[Ppnews] Time to Free Leonard Peltier
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 8 14:53:09 EST 2010
Time to Free Leonard Peltier
March 8th, 2010 at 12:49 pm by
Leonard Peltier is now starting his 35th year in prison.
He is 65, and more than half his life has been spent as a prisoner.
Impassioned supporters who argued for justice and
his freedom in the past, have grown silent.
Bored, frustrated, exhausted, have died, or
become involved in other causes. Peltier has faded in memories.
These include Amnesty International, for whom
Peltier is still a political prisoner of
conscience. His defenders include Nelson Mandela,
the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu, the Archbishop
of Canterbury, Members of the European
Parliament, some 50 Canadian MPs, Hollywood mogul
David Geffen, and various Leonard Peltier Defence Committees around the world.
Most have dropped by the wayside.
Robert Redford made a movie about him: Incident
at Oglala. The Belgian and Italian parliaments
espoused his freedom. Theyve joined the ranks of
the silent not because anything has changed,
but because Washington wouldnt listen.
Somewhat sheepishly, I admit, to having been
sidetracked to other issues over the past 15
years. Three times I visited Peltier when he was
incarcerated at the federal prison at
Leavenworth, Kansas. Since then he has been moved
several times to the federal prison at Terre
Haute, Indiana; to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; to
Canaan, Pa., and today back to Lewisburg. At
each, he was jumped, beaten, threatened with
death by so-called native inmates when in general
population. Provocateurs? Who knows?
Peltier insists his only enemies are the system
and Justice Department. In the past I (and
others) argued that the case against Peltier was
not only flawed, but grotesquely dishonest,
unfair and unjust, replete with admittedly
perjured testimony and fraudulent evidence by the FBI.
No longer should guilt be an issue Peltier is
not a conventional criminal or felon. Even if one
believes he was guilty, he has served enough time
and deserves to be free. But no thats not the American way in his case.
Peltier was found guilty in the 1975 shooting
deaths of two FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack
Coler during a range war on the Lakota-Sioux
reserve at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, near Wounded
Knee where, in 1973, there was a highly publicized 71-day siege.
The Pine Ridge range war was between traditional,
back-to-our-roots Indians ,and progressive
mixed-blood Indians who favored the mining of
uranium on Indian land. The militant American
Indian Movement (AIM) sided with the
traditionalists, while the FBI, Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA) and authorities backed the progressives.
The FBI had labeled AIM a terrorist organization,
trained and financed by Castro and the Soviet
Union phony charges, evolving from Cold War
paranoia of the day. AIM was (is) an Indian advocacy group.
In a three-year period at Pine Ridge, over 60
murders occurred, not one which was ever
investigated, much less solved. On the day Coler
and Williams died chasing a red pickup truck
into the Jumping Bull community, allegedly driven
by Jimmy Eagle who was believed to have stolen
some cowboy boots another young Indian, Joe
Stutnz was shot and killed. No investigation was ever held.
Shots were fired and returned. Some 125 bullet
holes were found in the two FBI cars. Peltier was
one of four Indians charged with murder, but he
fled to Alberta where eventually he was turned
over to the RCMP. The other three went on trial,
where one had charges against him dismissed. The
other two, Bob Robideau (since deceased) and Dino
Butler, were found not guilty, having fired in
self defense. The prosecutions circumstantial
evidence against them was too thin to get a conviction.
At Peltiers extradition hearing in Vancouver,
the FBI produced affidavits by one Mabel Poor
Bear, claiming she was Peltiers girlfriend, and
had witnessed him shooting the FBI against at close range.
It subsequently turned out the Poor Bear was a
mental case, had never met Peltier, and was
nowhere near the murder scene. She later tried to
recant, claiming she didnt even know what
Peltier looked like, and claimed the FBI
threatened to take away her child if she didnt
sign the affidavit. The trial court judge refused to hear her testimony.
But her fabricated affidavit got Peltier
extradited. (Canadas Solicitor General at the
time was Liberal MP Warren Allmand, who supported
the extradition, but later became one of the
strongest advocates on behalf of Peltier, urging the U.S. to review his case).
At Peltiers trial, the FBI claimed ballistic
tests proved Peltiers AR-15 rifle had fired the
bullets that killed the agents. This was later
proved to be false; shell casings at the death
scene did not come from Peltiers rifle.
