World Premiere of the award-winning documentary film about Judi Bari
The Forest For The Trees
by Bernadine Mellis
At the 17th AnnualHuman Rights Watch
International Film Festival, New York
Saturday June 10, 2006 at 1 PM
Q&A with filmmaker Bernadine Mellis, Dennis Cunningham and special guests
(RECEPTION to follow co-sponsored by CHICKEN & EGG and WORKING FILMS)
Monday June 12, 2006 at 6 PM
Q&A with Bernadine Mellis, Dennis Cunningham and special guest
Wednesday June 14, 2006 at 2 PM
Q&A with Bernadine Mellis and Dennis Cunningham
Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
Admission: $10, $7 for students with ID, $5 for seniors 65+
More information about the festival: http://hrw.org/iff/2006/ny
for a printable flyer
More about the film from distributor Bullfrog Films (opens in new window)
Judi Bari Day Press Conference & Rally in Oakland, Monday May 24, 2004 (posted 4.21.04)
- FBI & OPD Have Paid $4 Million Post-Verdict Settlement
- Lawyers and Plaintiff Cherney to Speak on Successful Conclusion of Civil Rights Suit
Oakland, CA - Supporters of Earth First!, Judi Bari and the U.S. Constitution will gather on Monday, May 24, 2004 at 12 noon at Oakland City Hall* to commemorate the 2nd Annual Judi Bari Day as proclaimed by the City of Oakland. Attorneys for Bari and Cherney v. FBI and OPD will be on hand to say a few words about the recent conclusion of our historic civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police.
The suit stemmed from a car bombing 14 years ago in Oakland on May 24, 1990 in which Earth First! and Redwood Summer organizers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were victims of an assassination attempt, but which saw the FBI and Oakland Police falsely accuse the victims of being terrorists injured by their own bomb. The actual perpetrator was never caught, nor was any genuine investigation of the bombing carried out, but the FBI and OPD continued to blame the victims right through the 2002 federal jury trial.
The trial ended in a unanimous jury verdict that found 3 FBI agents and 3 Oakland Police officers liable for $4.4 million for violating Judi Bari's and Darryl Cherney's First and Fourth Amendment rights under the US Constitution. Fully 80% of the jury's damage award was for the First Amendment violation of trying to frame the pair so as to silence their free speech and political organizing in defense of the redwood forests.
The false accusations in 1990 resulted in national headlines and network news coverage, and OPD and FBI sustained a two-month media propaganda campaign against Bari, Cherney and Earth First! that falsely portrayed them to the public as violent, bomb-using extremists. However, the District Attorney ultimately declined to file any criminal charges at all against the pair, citing lack of evidence. FBI agents testified at trial that they never found any evidence at all linking Bari or Cherney to the bombing. Despite the exoneration provided by the jury's verdict, the damage done to their reputation and that of Earth First! by the frame-up persists to this day.
After the trial's end, negotiations began in an effort to avoid lengthy appeals by both sides as well as a multi-million dollar motion for defendants to pay 13 years of legal costs by the Bari-Cherney legal team, which could have added $4 million more to the defendants' bill. All parties recently agreed to a post-trial settlement contract that left the jury verdict intact and awarded the plaintiffs and attorneys a total of $4 million, half paid by the City of Oakland and half by the FBI. It is the largest amount ever paid by the FBI in a lawsuit for violations of civil rights. The $2 million federal share has been paid, and Oakland has paid the first of four annual installments of $500,000. After the money is distributed, no individual involved with this case will net more than $500,000.
Veteran civil rights attorney Dennis Cunningham led the legal team of Bob Bloom, Tony Serra, William Simpich and Ben Rosenfeld, all of the SF Bay Area. "It took 11 years to bring this David v. Goliath case to trial," Cunningham said, "but when a jury of regular people finally saw the evidence, and saw the lies, the FBI was finally busted."
For their work on this case, legal team members shared the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for 2003, given by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (www.tlpj.org ) The official award announcement said "This award is bestowed annually upon the trial lawyer or lawyers who have made the greatest contribution to the public interest by trying or settling a precedent- setting case. It is the nation's single most prestigious award for trial lawyers." (click for TLPJ Award details )
Alicia Littletree, Judi Bari's close friend and associate who was the legal team's paralegal said, "Our lawyers were the only team that could have pulled this off. They were geniuses." When asked how Judi might react to the victory, Littletree added, "I have a feeling Judi wouldn't have gotten over the fact that the bombing is still not solved. That is a lingering part of the fight. Judi would not give up just because the money came in." Cherney vowed to continue the investigation of the bombing. As part of the post-trial settlement, Cherney negotiated the return of all evidence in the case and convinced the Oakland City Council to proclaim May 24 to be Judi Bari Day.
As Judi said in 1996, "This case is not about me, Darryl, or Earth First! It is about the right of all activists to work for social change without fearing repression by the government's secret police."
*Oakland City Hall is located at the end of San Pablo Ave, between Clay and Broadway, between International Dr. and 15th St.
