Former US attorney calls for clemency for Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

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One of Florida’s most famous prisoners is hoping President Barack Obama will grant him clemency before leaving office; Native American activist Leonard Peltier was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout, but has maintained his innocence for four decades. Now, a former U.S. attorney has written a letter supporting clemency for Peltier. James Reynolds now lives in Naples, Florida, but decades ago supervised the legal team for the government while Peltier appeal appealed his sentence.

Letter from lawyer for clemency for Leonard Peltier“I just thought that it was time. With all the circumstances that have gone down, both good and bad, it was maybe time for the president to grant clemency and to end the justice part of the case.”

Is this making a statement at all about his guilt or innocence or is it just about how much time he’s served?

“No, no. It’s not like guilt or innocence. The trials and many prosecutions and that many of them are too hard to say that one is good or bad or pure and like that– is basically go on all the circumstances, good and bad.”

And finally, have you gotten any indication from the Obama administration of where they might be headed on this?

“No. Just that I got a response from the pardon attorney that he received my letter as part of the file and that, at least the pardon attorney, has it under consideration. Everything goes through him before it goes to the President.”

Well, those are my only questions. Is there anything else our listeners should know about this issue?

“I think we just have to look at the background, look at the history and see it’s been 30-some years.”

Reynolds’ letter supporting Peltier’s clemency was first reported by The Guardian.

Peltier is incarcerated at Coleman penitentiary, which is about an hour north of Tampa.

  • jamessimon500

    It really doesn’t matter what Evan Hultman’s uninformed successor thinks; what matters is the truth, as revealed by documented quotes beginning with inmate Peltier’s famous whopper:

    “This story is true.”
    Leonard Peltier, assuring his supporters that a mysterious Mr. X shot the FBI agents, as depicted in Robert Redford’s thoroughly discredited documentary, Incident at Oglala.

    “Peter, you put my life in jeopardy and you put the lives my family in jeopardy by putting that bullshit in your books. Why didn’t you call me and ask me if it was true?”
    Dean Butler, chastising Peter Matthiessen for promoting Peltier’s sworn alibi, Mr. X, in his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Peltier’s lawyer, Mike Kuzma, publicly admitted that the X story was “concocted” as are all of Peltier’s alibis. Note: The stand-in who played “Mr. X” in Peltier’s video (as seen on 60 Minutes) has been exposed as AIM member and “Mt Rushmore bomber,” David Hill.

    “I seen Joe when he pulled it out of the trunk and I looked at him when he put it on, and he gave me a smile.”
    Leonard Peltier, standing over the bodies of Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, moments after their heads were blown off, commenting on Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s green FBI jacket taken from his car trunk, as quoted from, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

    “I didn’t think nothing about it at the time: all I could think of was, We got to get out of here!”
    Leonard Peltier, reacting to Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s jacket, quote from In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Peltier could hear the chatter over the FBI car radio from other agents who were racing to the scene and attempting to re-establish contact with Agent Williams in response to his calls for help. The Eighth Circuit court of Appeals affirmed that Peltier initially opened fire on the agents because he mistakenly thought they were there to arrest him. Peltier also feared that the agents would discover his armed encampment where numerous weapons, boxes of ammo, bomb-making materials, and several hand grenades lay hidden in the trees.

    Mark Potter: “Did you fire at those agents, Coler and Williams?
    Leonard Peltier: “I shot in their direction, yes.”
    CNN interview, Oct 1999. Later in the interview, Peltier admits for the first time on camera that he left his firing position near a large tree and stood over the two dead agents moments after they were both shot in the head at point-blank range.

    “…I can’t tell the system I was shooting at their police officers that were trying to arrest me. They’ll hold that against me. I’ve got to be careful about that stuff.”
    Leonard Peltier, 1995 interview with Native journalist Richard LaCourse, admitting that he mistakenly believed the FBI agents were there to arrest him. Peltier was a wanted fugitive for the attempted murder of a police officer in Wisconsin. Agents Coler and Williams were looking for someone else when Peltier opened fire on their FBI cars, apparently recognizing the vehicles from the day before when the agents had visited the same compound in the same cars.

    “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.”
    Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Feb 1986, finding of fact that a shell casing found at the murder scene was ejected from the AR-15 assault rifle carried by Leonard Peltier. Over a hundred shell casings, all matched to Peltier’s weapon, were found in the area where he was seen shooting and over a hundred bullet holes were found in the FBI cars.

