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Former FBI agent condemns FBI's anti-Peltier demo - Wall Street - Religious Leaders

22 December 2000

1) Unprecedented FBI Anti-Clemency-Peltier Demonstration Criticized

2) Wall Street Journal's Erroneous Anti Peltier Editorial

3) Statements from Religious Leaders on Peltier's Behalf


1) Unprecedented FBI Anti-Clemency-Peltier Demonstration Criticized

The following statement was given last Friday at the National Press Club in Washington DC, by former Rep. Don Edwards, who was also a former FBI agent.

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Hon. Don Edwards
P.O. Box 7151
Carmel, CA 93921


As a former Congressman from California for over thirty years, a former FBI agent and a citizen committed to justice, I wish to speak out strongly against the FBI's efforts in opposing the clemency appeal of Leonard Peltier.

I served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights in the U.S. House of Representatives. I took a personal interest in Mr. Peltier's case and became convinced that he never received a fair trial. Even the government now admits that the theory it presented against Mr. Peltier at trial was not true. After 24 years in prison, Leonard Peltier has served an inordinate amount of time and deserves the right to consideration of his clemency request on the facts and the merits.

The FBI continues to deny its improper conduct on Pine Ridge during the 1970's and in the trial of Leonard Peltier. The FBI used Mr. Peltier as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents.

Granting clemency to Mr. Peltier should not be viewed as expressing any disrespect for the current agents or leadership of the FBI, nor would it represent any condoning of the killings that took place on Pine Ridge. Instead, clemency for Mr. Peltier would recognize past wrongdoing and the undermining of the government's case since trial. Finally, it would serve as a crucial step in the reconciliation and healing between the U.S. Government and Native Americans, on the Pine Ridge Reservation and throughout the country.


Don Edwards (D-CA), ret.
Member of Congress, 1963-1995

2) Wall Street Journal's Erroneous Anti Peltier Editorial
December 19, 2000

Brad Moore replies to following article, posted at

Gov. Keating makes some very outlandish claims and assumptions in his piece on Leonard Peltier. The first, and most glaring, blatant lie is that 114 shell casings all came from the same rifle. He states in his article that the "rifle's extractor mechanism was matched to all 114 spent casings." This is absolutely not true. The report from the FBI stated that the casings may have come from that type of rifle, not the exact same weapon. The second lie in his article states that "no one else at the scene that day carried such a rifle."

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Freeing Peltier Would Stain Clinton's Legacy

By Frank Keating, governor of Oklahoma, and a former federal prosecutor and official of the Department of Justice. He began his career as an FBI special agent.

President Clinton has indicated that he will consider a clemency request for Leonard Peltier before he leaves office.

Peltier is serving consecutive life sentences for the 1975 murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, both of whom were slain at close range as they lay wounded, following an ambush on a South Dakota Indian reservation. In Peltier's long criminal career, he has also been charged in two other armed confrontations with police, and in connection with a jailbreak that left another prisoner dead.

This man does not deserve clemency. But amazingly, he has become a martyr to the left, who may succeed in convincing Mr. Clinton to take action in his case. That would be an insult to all law enforcement officers, and would leave an indelible stain on the Clinton presidency.

The myths that surround the Peltier case have all but obscured the facts. There are several "Free Peltier" Web sites, bearing support from such "experts" in criminal justice as Ed Asner and Oliver Stone. Those sites are packed with falsehoods, beginning with their claims that Peltier was framed and is an innocent man.

In fact, Peltier was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the vicious murders of FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler, 28, the father of two young sons, and Ronald L. Williams, 27. On June 26, 1975, Peltier and other American Indian Movement activists ambushed Coler and Williams as they drove, in separate vehicles, on property that was part of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The agents were seeking a suspect in a beating and robbery, and had no knowledge that Peltier, who was wanted on warrants for the attempted murder of a Milwaukee police officer, was present.

