“FRAMED” Chapter 16 by Michael Richardson

Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 16 in a series for NorthOmahaHistory.com called Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story. It was written by  Michael Richardson. Learn more here.

 


“Turned against those two bloods”
—Duane Peak, September 29, 1970

 

Mondo was brought before Municipal Judge Paul Hickman and denied bail. Mondo, who surrendered his freedom, soon lost everything he owned.[i]

“I think it was shortly after my arrest the house was burned down. Originally they said there was a fire and the house burnt down. Then maybe a week or so later they said the police had determined it was an arson. They were saying maybe the landlord had the house torched for insurance or something like that.”[ii]

 

David Rice Omaha Police Department Arrest Record 9/1/1970
Mondo listed his occupation as “Revolutionary” when he was arrested on September 1, 1970. Mondo never saw another day of freedom after he surrendered. (credit: Omaha Police Department)

 

Also in Municipal Court, in a case not covered by the news media, Lamont Mitchell and Luther Payne pleaded not guilty to a charge of possession of explosive substance for the dynamite they were arrested with in July.[iii]

U.S. Attorney Richard Dier announced the resignation of William Gallup, consequent to the canceled ATF raid of the National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters.[iv]

Gallup explained to a reporter why he resigned as Assistant U.S. Attorney. “I got sick of Washington trying to run our legal business in Omaha.”

“The incident that decided the matter for me was the Justice Department calling off the proposed raid of NCCF headquarters after I had obtained a search warrant.”

“The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division agents here had set up the raid with police cooperation.”[v]

A Justice Department spokesman said the search was called off after the Department asked for information in support of a search warrant. The spokesman said there was a feeling that the search warrant was based on “questionable information.”[vi]

The allegation that Duane Peak had met with Ed Poindexter at the American Legion club  needed to be investigated. A police report detailed the inquiry. Calvin White of the singing group Souls United said Duane Peak was in the group and arrived at the club at 9:30 p.m. “Calvin stated that he and several other boys left at 0030 hours and that Duane PEAK did not leave with him. He assumed Duane PEAK stayed at the dance hall until approximately 0140 hours. Calvin WHITE advised reporting officer that he is positive that Ed POINDEXTER was present at the dance during those hours.”[vii]

Lieutenant James Perry assigned three officers to interview Duane Peak where he was being held at the Dodge County Jail in Fremont. Robert Pfeffer wrote a report of the interrogation. Duane C. PEAK stated that he met Edward POINDEXTER…and he told me that he had a beautiful plan to blow up a pig.”

“Rawleigh HOUSE brought POINDEXTER to Frank PEAKS house.”

“We then, POINDEXTER, HOUSE and I, Duane PEAK, drove over to David RICE’s house…where POINDEXTER got out of the car, and HOUSE drove to his house…where he went into his house and I waited in the car. He was in the house about 15 minutes and came out carrying a gray Samsonite suitcase, which he put in the back seat of his car….He told me to take the suitcase into RICE’s house and told me to be careful, that it was very heavy. I got the suitcase and cut across the vacant lot behind RICE’s house and entered his house through the back door.”

“When I got in the kitchen POINDEXTER took the suitcase, opened it, and it was full of dynamite sticks.  POINDEXTER told David RICE to go downstairs and get the case.  RICE went to his basement and returned carrying a cardboard box.”[viii]

“This was the box that POINDEXTER said that the dynamite came out of.”

“POINDEXTER and RICE took the dynamite from the suitcase into the box, all but three sticks, which POINDEXTER left in the suitcase. RICE took the rest of the dynamite to his basement.”

“POINDEXTER punched a hole into the bottom of the suitcase with a screwdriver, David RICE helped him by holding the suitcase steady.”

“POINDEXTER asked RICE for some paper to pack into the suitcase, and RICE and I went into the front room and we balled up some mimeograph paper. While we were doing this POINDEXTER was making the triggering device.”

“POINDEXTER used a red railroad type battery with two springs on top. POINDEXTER said it was all set and used a tool to punch a hole in the front of a stick of dynamite and put in a metal thing with two wires attached. He then put in the paper that Rice and I balled up.”

