Was the Bay View infiltrated by a ‘rock star’ informant?

Bradley-Barton-with-son, Was the Bay View infiltrated by a ‘rock star’ informant?, Local News & Views
A picture tells a thousand words of love in this photo of 25-year-old Bradley Barton with his 5-year-old son, who is now 12. Bradley was himself a child when he was convicted at just 19 years old. For months, we have been promoting and supporting the International Tribunal 2021 – “We Charge Genocide.” The second of six charges of genocide is the hyper-incarceration of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. Prosecutorial misconduct and corruption is just one genocidal aspect of this beast called the Prison Industrial Slave Complex that leads to “mass incarceration,” aka modern-day slavery. Keith Washington, a fellow prisoner at the time, by aiding and abetting the enemy, undermined the human and civil rights of another prisoner, another human being, thus becoming complicit in genocidal practices. (Father and son in this photo appear to be in contact, but they are separated by thick plexiglas. The little boy is leaning against his side of the “glass” to get as close to dad as he can, but still he can’t hug his father.)

by Bay View Editor Nube Brown

As the editor of this beautiful newspaper and in all my short years as an activist in the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, having received hundreds of letters from prisoners, this letter you’re about to read from Bradley Barton was one I never anticipated nor imagined. In his pursuit of legal aid to help prove the illegalities of his case, Bradley Barton, caged in Texas, met fellow prisoner Keith Washington – the Bay View’s former editor with whom we have severed our ties. Bradley has since come forward with his account of what transpired between them. 

Through uncharted territory, we now present what we received, unsolicited and unaltered, and leave all of you to make your own determinations and come to your own conclusions.

As Nube – woman and mother – I was stunned into disbelief and deeply disturbed by this information. I have difficulty finding the words for how I feel even now. 

But words I did have to find, as Bradley was taking his own personal and emotional risks and deserved a response. We believed Bradley from the start and had every intention of publishing his letter as requested, but we also needed the letter he referred to that had been written by Keith Washington (aka Malik Washington, Comrade Malik) to make it solid. Over two months and a series of letters and JPays back and forth, we built trust and understanding. 

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One of Bradley’s major concerns was would I sweep this under the rug, use him to get revenge, not caring about his situation, or dismiss him for the sake of “defending my man” based on information Bradley had gleaned from an earlier edition of the Bay View. That was a reasonable concern for Bradley, but it cut to the core of my being. Below are a few of my unedited responses to Bradley’s concern asked in various ways:

“At the time I was counting on the best in Keith. I was trusting that he would be the man he said he was. My son was taking his time to accept Keith, so when I had to tell him that not only did Keith relapse, but also in anger grabbed me by the throat and pushed me against the wall and put me in danger in other ways, it was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to share with my son, who I am very close with.

“Keith proved to be all the things my son had feared. If for only that reason, I would never, ever go back to Keith. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, so here it is a matter of intuitive trust. I am not the kind of woman to ‘defend her man’ over my principals, my values and certainly not over the emotional and spiritual integrity of my son, EVER!”

“Understand that Keith is the person I fell in love with, introduced my family to and put everything on the line for. Imagine for just a moment how much I don’t want this to be true – for me and everyone who will be affected by this.

“I deserve to be allowed to be a human being in this process. While Keith may have done what you have claimed – it’s only your word at this point – he is still a human being. If he has done what you claim – proven by the document, then I will feel the pain of watching him suffer the consequences from which he will not be able to save himself.”

“What you say Keith did to you is the most egregious of betrayals – lying for one’s own gain and to the detriment of a son losing his father can never be justified, excused or understood. Bradley, I am a mother with an only son. The thought that I have let someone into my life who is capable of doing what you claim is an emotional calamity.”

Bradley Barton’s first letter to the Bay View

Dear Mrs. Ratcliff,

[The only words removed are those opening the letter with an inquiry about the health of Bay View publishers Willie and Mary Ratcliff.] I hate to add further burden or stress to you concerning my situation, but I just don’t know where else to turn without blowing this up and hopefully addressing this situation that both has directly caused my unjust incarceration and [is] undermining the cause y’all have supported for so long and indeed have that individual help run.

