Dic k J. Rea v is Cann.; and the late guerilla leader Gilero Medrano, 1978. keeps tabs on contemporary history. Kuntsler is the Darrow of our day. He is best known for representing the Chicago 8, who convened the 1968 Democratic convention protests in Chicago. Over the past 15 years, Kuntsler has defended the nation’s most publicized black agitators, white agitators and Indian agitators, both armed and unarmed. It was time for him to defend a Chicano agitator. Of course, I wanted to meet Kuntsler: but not about legal business. My experiences as a participant in the judicial process had all been of one kind, as one of the accused. I was a civil rights worker in Alabama during the midsixties, and got all the first-hand courtroom experience I’ll ever need. Every time I stood trial, I had a civil liberties lawyer like Kuntsler, except for one time, when my lawyer was jailed, essentially for being a New York Jew. Kuntsler got him out, but I languished in jail three weeks. It was not a personal grudge that I held against Kuntsler, but a grudge against his kind, the let’s-make-aprecedent lawyer. Every time I stood trial, I was convicted. I was sure that Mario would be, too, with representation like Kuntsler. “Why didn’t you hire Gerald Goldstein or some other good Mafia lawyer?”, I asked Cantd. “We’ve already been through that,” said Mario. Believe me, we had. Last December I went to Paris, where Mario had been in exile more than a year, continuously speaking out about injustices to Chicanos and Mexicans. I needed to see him about several matters. Coming back was one of them. At his family’s request, in personal conversations I urged him to return. I told him I thought it was best to come back and face the music in silence, head bowed. “If the reporters ask why you’ve returned, tell them that it is because you left your toothbrush behind.” That was my advice to him. Gathering Part of it, he took. We flew from Paris into Mexico together. Then he stayed south, in Monterrey, for two months. The weekend before his return and surrender in February 1980, I went to Monterrey to see him, perhaps for the last time, I told myself. Again, I urged him to come back quietly. Mario by then would hear none of it. He said that his original 1976 sentence was patently unjust. I could not disagree. Only two people have ever been convicted of shielding illegal aliens. In Mario’s case, the charge came because he refused to let immigration agents raid his restaurant until they obtained a search warrant; they regarded his insistence as obstruction. He was convicted because he was guilty; but then, so are thousands who are never molested or jailed. Even alien smugglers rarely receive five-year sentences for first offenses, and many of them are never charged simply because the federal courts and the INS are backlogged with work. Injustice, however, comes from many sources, not only the courts. Most of us have to live with our heads bowed at some times in our lives. I thought Mario’s time had come, and that he must endure the outrage if he wished to proceed with his politics. When I arrived in San Antonio and met Mario in Kuntsler’s hotel room, I immediately understood that Mario had cast off all ties to caution. Sitting across from Kuntsler was Herman Baca, a Chicano firebrand from California. ,In 1977, the Ku Klux Klan staged show patrols along the border to put the fear of vigilanteeism into the hearts of illegal immigrants. When the Kluxers came to maraud at San Diego, Baca and his associates met them with picket signs. A riot was narrowly averted. I could see a similar scenario on script at the federal courthouse the following morning. My worst fears were eased a few minutes later when Monsieur Daniel Jacoby stepped into the room. Jacoby, whom I had met in Paris, is a human rights attorney of record and stature. He is accredited by the International Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and a halfdozen other goodnik agencies and organizations. I am quite sure he would shriek in case of riot. Like me, Jacoby had come as a witness. I didn’t take notes during this meeting. I didn’t plan to write a story. This experience, I thought, was a chapter from the personal life or demise of a journalist, not something meant to be published. I told Kuntsler I was hesitant to testify because, as I’d indicated to Mario, I might know things about Mario which could hurt his case. He asked me v. hat sort of things I knew. I wasn’t sure what to say, especially in the presence of other witnesses. Mario, I figured, would know what to worry about. He knew, better than me, what the terms of his probation were. I looked over at Mario, who was sitting on the bed opposite Kuntsler, and Mario looked over at Kuntsler. “Ah, don’t worry about it,” Mario told him. Kuntsler then told me and the other witnesses something we hadn’t expected to hear. Mario already had told the court that his October 1978 trip to Mexico was made without permission from his probation officer. Guilt was a matter of record; tomorrow’s hearing was only to establish mitigation. I was an important witness, Kuntsler said, because I had destine trip. The other witnesses would speak only about political issues or Mario’s character. The last man to enter Kuntsler’s room that afternoon was big, brash, red-faced Ruben Sandoval, Cantu’ s San Antonio attorney. In a few words, Sandoval told us that his own plan for the defense had been subordinated to. politics. Sandoval had wanted to rely on what Mario called “onions.” He had wanted to bring out the human side of Mario’s life, to talk about the family’s fears for Mario’s safety, about the difficulties of separation from them, about business problems which arose in the wake of Mario’s departure for Europe. Kuntsler, on the other hand, wanted to get a political message across, and so did Mario. Commentary on the disagreement was brief, because it was time for Canni and Kuntsler to show up at a cocktail party sponsored in honor of the New York lawyer at
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