After more than three decades in prison, Mutulu Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s stepfather and freedom fighter, will be released on parole on December 16. In October, the U.S. Parole Commission granted a request to release the 72-year-old, per court documents cited by NBC News. The outlet said that the decision to grant parole was made public on Thursday.
Shakur made headlines in 2018 after lamenting that the U.S. government was illegally keeping him behind bars. Shakur, who has been 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 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.
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 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.
Shakur, who has been diagnosed with life-threatening bone cancer while suffering other health problems, has been denied release several times over the years. Officials said that his health condition was not serious enough. However, in the October decision, Commission officials told Shakur, “We now find your medical condition renders you so infirm of mind and body that you are no longer physically capable of committing any Federal, State, or local crime,” NBC News reported.
Shakur is currently being held at a federal medical center in Lexington, a prison in Kentucky for prisoners who require care. Since May, he has been relying on IV feeding tubes, with doctors giving him less than six months to live. He will now be monitored for up to four months after his release on parole. His family and supporters say they are excited that they will be reuniting with the freedom fighter.