Leonard Peltier Behind bars

Page contents: Peltier, parole 2000, FBI and what happened that day

* June 26 Statement of Leonard Peltier
*"FBI opens Peltier files"
* RE: June 12 Parole Hearing
* LPDC on "No Parole Peltier Association" Website
* Peltier backers see FBI's lobbying as example of repression


* 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
* From LPDC & Amnesty International USA:     Calls, online Petiton & emails

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June 26, 2000


Greetings Friends and Supporters,

Twenty-five years has passed since the fatal shoot-out on the Jumping Bull Ranch occurred, and for twenty-five years I have been forced away from my people and my home, which I consider Oglala to be. I miss being with all of you as I have always loved and respected the Lakota ways. I have always admired the Lakota people, especially the Oglalas for their strength, determination, and courage to continue the struggle to maintain our traditional ways and sovereignty. Not a single day passes when I do not dream of being home with you. Twenty-four years is a long time to be in prison, but if I was out and you were facing the same kind of brutality you faced under the Wilson regime, I would not hesitate to stand next to you and resist the violent oppression you were forced to endure.

But I am not out, I remain locked up in here, and it has not been an easy 24 years. Prison is a repulsive, violent place to exist in. But again, none of this could stop me from standing with you until the great Oglala Nation is free. I know a lot of problems continue to exist for you. Corrupt tribal government officials are still taking advantage of the people and crimes committed against Natives receive little if no priority. It makes me very sad to know that after everything we went through in the 1970's our people still continue to suffer so much. The memory of all of those who lost their lives during that time also continues to haunt me

As we gather together during this time of remembrance, I am aware that the FBI has also organized a 25-year memorial for their dead agents. I do not fault them nor do I disagree with what they are doing. I think all people should gather in memorial for any of their fallen. But, when you analyze this whole event of theirs, you are slapped in the face with the cold reality of racism. Not once have they, nor will they mention our fallen warriors and innocent traditionalists slaughtered in the 70's after Wounded Knee II. They will not even as much as mention Joe Killsright Stuntz. We cannot even get an acknowledgement from them that they were wrong in supporting such a cruel and corrupt regime as Dick Wilson's. They continue to deny that any Indian people were killed as a result of their direct input with the terrorist squad, the GOONS. The fact is they do not think of Indian people as human beings. Whenever you deny that such atrocities happen, and we know they did happen, it only means they don't consider the people who died to be human. Hitler's regime felt the same about the Jews.

But please don't misunderstand my frustration for a lack of sympathy about the loss of the agents' lives. I do feel for the families of the agents because I know first hand what it is like to lose a loved one. I have lost many loved ones through the years due to senseless violent acts. If I had known what was going on that day, and I could have stopped it, I would have.

But in order for us to bring reconciliation to what was a very difficult time we first must have justice. We must continue to ask when the lives of our people will be given the same respect and value as others. When will they stop carelessly locking up our people without applying the scrutiny and care the judicial system is supposed to guarantee? When will guilty beyond a reasonable doubt become a standard that applies to us? When will our guilt have to be proven, rather than assumed? We suffer equally, but we are not treated equally. There is hope for a better future and for peace. But in order for us to live in peace, we must be able to live in dignity and without fear.

In closing, I want to say that your voices are important and your involvement in the effort to gain my freedom is crucial. You know the truth and only you can express the reality of those brutal times. It is also important that you explain to the youth what we stood for and why, because they are our hope for the future. They can carry out our dream for our people to have pride in their culture, good schools, food, and health care, and most importantly, justice. Please know that I continue to be here for you too, although I am limited in what I can do from behind these walls. However, I will continue help in whatever I can from here. The one thing my situation has brought me at least, is a voice, and my voice is your voice. So please do not hesitate to write me or contact the LPDC to inform me of what is going on.

I am growing older now and my body is beginning to deteriorate. I sometimes wonder just how much longer I will be with you all on Mother earth. I hope that it'll be a while longer because I long to be with you, my family and friends, to share some time together. If not, and I don't make it home to you, I will always be with you in spirit, at every Sun Dance and Inipi Ceremony, remembering both the happy and the painful times we shared.


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier


 

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"FBI opens Peltier files"


By Lee Williams
Sioux Falls Argus Leader News
June 25, 2000

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- "Leonard Peltier says he regrets the bloody shootout near Oglala 25 years ago that left two FBI agents and an American Indian Movement member dead. But, in an interview last week at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., the 55-year-old Peltier carefully added that he did not kill Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams.

"I have so much remorse. I think about it a lot," said Peltier, streaks of gray showing in his jet-black hair. "I wish I could have prevented it. But I didn't kill those people, and I'm very sorry lives were lost that day."

Peltier is serving two life sentences for the shootings in a case which has been examined, dissected and critiqued almost since the day of his arrest in 1976.

According to trial testimony, on the morning of June 26, 1975, the FBI agents were following a red-and-white Chevrolet Suburban on a gravel road about 3 miles southeast of Oglala on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/8anbrown.htm and http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/20arad.htm for radio transmissions..
it was a RED PICKUP/ INTERNATIONAL SCOUT?)

Suddenly, at least seven rifles opened fire on them from three elevated positions 180 to 220 yards away. The poorly armed agents were pinned in a deadly cross-fire at the bottom of a shallow depression. Coler, 28, and Williams, 27, were wounded in the gunfight. But they died after being shot with a high-velocity rifle at close range.

During the next year, four men were arrested in connection with the shootings. Charges against one were dropped; two others were acquitted. On April 18, 1977, a Fargo jury convicted Peltier of two counts of first-degree murder.

Celebrities including Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa have called for clemency for Peltier. And in light of what some see as mounting public support for a presidential pardon for Peltier, the FBI on Monday will take the unusual measure of placing photographs, documents and other evidence in the murder case on its Web site for public perusal.

(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm for all the bench discussions on these photos paraded around before the jury for the entire length of the trial..)

"We have been bad in the past about getting our message out," said Chip Burrus, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge of Indian Country. "We need to stay away from all the bad things that have happened to Native Americans and concentrate on those 20 minutes on the Jumping Bull compound."

