Waposhitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, former David Rice, died last month at the Nebraska State Penitentiary where he was serving a life sentence for a crime he said he did not commit. In the years before he died, Mondo granted a series of interviews discussing the allegations against him. “There are all kinds of things about the case that are really pretty basic and pretty outrageous that are part of the record that people don’t know about,” said Mondo.
Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, called the Omaha Two, were leaders of the National Committee to Combat Fascism and the targets of J. Edgar Hoover’s clandestine COINTELPRO operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The two men were convicted of the August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr., even though a fifteen year-old, Duane Peak, confessed to planting the bomb. Peak avoided prison with a juvenile delinquency charge in exchange for his testimony that Mondo and Poindexter put him up to the crime.
Mondo wondered why anyone would believe Duane Peak:
“From the time he was arrested to the time of the trial, Duane Peak gave a minimum of six different versions of the plan to “off a pig.” Of all these versions, only one, which he gave at the trial, implicated me as having anything to do with the death of Minard, and then only questionably. How can a witness tell even two different stories and one of the not be a lie? Duane Peak told a minimum of six. Duane Peak is a perjurer.”
“All of Duane Peak’s testimony linking me to the blowing up of Minard was negated by witnesses for the defense, two of them his own cousins.”
“It has been established that Duane Peak did not even mention my name until after having been told to do so by Art O’Leary, after O’Leary made the deal which allowed Duane to slide out from under a murder charge,” said Mondo about the special prosecutor assigned his case.
“Duane was someone who did pills and other drugs and was suspended at least once from our chapter for being intoxicated from drug use. Another time, he was suspended for firing several bullets at a sparrow that had flown inside our headquarters.”
“In short, Duane was unstable….I don’t believe he acted on his own. But I did not use him. I did not put his life in jeopardy.”
“Only two people were actually implicated: Duane Peak and his brother, Donald. Testimony was given to the effect that these two parties had been seen together with the suitcase, had been observed holding whispered conversations while in possession of the suitcase, had been seen and heard laughing and joking together about the bombing several hours after it had taken place, etc. But Donald Peak was never brought to trial to face any charges whatsoever in regard to the Minard death.”
Donald Peak was in the employment of the FBI as an informant, according to James Perry, who lead the police investigation. Perry made the disclosure in an interview with a private investigator. Also, Donald Peak led the police and FBI agents to his brother Duane’s hiding place and identified the anonymous 911 caller who lured Minard to his death as his younger brother. However, while in police custody, Donald was never tested for handling explosives.
Agents from the FBI rival agency, Acohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, provided testimony about dynamite particles allegedly found in Mondo’s pants pocket and a “match” between a piece of wire and Mondo’s pliers. A published newspaper photo in the Omaha World-Herald of Mondo with his hands jammed in his pockets moments before he tested clean of explosives proves the dynamite particles were added after Mondo surrendered and his clothing was taken from him. The “match” of wire to pliers was based upon fifteen points of simiarity and twenty-five points of dissimiarity.
Mondo had the dissimarities brought out in cross-examination, however the jury ignored the contradictory testimony. Mondo had a chance to look at the wire and found another glaring fault with the ATF story:
“The prosecution claimed a piece of copper wire was found at the “scene of the bombing,” that markings on this wire were compared in a lab to markings left on a piece of lead cut by pliers found in my house. The wire wasn’t actually found at the scene of the bombing but in the basement of the house next door, about three feet from a tool bench.”
“Either the wire was found to have no traces of dynamite on it or it wasn’t tested,” said Mondo.
“The only copper wire testified to as being used in the bombing was that from the blasting caps. That wire was a half to two-thirds smaller in diameter than the wire found at the house next door to the bombing,” explained Mondo.
Dynamite allegedly found by detective Jack Swanson at the time of the trial was also purported to be found by detective Robert Pfeffer in post-trial proceedings, raising the questions of who found what and where.
Mondo we Langa was present at the hearing before U. S. District Judge Warren Urbom, when the police witnesses testified about finding dynamite in Mondo’s basement.
“I noticed the first cop was presented with a photo of my basement. He is asked to identify where he is supposed to have found this box of dynamite. So he has the photo before him and he is going like this and that, probably trying to jog his memory. Urbom notices it and hands him a pen and says, “Mark the specific spot in the photo where you found the dynamite.” So he looks at it some more and takes the pen and marks a spot. They are done with him, next cop comes up and he is asked the same thing.”
“He is looking, finally he points to the spot that the first cop made a little box. Same thing with one or two more cops. Same thing. They all eventually point to the marked box. I’m saying to myself, man something weird is going on around here. Because my belief was they had several ways that things could have come down. One, the business about my house being open and somebody planted some dynamite. The one that made more sense to me was that there was no dynamite there in the first place. Or, maybe they had brought the dynamite to the house.”
During a recess in the hearing, Mondo examined the photograph marked by Jack Swanson:
“I looked at the photo and I’ll be damned. It is a photo of my basement, but whoever took the photo of my basement took the photo lengthwise, walking down the kitchen steps. It is an unfinished basement, there may have been a concrete wall and the other walls were dirt. And the photograph shows the one wall where I had my target up there, my target practice range. The coal bin, where the police testified they found the dynamite, is not even in the photo.”
“So even though I couldn’t prove the police planted the dynamite or that it wasn’t there in the first place, it was obvious their testimony was perjured. They say the dynamite was in the coal bin and they identify a place where the coal bin isn’t, that is perjured testimony. It is obvious they are lying,” said Mondo.
At post-trial proceedings in 2007, the issue of dynaminte was back in court, only this time retired detective Robert Pfeffer contradicted his own trial testimony backing up Swanson to now take credit for the dynamite discovery. Mondo was unimpressed:
“Here is Pfeffer talking about we found a box of dynamite in David Rice’s house facing next to the furnace. I’m thinking about this. Well, if a person was going to keep his dynamite next to the furnace, and I imagine it was to keep it warm, then it would make sense that if there were blasting caps in the house then it probably would have been a good thing to have these kept like on top of the stove to be consistent with this kind of absurdity.”
Edward Poindexter continues to serve his life sentence at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary where he steadfastly maintains his innocence. A memorial service for Mondo was recently held at the Malcolm X Memorial Center in Omaha with a standing room-only crowd and a jammed parking lot full with people seeking to show their respects.