The matter of who bombed Judi Bari is unlikely to be settled in the courts, especially not 20-plus years after the event; the perpetrator not only got clean away with it but managed to make sure that anyone who knows anything never whispers a peep about it, although there never was much of an investigation done. A death-bed confession or other dramatic turn of events seems the only hope of solving this riddle, which occupied a good deal of public attention for a while, but has been largely out of the news since the court verdict.
A lot of this attention came about because Bari’s supporters turned the bombing and ultimately the trial into lucrative sources of publicity and funds, and worked like wheat farmers draining a paleolithic aquifer, generating cash under false pretenses for over a decade, hoisting their banners and tacking their flyers near sources of donations, taking whatever action was needed to raise more funds. What makes the business feel foul, of course, is that the fundraisers, while taking money in the cause of finding out Who Bombed Judi Bari, spent it not on an investigation — which seemed implicit in the Who Bombed Judi myth building enterprise — but on maintaining themselves as they retired from the protest business.
Most reasonable people came to this conclusion either during the 1990s or at some point during or after the infamous affair in the Oakland federal courthouse which ended in Darryl Cherney and Bari’s heirs being awarded a small fortune as compensation for their suffering and damages because of the way the investigation into the bombing was handled. Since 2002, I and a grateful newsreading public have been content to let the matter lie, and simply remember all the characters and extravagant personalities of the time as they were, or at least as we knew them.
However this peaceful oblivion came to an end recently when I entered a Sacramento coffee shop and was greeted by the joyous visage of Judi, fist raised at some long-ago rally, with the bold question Who Bombed Judi Bari? printed across the flyer. The implication seems to be that someone is hoping to start a real investigation and bring the guilty parties to justice. There is one huge problem with this scheme which seems too obvious to mention, and could not have escaped Cherney. That is, the best efforts of all the involved law enforcement agencies, the press, independent investigators, various experts and most of the organic visionaries of the West, along with the sharpest legal team ever assembled, got nowhere with this case, because the handful of people who know who it was are keeping quiet about it.
One of two conclusions make sense here: the likeliest is that Cherney knows and has always known who the bomber is, so he also knows that the culprit won’t be identified by anyone now living, particularly not by anyone now living in Sacramento or the other college towns and fund-raising hotspots he is traveling to; the other is that he thinks the offer of cash at this late date will convince some long-silent witness or accessory to divulge the vital secrets, namely, who planted the bomb, where and when they did it, and who was the actual target, to sing like a canary.
In the first case, his timing is about right, because he may have run through the settlement by now and probably isn’t the type of hard working back-to-the-lander who can actually make a profit from his enterprises. He may be building his dream cabin. Thus, he is turning back to the events of May 1990 as a reliable and proven source of income, and re-inflating Judi’s ghost for understandable if perhaps less than honorable mercenary reasons.
In the other case, he plans to pull off one of great detective jobs of all time, all contingent on the $50k tip, meantime touring his video like a latter day Woody Guthrie without the social concerns. The key difference of course is that, where Woody steadfastly turned away the riches offered him in infernal bargains, Darryl rises like a famished carp for the glint of luchre, virtually prostrating himself before the scions of middle class privilege, guardians of disposable income and those in need of tax-deductible receipts, plunking on the guitar like someone with musical ability. I am in no position to comment on the content of the film, since the last thing I’m going to do is fork over $5 or more to Darryl Cherney. I’ll await the verdict of the public on this one.
Even now, it would be a healthy thing to clear the air, and if someone were brought to a trial which examined evidence about the bombing itself while looking into vital questions about the bomber’s identity, calling the bomb into evidence, and constructing timelines, there could be some healing.
But what is really happening is that Darryl Cherney is exhuming Judi’s remains, dragging them in front of those who are spending other people’s money during that blessed interlude between high school and adulthood when debt is easier to acquire than it is to comprehend, and asking people to pay him on a sliding scale for a chance to see his self-serving film which apparently fails to answer the question which seems to be at the core of Darryl’s existence.
In fact, the flyer offers a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the bombing. The flyer stipulates a number of conditions which would be required for the reward to be paid, most importantly that the true culprit be named along with proof of guilt. One hopes, of course, that it will work. It does seem unlikely that nobody out there knows anything, but certainly never more than a small inner circle would have known.
But when I tried to collect by naming a suspect I think merits investigation, I was subjected to a series of somewhat amusing but spiteful personal attacks and insults. It didn’t take Darryl long to figure out my identity, I’ll give him that, but I only meant to help. My advice is not to apply for the reward unless you are the actual bomber.