(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/ for back ground. All those "BAD" things is precisely the reason the traditional council requested AIMs presence on Pine Ridge, and two weeks later voted by unanimous vote to request that the FBI leave Pine Ridge reservation. All those BAD things is precisely why Robideau and Butler were exonerated by reason of "self defense".... )
( SEE:
http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/283.gif, http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/284.gif, http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/285.gif, http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/286.gif for the FBIs analysis of what they needed to do differently to convict Peltier..)

The FBI opened the files for the Argus Leader on Friday. Pictures of bullet-riddled vehicles and an arsenal of weapons -- from AR-15s and M-1 carbines to grenades -- are among evidence to be included on the agency's Web site.

And opening up the files to the public is sure to ignite the always-smoldering debate over what really happened on that hot June day on the Jumping Bull ranch.

"This is one of the worst shoot-outs in FBI history," Burrus said. "Two young FBI agents with service revolvers ... the terror going through their minds we can never imagine."

Among the issues that have kept the Peltier case a matter of public debate for decades:

FBI officials say Peltier has changed his story several times since his arrest. For instance, he first said he didn't know who killed the agents. He later changed his statement, saying someone he calls Mr. X shot Williams and Coler.

(Maybe Mr. X is called Mr. X because his identity is NOT known. It is obvious the agents were killed by someone. However, it was not Leonard Peltier..)

AIM leaders have said the shooting was not an ambush, as painted by prosecutors, but rather an act of self-defense. They say the FBI had trained and equipped a vigilante group on the Pine Ridge reservation. That day, AIM leaders say, the FBI agents were mistaken for the armed vigilantes who had terrorized the area. FBI officials call that theory preposterous.

(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm for Robert Ecoffey's testimony on the "training exercises". Both Agents Coler and Williams were SWAT, as were several others imported in the couple of months prior to the shootings. http://www.freepeltier.org/event2_pre-june26.htm#top)

This document released three months before the shoot-out makes it extremely apparent that the FBI was preparing for a "Major Confrontation." http://www.freepeltier.org/event4_pre-june26.htm#preparation

This information document was circulated ten 1/2 months before the shoot-out; listed under the occupation of Peltier it can still be made out to read "Manager - American Indian Movement." This title given to Peltier by the FBI destroys the governments' claim that Peltier was a "nobody" in the movement and as such there is no reason to frame him. http://www.freepeltier.org/event4_pre-june26.htm#top

ALSO SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/cointelpro/ for a Georgia case where the only people connected with the explosives "found" in the case WERE the government agents)

Peltier alleges that prosecutors coerced false testimony from a woman who said she was an eyewitness to the shooting. Officials used that testimony to get him extradited from Canada.

(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm for the Myrtle Poor Bear testimony the jury never heard.)

The ballistics evidence introduced in the trial also has been questioned. And Peltier said he discovered other ballistics evidence that was withheld from the jury.

The government is withholding more than 6,000 pages of documents about the case, Peltier said. FBI officials acknowledge that the documents were withheld but add that they did so because Peltier didn't pay a bill for thousands of pages of documents received earlier. (SEE: Commentary BELOW)

Pine Ridge unrest

Both sides agree the Pine Ridge reservation was in turmoil in 1975. Burrus said there were 12 agents working out of the Rapid City FBI office alone, many on temporary duty from other field offices.

The violence had escalated in the early 1970s, in part because of the convergence of two events: the election of Dick Wilson as tribal chairman and the growing activism of AIM. Wilson created a vigilante force known as Guardians of the Oglala Nation. The men were derisively referred to by tribal members as goons.

AIM became allied with a group opposed politically to the Wilson administration and in favor of a return to traditional ways.

In 1973, tension between Wilson supporters and opponents boiled over. AIM led a 71-day takeover of Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre by U.S. Army soldiers of more than 200 followers of Chief Big Foot.

"After Wounded Knee, we knew the elders and traditional people were under attack on the reservation from the goons," said Clyde Bellecourt, AIM co-founder and veteran of the Wounded Knee occupation. "We asked young Indian men from across the country to come live there. Wounded Knee was a cry for help."

Bellecourt and others have accused the FBI of training Wilson's forces, arming them with intelligence and weapons in retaliation for the occupation of Wounded Knee.
(SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm testimony of Robert Ecoffey on "field training that morning" both Coler and Williams were FBI SWAT team, along with several others imported in the month or so before the shoot out) Burrus bristles at the allegations.

"That the FBI would intentionally supply people with weapons so they could intimidate and harm other people is preposterous." (SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/cointelpro/ for Ga case)

Enter Peltier

Peltier is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe in North Dakota.

As a young man, he became a tribal activist, working to improve conditions for tribal members. Peltier had traveled around the country, working automotive and construction jobs. In the early 1970s, he met Vernon Bellecourt, Clyde's brother, in Denver. Peltier was impressed with the work AIM was doing for Indian people. "Later, I met Dennis Banks and liked what he had to say," Peltier recalls. "He asked me to travel with him, and I agreed."

In Flagstaff, Ariz., Peltier sat in on a meeting with a delegation from Pine Ridge that had come to request AIM's assistance. "They made such an emotional request," he said. "We decided to go." Peltier said he didn't consider AIM a paramilitary group. "We didn't have much money for ammunition."

(This meeting took place in Farmington New Mexico..)

Burrus sees it differently.

"He was the leader of a group of burglars and thugs."

(The youngest person present in the camp was 12 year old Jimmy Zimmerman. The majority of those camped here were in their mid teens. Two came and later participated in the Sundance at Leonard Crow Dog's )

Fateful day

On the day of the shootings, Peltier said, he was in an AIM encampment known as Tent City, located in the woods just southeast of Oglala. The camp, a collection of canvas tipis and wall tents, was northeast of the site where the agents' bodies were found. "We had heard rumors of a possible goon assault," Peltier said in the interview room at Leavenworth. "We were aware of other threats. Tensions were high. I heard bullets zinging and hit the ground."

Peltier said he ran through several cabins in the area that morning, checking the welfare of those inside.

"I heard whimpering in one and found some people hiding under a bed."

Taking up a surplus British .303 Lee-Enfield rifle and a 30-30 carbine, Peltier said, he began shooting toward the source of the incoming rounds. "When we first started receiving gunfire, I fired that way, but I didn't see anybody. I never shot those agents," he insisted. "I was never shooting specifically at them."

Peltier still believes the gunfire was coming from Bureau of Indian Affairs police.

