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He grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts and Buffalo, New York. His family emigrated to the United States from Estonia when he was a child. He has a son. He is currently serving a 53-year prison sentence for his role in the bombings of United States government buildings while a member of the United Freedom Front, an American leftist group in the 1980s.
Laaman was sentenced for breaking and entering in New York and was sent to prison.
Under a special University of New Hampshire program to bring former prisoners to the university, facilitated by popular Education Professor Carlton Menge, Laaman entered the University of New Hampshire.
In the 1960s, Laaman worked in Students for a Democratic Society and community organizations and advocated against the Vietnam War and racism. As a student at the University of New Hampshire he was a leader in the SDS. He was also a leader in the student strike in May 1970 in reaction to the Bombing of Cambodia and the massacre of protesting students as Kent State University and Jackson State College. He facilitated youth development in the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican Young Lords street gang.
In Attica Prison. His cellmate for a time had been Sam Melville. The Attica prison riot in 1971 and the death of Sam Melville, according to Lamaan targeted for execution by the state police, contributed to Laaman's further radicalization.
In 1972 he was arrested and charged with bombing a Richard Nixon re-election headquarters building and a police station in New Hampshire and was sentenced to 20 years. However, he was released in 1978.
He was eventually caught with several other members of the United Freedom Front, referred to as the Ohio 7, including leader Tom Manning in 1984. While originally charged with seditious conspiracy, Laaman was found guilty of five bombings, one attempted bombing, and criminal conspiracy, and sentenced to 53 years in prison.
In 1977, an important New Hampshire State Supreme Court case was won by Laaman. Helgemoe was the warden of the New Hampshire State Prison. Laaman sued to receive reading material which he was refused. Helgemoe claimed that the material was radical, seditious, and even included bomb-making instructions. The New Hampshire Supreme Court decided in favor of Laaman, and this case eventually was used as a justification for offering college level education in New Hampshire prisons for the first time. The case has been cited for various reasons with respect to prisoners' rights in other states was well.
Laaman's projected release date is November 14, 2038.
- Jan Laaman (Contr. Author) "This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA" (Arissa Media Group, 2009). ISBN 978-0-9742884-7-5.