Peltier, who has since admitted firing at the agents, was joined by other AIM gunmen in opening fire with high-powered rifles and other weapons. The FBI agents, grievously wounded and outgunned, returned a total of five shots; there were more than 125 bullet holes in their cars -- and more still in their bodies.

The wounded Williams apparently removed his bloody shirt, crawled to Coler's side, and wrapped it around Coler's arm, nearly severed by gunfire. As they lay helpless, both were shot through the head at point-blank range. The shot that killed Williams passed through his upraised hand, as if he had pleaded for his life. At the scene were 114 shell casings, all later linked to Peltier's rifle.

One witness, Michael Anderson, an AIM member who took part in the attack, later testified that he saw Peltier standing beside the agents' vehicles with the rifle in his hands. Three other witnesses, none especially sympathetic to the FBI or the government, also said the weapon was Peltier's. No one else at the scene that day carried such a rifle. Peltier and others fled the scene. The murder weapon was later recovered from a vehicle driven by Peltier associates in Kansas, along with weapons taken from Williams and Coler at the murder scene. The rifle's extractor mechanism was matched to all 114 spent casings from Pine Ridge, proving that it was the weapon that fired the fatal shots.

In November 1975, when the fugitive Peltier was stopped by State Trooper Ken Griffith in Oregon, he exchanged shots with the trooper and escaped on foot. His abandoned vehicle and a car driven by his companions yielded a large cache of ammunition: 14 handguns, nine grenades and Coler's service revolver. It was in a paper bag, under the driver's seat, that bore Peltier's fingerprints.

In February 1976, Peltier was captured by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on an Indian reservation where he had been hiding since his flight from Oregon. Though armed, Peltier was surprised and unable to resist. He later made statements to the Mounties admitting involvement in the Oregon shootout and in the Coler-Williams slayings. He also told Chief Small Boy, who had granted him refuge and hospitality, that had he had advance warning of the Mounties' raid, he would have "blown them out of their shoes."

Peltier was convicted on April 18, 1977 of both murders and sentenced to consecutive life terms. His convictions have been repeatedly upheld by appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear his appeals. He later escaped briefly from the federal prison at Lompoc, Calif., in an incident that led to the death of another fleeing prisoner. When Peltier was recaptured, he had a stolen rifle and had attempted to rob a farmer at gunpoint. He was convicted in additional charges related to that escape.

The "Free Peltier" forces lobbying Mr. Clinton have concocted a range of specious and sometimes bizarre conspiracy theories in support of their claims that he is innocent. In one, the FBI men were supposedly trying to assassinate Peltier in shadowy support of uranium miners who wanted to exploit reserves said to be located on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Peltier's supporters even try to gloss over his admission, on a 60 Minutes broadcast, that he was among the shooters on June 26, 1975. They also make much of the fact that two Peltier associates were eventually acquitted in a separate trial, ignoring overwhelming evidence that continues to point to Peltier as the triggerman.

"I cannot begin to explain adequately the devastating effect Jack's murder has had on me and my family," wrote Peggy Coler in 1994. "How does a young widow explain to her sons age 4 and 1 why they will never see their daddy again? What kind of human being blasts two point blank range bullets into a helpless man?" Peltier did that.

Now Mr. Clinton may free him. Clemency for Peltier would be a sad and shameful way to close a presidency.
NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes.
[ To respond to this editorial published in the Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2000, "Freeing Peltier Would Stain Clinton's Legacy" write to: ]

3) Statements from Religious Leaders on Peltier's Behalf

Following are some of the statements from religious leaders that were read during the Prayer Vigil on Peltier's behalf December 17 in front of the White House. CNN shot footage of the Prayer Vigil for Peltier, and they may use clips during the week on CNN or HNN (the half-hour Headline News channel).

Bishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize laureate);
April 18th 1999

"He is a remarkable person and the depth of his spirituality shows.... I would hope that the campaign to have him freed will succeed. I certainly support it very passionately.... It is a blot on the judicial system of this country that ought to be corrected as quickly as possible."

Reverend Michael Yasutake (National Council of Churches);
October 8th 1998

"The National Council of Churches passed a major resolution at its annual General Assembly held in Washington, DC in November 1997 calling for executive clemency ˇas a moral right to correct a legal wrong.' After being incarcerated for more than 22 years, Mr. Peltier is still a prisoner. The resolution states: ˇWe call on President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, Senators and Congresspersons to seriously consider the case of Peltier, look at the facts with an open mind, and come to the only conclusion possible. This conclusion is freedom for Peltier. He has paid a tremendous debt for his political beliefs and it is now time to thank him for his sacrifice.' "

Sarah Chandler (Canadian Friends Service Committee, of the ˇQuakers'); April 29th 1998

"In the many years since charges were first laid against leonard Peltier, the Canadian Friends Service Committee of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has followed with concern the course of his imprisonment.... We urge you to release Leonard Peltier as an act of executive clemency..... We anticipate a positive response to the many requests you have received from around the world on this issue."

The Dalai Lama;
June 15th 1995

"I wish to support the petition for clemency for Leonard Peltier. Mr. Peltier's health is said to be worsening. I am deeply concerned and appeal to the concerned authorities in the United States to positively consider the petition on humanitarian grounds."

Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.;
December 18th 1996

"Dear Mr. President, I would like to add my name to the long list of people supporting the immediate release of Leonard Peltier. I urge you to PLEASE GRANT EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY TO LEONARD PELTIER, who has already served over twenty years of unjust imprisonment."

Dr. Elias Rinsampessy (the Muhabbat Foundation);
January 28th 1998

"I'm convinced that through the FBI misconduct and the fabricated evidence, Peltier did not receive the best justice can serve. Therefore I support Senator Daniel Inouye's request to consider commutation or otherwise mitigation of the sentence of Leonard Peltier. It is my deep and sincere wish that you will make a decision beneficial for Peltier, so that he can live in peace with his people and family again."

former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Cantuar (Anglican Church);
May 30th 1986

"My American and Canadian colleagues have brought to my attention the case of Mr. Leonard Peltier. I write to let you know that I share their concern that there seem to be a number of disturbing aspects about this case. I am therefore glad to join with my brother bishops in writing to ask you to give sympathetic consideration to a new trial for Mr. Peltier."

Baltimore - Stony Run Monthly Meeting of Friends (i.e., 'Quakers')
December 1st 1998

"Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, recognizes Leonard Peltier as a prisoner of conscience and as a political prisoner of the United States government. We urge the President of the United States to grant Leonard Peltier the Presidential Commutation of his conviction in federal court and thereby immediately to release him from federal custody. We recommend this prisoner, Leonard Peltier, to Friends everywhere for their consideration of his condition and for their conscientious action on his behalf."

Reverend Nancy Tomlinson (Eastern Area Council, Presbyterian Churches);
November 21st 1993

"It has been proven that the gun of Leonard Peltier could not have fired the bullets that killed the FBI agents.... Despite the evidence of unfair, unethical, and illegal actions during his trial and appeal process, he has been denied the opportunity for a retrial and has been unjustly incarcerated for over seventeen years.... The Eastern Area Council of the Churches, of the Presbytery of Cincinnati, of the U.S. Presbyterian Church, denounces the injustices committed against Leonard Peltier, and calls for his immediate release.... The people of this country and the people of the world who have learned of Leonard Peltier are calling for his release. Grant him his freedom."

Call the White House Comment Line (202)456-1111 or (877)-561-1364
Support Presidential Executive Clemency to Free Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier's book, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, is available from bookstores and the LPDC; Box 583; Lawrence, KS 66044

Check out a special offer for Prints of the donated artwork of Lahri Bond "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse - Free Leonard Peltier"

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