(NOTE: testimony NOT heard by the jury also points to this conclusion. There were several hundred rounds of ammo from weapons never accounted for in the area. As well as intermittent firing the rest of the afternoon, long after those at the encampment had left. Testimony time ranges for their departure places it some time between 1 and 2 PM at the latest...the firing continued until after 4PM.)

The FBI investigation revealed a different chain of events on June 26, 1975.

Williams and Coler were looking for Jimmy Eagle, who was wanted for robbery. The agents followed the Suburban (see above for vehicle description. The red international scout was also in the impound yard in Pine Ridge..towed in in connection with this incident) into a shallow depression, radioing to other agents in the vicinity when the vehicle stopped. They immediately reported gunfire.

"If you don't get here quickly, we're dead men," Williams screamed into the radio, according to FBI transcripts and records.

SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/

A total of 125 bullet holes were later found in the two men's cars. The gunshot wounds incapacitated both agents. But the men were alive, Burrus said, before Peltier walked to where they lay and executed them with shots to the head from his AR-15.

The AR-15

Peltier denies ever using the AR-15, a semiautomatic version of the military's M-16. Investigators found one shell casing in the trunk of Coler's car that extractor tests later proved came from the AR-15. With its high-velocity ammunition and large-capacity magazines, the AR-15 outclassed all other guns in the fight. Agents recovered 114 spent shells of .223 ammunition from that area. They say the shells came from the same AR-15.

(NOT according to their lab reports.and Crooks testimony at a later evidentiary hearing: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/ishgooda/peltier/trdoc4x.jpg)

"There were a number of ARs there that day," Peltier explained. "After Vietnam, it was a popular gun."

Once the shooting stopped, Peltier said, he never approached the wounded agents. Mr. X did.

"I know I've said in the past who he is. I said it out of anger. I don't know who it is, either Mr. X, Y or Z," Peltier said over the incessant hum of a soft drink machine.

He said he left the area on foot soon after the shooting stopped.

"We decided to get the hell out of there," he recalled. "We were going to drive out but later decided to walk. After we crossed a creek, we knelt down with a pipe and prayed. I saw the shadow of an eagle, heard the wings flapping and followed him out of there."

The FBI insists Peltier had the only AR-15 that day. He used it, the FBI believes, to execute the wounded agents.

"When you see a weapon like that, you don't forget it. It's distinctive," said Special Agent Doug Grell, who was assigned the case and assisted with the prosecutions.

Michael Anderson, an AIM member who was at the scene of the shooting, testified in Peltier's trial. Other AIM members at the scene, according to the FBI, included Robert Robideau, Darrelle Dean "Dino" Butler, Norman Charles and Stuntz.

"Michael Anderson saw Peltier, Robideau and Butler walk up to the agents after the shooting stopped. He turned his head and heard several shots," Grell said.

Anderson was killed in a car accident several years ago.

Gory details

Dr. Thomas Noguchi, then Los Angeles County coroner, assisted in reconstructing the crime scene.

His testimony addressed the disabling wounds the agents received from a distance and the fatal wounds that were inflicted at close range. Noguchi said the first shots hit Coler in the arm and immediately took him out of the fight.

"Anderson saw Coler open his truck and get out the long guns," Grell said. "He was hit by a round passing through the trunk lid."

When the soft-nosed bullet hit the hard metal of the trunk, it flattened out like a half-dollar, Grell said. The round tore a gaping hole through Coler's arm.

The cold, dispassionate testimony of the medical examiner never mentions the gallantry Williams displayed that day. According to FBI records, Williams had been shot in the foot, side and left arm but still managed to crawl to his partner's aid. While receiving incoming fire, he was able to remove his shirt and tie it around Coler's arm as a tourniquet.

The agents managed to squeeze off only five rounds during the entire fight, Grell said. They fired three rounds from their pistols, one from a shotgun and one from a .308 rifle. Burrus and others say that because of the distances involved, the pistols and shotguns were useless.

Their attackers, Burrus said, were armed with superior weapons, had the advantage of surprise and occupied higher ground.

According to the coroner's report, Williams had a defensive wound to his hand, as if trying to ward off the final shot to his head. The bullet tore a finger off his hand and slammed into his brain, killing him instantly.

Coler, Grell said, was shot twice in the head as he lay on the ground unconscious. The first round wasn't fatal. The second was.

Burrus said the agents were dead by noon. Their bodies weren't recovered until four hours later.

Little is known about Joe Stuntz' death. He was shot by law enforcement officers. Burrus said Stuntz had stayed behind after two groups of AIM members left on foot. He was wearing one of the dead agents' FBI jackets when his body was recovered.

There were no bullet holes in the coat, so some have alleged that it was placed on Stuntz' body after he was killed.

Burrus said that Stuntz was killed by one round to the forehead, fired from a distance.

The AR-15 disappeared until Sept. 10, 1975.

The car explosion

Robideau, Norman Charles and Anderson were driving a Plymouth station wagon on the Kansas Turnpike near Wichita that day. The old vehicle had been purchased by Peltier in Denver, the FBI said, and was loaded with arms, ammunition and explosives.

Some of the explosives, which included sticks of dynamite, detonation cord and hand grenades, rolled too close to a hole in the exhaust pipe, Burrus said. The results were dramatic.

Once smoke began filling the interior of the car, the occupants bailed out. The explosion that followed peeled the roof off the wagon like a can of sardines.

When the fire died down and agents were able to sift through what was left, they found several charred weapons, including the remains of an AR-15.

Though the plastic stock and grips had melted, Burrus said, forensic experts were able to remove the weapons bolt and place it into a functioning rifle for ballistics examination.

That testing also would become a source of controversy.

When a round is fired, the soft brass cartridge case is marked by the weapon's firing pin and the extractor -- the part of the bolt that strips the empty cartridge from the chamber. Each weapon leaves its own unique marks, not unlike a fingerprint.

Burrus said the extractor tests determined that the AR-15 recovered from the Wichita Turnpike was the same weapon used to kill Coler and Williams. But the firing pin tests were inconclusive. The pin was too "smooth."

