[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 
<http://www.frumforum.com/author/PeterW/>Peter Worthington

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. They’ve joined the ranks of 
the silent – not because anything has changed, 
but because Washington wouldn’t 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 – that’s 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 prosecution’s circumstantial 
evidence against them was too thin to get a conviction.

At Peltier’s extradition hearing in Vancouver, 
the FBI produced affidavits by one Mabel Poor 
Bear, claiming she was Peltier’s 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 didn’t even know what 
Peltier looked like, and claimed the FBI 
threatened to take away her child if she didn’t 
sign the affidavit. The trial court judge refused to hear her testimony.

But her fabricated affidavit got Peltier 
extradited. (Canada’s 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 Peltier’s trial, the FBI claimed ballistic 
tests proved Peltier’s 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 Peltier’s 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 didn’t 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 FBI’s suppression of evidence “cast strong 
doubts on the government’s 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 he’d 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 Peltier’s 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).

Peltier’s 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 can’t see these same 
parole commissioners changing their minds, so I know what I’ll 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 Peltier’s 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 FBI’s 
suppression of evidence, or its being rebuked by 
the court; fraudulent ballistic evidence being 
withheld from the jury; and the FBI’s later 
admission that “we do not know who killed the agents.”

Author Peter Matthiessen’s book on Peltier’s 
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, Peltier’s 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.

Peltier’s eventual release may hinge on clemency 
from President Barack Obama – presuming Obama has 
the courage to reject the FBI’s continuing thirst 
to punish a man they helped frame for murder. 
Otherwise, Peltier will likely die in custody.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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