By Roosevelt Wilson
In America, some live privileged lives, while others died without the experience of living. Why is the Statute of Liberty not holding two torches? All of us know the answer. However, there are many who believe they were born with privileges. Living has nothing to do with where you go or what you have; but more to do with exercising your rights and the enforcement of those rights to go and have. The United States is the second wealthiest nation in the world, next to China. Yet, we have allowed the symbolic rights resonating from Lady Liberty to only touch the lives of those privileged Americans.
Abraham Bolden is an 86-year-old distinguished, decorated law enforcement officer from East St. Louis, IL, currently residing in Chicago, IL. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) appointed him to the U. S. Secret Service in 1959. Later, President John Kennedy (D) offered him the opportunity to serve on the White House detail in 1961, making him the first African American Secret Service Agent assigned to such a position. Remember this period in America; his record had to be squeaky clean. Believe me, as an infant he didn’t wet in his diaper.
In 1964 at the age of 29, Mr. Bolden’s name, reputation and character went from impeccable to feces just like that. After meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson to inform him of several omissions and inaccuracies in the Warren Report, Mr. Bolden was abruptly arrested upon leaving the White House. His trial was held in May 1964, which ended in a mistrial. The second trial ended in August 1964, where he was framed, convicted and sentenced to six years in federal prison, even after the key witness confessed he lied and was coerced by the District Attorney to say what he said. They wanted to silence Mr. Bolden to validate the incredible magic bullet theory and the other fantasyland goodies in the Warren Report.
Mr. Bolden has been waiting 57 years for his criminal record to be expunged. How long must he wait? He buried his wife and two of his three children while still a felon. Are they waiting for him to die so they can praise him with superlatives for being a great American, with all the grandeur? I spoke to his only living child three week ago, who’s a professor at FAMU. He expressed his ultimate respect, admiration and love for his father; and I can say unequivocally it’s reciprocal.
I often wondered how differently Mr. Bolden’s career and life would have been if he hadn’t been framed? Just think how differently history and the course of this nation would have been? If only James Rowley, then Director of the U. S. Secret Service, thought Mr. Bolden was worthy of a life. Because of the State of this nation, Mr. Bolden will never have the opportunity to hear President Joe Biden utter these words: “To know Abraham Bolden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully.” Justice not equally exercised, allow some Americans to believe they were born with certain privileges, while others are subservient, with little value.
Unfortunately, there are several cases similar to Mr. Bolden the system allowed to just languish. Case in point, in 1965, Muhammad Aziz (now deceased) and Khalil Islam (now 83) were arrested and imprisoned for 20 years and paroled for 36 years (the average parole is 27 months, pending the crime of course). That’s 56 years in the system for the assassination of Malcolm X, which they did not commit. In February 2020, the cases were reopened and the two men were finally exonerated November 18, 2021. Moreover, if the FBI and New York Police had not suppressed evidence at their trials, they would have been acquitted.
In 1969, Sirhan Sirhan was incarcerated and sentence to death for the assassination of U. S. Senator and Presidential Candidate, Robert F. Kennedy. However, in 1972, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. However, Attorney, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late U. S. Senator, reviewed the files and evidence. He concluded that Sirhan Sirhan did not murder his father and recommended his parole. Thus, the California Parole Board (CPB) made a recommendation to Governor Gavin Newsom to parole the 77 year-old Sirhan, after the CPB had rejected him 15 times.
These cases illustrate a pattern of injustice for those not privileged. These men were framed and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The longer our criminal justice system perpetuate injustices, the weaker our form of democracy. If waiting with injustice has become one of the pillars for our democracy, then we must remove that lyrical phrase, ‘sweet land of liberty.’
Roosevelt Wilson is the chair of the Abraham Bolden project, which seeks to pardon the Chicago resident Abraham Bolden, nation’s first Black Secret Service agent who more than 50 years ago was convicted of attempting to sell a secret government file to Joseph Spagnoli, Jr., in exchange for $50,000. Spagnoli was named as the head of a counterfeiting ring.