“RICE then told us that he had to leave, but first POINDEXTER asked RICE where he could leave the suitcase and RICE didn’t want it left at his house at first, but then told POINDEXTER to leave it in the frontroom. RICE then left, it was about 2230 at this time, RICE said he had to go to a party.”[ix]

“On Friday…I met POINDEXTER, Mary PEAK, William PEAK, Robert CECIL, Dorothy STUBBLEFIELD…in front of the Legion Club. POINDEXTER gave me the key to the suitcase and told me to set it at the house on Ohio Street that night.”

“The key was to lock the suitcase, so the police couldn’t open it easy, if the dynamite didn’t go off. They might set it off trying to open up the suitcase.”

“On Sunday…POINDEXTER was still looking for me and he was real mad. I met RICE in the front yard and told him what POINDEXTER wanted me to do.”

“Norma AUFRECHT came to the headquarters and I asked her to give me a ride to RICE’s house, which she did. I got the suitcase from RICE’s frontroom and had AUFRECHT give me a ride to Olivia NORRIS’ house….RICE was talking to someone in front of his house when we left.”[x]

“I think I told my brother Donald PEAK about it then, what POINDEXTER wanted me to do, and I remember him saying when he saw the little blue wire sticking out the bottom, “I see that you have some party work to deal with.”

“I walked up the alley, went through the back yard and up on the front porch and set the suitcase on the floor of the front doorway. I laid the suitcase on its side with the little blue wire sticking up.  I threw the key to the suitcase behind the front door after I locked it.”

“I call the police from a phone on the corner of 24th & Burdette Str. and told the police the story POINDEXTER told me about a colored guy taking a woman into the house.”[xi]

During the second week in September, Thomas Sledge flew to Washington, D.C. At the ATF Laboratory, Sledge interviewed chemist Kenneth Snow about his testing for dynamite of the evidence submitted from Omaha.[xii]

Lamont Mitchell had a preliminary hearing for possession of explosives. Jack Swanson was the only witness. Swanson summarized the July arrest establishing probable cause to hold Mitchell for trial.[xiii]

 

Lamont Mitchell Omaha Police Department Arrest Record 9/1/1970
Lamont Mitchell, one of three men arrested with stolen dynamite in July 1970, was held for trial after Jack Swanson testified on September 1, 1970 against Mitchell at a preliminary hearing. The news media did not cover the arrest or hearing. (credit: Omaha Municipal Court)

 

Paul Young informed J. Edgar Hoover and the Kansas City FBI office that a new member of the Omaha chapter of the National Committee to Combat Fascism was in jail in St. Joseph, Missouri. The individual, whose name was redacted, was arrested after he threatened to blow up a tavern with dynamite. “He was arrested a few blocks away, but had no dynamite on his person. Part of sticks of dynamite were found in area along which subject had fled.” A Omaha police captain and lieutenant were notified by FBI agents.[xiv]

A month after the Ohio Street bombing, Hoover ordered Young to obtain a better quality copy of the 911 recording. “The Bureau desires a tape recording of the anonymous telephone call received by the Omaha Police Department on 8/17/70 to be used as a training and instructional aid at the Seat of Government.”

“In the communication forwarding the recording to the Bureau, you are requested to furnish the identity of the unknown caller along with any information linking him to racial extremist groups or individuals.”[xv]

The Omaha Municipal Court preliminary hearing for Ed Poindexter and Mondo was called to order on September 28. Both defendants asked their cases be severed and tried separately but were denied. County Attorney Donald Knowles and Arthur O’Leary represented the prosecution, Public Defender A.Q. Wolf and Thomas Kenney represented Poindexter, with David Herzog representing Mondo.

