Clemency for Leonard Peltier
of Bruce Ellison, AIM Attn., Congressional Briefings, May
Free Leonard Peltier page
Leonard Peltier Updates
Fall 2000 Jan.-early Fall Peltier, FBI, parole 2000
1999 Mar. 1998 Past Health Reports Leonard Peltier on mining
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, PO Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044, 785-842-5774, www.freepeltier.org
Executive Clemency now!
Jan. 7, 2001
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Clinton,
I am the daughter of Native American prisoner, Leonard Peltier. My father was imprisoned when I was only 2 1/2 years old. All my life I grew up without my father. I know that you are a strong supporter of family values, so that is why I hope that you sign the executive clemency for my father. I know that it is too late for him to raise his children but my father has 8 grandchildren that he can help raise. All my life I have hoped and prayed for the day that my father would come home, to see my graduation from high school, the birth of my children, and now my graduation from college. I pray that you will have the heart and compassion to understand that my father is NOT a murderer, but a simple man who for the last 25 years has stood as an role model for other Native American children, and children from many other ethnic backgrounds. This e-mail is a plea from my heart, and the heart of my two children, who only want the chance to know their grandfather OUTSIDE the prison walls.
I have experienced meeting my father (for the first time in my life) and growing up with my father being in prison. My one wish in life is to give my daughter the chance to love and know her grandfather here at home. My son was unlucky enough to experience what I have all my life. He met his grandfather for the first time in Leavenworth Federal Prison. Now tell me is that really a place for children to get to know, and love a man who has never harmed a hair on anyone's body? Much less, raised his hand or voice in anger at anyone? There are millions of people who support Leonard Peltier, and only a few thousand FBI agents who oppose my father's freedom because they are afraid of what he can do, afraid of his influence. My father is not a renegade indian, he only wants what's best for his people, the American Indian race. We are a beautiful people, We love and care for each other as do other races.... Once again I say, My father is INNOCENT!!!! He is NOT a muderer. Please, Mr. Clinton, release my father and let him spend the last of his days at home with his family and friends!!!
I want to thank you all for the love and support you have all shown my father....
Thank you, you are all in my prayers. FREE MY FATHER, LEONARD PELTIER!!!!!!
Testimony of Bruce Ellison,
January 11, 2001
PELTIER CLEMENCY UPDATE
Below is an editorial published in the LA Times, written by journalist Kevin McKiernan, who witnessed several aspects of the Pine Ridge Reign of Terror. Also in this message, you will find an exerpt from Friday's press briefing at the White House indicating that the next round of clemency decisions will not likely occur until the last minute (just before January 20).
If true, this leaves us with about ten more days to continue the emergency campaign. Many supporters have expressed a desire to do much more than work on the White House phone call campaign during this truly critical time and have asked what more can be done. If you are one of these people, there is a lot you can do with that nervous energy! Make emergency phone calls to your local human and civil rights organizations, churches, unions, and members of congress. Ask the heads of these groups to make a personal call to the White House to express support for clemency.
Also, you can help dispel the FBI's disinformation in your community by distributing literature on the case to the general public. Email us to receive a simple FAQ and background sheet to hand out. Set up literature tables at public events and/or in crowded areas. Hold video showings and encourage more people to call and fax the White House daily. Alert your community radio stations about the urgency of this case and ask them to make regular announcements encouraging folks to call the White House daily.
We will inform you as soon as we know anything. Hang tight!
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
January 5, 2001
PRESS BRIEFING BY JAKE SIEWERT
The James S. Brady Briefing Room12:20 P.M. EST
Q : Jake, are more pardons likely, and, if so, how soon?
MR. SIEWERT: I would not expect anything until towards the end. I expect that -- he's asked to review some more; Counsel's Office is looking at them and I think they'll probably present a package to him at some point. But I think that would be very much towards the end. I wouldn't expect anything at the early part of next week or over this weekend.
Put a Close to This Sad Chapter
Sunday, January 7, 2001
By KEVIN MCKIERNAN
SANTA BARBARA--I don't know which American Indian killed FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams in a notorious South Dakota shoot-out 25 years ago. Nor do I know the identity of the federal lawman who shot and killed Joe Stuntz, the American Indian Movement (AIM) member, whose body I photographed afterward. But I was there on June 25, 1975, outside the Jumping Bull ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, when some of the bullets were flying. A stray round hit my pickup, and my memory is still fresh of crouching low behind the truck with my portable tape deck, recording the exchange of gunfire for a National Public Radio broadcast.
The government has never produced an eyewitness in the deaths of the agents, and prosecutors admit they still don't know who actually killed Coler and Williams. But AIM leader Leonard Peltier, one of the estimated two dozen Indians present on the 40-acre reservation that day, has admitted that he participated in the firefight. A U.S. appellate court upheld his murder conviction as an aider and abettor, but the court chastised the FBI for its use of "fabricated" evidence in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada and for withholding from the jury an exculpatory ballistics test conducted on a rifle attributed to Peltier.
Amnesty International maintains that Peltier, who is 56 and has been in jail for the last 25 years, did not get a fair trial. Now, in the waning days of the Clinton administration, the organization is one of several groups petitioning the president to commute Peltier's sentence.
Two other AIM members were acquitted in the case, on grounds of self-defense, despite testimony that they had fired in the direction of the agents. The jury also heard evidence about COINTELPRO, the FBI's counterinsurgency program used against AIM, and a representative of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission testified to the "climate of fear" on the reservation before the 1975 shootings. Other testimony challenged FBI assertions of neutrality in the tribal civil war that followed AIM's takeover of the historic reservation village of Wounded Knee two years earlier. Two Indians were shot to death at Wounded Knee; a dozen Indians and two lawmen also received gunshot injuries during the 10-week takeover.
There have long been allegations that the FBI chose sides in the internecineconflict that took place from 1973-75 be tween AIM-led traditionalists and a vigilante group of mostly mixed bloods who called themselves the GOONs (Guardians of the Oglala Nation). But testimony concerning FBI activities on the reservation before the 1975 killings was excluded by the judge in the case of Peltier, who was tried separately from the other two defendants.
In fact, the climate of fear back then was all too real, and it matched anything I have experienced reporting from war zones like El Salvador and the Middle East. In those days, the reservation seemed like the Wild West, and almost everyone was armed. I once was threatened with guns in my face when I tried to film a GOON squad roadblock; another time I was slammed up against a wall by GOONs, who tended to perceive the entire press corps as AIM sympathizers. The brakes on my car were cut, and, on one occasion, a high-powered rifle blew a hole in an automobile in which I was riding. My experiences pale by comparison to the beatings, fire-bombings and drive-by shootings were common during the period; at least 25 murders of Indians still remain unsolved. Former South Dakota state Sen. James Abourzek said that the near-lawless atmosphere on the reservation approached "total anarchy."
District U.S. Judge Fred Nichol, who tried many of the Wounded Knee cases, once told me in a filmed interview that "The FBI and the GOON squad worked pretty much together . . . because they were against AIM." In a 1984 televised interview, which I conducted for PBS's "Frontline," a leader of the GOON squad claimed that FBI agents provided his group with intelligence on AIM and, in one instance, "armor piercing" bullets for use against AIM members who, like the GOONs, were heavily armed at the time.
