1970 February 15

Chicago Seven Lawyers Cited for Contempt


The Chicago Seven (originally eight before Black Panther Bobby Seale’s case was severed from the others) were prosecuted for their actions in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention (see August 28, 1968). They were prosecuted under the new Anti-Riot Act (enacted on April 11, 1968), which made it a crime to cross state lines to incite violence. The trial was a tumultuous affair, marked by evident hostility to the defendants and their lawyers by Judge Julius Hoffman. Two lawyers, William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, were cited for contempt and sentenced to prison by Judge Hoffman on this day. The contempt citations were reheard by a different judge, who upheld some of the charges but declined to send either of the lawyers to prison.

Three days later, on February 18, 1970, the Chicago Seven were acquitted of conspiracy, but five were convicted of violating the new federal Anti-Riot Act. Their convictions were subsequently overturned on appeal.

Read about the case: Jon Weiner, ed., Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight (2006)

Watch a documentary on the trial of the Chicago Seven (Eight): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a-sFuzmloE

Read: David J. Langum, William M. Kunstler: The Most Hated Lawyer in America,  (1999)

Watch the documentary, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (2009), produced and directed by his daughters, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler.

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