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Maxwell’s Hammer

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that he was dead.
Silver hammer man.
—Lennon/McCartney, June, 1969

"As long as I'm telling the truth as best I can, I have zero problem with Pam knowing anything! … and despite my brags to the contrary, I just might have a living enemy…"
—Jan Maxwell, June 13, 2005

I'm a retired teacher and a reporter for the Sonoma County Free Press and have been investigating the bombing of Judi Bari since 1995. An article covering this investigation was published in Flatland Magazine and the Sonoma County Free Press

Below, I've prepared a summary of my investigation and a description of some new evidence using a "frequently asked questions" format. (June 12, 2008.)

How did you get involved with Judi Bari and what led you to investigate her bombing?

Ed: Judi and I met briefly during the Port Chicago demonstrations in 1986. I was working with Livermore Action Group at the time. Then I followed her exploits in the AVA after she moved to Mendocino County. I was teaching in Sonoma County when the Redwood Summer (May 1990) action began and had already started working on trying to find property that would be suitable for a temporary encampment where the out-of-town participants could stay. After Judi was bombed, I continued working on Redwood Summer logistics until the last demonstration in September.

After the conclusion of Redwood Summer, I followed the developments in the bombing story and the various investigations that were being conducted but only at a distance as an interested observer. Things changed for me when a close friend insisted that I interview Irv Sutley and arranged a time and place. That was in October of 1995. The story he told was intriguing and after checking it out, I began to change my mind regarding the truthfulness of the main participants, namely Judi, Mike Sweeney and Pam Davis.

Who is Irv Sutley?

Irv is the biggest "red herring" of all time. He played a minor and forgettable part in this drama until he was accused by Judi and others of being an FBI agent provocateur and the author of the Argus Letter sent to the Ukiah Police Department offering to inform on Bari. Some people even accused him of being the actual bomber. His life was never the same after being identified as a possible suspect in Steve Talbot's KQED documentary film about the Bari bombing, which was screened exactly one year after the event. After Judi's accusations against him, the entire investigation was centered on Irv, and on making him the main suspect and behind-the-scenes manipulator. 

What is the Argus Letter?

On January 17, 1989, Ukiah Police Chief Fred Keplinger received a letter signed by "Argus." (In Greek legend, Argus is a hundred-eyed monster, a watchful guardian). It was postmarked January 6, 1989, with information detrimental to Bari; the writer offered to inform on her. Also enclosed was a photograph of Bari holding a look-a-like Uzi. Steve Talbot uncovered these "Argus" documents by chance during the course of his investigation. Bari has argued that, because Sutley knew some of the facts contained in the "Argus" letter, and since he had access to (Pam) Davis' photos, he must have written the "Argus" letter and sent the photo with it.

It's more likely that Mike Sweeney, Judi's ex-husband, wrote the Argus letter and another called the "Second Warning" letter. They were probably both written by the same person because there was identical DNA found on both envelopes. Irv's DNA does not match this sample. Mike Sweeney refuses to submit a sample of his DNA for testing, even though I've offered to pay all expenses. He also refuses to take a polygraph for which Alexander Cockburn offered to pay. 

Irv did volunteer to take a polygraph and it confirmed that he was not the author of the Argus letter, had nothing to do with bombing Judi and was solicited by Pam Davis to murder Mike Sweeney. 

Who is Pam Davis?

Ed: Pam and Judi were very good friends during the time period between 1987 and 1990 and they were both active in radical politics. Pam was a member of the communist party. It was during this time that Irv Sutley, also a party member, and Pam, became friends. Irv was present when Judi and Pam took some photographs of Judi holding one of Irv's guns, his main connection to the bombing story. This incident was blown out of proportion by Judi and others, and has confused and distorted the true story.

I met Pam during the summer of 1990. We were both working as a support group for Ron Green, AKA Global Deforestation, who was camping on the Forest Service lawn in downtown Santa Rosa. I visited her home several times and even took care of her boys one afternoon. Ron and I also became friends.

He was staying with Pam and would visit me during the times that Pam and Judi and their other women friends would secretly meet at Pam's house to discuss whatever they discussed. No men were allowed.

What else did you learn from your interview with Irv?

Ed: Sometime in 1989 Pam and Irv were having a conversation when out of the blue Pam asked Irv if he would kill Mike Sweeney for five thousand dollars. She said that Judi was terrified of Mike who was abusive and trying to take the kids from her. (Judi's abuse claims were verified by Mary Moore's extensive research)

Irv angrily refused but Pam made the request on two other occasions. He again refused, but felt exposed and consulted with friends about what he should do. They told him that Judi and Mike had serious problems. Irv decided to let it slide and didn't contact the police about the offer. He couldn't do that to a friend.

