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Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial (5 of 6)

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The Omaha FBI office was itself busy with a campaign of misdeeds including a planned ambush, bogus letters and anonymous phone calls against the Panther leadership.  The U.S. Attorney, Richard A. Dier, had put Mondo we Langa and others before a grand jury investigation into Panther activities.


Not to be outdone, an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Thomas Sledge, requested a federal search warrant for the Black Panther headquarters.  The search never happened and the public never knew about it until later--after Larry Minard's death.  The Omaha World-Herald belatedly dug out some of the details.


Sledge got his search warrant on July 20, 1970.  As Sledge assembled his ATF task force, he called upon U.S. Marshal Lloyd Grimm who, with police and FBI agents, would stage an early morning raid the next day.  Grimm's involvement required a check-in with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.  The call to Washington stopped the search.


Sledge claimed in his application for the search warrant that there were ten boxes of machine guns of "Russian manufacture" and dynamite at the headquarters.  The dynamite was described as "15, more or less, bundles of 12 sticks in a bundle wrapped with cord or wire."  The individual sticks were described as about 12 inches long, an inch in diameter and brown.


Sledge's ATF supervisor, Dwight Thomas, approved use of Sledge's adolescent informant but the choice of snitch was overruled by Justice Department officials.  Dier refused to answer questions telling a reporter, "I'm sorry but I cannot discuss the matter."  A Justice Department spokesperson said the raid had been cancelled because the search warrant was based on "questionable information."


Sledge claimed his adolescent informant had detailed knowledge of a recent bombing at Component Concepts Corporation.  Sledge also claimed he spoke with a man who alleged selling machine guns to the Panthers.

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  A month later 15 year-old Duane Peak would confess to planting the bomb that killed Larry Minard.  Peak said he got the dynamite from Raleigh House, a suspected informant that was never charged for his role in the crime.   

The police never solved the Component Concepts Corporation bombing.  Nor did they solve a similar bombing at Horace Mann Junior High School.  Horace Mann was Peak's school where he had discipline problems.


Could Duane Peak, at fifteen years of age, have been Sledge's "questionable" adolescent informant overruled by the Justice Department?


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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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