BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HEARING ON FALN CLEMENCY
SEPTEMBER 15, 1999
Good Morning Senators.
My name is Rocco Pascarella.
On December 31, 1982, I was a police officer assigned to security at Police Headquarters in New York City. I had joined the force at age 21, and in my 13 years on the New York City Police force I had worked in various precincts and assignments. About two weeks prior to December 31, 1982 I had been assigned to the Police Headquarters security detail. On what should have been a festive evening, FALN terrorists were at work in New York City. It was 9:30 p.m. when my colleagues and I heard a tremendous explosion. At first we thought it was fireworks. But soon after, we were told a bomb had exploded at 26 federal plaza which is two blocks from police headquarters. I was directed by my seargent to search the perimeter of the headquarters building for anything suspicious that might be a bomb. As I approached the rear unused entrance to the building I noticed a lot of debris. As I turned to search, the bomb went off.
The blast that shattered my life that night was the work of the FALN. This notorious group of terrorists had been planting bombs for some time--ostensibly to secure Puerto Rican independence. But their criminal activity was not limited to indiscriminate bombing. It also included apolitical crimes such as weapons possession and robbery.
That I or my colleagues was not killed that night is a fortunate coincidence. FALN bombs were placed at locations where it was likely that innocent people would be killed or injured. I suffered the loss of one leg below the knee, severe scarring of my other leg, the loss of hearing in one ear, and the loss of my eyesight to the extent that I am no longer able to drive. I was in the hospital for two months. I underwent six operations for my leg and ears and received over 40 stitches to my face, ears and mouth. I spent a year going through rehabilitation to learn to walk again with myartificiall leg and injured right leg. Because of my injuries I have been unable to return to active duty in the police force. I am on an extended medical leave. The pain and trauma of these disabling injuries were multiplied by the suffering it caused my family: My parents, my daughter, my friends and my colleagues in the New York City Police Department. When you consider all the other whose lives were devastated during the FALN onslaught, the grief and suffering grows exponentially.
Seventeen year later, the insidious cancer that is the FALN again ulcerates American life. Forces have been at work to position these criminals for presidential clemency. Under ordinary circumstances the prospect of their release would be laughable. What could motivate any president to grant a request with the blood of American citizens?
Perhaps everyone in this room, and everyone in America, should review these cases:
They read the United States vs. The defendants, or the State of New
York vs. The defendants. Roc Pascarella did not prosecute these cases.
You did. The people did. And when it’s done, and just sentences are imposed
they should be made to stand, particularly in cases of terrorism. Because
when terrorists strike, they are not just maiming me, they are striking
at the very foundation of America. Our very freedom makes us particularly
vulnerable to the demented minions of terrorists all over the world.
In the press, their supporters describe these FALN terrorists as freedom fighters and political prisoners. That characterization is an abomination. The basis of American Democracy is dialogue and compromise within the political process. Democrats and Republicans do not butcher each other in the streets of Washington, or punctuate their rhetoric with bombs and bullets. The indiscriminate killing and maiming of innocent people to make a political statement is an attack on the American political system and should be dealt with accordingly. Nor do these misfits, as some would imply, represent the goals and ideas of Puerto Rican people, who have democratically rejected Puerto Rican independence, and morally rejected slaughter as a means to a political end.
In this very forum the clamor is heard for more severe sentences for hate crimes. What greater hate than to kill, not because of some demented distaste for another race or ethnic group, but to kill anyone; man, women, or child to make a merely political statement?
And finally, what kind of message does this exercise of clemency send to the world’s terrorists? The United States military is sent halfway around the world to destroy a terrorist’s camp in a foreign nation, while at home, a wile a group of criminal terrorists as exists anywhere in the world is released upon the strength of a hard wrought promise never to engage in violence again. A release, it appears, that is contrary to the recommendations and warnings of every federal agency involved in the investigation, apprehension, trial and incarceration of this group.
You, as elected representatives and as citizens of this nation, have a responsibility to the American people to expose the circumstances and the motivation which led to this assault on the American political system and the American justice system. You owe it to yourselves. You owe it to your constituents. You owe it to me. And you owe it to past and future victims of FALN murder and terror.