Thursday, January 20, 2022


Edward Woods

January 20, 2022


President Joe Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Washington, D.C. 20500


Hon. Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General

Hon. Rosalind Sargent-Burns, U.S. Pardon Attorney             


Leonard Peltier 

Federal Inmate #89637-132

Clemency Denial Request

James H. Reynolds

Former U.S. Attorney



Re: Leonard Peltier


Dear President Biden, Hon. Garland, Hon. Sargent-Burns:


As I have previously requested, I would continue to urge that should Leonard Peltier’s clemency petition reach your desk, that he not be considered for a commuted sentence. 


Any consideration should be the result of a thorough review of his conviction and the nearly three decades of multiple appeals that have clearly established Leonard Peltier’s guilt. Each and every claim of a wrongful conviction, both arguably legitimate and seemingly frivolous, have been addressed in great detail by the appellate courts. One of many appellate court findings concluded, “Previous federal court decisions provided the (parole) Commission with ample facts to support its conviction that Peltier personally shot Agents Coler and Williams.” “Neither the conviction nor any of the subsequent court decisions have been overturned.” 

(10th Circuit Court of Appeals, 11/4/2003)


The unprovoked attack on FBI Agents Coler and Williams resulted in them both being wounded, Jack Coler nearly fatally, and Ron Williams, wounded three times, removing his shirt and waving it as a flag of surrender (that was ignored) and then using it on Agent Coler’s severely injured arm. Jack Coler was likely unconscious but Ron Williams was not. He faced his killer as the barrel of Peltier’s AR-15 was placed against an upraised hand, blowing Agent Williams’s fingers through the back of his head. Agent Coler was then shot twice. Both Agents, with destroyed faces, were manhandled and rolled over to face the ground as their weapons were stolen by Peltier and others.* A horrible scene and terrible death in the line of duty.


These will provide just a hint of what Agents’ Coler and Williams faced that fateful day before they were murdered:



Peltier, through a number of public statements, remains unrepentant, including his 1999 ‘apology’ to his victims’ families that amounted to no more than further insult and ended with, “I cannot see how my being here, torn from my own grandchildren, can possibly mend your loss. I swear to you, I am guilty only of being an Indian. That’s why I’m here. Being who I am, being who you are—that’s Aboriginal sin.” (Multiple court findings tell an entirely different story.) 


Following the clemency process, I am certain FBI Director Wray will provide additional details.


There is no doubt that Native Americans were horribly treated, but releasing Peltier will never correct the wrongs of the past. His crimes that June day on Pine Ridge were, and remain, an entirely criminal act for which he was rightfully convicted and sentenced.  Leonard Peltier would be the last person to atone for those historical wrongs and should be shown the same degree of mercy he gave to Agents’ Coler and Williams; and that would be none.   


Re: James H. Reynolds


It may be somewhat irregular to openly criticize a former U.S. Attorney, however, the statements Mr. Reynolds has made in writing, during an interview, and the authority he has allegedly assumed in the Peltier matter, can neither be ignored nor sustained under scrutiny. 


Within Peltier’s clemency petition file there should be two letters, one undated but addressed to former President Obama and one dated July 9, 2021, both setting forth reasons considering clemency for Leonard Peltier. (The letters are attached for reference.)


Mr. Reynold’s earlier letter claimed, as the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, that he retained as Assistant U.S. Attorney, Evan Hultman, who preceded him as U.S. Attorney and who had handled the prosecution of Leonard Peltier, and “I directed Hultman’s handling of the appeal of Leonard Peltier after my appoint (sic).” 


(Assistant U.S. Attorney, Lynn E. Crooks, was intimately involved with the prosecution and appeals of Leonard Peltier.)