Peltier disputes that. "It was negative," he said of the second test. "And the firing pin test never came out at trial." SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/296.gif and 297.gif

Peltier arrest

The day before the Wichita explosion, Peltier had been stopped by Oregon State Police in a recreational vehicle that was registered to Marlon Brando, Burrus said. Peltier fired at the troopers and fled, Burrus said, making his way to Hinton, Alberta. Peltier later abandoned the RV. When investigators searched the vehicle, they found Coler's pistol. Peltier's fingerprint was recovered from the weapon.

(EXCERPT VOLUME 12 TRIAL TRANSCRIPT:

Q Now, is it uncommon in your experience to find fingerprints on paper bags in living areas, whether it's in a mobile home or a house or an apartment, when you have occasion to search the living area for prints for some reason or another?

A I don't usually search a living area for prints.

Q All right. Well, let me rephrase my question. When you are given items which have been found in a living area, mobile home or a house or an apartment, is it unusual for, let's say, brown paper bags used for groceries or whatever it might be, is it unusual to find fingerprints on paper bags when they are provided you?

A I have developed latent prints on brown paper bags. Whether they were used for groceries, I don't know. Mostly brown paper bags that I examine were usually bags involved in bank robberies.

Q I understand it's more likely that they want to know who robbed the bank than who bought the groceries. I didn't mean {2551} to suggest that that was a great moment. MR. LOWE: May I approach the witness, Your Honor? THE COURT: You may.

(Mr. Lowe approached the witness.)

Q (By Mr. Lowe) Now, Exhibit 38-B is a brown paper bag, and I believe you testified as to Exhibit 38-E, which purports to be a photograph of a latent developed on this brown paper bag, and I ask you whether there's any way that you tested this bag for, to determine anything about when the print was put on there in terms of the date or time either relative to some act or an absolute date?

A As I previously testified there is no technical examination which can be conducted to determine the age of a latent print.

Q All right. Now, that paper bag was purportedly found containing Exhibits 35-A, or with 35-A inside of it, and this may state the obvious, but there's no way that you can tell the jury anything about whether Exhibit 35-A was in that paper bag, or when it was placed there, simply because of the fact that you observe a print on the bag, is there?

A No. I have no personal knowledge.

Q And as to referring back to your report of January 8, 1976, you have the results of 159 comparisons out of the total that believe is 261. 159 of them are contained in the report in some analysis, and then you say that the remaining latent prints compared to available prints of Loud Hawk, Redner, Nichols, {2552} Aquash, Dennis James Banks, Leonard Peltier, Leroy Kosata and Mark Libby Banks, but no identification effected. And did you also make the identification attempts which resulted in that finding?

A Yes.

Peltier was cornered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in February 1976 and arrested. U.S. prosecutors started extradition proceedings.

They used an affidavit signed by Myrtle Poor Bear to persuade the Canadian authorities to hand over Peltier. In later appeals, Peltier's defense lawyers challenged the validity of that affidavit, which said Peltier had planned to kill federal agents prior to the day of the shooting. Poor Bear's affidavit also states she was Peltier's girlfriend and was present during the gunfight.

"I saw Leonard Peltier shoot the FBI agents," the affidavit states.

The prosecution never put the woman on the stand during Peltier's trial.

"We had never met," Peltier said of Poor Bear. "I was very surprised and shocked by the affidavit. Judge (Paul) Benson ruled her incompetent to testify at trial."

SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/ Myrtle testified, the judge never permitted the jury to hear her testimony...)

Peltier believes Poor Bear was coerced by agents into making a statement. The FBI denies the charge.

Said Burrus: "There were 4,000 interviews conducted. She was one of those 4,000."

Peltier claimed the false extradition affidavit violated his rights.

"If anybody's rights were trampled on, it was Canada's," said Burrus. "They did a top-to-bottom comprehensive review last year and concluded there was no wrongdoing in the extradition process."

The findings, he said, were communicated to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in a letter from her Canadian counterpart. "And Poor Bear's information was never used in trial," Burrus said.

Outcome of charges

Robideau and Butler were acquitted of murder charges. Burrus said the judge in that case allowed testimony on the reservationwide climate of fear. Charges against a fourth man were dropped.

Peltier has changed his story on several occasions, the FBI said.

"He's full of inconsistencies," said Special Agent Grell. "First he said he was never there. Then he said he was there. Then he said he was at Tent City. Then the stuff about Mr. X."

Peltier said his story hasn't changed. "I might tell it a little different, but look at it. My story hasn't changed."

He points instead to missing documents that he claims are more important. Peltier had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain documents pertaining to the case. He said the government refused to give him many of the records.

"There are 6,000 documents that the government is withholding about the case," he said. "They say they're a threat to national security."

Burrus said the documents were withheld, but not for security reasons. "He stiffed us on the bill," he said.

Burrus said Peltier's defense team was given all the documents it requested for the trial and subsequent appeals.

After the trial, he said, Peltier filed the FOIA request for additional documents.

"We sent him 18,000 pages, and he filed a second FOIA request for 6,000 more," Burrus said. "But he never paid for the 18,000 pages. We never got the money."

Peltier today

Serving time in the "Hot House," as inmates in the federal penitentiary call Leavenworth, has taken a toll on Peltier's health. He's become the institution's best-known inmate, granting hundreds of interviews and receiving international notoriety.

He occupies his days painting contemporary American Indian art and working in the prison furniture shop. His health doesn't allow much more. Besides his problems hypertension, diabetes, heart problems, kidney stones and high cholesterol, a rusty nail encountered in his childhood has led to a lifelong battle with lockjaw.

"My jaw stayed frozen open 13 millimeters," he said.

He first underwent surgery for the condition in 1996 and was seen at the Mayo Clinic earlier this year.

"It's getting better, but it hurts, and I've got no bite strength, so I can't eat tough meats or vegetables."

Effects on victims' families

Peltier appears sincere when he says he regrets what happened that day in western South Dakota.

"There were a number of lives that were ruined that day," he said. "I'm sure those agents were just following orders. I'm sure their families miss them," he said, pointing out that three lives were lost that day.

"I know Joe Stuntz's kids and communicate with them. They miss their dad enormously. Their lives were ruined, too."

Family members of the slain agents issued written statements in response to questions from the Argus Leader.

"The loss of our son is too personal and painful to discuss," wrote the parents of Ronald Williams. "His death leaves us and a devoted sister."

Agent Grell said that Williams was a former sergeant on the Los Angeles Police Department. He had been a special agent for three years. He was single and had just purchased a starter home in Rapid City.

