.

Prosecutors allege the group obtained nearly $900,000 from bank holdups to pay for their plans to overthrow the government.

But two of the defendants, Richard Williams and Thomas Manning, have said they acted against what they alleged to be government war crimes in Central America and other nations. ″What the government calls conspiracy, we call resistance,″ they wrote in a statement in February.

Manning’s attorney, Ronald Kuby, said in an interview last week that the defendants are working-class New Englanders, many of whom were radicalized by the Vietnam War, in which Manning fought.

″They are the kind of Americans that would have been stereotyped as racist and conservative Archie Bunker types,″ Kuby said.

″These people could have made it in mainstream America, but they chose to live clandestinely away from the eyes and ears of the government to do political work,″ he said. ″And they have given unselfishly for decades to bring about a better society.″

Manning, 40, said in a trial last year on charges of killing a New Jersey state trooper that he was a revolutionary by trade. ″Guns are the tools of the trade of the revolutionary, just like a carpenter’s tools,″ he said.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. A deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial for Williams, 38, who was accused of being the triggerman.

Defense attorneys said they have asked U.S. District Judge William G. Young to postpone the trial. Linda Thompson said she and other lawyers appointed only two weeks ago to represent the indigent defendants need more time to review the 20,000 pages of evidence in the case.

The defendants are now at the U.S. Metropolitan Correction Center in New York City, either awaiting trial or serving prison sentences. A federal appeals court recently upheld the convictions of six of them for bombings in New York.

A May 1986 indictment accused the eight of bombing 19 courthouses, banks, businesses and military installations in Massachusetts and New York from 1976 to 1984.

They also allegedly robbed banks in Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and Virginia, and some of the defendants are accused of killing policemen in Massachusetts and Maine.

The defendants are Raymond Luc Levasseur, 39, and Patricia Helen Gros, 31, both of Calais, Maine; Manning and his wife, Carol Ann Manning, 31, of Sanford, Maine; Williams, Jaan Karl Laaman, 38, and Barbara J. Curzi, 28, all of Boston; and Christopher Everett King, 36, of Cambridge, Mass.

The eight were the subject of the largest manhunt since the kidnapping of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh’s son in 1932, federal officials have said.

King was arrested at a roadside rest stop at North Attleboro, Mass., while wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a pistol. Laaman was with him but escaped and was arrested later in 1984 near Cleveland with Manning and three others. Two were arrested in April 1985 at their Norfolk, Va., home.

The indictment accused the four Maine residents of joining forces to form the Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit in 1974 to overthrow the government. The others joined the group in the early 1980s, when the organization’s name was changed to the United Freedom Front, it said.

Racketeering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine; sedition carries a 20-year, $20,000 maximum.

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