A few years ago, Gerald W. Heaney, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals that upheld Peltier's conviction, petitioned the White House to commute Peltier's sentence. Heaney stated in a letter that the FBI shared the blame for the two agents and one Indian killed in the South Dakota shoot-out. He said that the government "overreacted" to the 1973 occupation at Wounded Knee. Instead of "carefully considering the legitimate grievances of Native Americans," he said, "the response was essentially a military one that culminated in a deadly firefight on June 26, 1975.
Before he leaves office, President Bill Clinton can provide closure to a difficult and divisive period in Indian history. As Heaney wrote in his clemency plea, "At some time, the healing process must begin. We as a nation must recognize their unique culture and their great contribution to our nation."
Kevin Mckiernan Covered the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for National Public Radio From 1973-1976. he Was the Co-producer of the Pbs "Frontline" Program "The Spirit of Crazy Horse."
FREE LEONARD PELTIER!
1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVE. NW
WASHINGTON DC 20500
P. 202-456-1111, F. 202-456-2461
HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 GENEVE 10, SWITZERLAND
22 December 2000
Dear President Clinton,
I should like to take this opportunity to raise for your consideration the matter of Mr. Leonard Peltier, a prisoner in the United States of America whose case has attracted major national and international attention. As you will be aware, Mr. Peltier was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison over twenty-five years ago in proceedings which have raised serious due process concerns.
The case for clemency for Mr. Peltier has drawn support from a remarkably broad range of observers and institutions, including the European Parliament, Amnesty International, President Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Ms Rigoberta Menchu Tum. Indigenous people from around the world, including the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, as well as many others have expressed grave concern about the case against Mr. Peltier.
As United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, I would like to ask that you give all possible considerations to exercising your power of executive clemency in this case.
[ signature ]
High Commissioner for Human Rights
MEMBER OF CONGRESS
35th DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA
CHIEF DEPUTY WHIP
December 31, 2000
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSWOMAN MAXINE WATERS URGING PRESIDENT CLINTON TO GRANT EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY TO LEONARD PELTIER
I join the many voices today calling on President Clinton to grant Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier. Mr. Peltier, like Mumia Abu Jamal and Assata Shakur, is a victim of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) infamous Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). During the 1960s and 1970s this program launched illegal and clandestine attacks on a wide variety of politically active groups and civil groups and civil rights leaders.
I have written tot he President in the past regarding Leonard Peltier 's case and requested he grant Executive Clemency. The history of Mr. Peltier's trial and conviction is a shameful stain on the U.S. Judicial System. Leonard Peltier was denied some of the basic civil rights we cherish. The government illegally extradited him from Canada using knowingly falsified affidavits. He was convicted of murdering FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams with fabricated evidence, falsified testimony, a judge who has been described as racist by several people and documentation that important evidence was denied during this trial.
My heart goes out to the families of Agents Coler and Williams, as well as the families of the many Native Americans murdered during the same time period on the Pine Ridge Reservation. However, Leonard Peltier has spent over two decades of his life imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. He was made the target of the FBI's search for a killer they could not find. During one of Leonard's appeals, the government's own prosecutor admitted they did not know who actually killed the agents.
We cannot allow these injustices to remain unexamined or uncorrected. Those who maintain Mr. Peltier's guilt have used the same lies and deceit in continued attempts to deny Leonard his freedom. They must not be allowed to continue to disgrace this country and what it stands for, liberty and justice for all.
I support the movement to free Leonard Peltier, not as an affront to law enforcement who put their lives on the line everyday, but as an American who believes in justice. For the sake of the country and in the name of truth and justice, Leonard Peltier must be set free immediately.
His Excellency Mr. William J. Clinton
President of the United States of America
The White House
December 20, 2000
To the President of the United States
Office of the White House Council
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Paul Berg and I am writing in regard to the case of Leonard Peltier. As a BIA employee who served with the FBI during the siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, I have information to share that may be of value to you. Prior to coming to the Pine Ridge Reservation I had served the Vietnam War with Naval Intelligence. I was part of a learn charged with locating bunloare, artillery positions and staging areas around Khe Salm. My military experience provided me with limited, but useful familiarity with siege operations.
After I was discharged from the Navy, I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Education at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. I was a teacher on the Pine Ridge Reservation from 1971 to 1976 and had a unique opportunity to observe the tribulations first hand. Since leaving the Reservation, I have lived and worked in Alaska as a bush village teacher, an education Specialist for the Alaska Department of Education and as a faculty member for the University of Alaska. In 1991 I was under contract by the US Department to write a paper for the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force meeting at the White House. The US Dept. of Education graciously referred in their literature as a "national expert" in this field. I have also written a number of articles and co-authored several books in the filed of education technology. At the present time I am the owner and headmaster of Thunder Mountain Academy, a private middle school in Juneau, Alaska.
In determining clemency for Leonard Peltier I believe that it is very important that you be provided with insight into the historical and social contacts that lead up to the tragic deaths of agents Williams and Kohler on the Pine Ridge Reservation in June of 1975. In 1971, when I arrived on the Pine ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the weights of historical events was evident, even among the children. When I asked my seventh graders to write an essay entitled "Ten Years From Now," half my students wrote about their own death. The source of this hopelessness lay in the recent past. The Sioux and the 7th Calvary clashed in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Subsequently the participating bands of Sioux were hunted down and confined in conditions of squalor on Federal Reservations. In 1980 the Sioux were broken as a culture and as individuals. They collectively embraced the Ghost Dance, a form of cultural hysteria. Government agents at Pine Ridge incorrectly interpreted the Ghost Dance as an aggressive threat to non-Indians and called in the army. As fate would have it, the responding army unit was the 7th Calvary, an Army unit with a score to settle with the Sioux. At Wounded Knee Creek on a cold winter day, the 7th Calvary extracted revenge by massacring over 200 old men, women, and children. It cannot be emphasized enough that the Battle of Little Big Horn was a battle between armed soldiers on both sides. Wounded Knee, in contrast, was a massacre of mostly unarmed people by a military unit bent on revenge. Women, and children were found as far as two tribes from the site. The women had thrown blankets over the children so that they would not see their executioners. Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to several of the soldiers in the massacre. These medals have never been recalled. The people on Pine Ridge Reservation have lived with the collective cultural memory of a government massacre.
In 1973, on he second day of the siege of Wounded Knee, I brought a powerful field scope to the hills above Wounded Knee and began observing. After an hour I approached the FBI roadblock north of Wounded Knee and reported the construction of a bunker north of the Catholic Church in the village. I also told FBI agents that the bunker was no threat, only a symbol for the media, because it was being constructed far forward of the military coast of the hill in an exposed position. The agents received my report of the new bunker with alarm, but seemed unable to comprehend the tactical information. These agents had no military field experiences.
The next day I was reassigned from my normal BIA duties as a teacher (the schools were closed anyway) to become a "spotter" for the FBI. I was armed with an assault rifle and became part of the FBI operation. While in this role I was able to observe the FBI operation under live fire conditions. There were several surprises. The first was that the FBI agents were unprepared and untrained for a tactical operation on an Indian Reservation. They did not understand field operation and were physically, emotionally and doctrinally unprepared to conduct a siege. Secondly, most of the agents were flown in from urban areas and were disoriented to the point of bewilderment. It was skin to being placed in a foreign country with strange looking people without a roadmap or plan of action. Put in this situation, the younger agents seemed particularly prone to overact to perceived threats. And last, as the siege progressed several of the less experienced agents did brutalize the local people.