So, here’s the thing: I’ve been incarcerated since I was 19. I just turned 32. I’m locked up under an infamously unjust law in Texas called the law of parties; in California y’all know it as the felony murder rule, which y’all’s Legislature recently amended.

It’s alive and well in Texas, though. When I was 19, a “friend” of mine robbed and shot someone who ultimately died. I was wrongly convicted as being a getaway driver to that robbery. And under that law I was held criminally responsible and given a life sentence.

I got convicted in 2010 and sent to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in December of that year. My conviction was and is rife with all types of illegalities, chief among them were/are the two main witnesses’ lies. 

Due to this, I dove straight into learning the law so I could have the proper tools to fight. And very shortly after my conviction, before I went to TDCJ, the witnesses themselves reached out to me saying they were willing to come forward. 

Armed with that, I sought out a writ writer, which are the inmates well versed in the law, and that’s when I met this guy named Keith Washington who told me he’s a writ writing Muslim out of Baltimore locked up for robbing banks with notes.

So, after posing like he would help, I told him about what all the state did at my trial: the lies, the absurd accusations they made after trial, that I planned to harm the DA on my case and about the witnesses coming forward.

Little did I know what he actually was doing and who he actually was. He was taking all that and twisting it – as if a confession – and he wrote that same DA’s office seeking to “earn parole” by feeding them that crap of lies.

The DA’s office was desperate to have something like that to undermine a future attack on the conviction. So, they took this extraordinary step of sending one of their investigators to the prison to meet Keith, where he further fed them his lies. Among them he told them I threatened my witnesses into recanting their testimony.

Keith’s letter states – in his writing – that he has a history of informing for the FBI and Texas OIG.

I, of course, did not know this at the time. I did not learn this until four years later, when I thought I was successfully challenging my conviction. I was floored and flabbergasted when they sent me the letter Keith wrote the DA and the investigator’s report, and they said it should be credible because Keith told them details “only someone intimately involved would know” and because he told them about the witnesses before I challenged the conviction and “sure enough, they have now recanted.”

But on top of this, Keith’s letter states – in his writing – that he has a history of informing for the FBI and Texas OIG. And if he customized lies like that against me, I can only imagine what has been done to others.

So, when I ran across y’all’s paper and seen him and his role in it, I was deeply saddened and depressed. Especially because y’all’s cause is one we really need in our community, and situations like this only cause the other side to point and laugh.

Nonetheless, his evil, false, treacherous actions have caused my son to be fatherless, my mom to lose her son and countless other harms. It is outrageous he is on the platform he’s on with these types of skeletons in his closet.

Bradley-Barton-with-siblings, Was the Bay View infiltrated by a ‘rock star’ informant?, Local News & Views
We often forget about the family – and friends – of people who are incarcerated. We don’t often get to hear from or engage with family members, and society makes them fearful and ashamed. Bradley’s family is a strong, loving unit, “a praying family,” says his mother. When asking for photos to accompany this article, I had to ask how she was doing – tears welling up for me as I received them. “This last one got to me,” said his mother. “His baby bro was so close to him. You can tell by the way he is hanging onto his arm!” Bradley is 16 or 17 in this photo.

So, please tell me what to do. I do not want to expose this dude and embarrass him and by extension y’all’s paper and by extension undermining y’all’s cause, mission and message. But it’s like Judas becoming an Apostle; it’s crazy.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time. And if you prefer, I can have someone contact you; just let me know.

Sincerely, Bradley Barton 

Keith Washington’s letter to the Harris County D.A.’s Office

[In addition to the typed and lightly edited copy of the letter presented here, the handwritten original letter is also presented. See below.]

At one time, in the realm of intelligence gathering, I was viewed as a “rock star.”

23 January 2011

To: ADA [Assistant District Attorney] Marcy McCorvey, Harris County D.A. Office

At one time, in the realm of intelligence gathering, I was viewed as a “rock star.” I was respected by many. Now I am a nobody. 

I give the authorities info and they pay no attention.

I’m not fighting for recognition; I am more interested in gaining back my credibility.

Drugs and alcohol have ravaged my life.

One of your colleagues helped me get a 20-year non-ag sentence. However, there is still a light that burns inside me which says, “Do the right thing even if no one is watching.” 