Jack Coler's widow, Peggy, wrote that her husband enjoyed hiking, running and skiing. "Keeping in good physical shape was a high priority of Jack's."

In addition to his wife, Coler left behind two small sons, his parents, one brother and two sisters.

"The family is absolutely opposed to either parole or clemency for Leonard Peltier ... A life sentence is just that -- Leonard Peltier should remain in prison for the rest of his life," Peggy Coler wrote. "

Reach reporter Lee Williams at 331-2318 or lwilliam@argusleader.com


Copyright � 2000 Argus Leader

 


Trial Transcript: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm

FOIA documents:
COINTELPRO http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/

The "fingerprint" was not found on Coler's gun..a single "thumb print" was found on the paper bag in which the gun was found. FBI misconduct in the case against those arrested on the traffic stop in Oregon is essentially what got that case thrown out of court after the longest running criminal trial case in US history.

SEE: http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/cases.htm

SA Williams is the agent who accompanied SA David Price on the questioning of Anna Mae Aquash, who along with Michael Anderson is also deceased under questionable circumstances. Interesting, yes?

So, if the remainder of the 6,000 documents are not released due to lack of funding...justice is then only for the wealthy in this country? Think about it.

The news article states that Coler was purchasing a starter home in Rapid city..but his family remained in Colorado per the agent who testified he had spoken with him that morning, and who also testified he was looking after his house and collecting mail while he was gone.

 

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      Dear Friends,

      Below is an urgent action protesting Leonard Peltier's denial of parole. Please stay alert for further information regarding the campaign for executive clemency. We are now at the most urgent stage of this year's campaign. Plan to be in Washington DC on October 27 to demonstrate this injustice. Thank you for your ongoing support. Time to dust ourselves off, and forge ahead.


      In Solidarity, The LPDC

URGENT ACTION : PELTIER CASE PROTEST PRELIMINARY DENIAL OF PAROLE

Yesterday, June 12, 2000 a parole hearing for Mr. Leonard Peltier was conducted at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Mr. Peltier attended, together with his attorneys, Carl Nadler, Jennifer Harbury and Ramsay Clark. Despite the extraordinary presentation of evidence as to his eligibility, described below, Mr. Peltier was denied parole before the hearing officer had even read the materials offered. The decision will still be considered by the U.S. parole commissioners in Washington D.C. before the denial is finalized. However, it is abundantly clear that there will be no release, no matter how uniquely eligible Mr. Peltier may be, unless he confesses to a crime he did not commit.

An arbitrary, irrational and capricious denial of parole is a due process violation under the United States Constition.

A decision to deny parole before the evidence is even read or considered is a denial of a fair hearing and constitutes a due process violation of the US Constitution as well.

A denial of parole in order to force mr. Peltier to confess to a crime he did not commit is a due process violation as well.

Please call Janet Reno's offices and comment : the main switchboard number is 202 ?514-2000

Also : White House switchboard 202-456 1414
        Congressional switchboard 202-224-3121


WHAT WAS PRESENTED AT THE HEARING :

1. 10,000 letters from supporters around the world, all from the last three months

2. Scores of letters from Nobel Peace Laureates, National and International religious networks, human rights luminaries such as Amnesty International, Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the Kennedy Memorial Center on Human Rights.

3. Scores of Tribal resolutions demanding Mr. Peltier�s immediate release.

4. A multi page listing of Mr. Peltier�s humanitarian work from behind bars, including sponsorship of a Native American scholarship program, an annual Christmas drive for the children of Pine Ridge, the adoption of children in Central America, and the establishment of a prisoner art program, among many other praiseworthy activities and contributions.

5. A multi page medical evaluation from a doctor affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights, detailing his deteriorating medical conditions including his diabetes and blood pressure problems, the inadequate medical care at Leavenworth, and the potential complications, including kidney failure and blindness.

6. Eight employment, social services and housing offers from across the United States and Canada.

7. Statements of support from and request for his release from representatives of the National Congress of American Indians as well as the Assembly of First Nations.

8. A character reference and call for healing from a survivor from the Reign of Terror.

9. Calls for his immediate and unconditional release from representatives from Amnesty International and the Interfaith League of Political Prisoners, an affiliate of the National Council of Churches.

The parole hearing officer received some of these materials, told us to mail him the rest, and declined to even read the medical evaluation or the other written materials. His key issue was the fact that Leonard�s version of the events that day do not square with the FBI version, for which he was convicted.


CONCLUSIONS :

1. Mr. Peltier did not receive a serious or fair hearing on his parole request.

2. Mr. Peltier is more qualified for parole than almost any other prisoner. Yet he will not be given parole unless he confesses to a crime that he did not commit. That fact that he was denied a fair trial and that false testimonies were used to convict him, and that a critical ballistic test showing his innocence was withheld, will not be taken into consideration. Nor will the fact that even the U.S. Attorney now admits that no one knows who pulled the trigger.


PLEASE CALL WASHINGTON�.WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!!!

Call the White House Comments Line Today Demand Justice for Leonard Peltier! 202-456-1111




June 12, 2000

LEONARD PELTIER REVIEWED FOR PAROLE United States Parole Examiner Refuses to Consider New Evidence


Native American rights activist, Leonard Peltier was reviewed for parole today during a hearing held at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. The hearing was held to determine whether there is any reason why the Parole Commission should change their 1993 decision to deny Peltier parole. Today Peltier�s representatives told the Commission that Peltier�s health, serious family needs, and his positive program achievements were all reasons for the Commission to reconsider their denial of parole to Peltier. They also argued that the Commission�s original decision to deny parole was wrong. They said the Commission has yet to justify their reasons for denying his release in excess of what their guidelines recommend.

The Parole Examiner refused to read a report from Dr. Peter Basch who, after reviewing Peltier�s recent medical records, determined that problems with Peltier�s health could result in �recurrent central retinal vein occlusion, stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.� The doctor also noted that several of Mr. Peltier�s health problems had not been treated appropriately by prison medical staff.

Attending the parole hearing were representatives for Amnesty International, the National Council of Churches, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Assembly of First Nations. Legal council included attorneys Jennifer Harbury, Carl Nadler, and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Jean Ann Day, survivor of the Pine Ridge �reign of terror� also testified.