At his trial Prosecutor Lynn Crooks said
categorically that evidence proved Peltier
killed the agents in cold blood. Later, in
appeal, Crooks said he believed Peltier had
killed the agents but we didnt prove it. At a
parole hearing in 1995, Crooks said if there was
a re-trial the government could not re-convict.
Parole was rejected because Peltier was the only
one they had, even though the court ruled that
the FBIs suppression of evidence cast strong
doubts on the governments case. The jury heard none of this.
Radical leftwing lawyer William Kunstler (now
deceased) represented Peltier at his appeal and
mishandled key evidence which the 8th Circuit
Appeal Judge, Gerald Heaney (since deceased),
later said would probably have gotten Peltier
freed, or a new trial if he, the judge, had known
the facts. Kunstler apologized, and urged the
judge not to penalize Peltier for his mistake.
I interviewed Judge Heaney who said he had urged
then-President Bill Clinton through Hawaii
Senator Daniel Inouye, to have Peltier granted clemency.
Clinton had indicated hed grant executive
clemency to Peltier, but changed his mind when
some 500 FBI agents, retirees and families
demonstrated outside the White House. Instead,
Clinton pardoned Marc Rich who was indicted for
illegal oil deals with Iran, and tax evasion.
In their book Game Change, authors John Heileman
and Mark Halperin note that billionaire David
Geffen had lobbied Clinton to pardon Peltier whom
he felt was innocent. When Clinton pardoned Rich,
Geffen saw this as a sign of corrupted values,
and backed Obama for the presidency instead of Hillary Clinton.
In prison, Peltier has had a rough time. At
Leavenworth his jaw was atrophying without
medical attention until publicity got him
treatment. He is going blind from diabetes, has
kidney failure and is susceptible to strokes. He
feels occasional beatings by inmates are
stage-managed, but says what cannot be taken from
him are my dignity and self-respect . . . even if I die here.
The law, in 1976, was that inmates with a good
record after 30 years should get mandatory
release. When Peltiers 30-year parole hearings
came up, he says five FBI and government
witnesses hammered me for over five hours that I
should not be released . . . so the parole board
gave me another 15 year sentence (His next parole hearing is in 2024).
Peltiers appeal of the parole board decision,
has already been rejected , despite
acknowledgement of his unblemished prison record.
Prior to rejection he wrote me: I am waiting for
them to destroy my appeal. I cant see these same
parole commissioners changing their minds, so I know what Ill get.
Next I will file in the federal courts, as we
have some strong expert issues to file on. I have
no doubt we can kick some butt in court, but even
if I win, it will take five or 10 years before
all the appeal processes take place, so you can
consider the 15-year-hit as a death (a slow one) sentence.
What stands out in Peltiers case is the
vindictiveness of the FBI and the Justice system.
With the absence of clear proof of who shot the
agents in 1975, the FBI is determined that
someone anyone must be held responsible. Had
Peltier not escaped to Canada, and had he gone on
trial with Robideau and Butler, he too would have been acquitted.
Flaws in the case include the FBI changing the
red pickup truck to a red and white van
owned by Peltier; three prosecution witnesses who
recanted and claimed intimidation forced their
compliance; the jury hearing nothing of the FBIs
suppression of evidence, or its being rebuked by
the court; fraudulent ballistic evidence being
withheld from the jury; and the FBIs later
admission that we do not know who killed the agents.
Author Peter Matthiessens book on Peltiers
case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, was delayed
seven years to 1992 because of FBI legal suits
against its publication. In it, Matthiessen
interviews a Mr. X who alleges he was the one
who fired the fatal shots into the FBI agents.
I became convinced that Mr. X was Bob Robideau,
whom I phoned in Spain and asked him. He
equivocated. When I phoned Judge Heaney, of the
8th Circuit Appeal Court, he also implied
Robideau might have been the shooter. If so, he
had already been found not guilty of murder and
could not be tried again, said Heaney.
After 34 years in prison, and considering the
political and social unrest at the time of the
1975 Pine Ridge Indian wars, Peltiers guilt or
innocence is irrelevant. Simple justice and
compassion dictate he should be freed.
Recently, a new generation of Peltier defenders
have emerged one of whom (Kathi Robinson in
Manitoba) Peltier has encouraged. Assistant
Coordinator of the
Peltier Defense Offense Committee is his niece, Kari Ann Boushee.
Peltiers eventual release may hinge on clemency
from President Barack Obama presuming Obama has
the courage to reject the FBIs continuing thirst
to punish a man they helped frame for murder.
Otherwise, Peltier will likely die in custody.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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