There are important revelations of the Peltier saga that simply cannot be ignored or dismissed.
In early August one of Peltier’s attorneys, Larry Hildes of Bellingham, Washington, did a radio interview.
What follows are a few, of many other, direct quotes followed by factual responses challenging Hildes’s claims:
The claims: Somebody & the FBI admitted:
“And somebody apparently shot the agents from point blank range from a location where Leonard was not, with a gun that the FBI admitted he did not have or use.”“And they were killed by someone who apparently came up behind them in their vehicle. Leonard was a long distance away on the top of a ridge, nowhere near them and did not hit them with any shots that he fired.”
The Facts: Mr. X
Hildes is obviously referring to the years’ long lie of Peltier’s only real alibi, the fabrication of the fictitious Mr. X. For nearly two decades Peltier claimed that someone they knew was bringing dynamite to the AIM camp, was followed by the Agents onto the Jumping Bull property, engaged and wounded the agents, shot them at point-blank range and drove off in the infamous red pickup.
This episode was described in Peter Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and in Robert Redford’s film Incident at Oglala. In the film, AIM protagonist and participant that day was Bob Robideau who for six minutes and fifty-two seconds goes into great detail describing what he saw of Mr. X’s actions, and in the very next filmed sequence Leonard Peltier proclaims “This story is true.”
Well, it wasn’t then or now. And how do we know this?
In 1995 another AIM protagonist and participant that day, Dino Butler came out publicly in a Native American publication and said “That is totally false. Totally untrue. That never happened.” (Footnote 1)
It isn’t curious at all that in Peltier’s autobiography, Prison Writings, he offers all manner of excuses and explanations but—and not by accident, never mentions Mr. X. Wonder why?
And then there’s another—still current Peltier attorney, Michael Kuzma, who in a November 3, 2012 lengthy radio interview put the Mr. X lie permanently to rest, “From what I understand now its been determined that the Mr. X story was concocted.” (Fn. 2)
“Concocted” is just another way of saying; yes it was a lie, a lie woven into the fabric of Peltier folklore.
Peltier’s ‘defense committee,’ along with its website has changed a number of times and moved away from verbalizing the Mr. X fairytale. On May 23, 2000 the then Leonard Peltier Defense Committee stated “Mr. X has long been a controversial topic by both supporters of Leonard Peltier and those who oppose his release.” Controversial? A gross understatement for certain. Even today, the ILPDC’s most current website—of course with flagrant misinformation, has only this to offer regarding the killing of the agents:
“When the skirmish ended, the two FBI agents were dead. The U.S. Government claims they had been wounded and then shot through their heads at close range.”*
That’s it, no “somebody” who “came up behind them.”
The Facts: FBI admitted
The FBI and government never stated that Peltier did not have or use the ‘’gun” (the Wichita AR-15) to kill Agents’ Coler and Williams.
To the contrary, the government contended at trial and on appeal that Peltier used the Wichita AR-15 to first fire at the Agents and that the bolt mechanism of this weapon was matched to 114 shell casings, thirty-nine of which were introduced as evidence at Peltier’s trial as part of the Exhibit 34 series. One of these was the bullet casing found in the trunk of Agent Coler’s vehicle (Trial Exhibit 34B). Further, the government stated in a brief that;
“The trial witnesses unanimously testified that there was only one AR-15 in the compound prior to the murders, that this weapon was used exclusively by Leonard Peltier and was carried out by him after the murders.”
Based on a later released (after the trial) FBI Laboratory Teletype dated October 2, 1975, Peltier appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit claiming that this document contradicted other evidence, including a later October 31, 1975 FBI Laboratory Report (that was introduced at trial) as a possible ‘Brady’ violation.
The 8thCircuit decision stated:
“We affirmed the conviction on September 14, 1978…In affirming we too accepted the government’s theory that both agents had been killed with a high-velocity weapon fired at point-blank range at a time when the men were seriously wounded and unable to defend themselves. We then held that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find Peltier responsible for the murders.”
Nonetheless, the 8thCircuit remanded the appeal back to the District Court for an evidentiary (ballistics) hearing held in October 1984. The three-day hearing reviewed in detail the ballistics evidence concluding that the October 2, 1975 Teletype would not have affected the outcome of the trial.
However, Peltier appealed that District Court decision to the 8thCircuit again. The 8thCircuit Court then further concluded:
“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.”
The court also significantly added:
“When all is said and done, however, a few simple but very important facts remain. The casing introduced into evidence had in fact been extracted from the Wichita AR-15. This point was not disputed; although the defense had its own ballistics expert, it offered no contrary evidence.” (Fn. 3)
Clearly, the FBI and the Government never stated that Peltier “did not have or use” “a gun” (the Wichita AR-15).
