United Freedom Front
The United Freedom Front (UFF) was a small American Marxist organization active in the 1970s and 1980s. It was originally called the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit, and its members became known as the Ohio 7 when they were brought to trial. Between 1975 and 1984 the UFF carried out at least 20 bombings and nine bank robberies in the northeastern United States, targeting corporate buildings, courthouses, and military facilities. Brent L. Smith describes them as "undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s." The group's members were eventually apprehended and convicted of conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, and other charges. Two, Tom Manning and Jaan Laaman, remain incarcerated today.
The group was founded in 1975 as the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit, setting off a bomb at the Massachusetts State House under that name, but changed its name to the United Freedom Front the same year. The initial members were Raymond Luc Levasseur (the UFF's leader), Tom Manning, and their respective spouses, Patricia Gros and Carole Manning. Levasseur and Tom Manning were both Vietnam War veterans and ex-convicts. The four had worked together in prison reform groups before forming the UFF. Four other members joined the group in the following years: Jaan Laaman and Barbara Curzi (another married couple), Kazi Toure (born Christopher King), and Richard Williams.
The UFF's targets included South African Airways, Union Carbide, IBM, Mobil, courthouses, and military facilities. The UFF called in warnings before all of its bombings, attempting to avoid casualties. However, 22 people were injured in one 1976 bombing at the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston, including a courthouse worker who lost a leg. The group was most active in the early 1980s. The UFF's members lived undercover in middle-class suburbs.
Toure was captured in North Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1982. Two state troopers were wounded in the course of arresting him. On November 4, 1984, police apprehended Levasseur and Gros near Deerfield, Ohio, and Laaman, Curzi, and Williams in Cleveland. The Mannings were captured six months later in Norfolk, Virginia. Gus notes that the UFF was "the most enduring of all New Left terrorist groups of the era," evading capture for almost a decade.
Trials and imprisonment
The UFF's members were tried repeatedly on various federal and state charges. In March 1986, seven of them (the so-called "Ohio Seven") were convicted of conspiracy, receiving sentences ranging from 15 to 53 years. In 1987 all eight members were charged with sedition and racketeering. Eventually five accepted plea bargains, had charges against them dropped, or were tried separately, and the trial of the remaining three ended in 1989 with an acquittal for sedition and a locked jury on the racketeering charges. Thomas Manning and Richard Williams were given life sentences for the 1981 murder of state trooper Philip Lamonaco, and Laaman was convicted in the 1982 attempted murder of two state troopers. The well-known defense lawyer William Kunstler represented UFF members in some of these proceedings.
Toure, Curzi, Gros, and Carol Manning were released during the 1990s, and Levasseur was released in November 2004. Williams died in prison in December 2005, and Tom Manning and Laaman remain in prison.
- USA v. Patricia Gros: 84-CR-0222
- USA v. Raymond Luc Levasseur et al.: 86-CR-180
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