The FBI had a thoroughly nasty habit of stopping their cars on reservation roads and aiming their M-16's at approaching vehicles. Since FBI cars were unmarked, people approaching in an oncoming vehicle would frequently panic and flee. The agents would pursue and apprehend the fleeing vehicle. One of them pursuits took place the FBI team was assigned to. An old man and woman with their six-year old grandson and ten-year old granddaughter were run off the road. Everyone was made to lay spread eagle on the ground. One of the FBI agents nudged the girl with the barrel of his weapon like he was going to roll her over. The child was trembling and whimpering in fear. A tribal employee and myself reported this incident to the FBI leadership in Pine Ridge. The two agents denied any wrong doings. However other federal agents in the vicinity had witnessed enough to verify our report. I do remember a man coming to see me who, I was told, was the number two FBI agent in charge of the siege. I explained to him that what was done to the child would affect her for the remainder of her life. I explained to him that I was a teacher and that I did not want to be placed in situations where I would be in direct conflict with armed and out-of-control FBI agents. He informed me that two agents were being removed from the reservation immediately. He also told me that he needed me in this position and asked me to stay on as a liaison officer with the FBI. He said that a number of the younger agents did not know what they were doing, they needed guidance or people were going to be killed. He also promised to support me if anything like this happened again. After he put that responsibility on me, I agreed to continue.
After this I received a message from the American Indian Movement. The essence of the message was that as long as I "keep those animals from killing anyone," they would have no problems with me. I was also advised by AIM to never fire any weapon and to never point any rifle at anyone.
Several weeks later I witnessed two young FBI agents panic under fire. The agents were on the perimeter in a bunker. They were under fire and, in one of strangest events I have ever witnessed, they seemed to lose their nerve. They overacted by yelling and screaming for help. I asked Federal Marshals to extract them in M113 (armored personal carrier), much to the chagrin and announcement of the Marshals.
The Wounded Knee siege lasted over 70 days. The two years following the sieg e were a hell on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Scores of people were killed in beatings, drive by shootings or disappearances. Government records substantiate at least 60 unsolved murders during this time. The actual number may be as high as several hundred. The main instigators of the violence were the Guardians of Our Oglala Nation-the GOON Squad. These were supporters of Tribal Chief, Dick Wilson. It was common knowledge on the Reservation at the time that several members of the GOON Squad were off-duty tribal police. In the plains South Dakota, America had a situation similar to present day Columbia; the police were participating in killing squads assigned to neutralize political opposition. These officers were being paid with Federal money and the situation was allowed to continue on a Federal Reservation. The victims of the violence were mostly full-blooded and traditional Sioux, who were political, opposed to what they perceived as corrupt, self-serving tribal leadership.
Many people on the Pine Ridge Reservation were living in fear of their lives during this time. I witnessed the effects of this pervasive fear on a number of occasions. Once, when I was driving along the road from Pine Ridge to Wounded Knee I saw 8 or 9 vehicles stopped along the road. I stopped to see what was going on. People were lined up on the roadside looking down at a body of a woman in the ditch. Then I noticed that the body was moving. No one moved to help her. People were concerned, but too fearful to give direct help. To aid her would be to align one's self against those who had her in this condition. I, as a non-Indian and a mission teacher, (having resigned from the BIA after the siege) was under no such constraint. I went down to her and addressing her as "Grandmother" helped her up to my vehicle. No one helped. Fear of retribution overcame sympathy.
The traditional people on the Reservation felt abandoned by any form of civilized protection. And in reality, this was true. When the GOON Squad came to Wamblee to punish the community for opposition to tribal chairman Dick Wilson, the local residents were able to call through to the FBI office in Rapid City. The residents informed the agents that the community was under attack. They were told that the FBI is an investigative agency, not an enforcement agency. The FBI took no action and the shooting went all night without intervention. One resident was killed that night. (This incident was verified by the US Commission on Civil Rights.)
When I worked with the FBI, several other liaison personnel and I made efforts to educate the young FBI agents about the danger of acting aggressively in this climate of fear. We explained that people were afraid of being killed. I remember after one particularly unnerving incident I began shouting at several agents that they were going to get themselves killed by pointing guns at people. I tried to impress upon them that posturing with guns would not work on the Reservation. The "hands up, I've got you covered," mentality may work in urban America, but on the Reservation, people assumed that if you had a gun pointed at them you intended to kill them. They also knew that no one would be held accountable for their killing. We would tell the agents not to lead with a gun, but instead lead with kindness. Call a man "Sir" and a woman "Ma'am," even if you are doing a march or taking someone into custody.
Intro this climate of intimidation, fear and killing two young agents Williams and Kohler. According to testimony, agents Williams and Kohler approached a compound with weapons drawn. That posture, at that place and time, was a signal which sent the message "We are going to kill you!" They were apparently aware of the historical legacy of sanctioned, official violence on the Pine Ridge Reservation, nor were they aware of the level of fear is the minds of the traditional Sioux. Their deaths were a tragedy, part of the on-going human tragedy of the Pine Ridge Reservation. The manufactured evidence against Peltier is another issue that I cannot address in this letter, but it has been thoroughly documented by others.
What has happened, Mr. President, is that the Federal bureau of Investigation demands a victim for the death of three young men. The agency and the Federal Government have taken no responsibility for the condition that lead the agents' death. An no one is concerned about the killing of Native American Joe Stuntz during the same Incident that took the lives of agents Williams and Kohler.
Please above the politics and racism and allow Leonard Peltier to have justice. Let him go home. I urge you to have the moral courage to do the right thing. History will thank you.
Rebuttal statement given Friday, 14 December 2000, at the National
Press Club in Washington DC, by former Rep. Don Edwards of California,
to the FBI's statements against clemency for Peltier.
EXTREMELY URGENT PELTIER ACTION:
GOVERNOR JANKLOW OF SOUTH DAKOTA MET WITH PRESIDENT CLINTON TO OPPOSE CLEMENCY FOR LEONARD PELTIER
WHITE HOUSE REPORTS THAT CLINTON FOUND JANKLOW TO BE A RELIABLE SOURCE
JANKLOW IS KNOWN AS A MODERN DAY "INDIAN FIGHTER" AND FOR THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT MADE IN THE EARLY 1970's:"THE ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH THE INDIAN PROBLEM IN SOUTH DAKOTA IS TO PUT A GUN TO THE AIM LEADERS' HEADS AND PULL THE TRIGGER."
FLOOD THE WHITE HOUSE WITH CALLS
Peltier backers wait, hope for presidential pardon
By Carey Gillam
LAWRENCE, Kan., Dec 21 (Reuters) - Thirty miles (Fifty km) down the road from the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth where Indian activist Leonard Peltier sits in his cell, the basement office of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee hums with activity.
With only two full-time staffers but an army of grass-roots volunteers, the committee has worked for more than two decades to garner international backing for the release of the 56-year-old Indian activist who claims he was framed and wrongly convicted for the 1975 murders of two FBI agents.