The Parole examiner did not respond to pleas from Amnesty International or the National Council of Churches, and he showed no interest in the eight parole plans offering Peltier housing and employment from various Native Organizations and tribes.

Furthermore, the examiner refused to accept or consider the 10,000 letters collected over the last three months from US citizens, human rights organizations, luminaries and members of the international community supporting Peltier�s release.

Without deliberation or the consideration of any documents presented, the parole examiner recommended that Peltier�s sentence be continued until his next full parole hearing in 2008. Those in attendance reported that the examiner wrote the denial while the presentation was still being made.

Peltier�s defense council will continue to protest the Parole Commission�s denial of parole to Peltier in federal court. Supporters will continue efforts to gain Peltier�s release through a grant of Executive Clemency. Leonard Peltier was originally convicted for the murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. However, formerly withheld documents supporting Peltier�s innocence would later force the prosecution to admit that they could not prove who actually killed the agents. Despite this, Peltier has remained in prison for 24 years. Amnesty International considers him to be a political prisoner who should be immediately released.




Answers To Common Questions About
Leonard Peltier's June 12 Parole Hearing:



QUESTION: I thought Leonard would not have another parole hearing until the year 2008.

ANSWER: In 1994, the Parole Commission denied Leonard Peltier parole and set his next full hearing date for the year 2008. However, the Commission is required to hold what is called an �interim parole hearing� every two years in order to see if there is any reason to change their original decision to deny parole. At this time, an inmate can argue that the commission�s original decision was based on error. An inmate can also present �extraordinary circumstances� such as serious medical problems or exceptionally positive behavior.

QUESTION: What are the possible results of an interim parole hearing?

ANSWER: The commission can either 1.continue Leonard�s sentence with no change in their original decision 2. Move his next full hearing to a closer date 3. Grant his release

QUESTION: What are the chances? Do things look good?

ANSWER: On one hand, things look pretty positive. For the first time, Amnesty International is planning to attend the hearing in person. The National Council of Churches, the AFN and the NCAI will also be represented. Over seven thousand letters have been collected in support of Leonard Peltier�s release. Several delegations have met with the Justice Department this year to urge the US to grant Leonard Peltier his freedom. Overall activity around his case is on the increase. On the other hand, the Parole Commission has never treated Leonard�s case fairly. They have denied him parole far beyond what their guidelines recommend with no justification whatsoever, treating his case with malice and discrimination. The parole commission, which is in the process of being dismantled, has been mandated by law to give all �old law� prisoners a presumptive parole date. Yet, they have not done so with Leonard Peltier. Therefore, we do not want to mislead anyone by saying there is great reason to be optimistic. However, it is possible that the Parole Commission will be more cautious in the way it treats the case, leaving there reason to be hopeful.

QUESTION: When will we know what the results of the hearing are?

ANSWER: A Parole Examiner will facilitate the parole hearing. He will assess the situation and then make his own personal recommendation. However, the Commission is not bound to the examiner�s decision and it can take anywhere from a week to two months for them to produce their final decision. In 1995 the parole examiner actually thought the commission should reexamine their decision to deny parole and noted the lack of proof against Leonard, his excellent conduct in prison and his human rights achievements. However the commission refused to reconsider. For this reason, it will be important for us to continue pressure on the justice department after the hearing concludes. More details in this regard will be made available soon. (We will report the parole examiner�s initial recommendation immediately after the hearing concludes.)

DON'T FORGET TO FLOOD JANET RENO WITH PHONE CALLS ON JUNE 9TH (THIS FRIDAY!). LET HER KNOW YOU SUPPORT LEONARD'S RELEASE ON PAROLE: 202-305-1400

 

--------------------------------------------

 


Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Official Response
to the "No Parole Peltier Association" Website
:

It comes as no surprise that a new organization named the "No Parole Peltier Association" or NPPA is in fact another guise for the FBI to continue their campaign of disinformation against Leonard Peltier. The NPPA consists of a website sponsored by an FBI agent, asking people to sign a petition against Leonard Peltier's parole release. Once again the FBI are going beyond their jurisdiction as law enforcement officials to defame Leonard Peltier, while further misinforming the public about the case. In doing this, the FBI is further obstructing justice in the Peltier case and interfering in his right to due process under the law.

The NPPA's position as to why they do not support Leonard Peltier's parole release is unclear. They make no mention of why Leonard Peltier should be held in prison far longer than the laws and guidelines of the Parole Commission require. Most everything mentioned on their website is irrelevant, and makes no case against Leonard Peltier's parole release. Instead, they attack Leonard Peltier's character, Mr. X, and the trial of Robert Robideau and Dino Butler. To see the site for yourself go to: www.noparolepeltier.com

However futile it may seem, we would like to respond to some of the allegations made on the NPPA site because we feel it is important to strongly reinstate our reasons for supporting Leonard Peltier's release.


CORRECTING WRONGS OF THE PAST

The "PURPOSE" section of the NPPA site contains a paragraph titled "Correcting Wrongs of the Past." It is here the NPPA implies that supporters of Leonard Peltier are simply blinded by their sorrow for the US government's brutal past with Native Americans. They go as far as to say "history cannot be altered. Nothing can change the broken promises and treaties and subjugation of the first peoples to inhabit this continent."

However, the Peltier case has long underlined the CURRENT attitudes and continuing racism against Indigenous Peoples by the US government. Leonard Peltier was accused of killing two FBI agents during a time when the FBI themselves were illegally seeking to destroy AIM.

In the years surrounding the shoot-out over 60 members and supporters of the American Indian Movement were murdered on Pine Ridge. Despite an overwhelming FBI presence, virtually no prosecutions were brought. Former GOON leader, Duane Brewer, has told us that the FBI helped to arm the GOONs and they intentionally looked the other way when crimes against AIM members and supporters were committed. In short, the GOONs were given the green light to murder and beat people with impunity. Hardly is this ancient history and surely the FBI should be held accountable for their participation in the violence. The double standard that allows an innocent man to pay for the deaths of two FBI agents while the murders of AIM members and supporters are given no priority whatsoever is what most of Leonard Peltier's supporters find disturbing and unacceptable.

AGENTS SHOT IN SELF-DEFENSE

Secondly, the NPPA state throughout their web site that the agents only shot 5 times before they were killed, that there was no gun battle between the Jumping Bull residents, and that the agents merely shot in self defense.

