Background: Chicago 7 trial
The trial began on Sept. 24, 1969, 13 months after violence broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, shocking the nation. In what a national commission later called a “police riot,” protesters gathered in Grant Park and other locations and were clubbed and gassed by Chicago Police officers and Illinois National Guardsmen.
The tumult led to the infamous Chicago 8 trial, later the Chicago 7 trial after one defendant’s case was severed.
The organizers of the anti-war demonstrations were charged in federal indictments with rioting and conspiring to riot. They were: Bobby Seale, head of the Black Panthers; Tom Hayden, co-founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Dennis Roberts, an Oakland based civil rights lawyer; Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman founders of the Youth International Party, or Yippies; veteran pacifist leader David Dellinger; and academics Lee Weiner and John Froines.
Seale was eventually bound and gagged in court because of insults he hurled at Judge Julius Hoffman. Seale was sentenced to 4 years in prison for contempt of court, but that finding was later reversed.
Five months after the trial began in an oak-paneled, 23rd-floor courtroom of the Dirsken Federal Building, the defendants were acquitted of conspiracy. Five were convicted of intending to incite a riot across state lines and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Weiner and Froines were acquitted.
All seven, plus the two defense attorneys, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for more than 100 contempt-of-court citations. But in 1972, an appeals court reversed all of the convictions, citing, among other things, antagonistic behavior from the judge and the fact that the FBI had bugged the defense lawyers’ offices.
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