$4 Million Settlement Signed But Not Yet Court Approved (4.22.04)
Bay Area TV news reports tonight (April 22, 2004) reported that a $4 million post-trial settlement agreement was signed a few days ago by principals for both sides in the historic Bari vs. FBI suit.
According to the report, the plaintiffs gave up the right to up to an additional $4 million for attorneys fees in the 13 year long lawsuit. The Oakland and FBI defendants gave up the right to appeal the record-breaking $4.4 million jury judgment against them in favor of the estate of Judi Bari and of Darryl Cherney. Bari and Cherney's legal team will be paid a share of the settlement, and the rest will be divided between the Bari estate and Cherney, with the greater portion going to the Bari heirs.
The report quotes attorney Jim Wheaton on behalf of the Bari-Cherney legal team, and City of Oakland attorney Maria Bee, as saying the settlement is good for both sides because it avoids years of potential appeals. Wheaton pointed out that the $4 million settlement is the largest ever involving the FBI, although Oakland and the U.S. Government will each pay a $2 million share. Bee said the settlement is good for the city because it avoids exposure to paying the plaintiffs' attorney fees. The Oakland City Council approved the city's share last July, but it took until a few days ago to work out the details of the settlement agreement.
A U.S. Justice Dept. spokesperson had no comment, saying that the settlement has not yet been filed and approved by the court, although that is a mere formality unless one or more parties to the agreement fails to abide by its terms. Darryl Cherney also had no comment on the grounds that it would be premature to say anything until the defendants have met their obligations under the agreement.
The exact terms of the agreement have not yet been made public. More information will be posted here on www.judibari.org as soon as it becomes available.
As laid out in great detail in other entries on this site, a federal court jury awarded $4.4 million in damages from six of the seven defendants on trial. Fully four-fifths of the damages were for violation of Bari and Cherney's First Amendment rights to speak and organize politically in defense of the redwood forests. Specifically, defendants violated the First Amendment by falsely arresting Bari and Cherney and conducting a sensational media smear campaign against them and the Earth First! movement that they were associated with, falsely accusing them of knowingly carrying a bomb which exploded under Bari's driver seat, seriously injuring her in 1990. Even today, despite the barely reported jury verdict of 2002, a large percentage of the public falsely associates Earth First! with bombing and other violent tactics.
The case made national headlines and network news coverage when the two Earth First!ers were accused of being blown up by their own bomb. FBI and OPD spokespeople kept the negative media coverage going for two months by dribbling out claims of accumulating evidence against the EF! pair, and saying there were no other suspects. But when it came time to show the evidence in court to support the filing of formal charges, the DA decided there was insufficient evidence. In sworn testimony for the 2002 trial, defendants admitted there never was any physical evidence -- nor real evidence of any kind -- that either Bari or Cherney was connected in any way to the bombing.
The sensational statements by police to the media amounted to a classic frame-up attempt and character assassination. Neither the OPD nor the FBI has ever yet admitted they were wrong, and neither agency has conducted any genuine investigation of the bombing despite multiple clues that Bari was bombed because of her organizing in opposition to the corporate liquidation logging of the redwoods (which is now mostly completed). They never followed up on the several written death threats Bari received from timber industry supporters, at least one of which had a usable fingerprint and was turned over to police. As a result, the bomber(s) who tried to kill Judi Bari was never pursued, and remains free today.
Darryl Cherney, speaking last week on KMUD, reiterated his pledge to continue to investigate the bombing and try to identify the culprits.
Settlement Agreement Not Final (7/30/03)
In an interview on KMUD News on July 22 Darryl Cherney emphasized that the post-trial settlement talked about in the press last week is not yet finalized. Although the Oakland City Council has voted to authorize payment of the city's share of the settlement, there are still many details to be worked out.
Cherney pointed out that both FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft would literally have to sign off on any final settlement agreement. "It's not a good time to be counting FBI chickens before they hatch," he said.
Oakland Council Authorizes $2 Million to Settle Suit, Bypassing Appeal (Posted July 16, 2003)
OAKLAND, Calif., July 16, 2003 (compiled from Oakland Tribune, SF Chronicle, AP reports)
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously in closed session to pay $2 million to settle the civil rights lawsuit of Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, who sued Oakland police investigators and FBI agents after the pair were injured in a 1990 car bombing and then were falsely accused of being "eco-terrorists" responsible for the bomb.
A jury in June 2002 awarded $4.4 million to Cherney and the estate of Bari, who died of cancer in 1997. Jurors found that Oakland police and FBI agents wrongly blamed the pair for the explosion in an effort to silence their environmental activism. It was one of the biggest civil rights verdicts of its kind. Oakland was liable for about $2 million of the verdict, and could also be ordered to pay a share of more than $4 million in plaintiffs' attorneys fees from the 12 years of litigation.
Oakland had been seeking a retrial or defense judgment, claiming jury instructions were invalid, while also negotiating a settlement. City Attorney John Russo said the settlement meant the city would not have to pay the attorney fees. The total settlement is $4 million, with the city and federal governments each paying half, city officials said. Under the settlement, Oakland will pay its $2 million share in $500,000 installments over four years.
