Twenty-five years ago, counterculture icon Abbie Hoffman took his own life, closing the book on a man about whom the FBI had compiled a file of more than 13,000 pages. Through years of protests, activism, political stunts and organized opposition to the status quo, Hoffman built a reputation as a visionary leader or a criminal mastermind, depending on one’s point of view.
In August 1968, Hoffman took his anti-war activism to Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. The resulting conflict with the city's police force landed him and seven others on trial. Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale were indicted on charges including conspiracy, inciting to riot and other offenses. Seale had his trial severed from the rest, and the remaining defendants, dubbed the Chicago Seven, stood trial together in March 1969. The trial began as a media spectacle and quickly devolved into circus, owing to increasingly outlandish courtroom antics by Hoffman and his co-defendants.
Throughout the 11-month trial, Hoffman expressed his contempt for Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation) through stunts such as dressing up in judicial robes with Chicago police uniforms underneath, offering to find the judge LSD and bringing a parade of counterculture celebrities to testify. Authors Norman Mailer and Allen Ginsberg came to Hoffman’s defense, as well as musician Phil Ochs, activist Timothy Leary and a host of others.
Eventually, Hoffman and four others were found guilty of crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot and sentenced to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. All seven defendants, as well as their attorneys, were sentenced to various jail terms for contempt. The sentences and convictions were reversed on appeal in 1972.
Written by Seth Joseph. Find him on Google+.