March 10, 2021
President Joe Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Leonard Peltier
Federal Inmate #89637-132
Clemency Denial; Supplemental Facts
Dear President Biden:
I can appreciate that you are very busy managing our nation’s challenges, however, I wanted to follow up on my letter of January 20 (copy attached) to ensure that unlike the prior Obama/Biden administration that your office is fully informed of the facts surrounding the cold-blooded murder of FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams by Leonard Peltier.
It is important to note that should Peltier’s latest clemency petition also include a cover letter, that both documents are scrutinized to separate falsehood and misinformation from the facts and Peltier’s lengthy appellate history. It is also significant to provide an example of Peltier’s lack of respect for the legal process and the Presidency. When President Clinton denied Peltier’s clemency petition, Peltier publicly responded with,
“These politicians are such sleazebags that you just don’t know.” [i]
The purpose of this letter is to explain the brutality of Peltier’s crimes and his conflicting statements concerning the events of June 26, 1975 at Pine Ridge, SD, which, when applying for clemency he will shamelessly misrepresent to the Pardon Attorney and to your office. For example, he has stated:
“I seen Joe when he pulled it out of the trunk and I looked at him when he put it on and gave me a smile.” (A direct quote from Leonard Peltier to author Peter Matthiessen; In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, p. 552)
There is absolutely no false impression concerning the significant context of Peltier’s description placing him directly at the murder scene. Joe Stuntz, one of those who participated in the carnage and engaged in the initial attack on the agents, stole an FBI jacket from the trunk of Agent Coler’s vehicle, put it on, and gave Peltier a smile. Picture the scene at that moment; where they stood were two dead and mutilated human beings.
As painful as it is to repeat, please remember that Agent Coler was shot in the head by Peltier with his AR-15 rifle at point-blank range, while the second bullet tore away his jaw. Agent Williams had begged for his life, and with defensive wounds, his fingers were blown through the back of his head.
Agents Coler and Williams were shot at point blank range in the face, yet when their bodies were later discovered they were both lying face down in the dirt. Obviously, among those involved with Peltier, the dead bodies had been manhandled.
One hundred and fourteen (114) shell casings were matched to Peltier’s AR-15 (later recovered in Wichita, Kansas and referred to as the ‘Wichita AR-15’) to a shell casing recovered from the trunk of Agent Coler’s vehicle. This would account for some of the 125 bullet holes in the Agents’ vehicles fired at them by Peltier and others during the initial unprovokedattack.[ii]
Regarding Peltier’s AR-15, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, September 11, 1986 stated:
“When all is said and done, however, a few 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.”
This Eighth Circuit decision also cited the government’s review of the trial record:
“That the 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.”
Extradition issue: As Peltier has repeatedly and falsely claimed—and should there be any reference in his latest clemency petition or cover letter asserting that his extradition from Canada was unlawful—this is simply not true. The Canadian government had long resolved this issue:
“As I indicated above, I have concluded that Mr. Peltier was lawfully extradited to the United States. In my opinion, given the test for committal for extradition referred to above, the circumstantial evidence presented at the extradition hearing, taken alone, constituted sufficient evidence to justify Mr. Peltier’s committal on the two murder charges.” (Canadian Minister of Justice letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, October 12, 1999[iii]
Peltier has made many public statements that imply a consciousness of guilt and lack of remorse for his victims and criminal actions:
“And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again because it was the right thing to do (2010)," and, “I don’t regret any of this for a minute (2014).”
It has been challenged by Peltier supporters that these public statements were taken out of context: They have not. In each instance Peltier directly relates his pronouncements to the events of June 26, 1975 and makes neither exceptions nor exclusions for these admissions. While Peltier may envision these public statements in the broader framework of Native American issues, nevertheless, any claims regarding a lack of context fails.
In an unrelated appeal in 2003 (concerning parole records), the 10thCircuit Court of Appeals offered this regarding their review of Peltier’s conviction and appeals:
“Previous federal court decisions provided the (Parole) commission with ample facts to support its conviction that Peltier personally shot Agents Coler and Williams.”
“And the Commission’s choice of the word ‘execution’ in describing the murders is quite apt.” Further, “While Mr. Peltier, asserts ‘the (Parole) commission identified no plausible evidence that [he] shot the agents after they were incapacitated,’ this statement is simply not true.”
In a prior clemency petition on February 17, 2016, Peltier made what amounted to yet another public admission of consciousness of guilt.
“I did not wake up on that June 26 planning to injure or shoot federal agents, and did not gain anything from participating in the incident.”
Peltier, once again, as a matter of public record, and in this instance to President Obama, placed himself directly at the scene of a heinous and vicious double murder. While he was perhaps not planning to kill anyone, and certainly did not gain anything other than life sentences, he clearly admitted to participatingin a criminal act for which he was indicted, convicted and sentenced for murder and aiding and abetting.As the appellate record clearly demonstrates, a jury and nearly two-dozen appeals firmly established his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and never altered his conviction or sentence.
Mr. President, as I previously stated the facts, Agents’ Coler and Williams were not just murdered; they were summarily executed.
It is essential to have a complete understanding of the discredited and repeatedly erroneous fabricated myth, folklore and misinformation that Peltier has created in an attempt to shroud and deny the absolute atrocity of his cold-blooded actions.
I would again respectfully urge a thorough review of the Peltier matter and to deny his undeserved request for commutation. Thank you for your time and attention in this most important matter.
1-Hon. Rosalind Sargent-Burns, U.S. Pardon Attorney, 145 N St. NE, #5e, Washington, D.C. 20530
1-Hon. Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General, USDOJ, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 20530-0001
1-Director Christopher Wray, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20535
1-Hon. Patricia K. Cushwa, U.S. Parole Commission, 90 K St. NE #300 Washington, D.C, 20002
1-Hon. Nicholas Chase, U.S. Attorney, District of North Dakota, 655 First Avenue North, Suite 250, Fargo, ND, 58102-4932
1-Hon. Dennis R. Holmes, Jr., U.S. Attorney, District of South Dakota, P.O. Box 2638, Sioux Falls, SD 57101-2638
1-Senator Brian Schnatz Chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs, 838 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510
1-Congressman Brad Wenstrup, 7954 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45255
1-Hon. Louis J. Freeh, 3711 Kennett Pike, Ste. 130, Wilmington, DE 19807-2156
1-Brian O’hare, President, Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, PO Box 320215, Alexandria, VA 22320
1-Eileen Roemer, President, Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, 3717 Fettler Park Dr., Dumfries, VA 22025
[i] Boulder Weekly, March 9, 2000; Peltier interview with five reference to President Clinton.