As Leonard Peltier whines for more support and money, he repeats, again, that he has allegedly served his two consecutive life sentences:
Over the past 41+ years, with over 20 years of good time (GT) credit, I have now over 60 prison years of time served. Under the Old Law system that applies to my case, this is by far longer than I was supposed to serve. Per the laws I'm under and that apply to my case, 7 years was a life sentence!! It did not mean that was all I was supposed to serve, but that I was eligible to be paroled and unless they had evidence to keep me in prison, I was to be granted parole. In my case, I was to be paroled to the next 7 years, so in all I was to have only served 14 years. Next, there was the 30-year Mandatory Release (MR) law. All federal sentences were to be aggregated, meaning I would have to only serve 30 years. Many people have been released under the 30 MR law. Again, they could only refuse you a release if they "proved," not just made claims, that you continued to violate the law. These same laws still apply to me today or are supposed to. (12/23/16)
Sounds ominous and seemingly legitimate, but let’s do the math and review the law.
Peltier was arrested in Canada on Friday, February 6, 1976, which began his incarceration.
On anther Friday, three years and five months later, on July 20, 1979, Peltier was involved in an armed escape from USP Lompoc, California where weapons were waiting outside the prison walls and guards were fired upon.
Peltier was arrested five days later; tried, convicted and sentenced to an additional consecutive seven-year sentence.
Does Peltier or any of his bewildered supporters or attorneys remember this?
So, that began a pretty black mark on Peltier’s prison record.
By Peltier’s (and his attorneys) own admission, he has served over five years in solitary confinement. Not a reward for being an ideal inmate.
Even giving Peltier the benefit of the doubt, his good time, minus the five years in solitary, shouldn’t begin until July 1979; and that’s a stretch.
Peltier tries to convince us that he has, “Over 20 years of good time.”
A question he hasn’t answered, is that total, or consecutive?
Remember when Peltier was “shot” in Prison? (Getting “shot” is prison jargon for violating prison rules and suffering the consequences.)
(Please review the blog for the details that landed Peltier in solitary for six months [July 27, 2011] and along with other infractions that likewise had him transferred from Leavenworth to Terre Haute, Lewisburg and ultimately USP Coleman.[i] )
To Peltier at least, these “good time” credits have no expiration or controlling date. Do they just accumulate collectively between “shots” and solitary confinements? It’s possible that the Bureau of Prisons uses something like a clean slate policy and good time begins at the end of the last disciplinary event.
Peltier claims that under the guidelines when he was sentenced, “7 years was a life sentence!!” No so fast…
In the federal system, for example, as far back as 1913, parole reviews took place after serving 15 years, though remaining incarcerated for the rest of one’s life was still possible. [ii]
Peltier has been afforded a number of parole hearings after being incarcerated for his first fifteen years.[iii]
The simple A,B.C’s of the unrepentant Peltier follows the law that the U.S. Parole Commission may grant parole if (a) the inmate has substantially observed the rules of the institution; (b) release would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense or promote disrespect for the law; and (c) release would not jeopardize the public welfare.[iv] Although, perhaps not a physical threat, Peltier fails to meet (a) and (b).
A life sentence, without the possibility of parole, has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Schick v. Reed case. Schick, whose death sentence was commuted to life without parole for a crime Schick committed in 1969 would have been eligible for parole in 1954. In other words, eligible for parole in fifteen years.
That Court (and later court decisions) also concluded that a whole-life sentence was constitutional.[v]
Perhaps Peltier and his supporters must be reminded that Peltier has been down this road before; challenging the longer term imposed by the Parole Commission.
In the 10th Circuit Court decision on this very subject, Peltier ignores the essence of the denied appeal but never fails to quote a couple of sentences.[vi] (Peltier’s entire parole hearing history is detailed in this court decision.)
That decision also included:
“Contrary to Mr. Peltier’s assertion that evidence undergirding his conviction has begun to “evaporate,” the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict appears in numerous decisions of the Eighth Circuit decisions. Neither the conviction nor any of the subsequent court decisions have been overturned.”
“The Eighth Circuit recognized the intimidation of AIM activists but noted each witness’s attestation that his trial testimony was truthful.”
“The Commission’s description of the murders in various Notices of Action as ‘executions’ and ‘cold-blooded’ was warranted.”
“The Commission’s characterization of these events appears accurate to this court.”
“Previous federal court decisions provided the Commission with ample facts to support its conviction that Mr. Peltier personally shot Agent Coler and Williams”
“Our only inquiry is whether the Commission was rational in concluding Mr. Peltier participated in the execution of two federal agents. On the record before us, we cannot say this determination was arbitrary and capricious.”
(Reviewing the entire decision provides a far different picture than Peltier would like us to believe.)
Peltier goes on to claim, “All federal sentences were to be aggregated, meaning I would have to only serve 30 years.”
Can Peltier provide any proof of this claim? Don’t think so. Nor is there any reference to an aggregated sentence in Peltier’s legal history.
As for “mandatory release” and Peltier claiming he would only have to serve 30 years. Close, but not there yet, because there’s a pesky definition that Peltier would sooner forget:
Merriam-Webster: Consecutive: following one after the other in a series: following each other without interruption.
And to be clear, Peltier received Consecutive life sentences. That means, 30 plus 30 for 60, plus the consecutive 7 years for Lompoc for a total of 67, minus the 41 already served, leaving 26 years until 2043. However, Peltier’s next full parole hearing is 2024.
One other not too insignificant fact is the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ public records. Inmate records would include a specific release date, if there were one.
A search of BOP records for inmate #89637-132 reveals;
Leonard Peltier, Coleman 1 USP, and under Release Date, “Life.” [vii]
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
[v] Schick v. Reed, 419 U.S. 256 (1974); later USSC decisions upheld the constitutionality of a life sentence with the possibility of parole.