Bradley Barton is really a conniving, wicked young man. I’m impressed by his intellect but sickened by his hatred and disregard for human life.

My talks with him have led me to believe that he orchestrated the murder of Miguel Figueroa. Barton’s father was released from TDC[J] in 2009, I believe. Barton’s father has a “significant other” who is a former TDC[J] guard, and they schooled “KB” Bradley how to manipulate the system.

The white female former guard has also promised to hook the younger Barton up with corrupt TDC[J] officers that work at other facilities – cell phone, weed, tobacco to Barton.

Special agent Matt Taylor – FBI Houston. I trust this man with my life.

However, the only reason I wrote is to warn you that Bradley has told me once he reaches his unit of assignment, he intends on having some of his “home boys” or possibly his father reach out and “touch” you.

I am willing to talk to you or other law enforcement officers, but I request one of the following three people be present.

Special agent Matt Taylor – FBI Houston. I trust this man with my life.

Texas OIG agent Joshua D. Lyons. We have butted heads in the past, but I trust and respect him.

Harris County Detective Dave Farrel, sheriff – good honest man!

Do I have a lawyer? Of course, I do. Do I want him present – NO!!

The fewer people that know about me helping you the better. You go home every night; as for me, I have to contend with these sick people in TDC[J] and things are getting worse – and the budget cuts hurt security and safety! I do not want Barton to be placed in the position where he can hurt innocent people.

Barton-v.-Davis-Footnote-72-re-Keith-Washington-ltr-to-ADA-McCorvey-in-Exhibit-A-Detective-Steven-Januhowski-affidavit-081017-in-case-file-1400x478, Was the Bay View infiltrated by a ‘rock star’ informant?, Local News & Views
This letter, handwritten by Keith Washington to Assistant District Attorney Marcy McCorvey, is mentioned in this footnote to a ruling denying Bradley Barton’s writ of habeas corpus. The entire ruling is online, athttps://casetext.com/case/barton-v-davis-2, but the exhibits are not included. Keith’s letter, attached in the case file as an exhibit to the affidavit of Detective Steven Januhowski, should be available from the court clerk.

What do I want? I’d like to be re-activated as a source for OIG.

Agent Lyons took good care of me when I worked for him in the past – on top of that, I have a lot of skills to bring to the table.

Ms. McCorvey, I don’t play games. If you send some people to interview me, I will co-operate. Just don’t be loose with my identity. It can be dangerous behind these walls for an informant. Please utilize tact and discretion.

I realize your job is to lock people up; however, I am a good man who could use another chance. I’m ready to be a productive member of society.

I asked Barton how he got Cansler to sign that affidavit. Barton said: “Look, that nigga (Cansler) is a Blood like me. I told that nigga that if he didn’t clean this shit up that I was going to send word to the Homeys (other Bloods) to smash him on sight at whatever unit his bitch ass lands at!” End of quote.

Apparently, Barton, shooter McClain and Cansler were all simultaneously at Byrd Unit recently. Barton used this time to pressure his co-defendants into recanting their statements and testimony against him.

Barton is actively preparing his appeal, and a big part of his strategy is to intimidate and discredit the state’s witnesses. However, the most audacious plan he has is to have Assistant District Attorney Marcy McCorvey murdered.

Barton is not aware of my co-operation with law enforcement. I offer my help and co-operation to Harris County D.A. office and Harris County sheriff as well as Texas OIG. My main goal is to earn parole.

Barton is very intelligent and extremely manipulative and potentially dangerous in my opinion.

Once this guy Barton reaches a TDC[J] unit, he will usurp, exploit and manipulate the mail and other means of communication with the outside world to orchestrate his plan. And believe me this young killer has a plan – I take his threat against Ms. McCorvey very serious and so should you!

I can’t make you folks listen to me. I can only pass the information – please listen! If your men decide to visit me, I will elaborate on Barton’s plan(s).

I will continue to glean as much intel as I can from Barton so as to thwart any attempts at harming Ms. McCorvey.

Barton is not aware of my co-operation with law enforcement. I offer my help and co-operation to Harris County D.A. office and Harris County sheriff as well as Texas OIG. My main goal is to earn parole.

