After serving three decades in a federal penitentiary, freedom fighter and Tupac Shakur’s stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, made headlines in 2018 after lamenting that the U.S. government was illegally keeping him behind bars.
Shakur, who has spent 34 years behind bars for “masterminding” a series of robberies, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in March 2018, claiming his Constitutional First Amendment rights were being used against him to prevent his release.
Shakur, who was once on the FBI’s most-wanted list, was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1988 after being convicted of leading a revolutionary group known as “The Family” which robbed a Brinks truck of almost $2 million and killed three security guards from the company.
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He was also convicted of aiding and abetting the escape of Tupac’s aunt and activist Assata Shakur from a New Jersey State Prison after she was sentenced to life for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973. Assata is currently in political asylum in Cuba and she has been there for over three decades.
Before Shakur’s court filing in 2018, he went up for a parole hearing in 2016 but was denied “because of a single positive drug test that he failed almost thirty years prior to the parole hearing,” according to The Source. In 2018, he argued that his First Amendment rights were being ignored.
“The commission has failed to adopt or apply any known standards on the meaning of frequent rule violations. A handful of old telephone rule violations over 30 years do not show Plaintiff frequently violated prison rules or is likely to re-offend If released on parole,” said the lawsuit.
Shakur, well known for his naturopathic remedies for heroin addicts, has throughout his incarceration amassed a large group of supporters, many of whom believe he is a political prisoner.
“The acts of which Dr. Shakur was convicted some thirty years ago were committed in the context of a movement seeking equal opportunities for black people who, it is widely conceded, were suffering catastrophically from disenfranchisement, segregation, poverty and exclusion from many of the fundamental necessities that make life worth living,” his family and friends say on his website.
Born Jeral Wayne Williams in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 8, 1950, Shakur was politically active in his teens, joining the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a revolutionary black nationalist group, and then later the black separatist movement, the Republic of New Afrika.
By 1970, Shakur was working with the Lincoln Detox program, helping treat addicts using acupuncture vs the FDA approved drug methadone, according to reports. Becoming certified and licensed to practice acupuncture in California in 1976, Shakur went on to help create the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture.
At the same time, Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), a nationalist group that broke away from the Black Panthers. The black nationalist-Marxist militant organization had a circle of members known as “The Family” who Shakur worked with. Together, they engaged in series of robberies to fund their campaign of self-determination for Black people, reports said.
The group landed in trouble in 1981 when it robbed a Brink’s armored car at a mall in New York, killing a Brink’s guard, Peter Paige, and seriously wounding another Brinks guard, Joseph Trombino, officials said. The group also allegedly killed two Nyack police officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown, the latter being the first black member of the Nyack, New York, police department.
Shakur, who had allegedly planned the robbery, was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list while he was on the run. The radical activist had, six years prior to the robbery, married Tupac’s mother, but they divorced in 1982. In four years, he was arrested in Los Angeles by the FBI, tried in 1987 and convicted on May 11, 1988.
Among his reasons for being in prison is he being convicted of aiding fellow revolutionary and now self-exiled aunt of Tupac, Assata, escape from prison. At his trial, an admitted accomplice, according to the Daily Mail, testified that armed members of his revolutionary group visited the prison, captured two guards and then drove Assata out in a prison van while Shakur was protecting the escape route.
Shakur maintained that he was innocent. His attorney, at his trial in the 1980s, argued there was no proof that his client took part in the robberies or helped Assata escape prison. Shakur, who has been diagnosed with life-threatening bone cancer while suffering other health problems, was scheduled for mandatory release in February 2016, but was held and is currently scheduled for mandatory release on May 26, 2026, according to his website.
The freedom fighter and activist is now 70, and his family and friends who are demanding his release say that apart from his multiple health complications, he has “served as a force for good and anti-violence throughout his decades of incarceration.”
Indeed, Shakur has influenced his stepson Tupac’s career including helping release a 10-year anniversary tribute album for the rapper with messages of non-violence that inspired many young people to work hard towards their dreams no matter the challenges.
“We strongly support the parole and immediate compassionate release for Dr. Mutulu Shakur. We are confident that his release poses no danger to our communities, and we urge you to allow him to rejoin his family and friends,” his petition reads.