The Claim: Supposedly—guns blazing—at the compound
“He has been in federal prison now for forty-four years for supposedly shooting at two FBI Agents who stormed the reservation with guns blazing supposedly looking for a man who had stolen a pair of boots and was involved in a minor burglary ring.” “I mean, as you say to come in looking for Jimmy Eagle, who wasn’t there and a pair of cowboy boots that he supposedly stole, with guns blazing, firing at the compound where mostly AIM folks were staying and trying to kill people.”
The Facts: Supposedly
Well, that’s not quite how it happened. There was no “supposedly” in Peltier’s conviction. Peltier was tried and convicted and his conviction and sentence upheld through over a dozen appeals.
Among other similar appellate conclusions was that:
“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.”
[Rule 35 Motion, 8th Circuit, 12/18/02]
The Facts: Guns blazing
It is well established that there was an eyewitness to exactly how the confrontation on the Jumping Bull property began. There is no disputing that Agent Ron Williams was overheard on the radio by personnel in the Rapid City Resident Agency and those within radio range as he was trying to describe exactly where they were and that those in the vehicle they followed from Highway 18 had stopped, gotten out and looked like they were about to fire on them. They heard Ron say that they needed help or they would be dead, they heard the gunfire, and Ron say, “I’ve been hit.”
The Facts: firing at the compound…to kill people
First, to make a public statement that the Agents were there to kill people is disingenuous.
Secondly, the AIM members were in a campsite (referred to as tent city) located along White Clay Creek in a wooded ravine a few hundred yards over rolling terrain from where the Agents were initially attacked and taken under fire. It would be physically and geographically impossible for the Agents to have been “firing at the compound where mostly AIM folks were staying.”
* * *
In a letter dated January 15, 2016, among other issues, Hildes stated:
“As you have done for far too many years, you have attempted to insert yourself into Mr. Peltier’s case, and first Amendment expression with patently untrue statements, incendiary characterizations, threats, and just plain lies. In publishing your deliberately false statements to numerous third parties including government officials and the media, you have intentionally and maliciously severely harmed Mr. Peltier, and it is our intention to take legal action accordingly.”
It is clearly evident that Peltier has made himself into a public figure with all manner of public statements, media interviews, press releases, books, solicitations (for allegedly tax-deductible donations. Strangely, on the ‘donate’ page of Peltier’s website there is no mention of donations being tax-deducible) for his “legal defense” (a matter that has been long resolved) and scarcely documented charitable activities. As a public figure Peltier has acquired notoriety through controversy of his own making. His public pronouncements are subject to scrutiny to a greater extent than a private individual.
Offering opinions and analysis based on Peltier’s public assertions should be expected by public figures, especially when they contradict the legal record, prior statements, are obvious fabrications or perceptible admissions of guilt.
“Untrue statements and incendiary characterizations?” Highlighting the many false statements and fabrications may sound incendiary to Peltier but we cannot ignore the fact that Peltier is an unrepentant convicted double murderer. Unrepentant because his few attempts at reconciliation to his victim’s families have been shallow and self-indulging (Fn. 4), and a convicted double murderer as the appellate record repeatedly affirmed.
“Threats?” Peltier has never been threatened by anything published by the No Parole Peltier Association (NPPA).
“Just plain lies?” Peltier would be unable to identify any lies within the hundreds of pages of editorial essays and blogs (that expose decades of myth and folklore and contain abundant footnotes and references to primary sources).
The NPPA has not “inserted” itself into the Peltier case but has acted from its inception on April 30, 2000 for two purposes; to challenge the fabrications emanating from decades of the Peltier façade and his denigration of his victims but most importantly to act as a victim’s rights advocate by honoring the memory and sacrifice of Jack Coler and Ron Williams who were severely wounded in an unprovoked attack and then brutally murdered in the line of duty.
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
1) Mr. X the lie: http://www.noparolepeltier.com/lie.html
2) This is a lengthy and detailed blog/essay about Peltier attorney, Michael Kuzma’s radio interview: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2012/12/peltier-kuzma-closes-circle-much-more.html
3) Appeal from evidentiary hearing http://www.noparolepeltier.com/800.html
4) Prison Writings, pp. 13-15 (as well at other similar statements)
5) U.S. Court Decisions: http://www.noparolepeltier.com/court.html
*Yet in total contradiction of the facts and Peltier’s erroneous claims, the Peltier website absurdly has Redford’s Incident at Oglala available for viewing.
September 12, 2019 Peltier turns seventy-five. Both Jack and Ron would have been seventy-two but they were robbed of their last forty-four years.