On Wednesday August 12th, 2015, Hugo Pinell was murdered in the midst of a prison riot. Rest In Power Yogi Bear.
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Hugo Pinell is a Nicaraguan prisoner currently incarcerated at California State Prison – Sacromento. Despite maintaining then and now that he is innocent, Pinell, after being repeatedly told he would face the death penalty if he did not confess, eventually pled guilty in 1965, at the age of 19, to assault in connection with the kidnapping, sodomy, and rape of a young woman in San Francisco:
“In 1964, a white woman accused me of rape, assault and kidnap. I was 19 years old. I turned myself into the authorities to clarify the charges against me which I knew to be falsified. The deputies beat me several times because the alleged victim was white, and the Public Defender and the Judge influenced my mother into believing that I would be sentenced to death unless I pled guilty. At their insistence and despite my innocence, I pled guilty to the charge of rape, with the understanding that I would be eligible for parole after 6 months. When I arrived at the California Department of Corrections, I was informed that I had been sentenced to three years to life.”
While Yogi was imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison he made contact with revolutionary prisoners such as George Jackson, one of the Soledad Brothers and W.L. Nolen. Both men were African-Americans who, in jail, claimed to had turned away from a life focused on crime to a life focused on the ideas of social revolution. They both lead a movement to convert their fellow prisoners to the same ideology. Along with their fellow prisoners, they fought for an end to guard brutality and racism, and for prisoner unity.
On August 21, 1971, there was a prisoner uprising in Yogi’s housing unit at San Quentin, led by George Jackson. According to the state of California, lawyer-activist Stephen Bingham had smuggled a pistol concealed in a tape recorder to Jackson, who was housed in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center time awaiting trial for the murder of a prison guard. On August 21, 1971, Jackson used the pistol, an Astra 9-mm semi-automatic, to take over his tier in the Adjustment Center. In his failed escape attempt, six people were killed, including three prison guards, two white prisoners, and Jackson himself.
At the end of the roughly 30 minute rebellion, guards had killed George Jackson, and two other prisoners and three guards were dead. Of the remaining prisoners in the unit, six of them, including Pinell, were put on trial for murder and conspiracy. They were known as The San Quentin Six. Three of them were acquitted of all charges, and three were found guilty of various charges. Pinell was convicted of assault on a guard.
Although Yogi was convicted of assault, and another of the San Quentin Six had a murder conviction, only Pinell remains. By 1998, all of the men except Pinell had been set free. Since 1990, Pinell has been living in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, in Crescent City, CA. As of January 2014, he is now in CSP-Sacromento. Yogi Bear has lost nine bids for parole and was denied again on May 2nd, 2014, to which he was given a five year hit.