They say that "agent Coler had fired one shot from a service revolver, one shot from a 12-gauge shotgun and one shot from a .308 rifle . . . Agent Williams had fired two shots from his service revolver. . ."

However, there is no evidence to support this contention and it contradicts the testimony of all of those who were at the scene, including the testimony of Angie Long Visitor, who said the agents repeatedly fired their guns. It would be hard to imagine agent Coler picking up three different guns, and firing each one once within a ten minute period, as the NPPA claims.

Further, the NPPA claim that though Robideau and Butler were acquitted on grounds of self-defense, it does not mean they were actually innocent. The LPDC, they say, fails to consider the "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. However, we contend that the NPPA fails to recognize the "innocent until proven guilty" standard, meaning they cannot continue to accuse Butler and Robideau of being guilty, and Leonard Peltier of aiding and abetting them, when in fact no evidence of this exists.

[**COMPARISON OF THE TRIALS: http://www.freepeltier.org/trials_comp.htm#top ...**]

Mr. X
They also question the morality and validity of Mr. X, the person who came forward incognito, and admitted to shooting the agents at point blank range in self-defense. Mr. X has long been a controversial topic, by both supporters of Leonard Peltier and those who oppose his release. Whether we agree with Mr. X's tactics or not is irrelevant. The LPDC's arguments are based on the legal record of the Peltier case. If the FBI is so confidant that Leonard Peltier is guilty, we must ask them why they felt it necessary to obtain falsified affidavits from Myrtle Poor Bear, to withhold critical ballistics evidence, to "develop evidence to lock Peltier into the case" and why they now admit that they do not know who killed the agents.

[**POOR BEAR AFFIDAVITS:
1. http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/doc288.gif   2. http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/doc289.gif   3. http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/doc290.gif & http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/doc291.gif **]
To view the three affidavits as text in an HTML: poor_bear_affidavit.html

THE BALLISTICS
The NPPA attempts to minimalize the formerly withheld ballistic evidence, which forced the government to admit that they did not know who shot the agents. In doing so, they point to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals decision which affirmed Peltier's conviction and stated:

    "When all is said and done, however, a few simple but very important facts remain. The casing introduced into evidence in fact had been extracted from the Wichita AR-15. This point was not disputed."
However, an extractor test is much less conclusive than a firing pin test. What the newly discovered documents revealed was that the firing pin test was done, and in fact, THE CASING DID NOT MATCH. The jury was never allowed to hear this evidence. Moreover, the Eighth circuit said if the casing did not match, it would mean the FBI had planted it.

In response to this they said, "we recognize that there is evidence in this record of improper conduct on the part of some FBI agents, but we are reluctant to impute even further improprieties to them." They concluded the following:

[**FIRING PIN TEST:
http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/doc.296.gif **] There is a possibility that the jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier had the records and data improperly withheld from the defense been available to him in order to better exploit and reinforce the inconsistencies casting strong doubts upon the government's case. Yet, we are bound by the Bagley test requiring that we be convinced, from a review of the entire record, that had the data and records withheld been made available, the jury probably would have reached a different result. We have not been so convinced.

[**COURT CASE:
http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/85-5192.htm **] The judge who wrote the decision also admitted that he was uncomfortable with it. He would later write a letter recommending Peltier be released through Executive Clemency saying that "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case." We would also like to point out that we find the Bagley standard to be unjust, in that it requires the judge to replace himself with a jury in deciding whether or not certain evidence would have conclusively overturned a conviction. If the new evidence forced the prosecution to say they could not prove Leonard Peltier shot the agents, then surely the jury would have concluded the same.

Lastly, the NPPA attempts to demoralize Leonard Peltier's character, pointing to perceived flaws in his lifestyle. However, Leonard Peltier is not being held in prison for imperfections in his personality, and we do not feel it is necessary to respond to such allegations.

In conclusion, we insist that the complete lack of evidence against Leonard Peltier combined with his excellent conduct in prison and his continued advocacy for human rights from behind bars, make him a perfect candidate for parole. We find that the FBI's continued attempts to obstruct justice in the Peltier case in order to protect their own reputation to be a disgrace. We urge those who view the site to express their concerns on its message board.

--------------------------------------------


Peltier backers see FBI's lobbying as example of repression
They decry agency's attempt to keep Clinton from pardoning activist


By Jessica McBride
of the Journal Sentinel staff

Peltier backers see FBI's lobbying as example of repression:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/nat/apr00/peltier22042100a.asp
Letter from FBI to Editor:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/editorials/apr00/williams21042000.asp
Letter from supporters to Editor:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/editorials/apr00/demain22042100.asp


On Jan. 26, 1978, with a Milwaukee jury seemingly deadlocked in the attempted-murder trial of Indian activist Leonard Peltier, defense attorney Stephen Glynn learned that Circuit Judge Christ T. Seraphim wanted to declare a mistrial.

As Glynn recalls, the prosecutor announced he would not retry the case. For a criminal defense attorney, it was the best possible news, short of acquittal.

But Peltier told Glynn to seek counsel from Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota Sioux medicine man who was one of thousands of people who came to Milwaukee to support Peltier. Crow Dog, who carried the sacred peace pipe of Sitting Bull, told Glynn to let the jury decide.

"Crow Dog said, 'Look, I don't think you understand,' " Glynn recalls. " 'I know what is going to happen here. There will be two or three electrical storms, with lightning, and then the jury will come back with a not-guilty verdict.' I walked back to the courthouse and I thought, 'This is going to turn on how many times lightning strikes?' "

That night, in the depth of winter, Glynn stood on his apartment balcony and watched "a lightning storm like I have never seen before." A few hours later, the jury was back with a not-guilty verdict after deliberating 11 hours.

The acquittal in Milwaukee was little more than an academic exercise, however. Eight months earlier, Peltier had been convicted in federal court in Fargo, N.D., of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge, S.D., Sioux reservation in 1975, and was sentenced to life in prison.

More than two decades later, Peltier's conviction for the agents' murder remains the subject of heated debate, with supporters arguing his innocence. The movement to free him has become international and celebrity-studded.

Ranks of supporters have grown to include Hollywood celebrities such as actor Robert Redford - who made a documentary about him - and international groups such as Amnesty International, which regards him as a political prisoner. Peltier has been seen by some as the Nelson Mandela of the West.