Duane Peak was called to testify. Herzog immediately objected to any testimony by Peak because he was a co-defendant, unreliable, and a minor. The judge overruled the objection stating he did not know anything about Peak. “I have no charge against this young man so I don’t know anything about him.”[xvi]

O’Leary asked Peak about seeing Ed Poindexter a week before the murder. Peak couldn’t remember. “I don’t think I remember seeing him.”[xvii]

Peak also couldn’t remember seeing Poindexter at the American Legion on the Friday before the bombing. Peak couldn’t remember giving a deposition to O’Leary a month earlier where he purportedly did remember. Nor did Peak remember giving O’Leary a statement during an interrogation a week earlier. Peak also claimed to not remember O’Leary’s trip to the jail in Fremont.

Knowles had enough and stopped the questioning. “I note, Your Honor, from looking around the Courtroom, that this witness’ lawyer is not here. I would like your permission for a continuance to the time that we can get his lawyer here. I think he should be here with him.”[xviii]

When the preliminary hearing resumed Donald Knowles made a statement, apparently because Peak was still not ready to cooperate with the prosecution. “I understand that the Court’s ruling was that we were allowed to withdraw the witness that was on the stand this morning due to the fact that he had taken us by surprise and we are allowed to proceed now with other witnesses.”[xix]

Jack Swanson testified his search of Mondo’s home revealed fourteen sticks of dynamite.

“I was given information by a party who had given reliable information in the past that David Rice had explosives in his house and the necessary elements to make a bomb.”[xx]

Swanson said that no one was found at or near Mondo’s house the night of the search, not mentioning the detention of Mondo’s brother Michael and a friend, or the shots fired at an unknown third person.[xxi]

Swanson testified he found dynamite in the basement. “In the basement against the north wall in what you would call a kind of a cut-out in the basement down there.  It was a cut-away and you had to look back in there.”[xxii]

 

David Rice house basement at 2816 Parker Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
Mondo’s basement at 2816 Parker Street where Jack Swanson said he found dynamite. No police search photos show any dynamite in the dwelling. (credit: Omaha Police Department)

 

“The sticks were laid in the box and it was a dynamite box and they were just in there like they would have been shipped.”

 

Swanson said one suitcase was found at the residence but it was not seized as evidence.[xxiii]

Doctor Richard Wilson, a pathologist, was the next witness. The courtroom was silent as the doctor worked his way through gruesome testimony. “The most striking external finding was the fact that the head was completely disrupted and the major portion of the brain was absent. The skull was laid open with the right side of the face laid back and there was virtually nothing inside.”[xxiv]

“The entire chest and abdomen above the belt were covered with dirt and dust and what appeared to be fragments of wood and plaster and various objects, some of which were embedded in the skin. There were some large lacerations….There were compound fractures of both legs of the lower portions so that the bones were sticking out and the muscle extensively exposed on the lower right leg….The feet both showed fractures of the bones rather extensively.”[xxv]

Duane Peak returned to the witness stand, wearing sun glasses. The Omaha World-Herald reported, “Peak’s hands trembled and his answers came in whispers.”[xxvi]

Peak admitted conferring with three people during the morning recess; his lawyer, his brother Donald, and his grandfather, Foster Goodlett. Objections were made against any further testimony by Peak because of the visits. The judge allowed Peak to testify. “The young man is represented by competent counsel and I don’t know what he advised him but he has been represented and he has also conferred with his grandfather, who is a minister and whom I have known for a long time and I don’t know what advice he gave him but your motion is overruled and we will see what the Defendant testifies to.”

In the morning session, the judge said Peak was a young man facing no known charges. Peak was now a “Defendant” in the case. Peak’s testimony also changed during the recess. Now Peak remembered a conversation outside NCCF headquarters with Ed Poindexter about a bomb. “He called me outside and said he wanted to show me how to make a bomb.”

