portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

actions & protests | human & civil rights | prisons & prisoners

Sherman Austin sentenced to 12 months in federal prison.

Sherman Austin, webmaster of RaisetheFist.com, was sentenced today, August 4, 2003, to one year in federal prison, with three years of probation. Judge Wilson shocked the courtroom when he went against the recommendation of not only the prosecution, but the FBI and the Justice Department, who had asked that Austin be sentenced to 4 months in prison, and 4 months in a half-way house, with 3 years of probation.

Sherman is being inmprisoned for 12 months for mirroring information about making explosives on his website. Information that is readily available elsewhere on the internet. The owner of the actual website where the offending information was stored isn't facing any charges. The accusations and harassment that have been perpetrated on Mr. Austin are politically motivated and demonstrate the levels of fascism prevelant in our government. They felt that RaiseTheFist.Com was a threat to national security and saw Sherman as a dangerous dissident with plans for terrorist actions. Most of the people who frequent this website will enentually fall into this category for simply voicing an opinion in this land of the free. it's very likely that the local government agencies already have a file on some of us. It's time we put a stop to this machine or we will all end up locked behind their bars and forgotten. For further information about Sherman Austin and benefit shows being held to help pay for his legal ordeals check la.indymedia.org

For further information regarding the case and Sherman Austin check this site.
[Repost of article from www.la.indymedia.org]

Sherman Austin, webmaster of RaisetheFist.com, was sentenced today, August 4, 2003, to one year in federal prison, with three years of probation. Judge Wilson shocked the courtroom when he went against the recommendation of not only the prosecution, but the FBI and the Justice Department, who had asked that Austin be sentenced to 4 months in prison, and 4 months in a half-way house, with 3 years of probation.

Austin's probation stipulates, among other things, that (1) he cannot possess or access a computer of any kind without prior approval of his probation officer, (2) if his probation officer gives permission, the equipment is subject to monitoring and is subject to search and seizure at any time, without notice, (3) he cannot alter any of the software or hardware on any computer he uses, (4) he must surrender his phone, DSL, electric, and satellite bills, (5) he cannot associate with any person or group that advocates the use of violence to achieve environmental, social, political, or economic change, and (6) he must pay over $2,000 in fines and restitution. Austin must surrender himself to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by September 3, 2003.