And now, as the final days of the Clinton administration tick away, the group believes their efforts might finally be coming to fruition. President Bill Clinton has promised to consider a presidential pardon before he leaves office in January.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said committee co-coordinator Gina Chiala. "We have reason to believe there is a good chance that clemency will be granted if Clinton really does look at the documents and the evidence."
Clinton, who has taken an interest in Native American issues during his term and visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation last year, is considered the group's best, and possibly last, hope for winning Peltier's freedom.
"It's now or never," said the committee's international coordinator, Sylvain Duez, who came from Paris to the committee headquarters in Lawrence to help out.
As the committee has pushed Peltier's case around the globe, the list of those calling for his release has grown to include former South African President Nelson Mandela, former first lady of France Danielle Mitterrand, European, Italian and Belgian parliaments, and the National Council of Churches.
This week, Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, was sending Clinton a legal analysis of the case and advocating that clemency be granted. At least 30 members of Congress have agreed to sign the letter, according to Conyers spokeswoman Catrell Brown.
BACKLASH AGAINST CLEMENCY DRIVE
But despite the apparent widespread support for Peltier's release, Clinton's review of the request for a pardon has touched off a vocal backlash.
Opponents of his cause are besieging the White House, lobbying to keep Peltier in prison.
In an unprecedented protest last week, hundreds of FBI agents rallied in the nation's capital to oppose Peltier's release. Thousands have signed a petition and an active telephone and letter-writing campaign has been under way.
Larry McCormick, the FBI special agent in charge of the Kansas City division, which includes Leavenworth, said Peltier has already had his case reviewed several times by different courts.
"The evidence is overwhelming and we obviously as FBI agents take it personally that two of our own were killed by him," McCormick said.
"The public should be concerned that a convicted murderer could be provided clemency. It would be an injustice to have him released."
Clinton said early in his term he would examine the Peltier case, but it was only last month after the Amnesty International human rights group again urged Clinton to grant clemency that the White House said the president would take up the request.
The case dates back to June 26, 1975, when FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were killed in a firefight as they chased a truck believed to be driven by a robbery suspect through the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is the site of the famed 1890 Wounded Knee massacre as well as a bloody 1973 shootout between Indians and federal agents.
Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement that at the time was fighting U.S. government intervention in reservation life, was convicted in the agents' deaths and was sentenced to two life sentences in 1977.
Numerous appeals failed. But Peltier supporters claim his case was riddled with misconduct by the prosecutors and the FBI, including coercion of witnesses, perjury, and concealment of ballistics evidence. One early witness recanted, saying she was pressured by the FBI to make false statements.
"There was so much misconduct," said Chiala in an office cluttered with signs, including one saying "The Indian Wars Are Not Over," and boxes of black "Clemency Now" T-shirts.
"There is a reason there is so much support behind this case."Dec. 21, 2000
Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
From The Hollywood Reporter
Amid renewed controversy centering on the case of incarcerated Native American activist Leonard Peltier, producer Jon Kilik ("Dead Man Walking") is set to produce Overseas Film Group's Peltier biopic "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," based on the book of the same name by Peter Matthiessen. Chris Eyre ("Smoke Signals") is attached to direct, and "Crazy Horse" is slated to go into production in the summer. Peltier has been incarcerated for more than 20 years in connection with the 1975 shooting of two FBI agents at South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation. Last week, 500 current and retired FBI agents marched in Washington to protest the possibility of Peltier going free, while a pro-Peltier rally in New York drew 2,000, including author Alice Walker. "Leonard has 20 million supporters worldwide ranging from U.S. senators and congressmen to the World Council of Churches to the Dalai Lama," Kilik said. "This story must be told." Kilik and Eyre are in preproduction on Overseas' Native American-themed "Skins."
Clemency for Peltier Likely to Fail
Clinton is leaning toward rejecting a pardon for the killer of two FBI agents, officials say. Case underscores the rift between the President and Freeh.
by Eric Lichtblau
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 21, 2000
WASHINGTON--President Clinton appears ready to reject convicted killer Leonard Peltier's bid for clemency, but the debate over the Native American activist's future has inflamed already tense relations between the White House and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, officials said Wednesday.
Freeh has been lobbying hard for Clinton to reject pleas from Hollywood, Native American groups and civil rights leaders for a pardon for Peltier, who is imprisoned for the murders of two FBI agents on a South Dakota Indian reservation in 1975.
But White House sources said that Clinton is leaning strongly toward rejecting the clemency request within the next week or so--not because of Freeh's recommendation but in part on the basis of information from others familiar with the case.
Native Americans said they remain confident that Peltier will be freed because he is an innocent man.
Friend Sees Defeat Setting Back Relations
Ernie Stevens Jr., a close friend of Peltier who is on the executive committee of the National Congress of American Indians, said that pardoning Peltier would remove a "black eye in an ugly era" that many Native Americans hope to move past. If Clinton rejects that bid, "I think it really sets us back in tribal-United States relations," said Stevens, who lives in Temecula, Calif.
In fact, Clinton and White House staff members were so unimpressed by Freeh's recommendation--and the manner in which it was leaked to congressional Republicans--that the advice has been virtually discarded, according to a senior White House official familiar with the clemency discussions.
"Freeh's credibility on this issue is not particularly high and his ability to sway the president is not particularly high," said the official, who asked not to be identified by name. "The manner in which [Freeh] offered his advice, by leaking it through [Capitol Hill] rather than by even bothering to send it over here to the White House, was just small-minded."
An FBI spokesman denied the White House version of events, saying that Freeh's recommendation on clemency was hand-delivered to the White House on Dec. 5.
But the fact that Clinton and Freeh have had trouble working together on an issue as fundamental as a presidential pardon indicates that, in the closing weeks of the administration, relations between the two are even more fractured than many realized.
The tension is attributable in large part to Freeh's repeated position that an independent counsel should have investigated alleged campaign finance abuses by the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign.
Paul Bresson, a spokesman at FBI headquarters in Washington, declined to discuss relations between the White House and the FBI in the Peltier case.
"I don't think that's something we're really interested in pursuing," he said. "This whole thing has nothing to do with personal relationships between the FBI and the White House. It has everything to do with the justice system and seeing that everything prosecutors have worked to accomplish [in Peltier's conviction] does not get undone."
On Friday, more than 300 FBI agents marched on the White House demanding that Clinton reject Peltier's request for clemency.
In a Dec. 5 letter addressed to Clinton, Freeh argued passionately against freeing Peltier, saying: "Mr. President, there is no issue more deeply felt within the FBI."
But it's unclear whether Clinton ever received that letter. Its contents immediately became public--and White House staffers said they learned about it only after it was posted on the Web site of Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), head of the House Judiciary Committee.
"That didn't go unremarked on by the president," the White House official said. "That has become standard operating procedure [by Freeh]. . . . Rather than a serious note delivered to [Clinton], it gets laundered through a Republican." Just a few days after Freeh's letter was written, Clinton sat down in the Oval Office with South Dakota Gov. William Janklow.
A Republican, Janklow was South Dakota's attorney general in 1975 when violence erupted at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Two FBI agents who had gone onto the reservation in search of a robbery suspect were killed. Peltier--whose supporters say he was framed--was convicted, and two other men were acquitted.
Clinton Finds Governor Persuasive
In their conversation at the White House, Janklow told Clinton that he believes Peltier essentially executed the two FBI agents, who had been wounded in the initial shootout.
