Sundiata Acoli

Sundiata is a tireless worker for Black liberation, and once a prominent member of the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party. After targeting by the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO operation, Sundiata continued the struggle underground. In 1973 he and two friends were stopped by New Jersey state troopers. One of his friends and one state trooper was killed during the incident. In a politically charged and biased trial, Sundiata was sentenced to life plus 30 years.

Personal Background

Sundiata (born as Clark Edward Squire), a New Afrikan mathematician, and computer analyst, was born January 14, 1937, in Decatur, Texas, and raised in Vernon, Texas. He went to college at age 16 and graduated from Prairie View A & M College of Texas in 1956 with a B.S. in mathematics. For the next 13 years, he worked for various computer-oriented firms, mostly in the New York area. One of his first jobs after college was as a computer analyst at NASA.

During the summer of 1964, he did voter registration work in Alabama and Mississippi. In 1968, he joined the Harlem Black Panther Party and did community work around issues of schools, housing, jobs, child care, drugs, and police brutality.

In 1969, he and 13 others were arrested in the Panther 21 conspiracy case. He was held in jail without bail and on trial for two years before being acquitted, along with all other defendants, by a jury deliberating less than two hours.

Upon release, FBI intimidation of potential employers shut off all employment possibilities in the computer profession and stepped-up COINTELPRO harassment, surveillance, and provocations soon drove him underground.

Sundiata is a father of 2 daughters and a grandfather.

Legal Case

In May 1973, while driving the New Jersey Turnpike, he and two companions were stopped by N.J. state troopers. One companion was killed, and another was wounded and captured. One state trooper was killed and another wounded, and Sundiata was captured days later. After a highly sensationalized and prejudicial trial, he was convicted of the death of the state trooper and was sentenced to life plus 30 years consecutive.

Life in Prison

Upon entering Trenton State Prison he was subsequently confined to a new and specially created Management Control Unit (MCU). He remained in MCU almost five years, let out of the cell only ten minutes a day for showers and two hours twice a week for recreation.

In September 1979, the International Jurist interviewed Sundiata. A few days later prison officials secretly transferred him during the middle of the night to the federal prison system and put him en route to the infamous federal concentration camp at Marion, Illinois, although he had no federal charges or sentences.

Marion Control Unit is one of the highest security prisons in the U.S., also one of the harshest, and there Sundiata was locked down 23 hours a day. In July 1987, he was transferred to the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Parole

In the fall of 1992, Sundiata became eligible for parole. He was not permitted to attend his own parole hearing and was only allowed to participate via telephone from USP Leavenworth. Despite an excellent prison work, academic and disciplinary record, despite numerous job offers in the computer profession, and despite thousands of letters on his behalf, Sundiata was denied parole. Instead, at the conclusion of a 20-minute telephone hearing, he was given a 20-year hit, the longest hit in New Jersey history.

The New Jersey Parole Board’s stated reason for the 20-year hit included Sundiata’s membership in the Black Panther Party prior to his arrest, the receipt of hundreds of “Free Sundiata” form letters, and the feeling that the punitive aspects of his sentence had not been satisfied and that rehabilitation was not sufficiently achieved. The 20-year hit seemed to be an attempt to force Sundiata to renounce his political beliefs and to proclaim to the world that he was wrong to struggle for the liberation of his people.

In late 2014, a state appeals court ordered his release on parole, but the attorney general appealed it and it was sent to the NJ Supreme Court which overturned the order for his release as premature.

In 2016, he was again denied parole and given a 15-year hit (or not eligible again until 2032 when he is 94 years old). The New Jersey Appellate Court denied Sundiata’s release on parole in a decision dated Dec. 27, 2019. He gets a mandatory appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. In total, he has been denied parole 8 times.

Media

Sundiata is the author of the articles “A Brief History of the New Afrikan Prison Struggle” (1992), and “A Brief History of the Black Panther Party and Its Place in the Black Liberation Movement” (1995). He also wrote a eulogy published in Kuwasi Balagoon: A Soldier’s Story (Kersplebedeb, 2003).

Picture: 

Birthday: 

Thursday, January 14, 1937

Status: 

Prison: 

Next Parole Hearing: 

June, 2032

Mailing Address: 

Sundiata Acoli (Squire) #39794-066
FCI Cumberland
P.O. Box 1000
Cumberland, MD 21501
United States

Movement: 

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Comments

The result of the appeal was

The result of the appeal was that the order for release was deemed premature. The parole board had not followed correct statutory procedures and so the Court remanded the case to be heard by the full Parole Board with proper opportunity for Sundiata to present his case for release. (As of Oct. 2016.; accessed via Westlaw)