Bingham on Stand, Denies Smuggling Gun to Jackson
Former fugitive Stephen Bingham testified Monday that he did not smuggle a gun to San Quentin inmate George Jackson, whose bloody attempted prison break left six people dead.
Bingham also testified that he decided to flee after seeing that he was being implicated in the attempted breakout.
He surrendered in 1984 after spending 13 years underground and is charged with two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that he gave a 9-millimeter pistol to the militant inmate.
Pulled Gun From Wig
Jackson pulled the gun from under an Afro wig in the attempted breakout Aug. 21, 1971, officials said. Jackson, three guards and two inmate trusties were killed.
Bingham also denied giving Jackson the wig or any ammunition.
Prosecutor Terry Boren maintains that the gun and two clips were smuggled into the prison inside a tape recorder by investigator Vanita Anderson, whom Bingham accompanied.
Bingham carried the recorder inside a briefcase to his visit with Jackson after Anderson suggested that Jackson might want to dictate notes for a book, Boren said. Bingham said he did not open the briefcase during the meeting and that the tape recorder was not used.
His voice choked with emotion, Bingham said he decided to go underground after hearing about the attempted prison break and seeing his picture in newspapers.
Bingham testified that he did not learn about the prison violence until he returned home the evening of Aug. 21.
When he arrived at the Oakland house he shared with six other lawyers and law students, they told him of the incident and official statements implicating him.
“My first reaction was that that was completely ridiculous,” he said.
Bingham, 44, testified that he and his friends believed that he would be charged and that his life was in danger.
Bingham testified that his housemates shuttled him to visits with lawyers and to the homes of two friends, where he spent two nights.
“I had to go somewhere where I could be quiet and decide whether I should turn myself in,” Bingham said, tears in his eyes. “It was the most important decision of my life.”
Bus to Los Angeles
He decided to take a bus to Los Angeles after contacting a lawyer friend who had helped draft resisters escape to Canada. At that point, he said, he still had not decided to flee.
While he waited in the bus station coffee shop, “I saw my picture on the front page of the newspaper.”
In a panic, he said, he bought a razor, shaved off his mustache and got a haircut to change his appearance, then paid for a second cut because he did not think his hair was short enough.
Bingham said he was provided with false documents identifying him as Robert Boarts. After using those documents to obtain a passport, he flew to Europe, where he traveled to several countries before settling in Paris.
He testified that he worked as a house painter and building renovator and studied film at the University of Paris. He used his film education to make films and slide shows for workers’ causes in France.
He also said he visited the United States in 1977, 1978 and 1982, the last time to arrange with an attorney for his eventual surrender.