Clinton "understands that a lot of the voices on this are strong and fierce on both sides and he wanted to take a closer look at the facts" by speaking with Janklow, the White House official said.
The president "found the case that Janklow made very persuasive," the official added. "He was seen as a credible, important point of view. . . . He made a very convincing case in a way that Freeh never could."
But Janklow, who was unavailable for comment on the White House meeting, is not without his critics. He lost a libel suit against the publisher of "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," a critically acclaimed 1983 book about the incident at Pine Ridge. Janklow said the book depicted him as a drunk, a racist, a bigot and even a rapist.
Bruce Ellison, an attorney for Peltier for the last 25 years, said that some of Janklow's more recent actions as governor have only exacerbated tensions with the Native American community.
Janklow "has not been a particular friend of the Native American people . . . " Ellison said. "Hopefully, the president will learn more about his biases and his partisan nature" before deciding the clemency issue.
PHONE CALLS NEEDED!
We have now entered the most critical phase of the clemency campaign. President Clinton has announced that he will make a decision before leaving office on January 20. This means a decision could be announced any day now. We must flood the White House Comment line with phone calls supporting clemency on a daily basis. Your calls matter now more than ever. Our campaign is going strong, but our opposition among the FBI is fierce and we must continue to intensify our efforts. Make a habit of calling the White House Comment line once a day. Reach out to your friends, family, and community and ask them to do the same. Here are some talking points, which you can use:
IS LEONARD PELTIER FREEDOM MONTH
Clemency Campaign Developments
Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editorial Board Supports Peltier Bid for Clemency: On December 2, 2000 the Editorial Board of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune favored a bid for clemency for Leonard Peltier. The paper stated, " If Clinton concludes that Peltier did exactly what the prosecutors said he did on June 26, 1975, there is still a credible case to be made for clemency. And if he concludes, as so many others have done, that the government exaggerated Peltier1s culpability, that case becomes compelling."
Former Quebec Justice Questions Legality of Peltier Extradition: After an inquiry into Leonard Peltier1s 1976 extradition from Canada, Fred Kaufman, a former Quebec justice, concluded that testimony used against Peltier was falsified. A key witness, Myrtle Poor Bear, admits she was threatened into stating that she witnessed the shooting and never actually saw Peltier shoot an agent. Justice Kaufman recently wrote President Clinton urging the release of Peltier based on the "grounds that Peltier1s extradition and subsequent conviction in the murders are now highly questionable." The letter was turned over to the U.S. Embassy, along with additional informational materials on Monday. (source: Toronto Star,12/12/00)
Former FBI Agent and Member of Congress Rebukes FBI: Former FBI agent and member of Congress, Don Edwards, made a statement condemning the FBI's opposition to clemency. "The FBI used Mr. Pelteir as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents."
Thousands Gather in Support of Clemency: On December 10, 2000 over 3000 people gathered in New York City in support of Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier. Delegations from Native Nations, Human Rights organizations, churches and schools attended. Speakers included survivors of the Pine Ridge "Reign of Terror", authors Peter Matthiessen and Alice Walker, John Trudell, and members of Leonard Peltier's family among many others.
International Indigenous Reporters Call for Clemency at United Nations Meeting: An urgent letter was sent to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, from indigenous journalists from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North, Central, and South America. The United Nations
Workshop on Indigenous Media made an urgent request that she contact President Clinton to urge clemency for Leonard Peltier. Members of the workshop stressed the importance of the issue to indigenous populations across the globe and noted that a decision for clemency "would set an important example for the promotion of universal justice."
World Renowned Human Rights Leaders Urge President Clinton to Grant Clemency: In a recent letter to President Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sister Helen Prejean, Gloria Steinem, Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum and others voiced their strong support for clemency for Leonard Peltier. Stating that, "Mr. Peltier has paid with 25 years of his life for this miscarriage of justice; his release is long overdue," the well-known leaders also emphasized the healing power the release would have on the tenuous relationship between America1s indigenous peoples and the Federal government.
Peltier Case Raised During Clinton's Visit to Ireland: During Bill Clinton's visit to Ireland, Nobel Laureate and European Parliament Member, John Hume as well as Sinn Fein's Jerry Adams, raised Peltier's case in face-to-face meetings with the President. The Irish Government confirmed that their Ambassador in Washington has raised the Peltier case with the White House and that President Clinton has confirmed that he will review the clemency request before he leaves office.
National Congress of American Indians Affirms Support for
Peltier Clemency: In a letter to President Clinton, the Executive
Committee of the National Congress of American Indians urged the President
to grant Leonard Peltier immediate Executive Clemency. Citing the injustices
in Peltier1s trial, along with his failing health as solid grounds for
granting him clemency, the NCAI leadership emphasized the importance
of this issue to the Native American community. "[Mr. President]Now
is the time to make a strong statement to the American public, and the
world, reflecting this important ideal
Judge Gerald Heaney Renews Support for Clemency Campaign: Judge Gerald Heaney, who denied an appeal by Peltier in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, now confirms his support for Peltier1s freedom. In an Oct. 24, 2000 letter to Senator Daniel Inouye, the Judge stated the following, "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier1s extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case. At some point a healing process must begin. Favorable action by the President in the Leonard Peltier case would be an important step in this regard."
Rev. Jesse Jackson Voices Support for Clemency: Pacifica Radio's Amy Goodman asked Reverend Jesse Jackson about clemency for Leonard Peltier on November 30, 2000. Rev. Jackson replied, "I hope that when he [President Clinton] weighs it, he will free Peltier. He's been in jail a very long time for a crime he never committed in the first place. I hope that as an act of humanity that President Clinton will free Peltier."
Clinton needs to do right thing
Clinton's willingness to consider pardon angers FBI
by David Johnson
New York Times
To be published Sunday, December 17, 2000
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Clinton's willingness to reconsider the life sentence given to Leonard Peltier for the killings of two FBI agents more than two decades ago has provoked an intense lobbying campaign by Peltier's defenders and by a powerful opponent -- FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Law enforcement officials said that Freeh expressed bitterness when Clinton said last month in a radio interview that he would review the Peltier case, along with all other clemency petitions, to "see what the merits dictate," raising an issue that once again pitted the president against his FBI director. Clinton and his aides have long expressed tepid support for Freeh -- most pointedly since it became widely known two years ago that Freeh had repeatedly sought to persuade Attorney General Janet Reno to seek an independent counsel to investigate Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for possible campaign fund-raising improprieties.
But if the political finance issue was a professional dispute, the Peltier case is a deeply personal matter for many FBI agents. Freeh, in a letter to Clinton and congressional Republicans, said that in his seven years as director no issue had aroused such opposition as the possibility that the sentence of Peltier, an American Indian activist, might be commuted.
"Ignoring for a moment the extreme and remorseless brutality of the acts themselves, our employees see Peltier's crimes as a complete affront to our cherished system of government under the rule of law," Freeh wrote of the killings of agents Jack R. Coler and Ron A. Williams. "I hear nothing but abhorrence that there is a possibility, let alone a probability, that Peltier could be released despite repeated and open expression of willingness to murder law enforcement officers and, in the case of Agents Coler and Williams, doing so without hesitation."