City Attorney spokesperson Karen Boyd said the city decided against appealing and agreed to settle as a business decision. "What we analyzed was looking at a settlement in hand versus an unknown future," said Boyd.
"A lot of compromises were made by all parties," Cherney said when informed of the City Council decision. "We knew that Oakland was facing hard times, so we decided to be reasonable and forgo our motion for attorneys' fees if they were willing to be reasonable and offer us a respectable settlement."
Bari and Cherney were arrested on May 24, 1990 after a bomb exploded in Bari's Subaru station wagon while they were driving in Oakland. Both Bari and Cherney were hurt in the explosion. Bari, who was at the wheel, suffered a crushed pelvis. Investigators contended that the pair, who were at the time organizing Redwood Summer, a series of protests against corporate liquidation logging of redwood forests, were carrying the bomb for some act of environmental sabotage. But the case fell apart weeks later when prosecutors said there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring charges.
The city council decision comes two months after the council declared May 24 "Judi Bari Day" to honor the late activist.
The plaintiffs' attorneys will be paid out of the settlement amount, Cherney said. "After the settlement is divided up, it's not going to make anyone even close to a millionaire," said Cherney. Noting that the case has been fought for more than 13 years, Cherney cautioned that the Oakland council decision authorizing the settlement payment is still subject to a final settlement agreement which is still being worked out.
Important Hearing Friday Nov. 1 on Post-Trial Motions (posted 10/26/02, revised 10/28/02)
A very important hearing on post-trial motions by both sides took place before federal judge Claudia Wilken on Friday November 1, 2002.
The Oakland and FBI defendants have filed separate motions seeking to overturn the unanimous jury verdicts against them, and also seeking to set aside or reduce the $4.4 million damage award. The Oakland defendants seek a new trial.
Attorneys for plaintiffs Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney have also filed a post-trial motion seeking a new trial to include the six FBI higher-ups who were let out of the case by the court before the trial began. This group includes COINTELPRO master and former San Francisco FBI chief Richard W. Held.
This is one of the last hearings in Bari vs. FBI at the federal trial court level. (A separate hearing on attorneys' fees is scheduled.) Assuming all post-trial motions are denied, the appeals process will begin, and the case will move to the jurisdiction of the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Several of the post-trial motion documents are now available from this website in Adobe Acrobat format for online reading or for download and offline reading. Please read the two defense motions in conjunction with the Plaintiff's Opposition (rebuttal) to them, which correctly sets out the facts ignored by defendants, and debunks their hollow arguments.
(Click on the titles below to view the documents in Acrobat Reader)
- Plaintiffs' Post-Trial Motion (9 pages, 104 KB)
- FBI Defendants' Post-Trial Motion ( 25 pages, 266 KB)
- OPD Defendants' Post-Trial Motion ( 10 pages, 137 KB)
- Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Post-Trial Motions (49 pages, 557 KB)
Note: As of May 21, 2003, we are still waiting for the judge's decisions on the post-trial motions.
Judge Orders Entry of Partial Verdict (posted 8/26/02)
After a delay of over two months, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered entry of a partial verdict in the Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney v. FBI and Oakland Police lawsuit (C-91-01057 CW). The unanimous 10-person jury verdict was originally announced June 11, 2002. The partial verdict was officially entered on August 13, but lawyers and plaintiffs were on vacation or otherwise unavailable to learn of the exciting certification of their victory until this week. The delay was caused by the court's need to decide how to handle the hung jury on Darryl Cherney's false arrest claim. The entry of judgment paves the way for both sides to file post-trial motions, which will be heard on November 1 in the Oakland Federal Courthouse. The defendants will most likely move to throw out the verdicts and/or to nullify or reduce the damage awards. Appeals can be filed only after post-trial motions are decided by the trial court.
Click here to read the rest of this update.
Judge loosens jury gag order, proposes way to speed appeals
Former jurors in the trial of Judi Bari vs. FBI were contacted by the court clerk on Tuesday July 2 and told they are now free talk to the media about the case, but they are still barred from talking to attorneys for either side. To date, two of the jurors have given interviews to reporters. (story below)
At a June 28 hearing, Judge Claudia Wilken said she intended to loosen the unusual post-trial gag order she had placed on jurors. She also suggested a way to quickly dispose of the undecided false arrest claim by Darryl Cherney so that appeals may begin. Because the jury hung on Cherney's false arrest claim, Judge Wilken has not yet officially entered the $4.4 million jury verdicts revealed on June 11.
Please click here to continue reading this report.
Pretrial Case Update Letter from RSJP (April 2, 2002)
Well ... THIS IS IT!!!
At 8:30 am on April 8, 2002, about 50 people summoned from all over Northern California will file into the Oakland federal courtroom. A handful of them will become the jury that will hear and decide the case of Judi Bari vs. the FBI, almost twelve years after Earth First! organizers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were car bombed in Oakland and then falsely arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police. ...
Click here to see the whole letter
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