Peak said Poindexter told him to meet that evening at Frank Peak’s house. “He met me there with Rollie House.”[xxvii]

Duane claimed that from Frank’s home he went with House and Poindexter to Mondo’s residence where Poindexter got out of the vehicle. “We went up to Rollie House’s house.  Rollie brought a suitcase out from the house.”[xxviii]

Peak said House returned him to Mondo’s home where Peak claimed that Poindexter opened the suitcase to reveal dynamite. “Poindexter took the dynamite out of the suitcase and put it in a box.”[xxix]

Peak’s story about construction of the bomb changed from his earlier versions. Peak said he and Mondo assisted Poindexter. Peak also said that Poindexter wanted to plant the bomb that night but couldn’t get a ride.  According to Peak, at an encounter with Poindexter about 11:00 p.m. on Friday night at the American Legion Club, Peak was instructed to deliver the bomb to Ohio Street.[xxx]

Peak said he retrieved the suitcase and took it to Olivia Norris’ house where he told his brother Donald to stay away from the suitcase. From there Peak took the suitcase to sister Delia’s apartment with sister Theresa giving him a ride. Peak claimed he examined the suitcase in the bathroom at Delia’s before she gave him a ride to Ohio Street.[xxxi]

Under cross-examination by Thomas Kenney, Peak admitted telling the police a different story when first questioned. Peak said he was threatened with the electric chair during his first interrogation.

 

Nebraska's electric chair in which Douglas County Attorney Donald Knowles wanted to execute Mondo and Ed Poindexter. The electric chair was used to threaten Duane Peak into cooperation with prosecutors. (credit: Nebraska Department of Corrections)
Nebraska’s electric chair in which Douglas County Attorney Donald Knowles wanted to execute Mondo and Ed Poindexter. The electric chair was used to threaten Duane Peak into cooperation with prosecutors. (credit: Nebraska Department of Corrections)

 

David Herzog asked Peak about his arrest.  Peak said he was taken to the police station where he met with police officers and one other person. “There was one from the FBI.”[xxxii]

“The FBI arrested me.”[xxxiii]

Peak said police twice talked to him about being executed in the electric chair. “They said I was sitting in the electric chair so I had better tell the truth.”[xxxiv]

“I didn’t have a chance.”[xxxv]

Peak admitted he had been coached about his confession by Arthur O’Leary in preparation for the hearing. Peak said his attorney was not present for the session with O’Leary.  Herzog asked Peak to remove his sunglasses. Ernie Chambers was there and described the scene in an interview. “When he came back in the afternoon, his face was swollen around his eyes, he had glasses on….When Duane took his glasses off his eyes were red, you could see he had been crying, and there was an audible gasp in the courtroom.”

“His answers were scarcely audible. A young man who knew nothing about anything in the morning and suddenly gave the answers that the police, the prosecutors needed to implicate David and Ed.”[xxxvi]

Kenney asked for a dismissal of the charges. “Your Honor, the case that the State has presented thus far was the testimony of a 16-year-old boy who admittedly was subjected to extensive psychological coercion on the part of the Omaha Police Department and therefore is unreliable.”[xxxvii]

Herzog also sought a dismissal. “The witness has changed sides; has altered his story; has forgotten, claims to have forgotten some facts, and then comes back this afternoon and offers that testimony at the State’s own request and that witness has now impeached himself.”[xxxviii]

“The confession itself or the statement here is of an unreliable nature; obviously coerced; obviously given under fear by the statement of the witness himself. He indicates he would give the police officer or police officers anything they wanted.”[xxxix]

Peak’s testimony was allowed and the two NCCF leaders were bound over for trial.

The next day, Duane Peak wrote a letter from the Dodge County Jail to Olivia Norris.  In the letter Peak called Norris his “Moms” and explained the preliminary hearing testimony. Peak did not show any remorse for the death of Larry Minard but did feel bad over implicating Poindexter and Mondo for possible execution.

 

Letter by Duane Peak, 9/27/1970
Duane Peak’s September 29, 1970 letter from jail where he admits betraying “two bloods” to avoid his own execution. The prosecution later claimed they didn’t know about Peak’s letter despite a copy made by jailers. (credit: Dodge County Sheriff’s Office)

 