Peltier, who is 56, has long said he was not guilty of the killings. Jennifer Harbury, one of Peltier's lawyers, said, "Mr. Peltier never did receive a fair trial of any kind because FBI agents coerced and intimidated witnesses, intentionally used false testimony and concealed from the defense a critical ballistic test reflecting his innocence."
After the shootings, four men were arrested. Charges were dropped against one, and two other men were acquitted. In April 1977, Peltier was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of first-degree murder.
At the time of the shootings, the two agents, in separate cars, were following a red utility vehicle in a search for a robbery suspect on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The agents stopped at a fork in the road and were fired upon. Investigators later counted more than 125 bullet holes in the agents' vehicles.
Investigators later concluded that the agents were wounded in the attack, but not fatally. They were killed by a gunman who stood over the men and fired a weapon at close range into the heads of the two agents. The government said at Peltier's trial that only he had a weapon of the type believed to be responsible for the killings. Peltier has appealed his conviction, but he has been rebuffed by the courts.
An aggressive lobbying campaign is underway on his behalf, pushed by human rights organizations, world leaders like former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and celebrities like actor Robert Redford who have sought clemency for Peltier.
FBI agents are actively trying to persuade Clinton to drop the matter. "We are not saying that the president is predisposed to commute Peltier's sentence," said John Sennett, an agent in Albany, N.Y., who is head of the FBI agents association. "We're trying to respond to the very vocal efforts on Peltier's behalf, which we know to be ill-founded."
� Copyright 2000 New York Times.
PRAYER VIGIL at the White House
- this Sunday
George W. Bush becoming president of the United States might be the best news Indian activist Leonard Peltier ever got.
by Peter Worthington
December 14, 2000
Prior to the U.S. election, President Bill Clinton said he'd make a ruling on clemency before the January 20, 2001, inauguration. But that was before the mess in Florida. It had been thought that Clinton might not want to drop the political hot potato -- the FBI has been lobbying furiously to keep Peltier imprisoned, despite growing evidence they corrupted the case to get a conviction -- in Al Gore's lap had he become president.
With George W. Bush the new president-elect, Clinton might relish granting clemency since he is on record as being sympathetic to Peltier.
Peltier is the Sioux-Ojibwa now in his 25th year of two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents at South Dakota's Pine Ridge reserve in A powerful Canadian brief has been accepted by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa to be forwarded to Clinton, who last month said he "personally" was going to look into Peltier's case with an eye to granting executive clemency.
The brief is the result of an unusual commission of inquiry held in Toronto in October before retired Quebec Appeal Court Judge Fred Kaufman, where for the first time publicly, sworn testimony was heard that the FBI knowingly fabricated evidence to deceive a Canadian court into extraditing Peltier to the U.S. in It's long been known that Myrtle Poor Bear, now 47 (then 22), was coerced, intimidated and threatened with death if she didn't sign affidavits written by the FBI saying she was Peltier's girlfriend and had witnessed him shoot FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams that June 26, 1975, during a range war at the Pine Ridge reservation. (Some 60 Indians were shot to death over three years, with no convictions.)
Judge Kaufman came to the case with no previous exposure to Peltier and was shocked by the evidence. He said "without hesitation" that witnesses appeared "honest and credible" and had the facts been known in 1976, Peltier would not have been extradited.
The Toronto inquiry was orchestrated by Dianne Martin, professor of Osgoode Hall Law School's Innocence Project, in co-operation with the Toronto branch of the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee (LPDC), headed by Frank and Anne Dreaver.
The new, direct testimony is hard to refute.
The brief has gone to the Canadian government, and constitutes a rebuke to Justice Minister Anne McLellan, who last year ruled that Peltier's extradition was above board and fair. She ignored a review ordered by her predecessor, Allan Rock, and carried out by former Liberal Solicitor-General and ex-Indian affairs minister Warren Allmand, who found the extradition was based solely on the fake Poor Bear affidavit.
At an Ottawa press conference this week, Allmand chastised the government, saying Canada had a moral obligation to right the wrong it had unwittingly committed by endorsing the perjury. So far the justice department insists that Peltier was "lawfully extradited."
Also entering the fray is Canadian Alliance MP John Reynolds (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast), who wrote Clinton on Nov. 29 urging him to "intercede" for Peltier because of "perjured testimony that to this day has been allowed to stand." This is Reynold's fourth letter to Clinton on Peltier's behalf since April The Canadian Labour Congress, Amnesty International, aboriginal groups across America, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted and others have joined the clemency brief.
A persuasive element in the clemency appeal is a ruling at Peltier's original trial in 1977, whereby Judge Paul Benson refused a defence motion to have Myrtle Poor Bear testify as to how the FBI threatened and fabricated her affidavit.
Benson ruled that if she testified, and was a believable witness as to the FBI's wrong-doing, it might "shock the conscience of the court" and persuade the jury that Peltier was innocent.
Her testimony was ruled inadmissible.
As well as threatening and coercing Poor Bear, the FBI has since been reprimanded for withholding evidence that caused the jury to think the only AR-15 rifle for which a shell casing was found at the death scene, belonged to Peltier. In fact, AR-15s were plentiful, and the casing in question didn't fit Peltier's rifle.
It's hard to see how President Clinton, or Anne McLellan, can remain unaffected by the persuasive contents of this brief. If they read it. A big if. Judge Kaufman's letter expresses shock at being confronted with irrefutable evidence both the law and justice were corrupted.
Still, the FBI continues a campaign to keep Peltier in prison, a campaign mindful of what happened to Nelson Mandela for 27 years in South Africa. And Mandela was guilty.
One wonders if granting amnesty to Peltier will be his final legacy. At least, it would be doing the right thing. For once.
Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html doctrine of international copyright law.
FAX A LETTER TO THE WHITE HOUSE SUPPORTING CLEMENCY FOR LEONARD PELTIER FOR FREE!
Send a free fax to President Clinton from the Global Exchange website:
Global Exchange has made it possible to reach the President in yet another way. Faxes are very effective forms of communication, and you can now send one for free by clicking on the site address above.
White House operators have reported that they are now getting a lot of calls from the FBI. According to the Washington Times, the FBI Agents Association, which represents more than three-quarters of the bureau's 11,000 active agents, is conducting a counter campaign. We also know that the Society of Former FBI Agents is doing the same. We cannot let them obstruct justice for Leonard Peltier again! With their endless resources, they have bought their own toll free number to the White House. In order to compete, we are going to literally "go for broke" and pay for a toll free number as well. The expense will be in the thousands, but we MUST prevail.
Hundreds march for Peltier's release
BY JODI RAVE LEE
Lincoln Journal Star
NEW YORK - The theft of a pair of cowboy boots led two FBI agents to South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - and their death - a quarter century ago. On Sunday, hundreds from across the country rallied here for the release of the Native activist found guilty of those murders.
Last month, President Clinton ignited hope among Leonard Peltier supporters after announcing he would review the American Indian Movement leader's clemency application. Clinton has less than 40 days to make a decision before leaving office.
"This could be a very human act for which he will be remembered," said Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. "It's a small window of opportunity."
Boghosian united with hundreds in a march from New York's Union Square to the United Nations building as the momentum for clemency swept people of all nations to the city streets, some joining a chorus of: "Freedom is in the air. Clemency for Peltier." Scores more carried signs bearing messages such as, "Begin Native Reconciliation, Free Peltier."
