Former Black Panther jailed for not testifying
Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 1, 2005
A judge has jailed a former member of the Black Panther Party for refusing
to testify before a grand jury investigating the killings of two San
Francisco police officers in the early 1970s.
Ray Michael Boudreaux, 62, who has worked for 23 years as an electrician for
Los Angeles County, is being held indefinitely at San Francisco County Jail
on the order of Superior Court Judge Robert Dondero.
Prosecutors contend Boudreaux is an important witness in their
investigation into who carried out the attacks. That investigation was
largely dormant for 30 years but was revived earlier this summer when
state prosecutors convened a grand jury in San Francisco.
The first attack happened Feb. 16, 1970, when a bomb that had been planted
at Park Station on Waller Street exploded. Sgt. Brian McDonnell, 44, was
killed, and eight other officers were injured.
On Aug. 29, 1971, two men burst into Ingleside Police Station and fired
a shotgun through a hole in a bulletproof glass window. Sgt. John V.
Young, 45, was killed, and a civilian clerk was wounded. The street on which
the police station is located was later renamed in Young's honor.
No one took responsibility for either attack, but authorities have always
assumed that radical groups were involved and that the two incidents were
Boudreaux served in the Vietnam War, returned home in 1968 and soon joined
up with the Black Panthers in Oakland, his attorney said, working at a
breakfast program in the schools. He now lives in Pasadena.
In 1971, Boudreaux was arrested on assault charges in Los Angeles with
two other men who authorities suspected were tied to the Ingleside Station
attack. Boudreaux was cleared of the assault charges, but the two men
he was with were later rearrested in New Orleans in connection with the 1971
In 1974, a court ruled that San Francisco and New Orleans police had
engaged in what amounted to torture to extract a confession from one of
the men and threw out the charges.
The grand jury convened in San Francisco is looking into both killings.
Boudreaux and at least a dozen other people, some of them former
members of black radical groups, were subpoenaed and offered limited
immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
Boudreaux, however, refused to testify. Dondero, who is presiding over
the grand jury proceedings, jailed Boudreaux on contempt charges Monday and
ordered that he be held until he accepts the immunity deal.
It is unclear what Boudreaux's possible connection to the investigation
is. David Druliner, special assistant attorney general who is bringing the
case before the grand jury, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
But in a contempt hearing in court Monday, he told Dondero that
Boudreaux is "a bright individual. He knows what is going on, and he's
choosing,clearly, not to answer lawful questions."
Boudreaux's attorney challenged the legal validity of the limited
immunity offered by prosecutors, saying it failed to protect his client's
Fifth Amendment rights.
"The privilege against self-incrimination seems to be meaningless to
them," attorney Michael Burt said. "They figure, 'We want your testimony.
Testify against yourself -- you are just going to have to trust us that
we are not going to make improper use of that.' It's a little scary."
He argued that under the legal standard in effect at the time of the
killings, Boudreaux would have been granted immunity from all prosecution if
he testified. The current offer would shield Boudreaux only from
prosecution about matters he brings up in his testimony, Burt said.
Dondero ruled that the terms of immunity could be dealt with after
Burt then argued that Boudreaux had reason to be skeptical of any
government deal. He called to the stand Jill Elijah, a Harvard Law School
professor, who testified that given the FBI's history of civil rights
violations against the Black Panthers, "Mr. Boudreaux would have no reason
to trust any representations made to him by the government with respect to
his immunity, his safety or his protection from prosecution."
Elijah testified that "it's been well-documented that well over 30
members of the Black Panther Party across the United States were
assassinated by the FBI, or in tandem with the FBI and local police force
Dondero told Burt that his client would be jailed until the grand
jury's investigation was over or a new grand jury was impaneled.
"He has the key to the jail cell in his possession if he testifies,"
Other former radicals are also supposed to appear before the grand
jury. Among them is John Bowman, one of the two men arrested in 1971 in
connection with the Ingleside Station attack.
His attorney, Arthur Wachtel, said San Francisco and New Orleans police
had used cattle prods and wet blankets on his client to try to force a
confession. Like Burt, he said prosecutors should be granting full
immunity to anyone who testifies before the grand jury.
"What this all suggests is that they are playing games and misusing the
grand jury process," Wachtel said.
E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at
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