“The Lord knows I tried but something happened which forced me to realize that I had no alternative but to say what I said. No matter what anyone says from now on I refuse to call myself a man, or anything close to a man, because I did what I did. Even though there was no other way, because they already had enough evidence to convict those other two bloods. I don’t know, maybe I sound kind of nutty but that’s just the way I feel. Or maybe I’m just trying to get somebody to say what I did was justifiable, but I know it can’t be justified. I not only turned against those two bloods, but I turned against myself and my own people. I could have denied everything and all three of us would have gone up to the chair. And then again if I denied everything one of those other bloods would have gave them a story and sent me and the other dude up. But neither one of those is the reason, I was scared a little but that’s not the reason,? I guess I’ll never know.? Now I have to wait until my actual trial before I find out whether I get the chair or life?”[xl]

 

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Citations

  • [i] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001149, September 1, 1970
  • [ii] Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007
  • [iii] Nebraska v. Lamont Mitchell, Omaha Municipal Court, 81-14, Doc 31, #1417, September 1, 1970
  • [iv] “Gallup Quits Over Federal Halt of Raid,” Bill Billotte, Omaha World-Herald, p.1, Sept. 2, 1970
  • [v] “Gallup Quits Over Federal Halt of Raid,” Bill Billotte, Omaha World-Herald, p.1, Sept. 2, 1970
  • [vi] “Gallup Quits Over Federal Halt of Raid,” Bill Billotte, Omaha World-Herald, p.2, Sept. 2, 1970
  • [vii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001150, September 2, 1970
  • [viii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001154, September 5, 1970.  Jack Swanson said the dynamite was in a wooden box. The photo of the explosive in the trunk of a police cruiser shows a cardboard box. Peak’s inconsistency on the box was never explored at trial.
  • [ix] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001155, September 5, 1970
  • [x] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001156, September 5, 1970
  • [xi] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001157, September 5, 1970
  • [xii] Fred Whitehurst working notes, p. 2, January 18, 2000.
  • [xiii] Nebraska v. Lamont Mitchell, Omaha Municipal Court, 81-14, Doc 31, #1417, September 14, 1970
  • [xiv] Mondo’s FBI file,  Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover memorandum, p. 27, September 15, 1970
  • [xv] Mondo’s FBI file, J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young memorandum, p. 5, September 17, 1970  Redactions in Mondo’s FBI file hide Young’s compliance with Hoover’s directive. Ironically, if Young obeyed orders then FBI trainees would hear the voice of the 911 caller allowed to go free by the Bureau.
  • [xvi] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 3, September 28, 1970
  • [xvii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 4, September 28, 1970
  • [xviii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 5, September 28, 1970
  • [xix] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 8, September 28, 1970
  • [xx] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 12, September 28, 1970
  • [xxi] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 13-14, September 28, 1970
  • [xxii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 14, September 28, 1970
  • [xxiii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 26, September 28, 1970  Robert Pfeffer would later contradict Swanson and claim three suitcases were found.
  • [xxiv] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 30, September 28, 1970
  • [xxv]  Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 31, September 28, 1970
  • [xxvi] “2 to Stand Trial,”  Robert Hoig, p. 1, Omaha World-Herald, September 29, 1970
  • [xxvii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 41, September 28, 1970
  • [xxviii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 42, September 28, 1970
  • [xxix] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 45, September 28, 1970
  • [xxx] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 53, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxi] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 59, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 71, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxiii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 72, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxiv] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 76, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxv] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 78, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxvi] Ernie Chambers interview by author, September 4, 2010
  • [xxxvii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 84, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxviii] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 86, September 28, 1970
  • [xxxix] Preliminary Hearing Transcript, p. 867 September 28, 1970
  • [xl] Duane Peak to Olivia Norris letter, p. 1, September 29, 1970

 


About the Author

Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.
This is Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.

 

Michael Richardson is a former Omaha resident who attended Westside High School and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Richardson was a VISTA Volunteer on the Near-Northside and served on the Nebraska Commission on Aging before moving from the state. Richardson attended the Minard murder trial and reported on the case in 1971 for the Omaha Star in his first published article. After a nineteen year career as a disability rights advocate, Richardson worked for Ralph Nader coordinating his ballot access campaigns in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Richardson has written extensively for the San Francisco Bay View, OpEdNews.com and Examiner.com about the trial while spending the last decade researching and writing the book.

 


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