About the Case

Summary

After the 1972 shooting at Fountain Valley Golf Course, dozens of native Black youth in St Croix were rounded up and tortured, resulting in statements from five young men in their early twenties. After the trial, three jurors reported coercion that led to their guilty verdict. Three of the defendants–Abdul Azeez, Hanif Bey, and Malik Bey– are held in prison almost 50 years later. Due to their advanced age, they have a variety of chronic health conditions that are difficult to manage in prison. Their legal team believes they are being unjustly held in the private prison system in the mainland United States, far away from their home and families on the islands, and that they should be granted release after so many years and so many irregularities in their arrest and prosecution.

Timeline

By the 1970’s the economy of the Virgin Islands began to crumble. Young natives, some of whom served in the Vietnam war and returned to unemployment, became resentful of the millions of tourists. Awareness of Black Power movements and a movement for independence surged. See The Miami News article

September 6, 1972

Eight people are killed and others wounded by masked men at the Fountain Valley Golf Course, owned by the Rockefeller family, on St Croix.

September 7, 1972

Responding to fears and the economic impact of the incident, Gov. Melvin Evans calls for mainland assistance. Approximately 125 police, FBI and U.S. marshalls conduct a manhunt during which about 100 young Black men are detained and interrogated, some tortured. A reward of over $25,000 is publicized for information leading to an arrest, and Malik (Meral Smith) is arrested at his residence based on a tip. See Miami Herald article

September 8, 1972

Hanif (Beaumont Gereau) is arrested at a friend’s home.

September 10, 1972

Commerce Commissioner John P. Scott issues a press release making the economic impact clear: “it is really heartrending for something like this to take place at a time when our promotion, advertising and public relations people are doing all they can to bring business and more tourists to the islands.” See The Tennessean article

September 12, 1972

Abdul (Warren Ballentine), Raphael Joseph and Ishmael LaBeet were arrested at their home.

September 19, 1972

Federal District Judge Warren Young, one-time Rockefeller corporate counsel, is named as the trial judge. Police announce they have obtained confessions. Famed U.S. civil rights attorney William Kunstler joins the defense team.

April 16, 1973

An unusually long pre-trial suppression hearing begins in which the defense argues to exclude the defendants' statements, claiming they were obtained by torture.

June 12, 1973

Attorney Kunstler requests that Judge Young recuse himself as biased in favor of the prosecution.

June 13, 1973

Judge Young hands down his ruling on the suppression hearing ruling against the majority of the defense’s claims. He declines to recuse himself.

August 2, 1973

The defense moves to have two jurors removed for bias, which is denied.

August 13, 1973

All are found guilty and sentenced on the spot to eight consecutive life sentences plus 15 years for each of the four counts of first-degree assaults and two counts of robbery (for a total of 90 years). Defendants are transported the same day to detention in Puerto Rico, then transferred to separate federal prisons on the mainland. See Muhammad Speaks article

1975-1984

Appeals to the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court proceed, and are denied.

December 31, 1984

After spending a few months back in St. Croix in connection to winning a civil suit over wrongful solitary confinement, Ishmael hijacks the plane that is returning him to a mainland prison. He reroutes it to Cuba, where he lives to this day as documented in the film, The Skyjacker’s Tale.

December 19, 1994

Raphael Joseph has his sentence commuted by Governor Alexander Farrelly. He does of an alleged drug overdose a few years later. It was said that he had information that would exonerate at least one of his codefendents.

March 8, 2016

Malik, Hanif and Abdul are transferred into the CCA private prison system in the mainland United States, where they continue to be held today as elders who have served over 50 years in prison.