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Cassius Clay Guilty (1967)

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Sound | 1967

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  •  The (inaudible) heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay, at a federal court in Houston, is found guilty of violating the U.S. Selective Service laws by refusing to be inducted. 
  •  He is sentenced to five years in prison and fined ten thousand dollars, the maximum penalty for the offense, which is a felony. 
  •  The sentence was appealed by Clay's lawyer. 
  •  Clay contended his status as a black, Muslim minister made him exempt from the draft. Released on bail he faces a possible eighteen month wait for an appeal decision. 
  •  Cassius Clay 
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This newsreel footage documents Muhammad Ali (still called Cassius Clay in court) leaving a Houston courtroom after being convicted of draft evasion on June 20, 1967. In April 1967, Ali refused to take the Army induction oath on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs as a Black Muslim minister. After refusing induction, Ali made a statement: “I have searched my conscience and I find I cannot be true to my belief in my religion by accepting such a call. If justice prevails, if my Constitutional rights are upheld, I will be forced to go neither to the Army nor jail. In the end I am confident that justice will come my way, for the truth must eventually prevail.” Two months later, it took an all-white Houston jury only 21 minutes to convict Ali of violating the United States Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined $10,000, the maximum sentence for the felony charge. He was also stripped of his heavyweight title and his passport and was banned from fighting in the United States. Ali's lawyers appealed his conviction, and in 1971, the Supreme Court found that Ali met the three criteria for classification as a conscientious objector: he opposed war in any form, his beliefs were based on religious teaching, and his objection was sincere. His conviction was reversed.