Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur’s Co-Defendant, Ordered Released On Parole

sundiata5From Corporate Media

A man convicted in the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper in a crime that still provokes strong emotion among law enforcement more than 40 years later was ordered released on parole by a state appeals court Monday.

Sundiata Acoli was known as Clark Edward Squire when he was convicted of the 1973 slaying of state trooper Werner Foerster during a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Now in his mid-70s, he was denied parole most recently in 2011, but the appellate judges reversed that ruling Monday.

In a 28-page opinion, the panel wrote that the parole board ignored evidence favorable to Acoli and gave undue consideration to past events such as a probation violation that occurred decades earlier.

One of the three people in the car when it was stopped was Joanne Chesimard, who also was convicted of Foerster’s slaying, but eventually escaped to Cuba and is now known as Assata Shakur. Last year, state and federal authorities announced a $2 million reward for information leading to her capture, and the FBI made her the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists. She and Acoli were members of black militant organizations at the time.

At the news conference last year announcing the increased reward for Shakur, Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey state police, called the case “an open wound.”

“I am both disheartened and disappointed by the appellate decision in this matter,” Fuentes said through a spokesman Monday. “The mere passage of time should not excuse someone from the commission of such a horrendous act. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Foerster family whose lives have been deprived of a father and son.”

According to court documents, Acoli’s gun went off during a struggle with Foerster, who had responded as backup after another officer pulled over the car for a broken tail light. The state contended Chesimard shot Trooper James Harper, wounding him, then took Foerster’s gun and shot him twice in the head with his own gun as he lay on the ground. A third man in the car, James Costen, died from his injuries at the scene.

Acoli has claimed he was grazed by a bullet and blacked out, and couldn’t remember the exact sequence of events. He was sentenced in 1974 to life plus 24 to 30 years, and was denied parole in 1993 and 2004. He is currently in prison in Otisville, New York, about 75 miles northwest of New York City.

The appellate judges wrote Monday that the parole board ignored a prison psychologist’s favorable report on Acoli and the fact that he had expressed remorse for the trooper’s death and had had no disciplinary incidents in prison since 1996. They also faulted the board for giving too much weight to Acoli’s past criminal record and an unspecified probation violation, which occurred several decades before the board’s decision.

“Make no mistake, we are completely appalled by Acoli’s senseless crimes, which left a member of the State Police dead and another injured, as well as one of Acoli’s associates dead and the other injured,” the judges wrote. “But Acoli has paid the penalty under the laws of this State for his crimes.”

Christopher Burgos, president of the state troopers’ fraternal association, called the court’s decision “unbelievably insane.”

“Once again the families affected who have lost loved ones in service to their state and country, law enforcement in New Jersey and the US have had wounds ripped open again 40 years later, and sadly we have seen the failure of our justice system to keep these violent offenders behind bars for the rest of their lives,” he wrote in an email.

Through a spokesman, the state attorney general’s office said it would appeal the decision and could seek a stay that, if granted, would postpone Acoli’s release.

4 Comments

  1. Marland X
  2. ProleDenver

    Hey y’all… he hasn’t been released yet…. and may not be for a while due to the appeals process from the State’s Attorney General. Definitely a step forward, but let’s hold off popping the cork on the champagne bottle until he walks out those prison doors.

  3. ProleDenver

    Hey y’all.. he has not been released yet, and may not be for some time if the State’s Attorney General has his way with the appeals process. This is great news for sure, but we need to hold off on celebration until he walks out of those prison doors.

  4. scottytreid

    The New Jersey State police should stop trying to prevent the release of Sundiata Acoli. This man wants to talk about “an open wound”. Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey state police, called the case “an open wound.”

    “I am both disheartened and disappointed by the appellate decision in this matter,” Fuentes said Monday through a spokesman. “The mere passage of time should not excuse someone from the commission of such a horrendous act.”

    Lets talk about open wounds. The Black community and everyone who believes in justice that has knowledge of the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO operations which included police departments across the nation to target, assassinate and frame members of the Black Panther Party who were engaged in activities to help make their communities safe and to help the poor only to be called a threat to National Security by J Edgar Hoover because they were providing free breakfast to children is a festering wound as many of these political prisoners are being denied parole time and time again.

    The appellate judges ruled that under State law, Sundiata Acoli has paid for the crime for which he was convicted of. Never mind the fact that trial itself was questionable and the authorities never stop persecuting this man even after he held in jail without bail and on trial for two years before being acquitted with 20 other defendants in the Panther 21 case. They targeted this man, prevented him from obtaining unemployment and many believe that the NJ State police ambushed Sundiata and his companions that day and they succeeded in murdering Zayd Shakur and almost murdered Assata Shakur. Yes this is a festering wound and imagine how many Americans are killed today by cops, over 5,000 since 9/11 so imagine how many of them were getting away with murder and police brutality 40 years ago.

    Sundiata has expressed his remorse of this cop losing his life, so let it go, let them man who is now over 70 yrs old go home. Again, the judges ruled he has paid for this crime but like many of us know, cops do care nothing for the law because they are allowed to operate above it. these judges made the right decision in the interest of justice.

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