    “The record as a whole leaves no doubt that the jury accepted the government’s theory that Peltier had personally killed the two agents, after they were seriously wounded, by shooting them at point blank range with an AR-15 rifle ….The critical evidence in support of this theory was a casing from a .223 caliber Remington cartridge recovered from the trunk of [the car of one of the murdered agents] …The district court, agreeing with the government’s theory … sentenced Peltier to two consecutive life sentences.”
    United States v. Peltier, 800 F.2d 772, 772-73 (8th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 822, 108 S. Ct. 84, 98 L. Ed. 2d 46 (1987)

    “The motherf—er was begging for his life but I shot him anyway.”
    Sworn testimony attributed to Leonard Peltier, boasting in the Marlon Brando motor home about shooting Ronald Williams, as heard by Dennis Banks, Ka-Mook Banks, Bernie Lafferty, and (soon-to-be-murdered) Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. According to the autopsy report, Ronald Williams died with his right hand held up in front of his face; there were powder burns on his fingers.

    “The circumstantial evidence presented at the extradition hearing, taken alone [without the Poor Bear affidavits], constituted sufficient evidence to justify Mr. Peltier’s committal on the two murder charges.”
    Anne McLellen, Canadian Minister of Justice, in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, October 12, 1999, affirming that Peltier was lawfully extradited to the US to stand trial for murder.

    “The two witnesses testified outside the presence of the jury that after their testimony at trial, they had been threatened by Peltier himself that if they did not return to court and testify that their earlier testimony had been induced by F.B.I. threats, their lives would be in danger.”
    United States v. Peltier, 585 F. 2d 314, U.S. App. Decision September 14, 1978.

    “There is no doubt that in June 1975 Leonard Peltier put a loaded gun in my mother’s mouth during one of her interrogations and that six months later, other members and leaders of the American Indian Movement carried out my mother’s torture, rape and murder. Leonard knows a lot about the people involved but even today, after all these years, he refuses to cooperate in the on-going murder investigation.”
    Denise Maloney, daughter of AIM murder victim Anna Mae Pictou Aquash (Mi’kmaq)

    “This story that the government admitted they don’t know who shot the agents comes from an out-of-context comment attributed to prosecutor Lynn Crooks. Let me tell you something. I know Lynn Crooks, and there is no one on the planet more convinced of Peltier’s guilt than Lynn Crooks.”
    John M. Trimbach, American Indian Mafia

    “… the greater probability is that you yourself fired the fatal shots… It would be unjust to treat the slaying of these F.B.I. agents, while they lay wounded and helpless, as if your actions had been part of a gun battle. Neither the state of relations between Native American militants and law enforcement at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prior to June 26, 1975, nor the exchanges of gunfire between individuals at the Jumping Bull Compound and the law enforcement agents who arrived there during the hours after Agents Coler and Williams were murdered, explains or mitigates the crimes you committed…Your release on parole would promote disrespect for the law in contravention of 18 U.S.C….”
    Leonard Peltier’s 1999 Parole Board, commenting on his aiding and abetting conviction.

    “But in the end, while crossing back and forth over the issue of ‘without doubt,’ and crossing back again to wonder, it simply took a delegation of people who were tired of all the deceptions, lies and dangers to step forward and tell me the truth. ‘Peltier was responsible for the close range execution of the agents…’ and that was the end of that.“
    Native journalist Paul DeMain, April 2, 2007, writing about “people who have agonized for years, grandfathers and grandmothers, AIM activists, Pipe carriers and others who have carried a heavy unhealthy burden within them that has taken its toll.”

    “For me it’s something very heroic that he’s done. He’s putting himself at risk, seriously at risk. I will say this: that this brother is a very strong brother. He is not a cold-blooded murderer. He is not a bad person, he’s very kind, generous and sincere.”
    Leonard Peltier, 1991 Darrin Wood interview, describing the man who executed Ronald Williams and Jack Coler.

    “I never thought my commitment would mean sacrificing like this, but I was willing to do so nonetheless. And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again, because it was the right thing to do.”
    Message from the “Bernie Madoff of political prisoners” to his flunkies, 2/6/2010.

    Parole may be granted when the offender’s “…release would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”
    DOJ policy statement on parole that explains why inmate Peltier has never and will never qualify for parole. His only chance for freedom is to fool President Obama into believing that he is a victim of the “system.” But this latest ploy will likely fail. In his sworn petition for clemency to President Obama, Peltier says he ran in the direction of “women and children” after, as he also claims in his book, waking up to the smell of pancakes and the sound of gunfire in his tent a quarter mile from the murder scene. Peltier hopes the president is unaware that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals established that the gunfire actually started when Peltier emerged from his Suburban van and opened fire on agents Williams and Coler. What sort of consideration is due an unrepentant cop killer who lies to the president? Peltier’s worst enemy has always been the truth!