Forty-four New York police officers looked on as a contingent of Pine Ridge, S.D., residents led the march.
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee organized Sunday's march to coincide with the United Nation's 52nd anniversary of Human Rights Day. Similar marches were held in San Francisco and Minneapolis Sunday in support of Peltier, who has been imprisoned for nearly 24 years. He is serving two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents shot in 1975.
Peltier, 56, is arguably the only person convicted of murder during a "reign of terror" described by residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Between 1973 and 1976, more than 60 AIM members and supporters were killed there.
"We want a Congressional committee with subpoena power that can subpoena 1,000 pages of documents that would tell what the FBI was doing on Pine Ridge," said Bruce Ellison, involved with AIM court proceedings since 1975.
On the 25th anniversary of the slaying this summer, FBI Director Louis Freeh praised a recommendation against parole for Peltier, saying: "The FBI cannot forget this cold-blooded crime, nor should the American people. . . . The rule of law has continued to prevail over the emotion of the moment."
Freeh said the two agents were shot first from 250 yards away and then through the face at close range as they lay wounded.
Meanwhile, Peltier supporters have said he never received a fair trial. He has since become an international symbol of America's perceived unjust treatment of Native people.
"It's easy to say America slaughtered Native people 200 years ago," said Jennifer Harbury, a Peltier attorney, "but it's very embarrassing to say our generation slaughtered Native people."
Peltier, a member of North Dakota's Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe, has gained the support of world leaders, such as the late Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Other supporting organizations include Amnesty International, European, Italian and Belgium parliaments, National Council of Churches, UNITY: Journalists of Color and the National Congress of American Indians.
The turbulent years at Pine Ridge are recounted in Peter Matthiessen's bestseller, "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse." After its publication in 1983, the book was kept off shelves for nine years. The resulting legal case was finally thrown out of court, but not before it became the longest legal battle in publishing history.
Peltier's imprisonment today leads back to a sweltering day, June 26, 1975. Here's a summarized account:
FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams went to the Pine Ridge Reservation to inquire about the theft of pair of cowboy boots. The men were searching for Jimmy Eagle, who allegedly took them from a "drinking buddy during a brawl."Jodi Rave Lee can be reached at 402-473-7240 or email@example.com.
250 march to urge Clinton to grant Leonard Peltier clemency
A march was held Sunday in Minneapolis urging President Clinton to grant clemency to imprisoned American Indian activist Leonard Peltier.
At its peak, 250 people joined what was billed as the Freedom Walk for Clemency, said organizer and activist Stephanie Autumn.
"We are trying to send a message to Bill Clinton to do the right thing," she said. "It took a lot of heart and strength for people to come out in the cold and show support for the American Indian movement and Leonard's grant for executive clemency."
Last month, the White House announced that Clinton would review all pending requests for clemency, including Peltier's. In 1977, he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the murder of two FBI agents in South Dakota. Peltier's supporters maintain that evidence against him was falsified.
Despite frigid weather, many of the marchers went the full length of the 2.6-mile route from the Minneapolis Peacemaker Center near 23rd St. and Cedar Av. to the Basilica of St. Mary near Loring Park. At the basilica, marchers joined in an interfaith prayer service to commemorate U.N. International Human Rights Day.
The march concluded a four-day vigil held at the Peacemaker Center.
� Copyright 2000 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
Extradition based on false evidence, Peltier inquiry says
By KIRK MAKIN
Globe and Mail Update
Toronto - The commissioner of an inquiry into the Leonard Peltier case has concluded that the Indian activist was extradited from Canada under false pretenses after a key witness, Myrtle Poor Bear, falsified evidence.
In a letter urging U.S. President Bill Clinton to consider granting executive clemency, commissioner Fred Kaufman said Mr. Peltier's 1976 extradition and subsequent imprisonment for murdering two FBI agents is now highly questionable.
"As you can see from her evidence, she acted under duress at the time, and much of what she said was false," wrote Mr. Kaufman, a judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal for 16 years. "I am satisfied that if this had been known when the extradition hearings took place, the request to extradite Peltier would likely have been refused."
The letter was quietly sent to the White House late last week along with a transcript of the inquiry. It will be released at an Ottawa press conference Monday morning. Another copy is being sent to Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien and Justice Minister Anne McLellan in the hope that they will intervene with Mr. Clinton.
Frank Dreaver, head of the Canadian branch of the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee, said his group has also been granted something it has sought for years: a chance to present its case this morning to officials at the U.S. embassy. "Everybody concedes this is a very important factual document," Mr. Dreaver said in an interview. "President Clinton has made it clear recently that he wants to look at the Leonard Peltier case fairly and take a position on it. That's why it was so important to put together as much information about the Canadian angle as we could."
Mr. Kaufman's conclusions add impetus to worldwide pressure on Mr. Clinton to grant Mr. Peltier clemency - a traditional prerogative of presidents leaving office - before his term ends Jan. 20.
The idea is opposed by senior FBI officials, who refer to it as a cruel obscenity that denigrates the deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams.
The shootings took place on June 26, 1975, when the two agents drove to the Jumping Bull Compound on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reserve to investigate a minor theft. They were shot during a six-hour firefight that involved scores of federal agents and about 30 natives. One of the natives, Joe Stuntz, was also killed.
Aware that he was one of 47 suspects, Mr. Peltier fled. In early 1976, he was captured in Hinton, Alta. At the heart of his Vancouver extradition hearing were a series of affidavits in which Ms. Poor Bear said she was his girlfriend.
Ms. Poor Bear, now 47, affirmed at the time not only that she witnessed the shooting, but that Mr. Peltier spoke to her about it afterward.
She was mysteriously dropped from the prosecution's witness list at Mr. Peltier's 1977 murder trial in Fargo, N.D. A district attorney told the court only that she was no longer considered "competent."
Mr. Peltier was convicted of the double murder largely on the basis of ballistics evidence which has since been brought into doubt. Ms. Poor Bear disappeared from sight, and little was heard of her prior to the one-day Toronto inquiry last October.
The Toronto hearing was organized by the Innocence Project, a group that attempts to expose wrongful convictions. Five witnesses, including Ms. Poor Bear and her sister, were examined under oath by two prominent Toronto lawyers.
Testifying for the first time in any venue, Ms. Poor Bear confirmed what many had long suspected: she had fabricated her story under pressure from FBI agents bent on avenging their dead comrades. Ms. Poor Bear broke down from time to time as she supplied details of how two agents kept her apart from her family for long periods and threatened her life in an attempt to coerce her into giving false testimony.
"I say without hesitation that each of the witnesses appeared honest and credible," Mr. Kaufman said in his letter to Mr. Clinton. He said this was particularly true of Ms. Poor Bear, who was obviously distraught as she told of her terror and subsequent shame at having helped perpetrate a miscarriage of justice.
In a supporting letter to the White House that will be released Monday, Peter Hogg, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, says he was shocked to learn of Ms. Poor Bear's recantation. Prof. Hogg, widely regarded as Canada's leading constitutional scholar, said it appears very likely that a miscarriage of justice has taken place in the Peltier case.
"I add my voice to those who urge that executive clemency be granted," he said. "He has served 25 years in prison, which is a terrible burden for someone who is probably innocent."
