Declaration of George Michael Newman
Declaration of George Michael Newman, a private investigator contracted by one of Mumia’s former attorneys, Leonard Weinglass to locate and investigate witness, Robert Chobert.
I, George Michael Newman, declare as follows:
1. If called upon to testify in this matter I could and would attest to the following facts, of which I have personal knowledge:
2. My primary vocation is that of private legal investigator and security professional. My business address is Tactical Investigative Services, 110 West “C” St., Suite 707, San Diego, CA 92101-3909. As an avocation, I write educational articles for both government and private sector investigators, which are routinely published in national and local professional association’s periodicals. My curriculum vitae is attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference as EXHIBIT “A”. The statements in my curriculum vitae are true and correct.
3. In mid-1995 during the course of planning a personal trip to the Washington, DC, area I was first apprised of the case involving Mumia Abu-Jamal. Owing to extensive experience in such or similar cases, I was asked about locating witnesses by a person to whom the case had an interest. I was advised that then-current case-related needs dictated individuals to be located. Contacted by counsel Leonard Weinglass, I offered to do some initial basic searches and research pro bono on my firm’s relatively extensive databases to attempt to find certain percipient individuals. I also retained the services of a local investigator.
4. Statements were made by Weinglass about the extended length of time since the instant offense and his inability to find an investigator who could locate individuals from events of so many years before. That, and the fact that my firm recently had investigated other “old” cases, caused me to take an interest in terms of authoring a piece on the difficulties of investigating aged cases.
5. Among those deemed necessary to locate was Robert Chobert. William “Billy” Cook was not.
6. Upon identifying potential whereabouts for several of these individuals I tendered that information to attorney Weinglass. I also advised Weinglass that I was coming toward the East Coast, and asked that I be able to conduct interviews relative to the incident. I subsequently interviewed Robert Chobert at his residence.
7. In discussing Chobert’s statements with Weinglass it became apparent that Chobert’s statements to me were in conflict with earlier reports of his observations. I later telephoned Chobert in an attempt to clarify details. During the course of that telephone conversation, Mr. Chobert recanted the key points of his testimony at the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Chobert told me that on December 9, 1981, he had actually been parked, in his taxi, on 13th Street, north of Locust. (This contradicted his trial testimony that he was parked behind Officer Faulkner’s police car on Locust St., east of 13th Street.) Chobert told me that he did not see anyone standing over a prone Officer Faulkner, firing shots at the officer. Chobert said that what actually happened was that he was sitting in his taxi when he heard gunfire. He exited the taxi and saw a Black male standing next to a police car that was parked on Locust, east of 13th Street. The Black male slumped down. Chobert walked toward that area and when he got closer saw a police officer sprawled on his back on the sidewalk and a Black male sitting nearby. (This contradicted Chobert’s trial testimony that he saw Mumia Abu-Jamal standing over a prone Officer Faulkner and firing shots at him.) I promptly reported Chobert’s recantation to Leonard Weinglass.
8. Weinglass wanted to hire me/my firm to investigate case issues, and I initially declined, focused as I was on my existing cases and my desire to write about the case. I was therefore subpoenaed by Weinglass to testify at the PCRA hearing, August 15, 1995. I later learned that I was mis-characterized during the hearing as a “defense investigator,” which I had not been.
9. Because of apparent glaring miscarriages of what I knew to be standards of investigation and trial practices and procedures, I soon shelved the article and agreed to provide my firm’s services in California, and to counsel and coordinate Jamal’s defense team investigators in the Philadelphia area. During the course of my sporadic involvement in this matter I routinely retained the services of local investigators and utilized the team’s onboard investigators.
10. I was present in the courthouse at the PCRA hearing, prepared to testify about Chobert’s recantation of his trial testimony. However, Weinglass did not call me as a witness and later told me my testimony had been unnecessary because, “We got everything we needed,” from Chobert’s testimony. It was not until recently, when I reviewed the transcript of Chobert’s PCRA testimony provided to me by Mr. Jamal’s new attorneys, that I discovered that Weinglass had not questioned Chobert at the PCRA hearing about Chobert’s recantation to me of his trial testimony.
11. Before and after the PCRA hearing, I requested of Leonard Weinglass the opportunity to interview “Billy” Cook. I was initially advised he had been interviewed and Weinglass was in communication with him and did not want me talking to him. It had been my understanding that he was to testify, and was under subpoena. I asked after the hearing as to why he was not presented, and was told that he had “disappeared.”
12. I offered to try and find Cook, which was declined. I later asked about locating and interviewing Cook, and compelling him to testify, which was quashed by Weinglass.
13. During early reading of documentation regarding the Abu-Jamal case, I learned of the potential role of Kenneth Freeman. Weinglass, in our earliest contacts, advised me he had been threatened by Freeman’s relative(s). Weinglass stated that he did not want me contacting people to ask about Freeman as a result of the alleged threat, and indicated he was made fearful by the threat. In spite of the fact that I routinely advised that Freeman be actively investigated respecting his potential role in the death of Officer Faulkner, Weinglass maintained that the threat he had received posed a risk he was unwilling to take.
The foregoing is stated subject to the penalties of 18 Pa. C.S. Section 4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities, is further stated under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California, and is executed by me on September 25, 2001, at San Diego, California.
GEORGE MICHAEL NEWMAN