Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Leonard Peltier, Native American activist imprisoned for almost 50 years, denied parole request

By 37ci3 Jul2,2024

The federal parole board denied Leonard Peltier parole offeranother setback for the release of an ailing local rights activist who has maintained his innocence in the slayings of two FBI agents nearly 50 years ago, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Peltier, 79, applied for parole based on several factors, including his age, non-violent record in prison and diabetes, hypertension, partial blindness from a stroke and poor health affected by the Covid attacks.

Before Peltier’s June 10 hearing, his attorney, Kevin Sharp, acknowledged that the request was “probably his last chance” because Peltier’s last full hearing was 15 years ago. Peltier’s interim parole hearing is set for 2026 and the full hearing is set for June 2039, when he would be 94, Sharp said Tuesday.

He added that the commission recommended that the federal Bureau of Prisons review Peltier’s medical records and assess whether he should be transferred to an agency-operated medical facility.

Black and white portrait of a smiling Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier in prison in February 1986. Cliff Schiappa / AP file

Although Peltier’s case has garnered decades of support from prominent human rights groups, faith leaders and congressional lawmakers, he has had a long shot at parole and early parole, given the circumstances and determination of the crime. objection of representatives of law enforcement agencies.

Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences in a federal prison in Florida for the fatal shootings of FBI agents Jack Kohler and Ron Williams. He is eligible for parole because he was convicted of the crime before November 1987, before the new sentencing guidelines took effect.

Natalie Bara, president of the FBI Agents Association, which advocates for active and retired agents, said the parole board made the right decision.

“Activists sympathetic to Peltier have attempted to mislead the Commission and the public in order to secure the release of this unscrupulous killer of FBI Special Agents Jack Kohler and Ronald Williams,” Bara said, adding that the union “will continue to oppose these efforts. We are with the entire FBI family in our determination to provide.”

But there has long been scrutiny over how Peltier’s case was investigated and how his trial was conducted.

On June 26, 1975, Coler and Williams went to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to arrest a man on a federal warrant in connection with the theft of cowboy boots. agency investigative files.

While there, the agents radioed that they were under fire in a 10-minute shootout, the FBI said. Both men were shot at close range. Peltier is a member and later activist of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, officials said. American Indian Movementa local indigenous rights group – was identified as the only reservist in possession of the type of gun capable of firing the type of bullet that killed the agents.

However, dozens of people participated in the shooting; in court, two defendants were acquitted after claiming self-defense. When Peltier was tried separately in 1977, no witnesses were presented who could identify him as the shooter, and, unknown to defense attorneys at the time, the federal government had withheld a ballistics report that showed the fatal bullets did not come from his gun. according to Court documents filed by Peltier on appeal.

But the FBI maintained that his conviction was “properly and fairly obtained” and “has withstood multiple appeals to multiple courts, including the US Supreme Court.”

Native American rights groups and tribal leaders say Peltier’s conviction is symbolic of the struggle between Native Americans and the federal government, particularly on Native lands, and the events at Pine Ridge have long embarrassed Native activists. the killing of a Native American the shootout with federal agents was never formally investigated.

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By 37ci3

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