- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Black Panther Party member who spent years living under an assumed name in Canada will serve just 30 days in jail for shooting a Chicago police officer in 1969 but must give up $250,000 from a defense fund.

Joseph Pannell, 58, pleaded guilty yesterday to an aggravated battery charge in the shooting of Officer Terrence Knox. Pannell was a 19-year-old member of the black militant group at the time.

In addition to the short jail term, Pannell was sentenced to two years’ probation and, as part of the plea deal, must give $250,000 to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. The fund for the families of injured or fallen police officers will benefit from Pannell’s money, which was given by supporters in Toronto and defense attorneys in the Chicago area to back his long fight against extradition.

Pannell will be released March 7 — a month after he returned to Chicago and 39 years to the day after he shot Mr. Knox three times in the right arm.

Mr. Knox, who is no longer with the police department, said his family came up with the idea of the donation. He told reporters yesterday that he’s not bothered by the short length of Pannell’s sentence.

“This is not 30 days,” he said. “It’s 30 days plus the time … served in the various prisons, plus two years’ probation, plus agreeing and stipulating that he tried to murder me.”

Pannell was arrested after the shooting but fled the U.S. when he was released on bail in the early 1970s. He eventually landed in Toronto, where he changed his name to Gary Freeman.

As “Gary Freeman,” he worked as a researcher in the Toronto Reference Library, married a co-worker and raised a family. Authorities caught up with him in 2004 after matching his fingerprints from Chicago with those taken in Canada for a customs offense committed in 1983.

A Toronto judge ordered him returned to the U.S. in 2005, but Pannell spent years fighting his extradition until voluntarily returning to Chicago this month.

Neil Cohen, his attorney, lauded Pannell for his willingness to face justice.

“If there’s any such thing as redemption and atonement, it’s personified by Gary Freeman,” Mr. Cohen said.

Pannell’s wife, Natercia Coelho, told reporters her family has received support “from family, from friends, from people that we’ve never met, from supporters who know the kind of person that he is.”

“He’s a wonderful man,” Mrs. Coelho said.

Mr. Knox said yesterday that while sitting in the courtroom with Pannell was “very hard,” his capture and sentencing have brought him a sense of closure.

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