Statement of Lynn E. Crooks, retired Assistant United States Attorney, North Dakota:


This claim is a gross misstatement of the record. The trial record being in Fargo, ND it was only logical that I be given primary responsibility for assigning and coordinating research projects with other members of the trial team and then preparing the first drafts of the Government’s responses to the murderer’s arguments. In doing so I had numerous conversations with Mr. Hultman and all other members of the trial team, as well as my own United States Attorney. Other than small stylish changes there were no substantial changes that I can recall being made to the agreed upon drafts which were prepared in this fashion. I had no conversations of any kind with Mr. Reynolds. To the best of my knowledge, he contributed nothing what-so-ever to what went into the final brief on Direct Appeal or into any of the subsequent government briefs resisting Peltier’s numerous attempts to obtain Post Conviction Relief.” (Emphasis added)


In Mr. Reynolds 2021 letter he states:


Finally, on appealwe pursued the theory that Mr. Peltier was an “accomplice” under an aiding and abetting theory…”


Mr. Reynolds offers a factually erroneous statement, an incongruous and untimely ‘theory’ regarding Peltier’s charge of aiding and abetting: On November 17, 1975 Peltier was indicted for two counts of first-degree murder and aiding and abetting.  On November 25, 1975 at Rapid City, South Dakota, warrants were issued charging Peltier with murder – first degree, killing two Federal officers while in the performance of their duties and aiding and abetting (Title 18. U.S. Code, Sections 1111, 1114 and 2).  (Peltier trial; March-April 1977, Fargo, North Dakota)


Further, the Peltier trial transcript {4974} – {5164}, (clearly before the appellate process began), unmistakably indicates that there was considerable discussion between the defense and prosecution with USDCJ Benson regarding jury instructions on the aiding and abetting charge, as well as being included in the government’s closing argument.


For someone who claimed the authority that he (inappropriately using ‘we’) directed the appeals, how can he so blatantly distort the significance of the aiding and abetting issue? Mr. Reynolds’ claims are clear enough, however, his motivations to misstate the record are troubling and flawed.


Mr. Reynolds further states that “We were not able to prove that Mr. Peltier personally committed any offense on the Pine Ridge Reservation.”


For Mr. Reynolds to err in arriving at such an inexplicable conclusion would indicate that he either has never read, or nonetheless understood the multiple appeals that supported the government’s position that Peltier personally and cold-bloodedly murdered two already wounded FBI Agents, or, that Mr. Reynolds does understand the actual record and perhaps hopes his statements will be taken at face value as a former U.S. Attorney, and not further examined or validated. 


Mr. Reynolds missed or ignored any number of multiple definitive court findings that included:


The direct and circumstantial evidence of Peltier’s guilt was strong…” “…Peltier’s contention of manufactured evidence are far from convincing.” 

(Direct Appeal, 8th Circuit, 9/14/78)


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. That point was not disputed; although the defense had its own ballistics expert, it offered no contrary evidence.” 

(8th Circuit, 9/11/86: Peltier’s AR-15 was recovered in Wichita, Kansas.)


Mr. President, Honorable Garland and Sargent-Burns, before Mr. Reynolds claims are considered regarding Peltier’s clemency petition, a thorough vetting of his alleged claims would certainly be in order.** 


As for Leonard Peltier, he remains an unrepentant murderer, and although he has spent many years in prison and has some underlying health issues due to age, Agent Jack Coler and Ron Williams, both twenty-eight when they were murdered, were robbed of their opportunity to grow old with their families rather than being left in a muddy field with their faces destroyed. 




Edw. Woods

Edward Woods


*During Peltier’s escape to Canada, he and other AIM members were stopped in Oregon. Under the seat where Peltier sat was found a paper bag that contained Agent Coler’s service revolver. On the bag was Leonard Peltier’s thumbprint.  

Also, contrary to Peltier’s several fabricated statements of how the shooting started, there is no dispute that there was an eyewitness to exactly how the unprovoked attack on the Agents began. Agent Williams was overheard on the FBI radio describing exactly what was about to happen.


**Not included above is an interview Mr. Reynolds gave to the NY Daily News that was wholly inappropriate and unprofessional, 

(last accessed 1/4/22).



Two Reynold’s letters

Brief facts of June 26, 1975



1-U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland

1-U.S. Pardon Attorney, Rosalind Sargent-Burns

1-Federal Bureau of Investigation, Director Christopher Wray

1-Hon. Louis J. Freeh