OIG Agent Joshua D. Lyons is someone I trust and respect; please have him arrange the meet.

However, I also would like to rebuild my relationship with the law enforcement community in Houston and redeem myself from my past.

 [Signature] Keith Washington

Please pick up the phone and call Darrington Unit, OIG office, but they may have already contacted you. – A Friend

Important – 1 February 2011

I have collected extremely detailed info from Barton concerning his plan to have ADA McCorvey harmed. I anonymously forwarded this intel to the OIG office at Darrington Unit where I am now housed. Please note: OIG Agent Joshua D. Lyons is someone I trust and respect; please have him arrange the meet.

Bay View Editor Nube Brown is a New Afrikan, abolitionist and Liberate the Caged Voices columnist. She hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon and also broadcasts Bay View TV Breaking News on Instagram @sfbayview every weekday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Connect with her at nube@sfbayview.com

Historic note on a previous COINTELPRO attack on the Bay View

by former Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff

The FBI knows – and fears – the Bay View newspaper. Remember the FBI’s Black August scam targeting the Bay View? On the eve of Aug. 1, 2016, a local TV reporter called to “warn” the Bay View that the FBI had been told that the Bay View was calling for the murder of cops and prison guards during Black August. 

He said the FBI had issued an all-points bulletin – just like the one J. Edgar Hoover­­­­­­­­­­­ issued in 1969 proclaiming the Black Panther Party “the greatest threat to internal security of the country.”

I had to laugh when I saw the letter. The FBI’s evidence? A drawing we’d published by Heshima Jinsai of his cellmate Abdul Shakur’s cartoon-like tattoo of a gorilla eating a pig. The upshot? Not a single cop or guard was murdered that month, so the scam evaporated, but the FBI’s COINTELPRO-style bulletin declared open season on the Bay View for prison wardens and police departments around the country. And the statewide broadcast of that story claiming the Bay View was calling for a bloodbath poisoned the minds of viewers across California.

Little did I know that the FBI might be mounting a second attack when I received a jubilant letter from Keith Washington a couple of years ago. He announced that to his surprise he’d been granted parole. He said he had to serve a short time in federal prison and could then head to San Francisco to become the new editor of the Bay View. 

Keith-Malik-Washington, Was the Bay View infiltrated by a ‘rock star’ informant?, Local News & Views
Keith “Malik” Washington began sending stories to the Bay View for publication in 2013. This is the first photo we saw of him; it was received in 2015.

While I’d been begging, especially after reaching my 80s, for readers to help find a new editor I could pass the torch to, I’d pictured someone with newspaper experience. Keith had none. But he seemed to be a competent writer, and he had an extensive following among prison movement activists. Having no alternative, I accepted his offer, and he arrived a year ago, on Sept. 3, 2020, to a warm welcome as the new Bay View editor. 

Like Nube, I was shocked to read Bradley Barton’s letter and even more shocked by Keith’s letter to the assistant D.A. Had I allowed a professional informant to take over the SF Bay View National Black Newspaper? Fortunately, by then, Keith had been long gone from the editor’s seat, having quit last spring, saying he didn’t like the job and wanted to make more money.

Even more fortunately, Nube agreed to fill the editor’s seat as soon as Keith left, and I’m confident that with your generous help and support, she’ll join Ida B. Wells in the Black journalist pantheon. Please keep your loving arms around her as she recovers from this personal and professional calamity.

Looking back, I have to wonder whether Keith, a self-confessed FBI informant, had been directed to infiltrate the Bay View. Was that plan hatched when he “earned” parole by selling out Bradley Barton?

Will the FBI, having failed in 2016 to destroy the Bay View and perhaps having tried once more in this round, try again? I’m asking readers to alert us if you see or sense something brewing. I’m proud that the mighty power of the FBI has met its match in the tiny staff of the Bay View, strengthened by you, our army of readers.

Thank you!

Bay View Editor Nube Brown is a New Afrikan, abolitionist and Liberate the Caged Voices columnist. She hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon and also broadcasts Bay View TV Breaking News on Instagram @sfbayview every weekday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Connect with her at nube@sfbayview.com