For background information check out What the FBI Doesn't Want You to Know About RaisetheFist.com.
Or read about Sherman's case, in his own words.
[Repost of account from www.raisethefist.com from the mouth of Sherman Austin.]
My name is Sherman Austin. On Jan 24, 2002, I was awaken by my sister while taking a nap. She told me a bunch of "FBI looking people", cop cars, and other individuals standing around, were parked all up and down the street and they were all focusing in on the house.
It was 4PM and I was taking a nap. I got up went to the living room to look out the window. At this time our house was already surrounded by some 20-25 FBI agents and secret service armed with sub-machine guns, shot guns, hand guns, bullet proof vests, and what not. I then saw two men in suits approach the door. So I went to the door to see what was up and they asked me if my name was Sherman Austin. I said yes, and they told me to step out side. I asked why, and they grabbed me by my shoulder and pulled me out side.
I then saw about a dozen FBI agents in blue windbreakers standing on the front-lawn. More began to appear as they emerged from the sides of the house. Every single one of them had their guns drawn and was wearing bullet-proof vests. One of the special agents then handed me a 25 page federal warrant for search and seizure.
The rest of the agents came into the house with their guns drawn and searched the entire premises. The two special agents in suits sat me down and began questioning me about my web site, raisethefist.com. They advised me that they were performing a search of the entire house, and were going to seize all of my computer equipment which was being used to run my site.
During this process several FBI agents occupied my room as they dismantled my computer network and loaded everything into a big white truck parked out side. They even took my political literature, and protest signs. During this time I was being interrogated by the two special agents and a secret service agent.
The Secret Service asked me a number of questions, such as if I'd like to see the president killed. The FBI asked me questions relating back to when I was 14. (I was 18 at the time of the raid). They also asked me a bunch of questions about my site, such as where the log files were stored, if I was the only one who worked on it, if I knew other people who visited it frequently..etc. They advised me that I was not arrested, but was in serious trouble. They also asked if I was planning to go to the World Economic Forum protest in New York on Feb 2nd (which was posted on my site)
Finally after approximately 7 hours, the agents left, with my room completely ransacked, and all my equipment loaded into their big white truck. Despite what had happened, I went to the World Economic Forum protest in NY. When I arrived I was standing in Columbus circle waiting for the march to begin. Then all of the sudden I saw a hand of a police officer reach out to grab me as some 20 police charged at us out of nowhere.
I was tackled to the ground by 3 officers, and arrested with 26 other people. I sat on a bus for about 7 hours before being taken to Brooklyn Navy Yard Jail, where I was held for about 30 hours before being taken into a back room in hand cuffs and interrogated by an FBI Detective and a Secret Service agent for several hours. They asked me questions such as if I was a terrorist or involved in any terrorist organizations. They also kept asking me questions about the FBI raid at my house in California but I declined to comment.
During the whole interrogation process I noticed more and more FBI agents walking in and out of the room. The detective then told me I wasn't going to leave jail until they searched my car. I argued and said they couldn't keep me much longer without charging me. The detective said he didn't care and wanted to search my car. Apparently they thought there were bombs and other weapons in my car. I just wanted to get out of jail and go home so I described him the area of where my car was located and signed over the keys.
I was taken back to my cell and 5 minutes later I was taken out again and driven to the court to be released. As the jail guard was escorting me out of the jail facility and into the court hall, 3 FBI agents stopped us and were holding up a photo of me. They asked me if I knew who the person in the photo was, and I said it was me. They then smiled and said , "ok". So I walked on, and was released in the court.
I made a phone call for someone to pick me up and waited around for about 30 minutes until about 5 FBI agents came into the building and said I was under arrest for distributing information related to explosives on the internet. They hurried me out of the court into a black SUV as one detective grabbed my neck and told me to "shut the fuck up" as I tried to tell people I was being arrested again.
They then drove me to a federal building down the street and attempted to question me. I declined to answer any of their questions. I was then taken to a Federal Jail facility in lower Manhattan and put into a maximum security 24 hour lockdown cell.
The next morning I had my arraignment, which was postponed a few days so my lawyer could look through the arrest warrant with me. A few days later I had a bail hearing and my bail was denied as the FBI claimed I was a "man on a mission", and I drove 3,000 miles to carry out my "plot", and on the way back home I was going to "blow up the Olympics". I was rendered a "threat to the community" and was to be transported back to California in custody of the U.S marshals to face my charges.
A few days later I was driven to an air-force base in upstate New York to be flown to a federal prison hub in Oklahoma. My ankles were shackled together and my wrists shackled to my waste as I was put onto a plane with other federal inmates while guards stood surrounding us with shot guns and M16's. I felt like a prisoner of war.
When I arrived in Oklahoma, I was put in general population, which confused me since the whole time I had been in custody I was kept in 24 hour lockdown. However I didn't care since it was better than spending 24 hours in a small, cold, cockroach-infested cell the size of a bathroom. I then called my mom and she said that the prosecutors decided not to file an indictment and therefore my charges would be dropped. I was relieved knowing I was soon going to be released.
The next day two guards called my named and handcuffed me and put me back to the hole (maximum security 24 hour lockdown). I was confused since I was supposed to have been released any minute. 2 hours later they came back to my cell and said I was going to be released. My lawyer had a court order put in to have me immediately released and put on a plane by myself to be flown back to Los Angeles. After spending 13 days in custody I arrived back home. All of my stuff, clothes, wallet, car, etc. Was still in New York. All I got back was my wallet. Everything else was lost.
A month after being arrested I got my site back online and continued to do organizing work within the community. 6 months later federal prosecutors called my lawyer and said they didn't find anything on my computers but didn't want to let me off the hook. So they offered me a pre-indictment binding plea which I initially rejected, but then decided to take. The plea was a felony conviction for distributing information related to explosives with intent, 1 month in jail, 5 months community confinement (in a half-way house), and 3 years supervised release.>br> I went to court to enter the plea and the judge immediately rejected it saying I should be serving at least 12 months for such a charge. A trial date was set for March 15th, 2003. I figured what the hell, I'll go to trial. If convicted I thought I would be looking at a maximum of 3-4 years. However after my lawyer consulted the USPO working on the case, she found out that a "terrorism enhancement" is applicable to my charge, which could get me an additional 20 years.
I wasn't in the mood to Martyr myself. I decided to try and take any plea possible. My lawyer went back to the drawing board and we worked up a plea with a sentencing range between 6 and 12 months. (note: this range is now 8-14 months due to a recent conviction which brought my criminal history category up another point)
We went back to court and the judge accepted it, and my sentencing date was set for June 30th.
That is pretty much where my case stands now. I do not know how much time to expect, except a minimum of 4 months in jail, and 4 months community confinement, and 3 years of very intense "supervised release" (probation) according to the USPO's pre-sentencing report which me and my lawyer just received and reviewed.
It would be relief to think that a year after the raid, constantly being followed, monitored, harassed, having the nightmares, that all of this will finally be "over" after June 30th, but everything tells me it won't, becoming a young black felon in america only tells me it's just the beginning.