Bari herself, asked on-air about the murder solicitations on Mendocino County Public Radio KZYX twice dismissed her murder-for-hire solicitations as "jokes." One wonders who was supposed to be amused? However, by describing her attempts to hire someone to kill Sweeney as jokes reveals that Bari made them; it also strongly suggests that the feeble characterization of them as jokes is a belated strategy to pretend they weren't serious. If Sutley said yes, would they still be jokes?

Could you briefly describe what your investigation into Judi's bombing has uncovered?

Yes. Mike Sweeney bombed Judi Bari, but Judi was also trying her best to kill Mike. Mike placed a time sensitive bomb underneath the driver's seat of Judi's Subaru Station wagon during a press conference in Ukiah, Wednesday, May 23, 1990, about two o'clock in the afternoon. Judi drove to Oakland but the bomb was not active. Mike wanted it to explode as far away as possible. She arrived in Oakland about four-thirty PM and stayed at the Seeds Of Peace house until around eleven PM, then drove to the house where she was spending the night.

The bomb was still not active or she would have triggered it at that time. She parked and locked the car and didn't drive it again until the next morning. The next morning, the car's first lurch set off the bomb and the rest is history. Judi was trying to kill Mike and Mike was trying to kill Judi. That's what I've concluded from my research. 

Why were Judi and Mike trying to kill one another?

They had committed arson together and other crimes against the community. There is evidence that the mysterious fellerbuncher fire and the Cloverdale bomb at L-P's offices were joint endeavors. Both had evidence of the other's involvement. It was hanging over their heads. They could both do real jail time. Mike Sweeney still could. In 1980, they burned down the old Santa Rosa airport hanger together, nearly killing the caretaker and costing millions in damage. And they didn't care who they hurt. Those lines from The Great Gatsby always come to mind while I'm thinking about Mike and Judi as partners:

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

Where do we go from here?

There are satisfactory answers, but few questioners. We are at the point, almost thirteen years later, where all of us should be able to begin to understand the dynamics between Judi and Mike, and the FBI. There is enough information available from reliable sources to begin to put the pieces together in a comprehensive gestalt.

What has changed about the story that makes you so optimistic at this time?

Ed: A new witness has come forward whose testimony confirms Irv's account of the offer by Pam Davis to have Mike Sweeney killed. It's a strange story, stranger than any fiction I could create. You'll say it is too unbelievable to be true but every word is factual. 

A little less than three years ago, June 6th to be exact, I received an email which read: Are you still investigating the Bari bombing? It was signed "Silverhammer."

I wrote back and said yes I was and what did Silverhammer want to talk about? She then wrote and wanted to know if I would protect her as a source and I said I would.

Then she told me her name, Jan Maxwell, and gave me a telephone number. We had a long conversation. The main information she wanted to offer was that she had read my article on the bombing and wanted to confirm that Pam Davis was trying to find a person to murder Mike Sweeney. How did she know that was true? Because Pam had begged her to do it. Pam used the same arguments that she had with Irv. Judi was being abused and Mike was trying to take the kids. I asked her why Pam would offer her the hit. Jan said she was a good shot and very familiar with guns and Pam trusted her. She had known Pam "even before she was born." Jan and Pam's mother were good friends. If Jan had said yes, would that have been a joke?

You've had all the new information for almost three years. Why are you just releasing it now?

Ed: Many folks have asked me these questions in one form or another and I wanted to set the record straight and at least vindicate Irv Sutley, who was a totally innocent bystander. Pam Davis has just been appointed to the Sonoma County Planning Commission, which I find absolutely unbelievable. It seemed like the right time remind folks of her history and past connections.

There is also a misunderstanding in the community about Judi Bari and her deeds. Yes, the FBI mishandled her case, but they were confused by their snitch, who was Mike Sweeney. He had told them that Judi would be carrying a bomb, so when it exploded in her car in the middle of Oakland, that was all the proof the FBI needed. Mike Sweeney has had a free pass because of his FBI snitch status probably all the way back to the 1960s when he was a member of the Stanford-based radical group, Venceremos.

Now, 19 years later, Sweeney is General Manager of Mendocino County's Solid Waste Management Authority, a $100,000 a year functionary, and one of the more unsettling public bureaucrats on the Northcoast. 

He struts around as if nothing has happened, as though he wasn't being accused of bombing his wife and ruining several lives by torching the Santa Rosa Airport. He could solve his problems and clear himself of these accusations by a simple DNA test. He refuses. Does this seem like the behavior of an innocent man? Why is it being ignored by the community?

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