Law professor Dianne Martin, a co-director of the Innocent Project, said the possibility that Texas Governor George W. Bush will win the disputed presidency puts all the more pressure on Mr. Clinton. "Bush is not likely to have any interest at all in the Peltier case," Prof. Martin said in an interview. "If President Clinton has anywhere near the conscience we believe he has, he will know it is on his watch that this has to happen."
The Peltier case is without a doubt one of the most closely examined criminal convictions in North American history. Several books and a movie have centred on it, and Mr. Peltier's supporters span the globe. U.S. officials have been bombarded with thousands of information requests over the years, and numerous court challenges have been attempted.
A brief prepared for Mr. Clinton by Prof. Martin and fellow Innocence Project director Paul Burstein argues that the President is faced with a historic opportunity.
"Literally millions of people around the world - but most significantly, hundreds of thousands of Canadians, Americans and Aboriginal Peoples, have struggled ceaselessly to demonstrate that his extradition, conviction and continued imprisonment represent a profound miscarriage of justice," the brief says.
It says that granting clemency would also serve to close a chapter that has epitomized for many aboriginals their long history of oppression and injustice.
"The deaths on Pine Ridge will not be forgotten if clemency is granted to Leonard Peltier, the man wrongly held to blame for them," the brief said. "But acknowledging that many suffered from the events on Pine Ridge and that many wrongs - not just two - were committed, will begin healing the deep, historical wounds that Native Americans still endure."
Below is the promised sample letter to the editor which you can use to respond to any news coverage of FBI director Louis Freeh's statement.
By the way, don't be distressed! Look what appeared in the latest Washington AP story: WASHINGTON (AP) Attorney General Janet Reno expressed misgivings Thursday over the public release of FBI Director Louis Freeh's recommendation against presidential clemency for an American Indian activist imprisoned for killing two FBI agents.
Asked at her weekly news conference whether it is appropriate for Freeh to be make public comments on Leonard Peltier's case, Reno replied: "I think these matters should be confined to a discussion with the president."KEEP UP ALL OF YOUR GREAT WORK!
PLEASE CONTINUE TO CALL THE WHITE HOUSE DAILY!
HERE IS THE SAMPLE LETTER:-LPDC
Letters to the Editor
City, ST ZIP
December 7, 2000
I am writing about the recent Associated Press article that ran in your paper regarding the clemency request for Leonard Peltier currently being considered by President Clinton. True to form, the FBI continues to spread misinformation about Mr. Peltier's case. Hopefully, President Clinton will not succumb to their desperate attempt to distort the truth.
Mr. Peltier never received a fair trial. The witnesses were intimidated and coerced by the FBI, false testimonies were utilized and a ballistics test reflecting his innocence was concealed from the defense. U.S. Attorney Lynn Crooks now admits no one knows who killed the two agents.
Judge Gerald Heaney, who authored the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals' denial of a new trial, has himself written to express his full support for a grant of clemency. He condemned the FBI's tactics in the overall investigation and trying of the case. Furthermore, Heaney stated that favorable action by the President in this case would be an important step in the healing process between the United States and the Native American community.
While the deaths of Ron Williams and Jack Coler are a terrible tragedy, it is also a tragedy to imprison an individual for nearly 24 years who was so obviously never granted a fair trial.
Mr. Peltier's clemency supporters includes the National Congress of American Indians, Nobel Laurete Rigoberta Menchu, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Dalai Lama, Robert Redford, the National Council of Churches, Amnesty International and many others.
As President of the United States, it is Clinton's duty to mitigate injustices. Granting clemency to Leonard Peltier is not only morally right, but necessary.
Reno Unhappy With Peltier Case
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
Associated Press Writer
December 7, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Janet Reno (news - web sites) expressed misgivings Thursday over the public release of FBI (news - web sites) Director Louis Freeh's recommendation against presidential clemency for an American Indian activist imprisoned for killing two FBI agents.
Asked at her weekly news conference whether it is appropriate for Freeh to be make public comments on Leonard Peltier's case, Reno replied: "I think these matters should be confined to a discussion with the president."
FBI spokesman John Collingwood had no comment on Reno's remarks.
Freeh wrote President Clinton (news - web sites) on Tuesday that commuting the life sentences of Peltier would "signal disrespect" for law enforcement and the public.
Freeh sent his Clinton letter, and another he wrote to Reno, to House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who shares Freeh's view and promptly posted all Freeh's letters on the committee's website Wednesday. He also released them to reporters.
Reno said the Justice Department (news - web sites) has forwarded a recommendation to Clinton on Peltier's request for clemency, but she declined to disclose it. A senior Justice official said that recommendation went to Clinton a while ago.
Other Justice officials, requesting anonymity, said the department had consistently opposed clemency for Peltier over the years. The department even authorized its prosecutor to write news organizations to keep the government's case in the public eye to counter a campaign mounted on Peltier's behalf.
The White House said late last month that Clinton will review pending requests for executive clemency, including Peltier's, before he leaves office in January.
Asked Nov. 7 about Peltier by New York City radio station WBAI-FM, Clinton said he would review all clemency applications "and see what the merits dictate ... based on the evidence.
"I know it's very important to a lot of people, maybe on both sides of the issue," Clinton said. "And I think I owe it to them to give it an honest look-see."
Freeh wrote the president that the families of slain agents Ron A. Williams and Jack Coler "respectfully plead to you that the vicious murderer of a son and a father not be heroically elevated above the cold and hardened criminal he chose to be."
Freeh said that to the public and law enforcement community, the killings are "the most vile disrespect for all that we cherish."
He added, "Mr. President, there is no issue more deeply felt within the FBI."
On June 26, 1975, Williams and Coler pursued a robbery suspect into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A shootout erupted with activists from the American Indian Movement.
Two suspects were acquitted and a third was freed for lack of evidence.
Peltier, after fleeing to Canada and being extradited to the United States, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in 1977, despite defense claims that evidence against him had been falsified.
Peltier, 56, is serving the terms at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. He has suffered from health problems in recent years.
In June, a parole examiner recommended that Peltier's sentences be continued until his next full parole hearing in 2008.
As you know, the FBI Agents Association and the Society of Former FBI Agents have organized a telephone campaign to the White House in an attempt to discourage a grant of executive clemency for Leonard Peltier. Combined, the two organizations have membership in the tens of thousands. They have purchased a toll free number for their membership to utilize when calling the White House.
Clearly their financial resources far outweigh our own. However, it is critical that we do not allow the FBI to drown us out. Therefore, we have also purchased a toll free number for Leonard Peltier supporters, who are unable to afford the long distance calls, to use. That number is: 1-877-561-1364. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee will be paying by the minute for all toll free calls, a cost that will be extremely exorbitant. Calling the regular White House number (202-456-1111) on a daily basis averages about $2.00 -$5.00 a week per person. If you cannot afford this amount, or if you or people you know do not have access to long distance calling, please utilize our toll free number. If you can afford the $2.00-$5.00 a week, please do not use the toll free number. Don't be discouraged by the FBI's campaign. We still outnumber them by far, and if everyone does their part, we can win.
Leonard Peltier: Call to the
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Fall 2000 Jan.-early Fall Peltier, FBI, parole 2000 1999 Mar. 1998
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Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, PO Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044, 785-842-5774, www.freepeltier.org
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