As President Clinton considers invoking executive clemency for Peltier - a power he exercised last year in freeing a group of imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists - the FBI has launched an extraordinary campaign to keep him behind bars. The agency sent letters to the Journal Sentinel and other publications around the country this week arguing against Peltier's release.

In the letter to the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee FBI bureau chief David Williams wrote: "Clearly, the record has established Peltier's responsibility for the willful murders of the FBI agents and a continuing penchant for violent confrontations with law enforcement officers. Peltier should be required to serve the totality of his life sentence and never again be allowed to taste freedom."

Williams could not be reached Friday for further comment at the office.

There is an understanding among American Indians involved in the tumultuous activism of the 1970s that Leonard Peltier's fate could have belonged to any of them. They see his story as far bigger than the experiences of one man.

Many Indian people put Peltier's story into a broader framework of repression, brutality and struggle, a modern Indian war that the government has waged against their people. They see the FBI's letter-writing campaign to keep Peltier behind bars as merely the latest attempt to crush a movement to combat that repression.

"I think they (FBI officials) do not need another Richard Jewell," said Paul DeMain, publisher of News From Indian Country, a national publication based on Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Reservation near Hayward, Wis. (A letter from DeMain appears today on Page 11A.)

"They don't need another Waco, they don't need another Ruby Ridge and Leonard's case seems to me to encompass a little of all of this," DeMain said. "This is not an indictment of all agents. I have relatives who are law enforcement officials. This is an indictment against a handful of people I believe have staked their reputation on keeping Leonard in jail, period."

His supporters argue that he is innocent. At worst, they say, the case against him for killing the agents was flawed and unfair for a number of reasons, including the government's reliance on a mentally disturbed Indian woman who gave inconsistent testimony. Supporters also highlight an admission by the prosecutor on the case in 1985 that the government is not sure who killed the agents; governmental supporters argue that even if that's true, Peltier admits being there and firing at them.

DeMain believes that the FBI's PR blitz was initiated because of the growing pressure on Clinton for clemency. "Clinton's presidency is a lame duck presidency and it's coming to an end," DeMain said. "This is the longest-standing clemency request that ever sat on a president's desk."

He said that in recent months, Clinton has been approached by organizations representing tribal governments from Canada and the United States and that international pressure is even stronger, as Peltier was visited in recent months by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Rigoberta Menchu.

"Leonard is probably more famous than any other Native American, in other parts of the world," DeMain said.

Peltier's imprisonment stems from a confrontation in June 1975, when FBI agents Jack Coler and Renald Williams arrived at the South Dakota reservation to arrest another man for stealing a pair of cowboy boots. Prosecutors contended that the agents stopped a van in which Peltier and other activists were riding. A firefight erupted - perhaps involving as many as 47 people - and the agents' car was riddled with 125 bullets. Both agents were shot and killed; an Indian man named Joseph Stuntz was killed, as well.

The shootout occurred against a backdrop of violence at Pine Ridge that stretched back to the massacre of Indians at Wounded Knee in the late 1800s, and included the unsolved murders of more than 60 Indians between May 1973 and June 1975.

Peltier, in an interview with United Press International, once said: "We're at war. We're defending ourselves. I'm sorry those agents died but I'm also sorry my people died. I never killed nobody . . . I don't claim to be an American. I'm a citizen of my own country. The American people almost annihilated us. Whole tribes are gone. Their names are now forgotten."

Peltier himself, DeMain said, "was no angel." The movement called for rough times, he said. Peltier worked as a security enforcer and interrogated people he believed were FBI informants. "He did things that people would even today believe were repugnant," said DeMain.

Peltier was wanted on a warrant for not appearing in court on the Milwaukee case, which had involved a Nov. 22, 1972, confrontation with two off-duty Milwaukee police officers in a south side restaurant. Glynn says that the officers had used racial epithets against Peltier and that he pulled the gun, which was inoperable, in self-defense.

According to News From Indian Country and other written and online sources, Peltier was born in 1944 in Grand Forks, N.D., and was raised on the Turtle Mountain reservation there. He is of mixed Sioux, Chippewa and French heritage. He attended an Indian boarding school and found work as a welder and auto mechanic before being drawn to the fledgling American Indian Movement.

Vernon Bellecourt, a leader of the national AIM movement who lives in Minnesota, described Peltier as "typical of many young men and women who . . . came, stood up and were sincerely committed to serving their people."

Peltier walked into an AIM office Bellecourt ran in Denver. Pretty soon he was attending conferences and working on Indian issues. Like many in the movement, he moved from place to place, wherever Indians needed the assistance of AIM. He wound up in Milwaukee in the early 1970s, where an Oneida man, Herbert Powless, had founded AIM's third national chapter.

Powless recalls that he liked Peltier and offered him a job with the group. He became actively involved in the high-profile takeover of a novitiate in Gresham by the Menominee Warriors Society.

"Leonard became like a Legal Aid officer in my AIM office," Powless said. "He helped Indians who had wound up in the courts, if they needed help coordinating with the Legal Aid Society, or if some guy was in jail and needed to talk to his parents or family, or needed clothes, those types of activities. Leonard did all the runs."

Like many people who know him personally, Powless said: "I know he didn't kill those FBI men. It wasn't in his makeup. Leonard wasn't really a fighter. Most Indian guys who worked for me had been boxers. But Leonard was a kind, soft-hearted guy, and he had a personality and disposition that was not cruel."

Dorothy Ninhman, an Oneida woman who was married to Powless, mostly recalls how Peltier spent his time in Milwaukee being a surrogate father to his girlfriend's children. Over the years, Ninhman has remained close with him, frequently visiting him in prison, where he has spent his time as an artist painting traditional scenes.

"He's hopeful," she said of the possibility for clemency. "We've talked about it. He just thinks that when the time is right, the Creator will see to it that he's freed."

Glynn - who believes Peltier was set up in Milwaukee by the FBI and that he was under surveillance because of his activism - is less confident Clinton will act in his favor.

"I'm not real optimistic about things, although I think it would 100 percent be the right thing to do," Glynn said.

Then again, he added, he didn't believe that lightning would strike either.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on April 22, 2000.
http://www.jsonline.com/copyright.html � Copyright 2000, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
All rights reserved.




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