Former U.S. prosecutor of Leonard Peltier has written President Obama requesting clemency for the aging Native American activist.
Ottawa (06 Jan. 2017) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is welcoming a senior U.S. attorney’s request to President Obama for clemency in the case of Leonard Peltier. What makes the request remarkable is that James Reynolds was one of the prosecutors of Peltier.
In his letter, Reynolds, who supervised a key part of the case against Peltier, writes that he feels that clemency would be “in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved. Peltier has been in prison for more than 40 years for the murder of 2 FBI agents on the basis of evidence that has been shown to be flawed and tampered with by the police.”
Extraordinary development in case
The unusual request comes as outgoing President Obama is in the process of pardoning or commuting the sentences of hundreds of prisoners in his final weeks in office. A number of human rights organizations and activists are hoping that he will also release political activists jailed for decades.
Reynolds, who was appointed U.S. attorney in 1976, represented the government during the case’s appeal, when much of the evidence showed that federal agents made false statements and affidavits, coerced witness statements, and withheld a crucial ballistics report.
In his letter Reynolds argues that it is wrong for Peltier to spend 40 years in jail when prosecutors consider him an accomplice in the crime.
He also points out that Peltier “didn’t go out there with the intention to kill anybody. He was trying to protect his people.”
Peltier victim of a miscarriage of justice
Leonard Peltier, an activist with the American Indian Movement (AIM), was convicted following an incident on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota in 1973. Pine Ridge is the site of the Wounded Knee massacre where the US army slaughtered hundreds of Lakota people in 1890. AIM’s involvement at Pine Ridge began in 1973 to protest broken treaties, which resulted in an aggressive response from the FBI.
In June of 1975, 2 FBI agents entered private property on the reservation and sparked a shootout. During confrontation, special agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, were killed along with Joseph Stuntz, a Native American.
In their clemency application, Peltier’s attorneys point out that federal agents made false statements and affidavits, coerced witness statements and deliberately withheld crucial ballistics reports. Eventually a prosecutor stated in court that the U.S. attorney’s office “can’t prove who shot [the agents]” and claimed that Peltier was guilty of “aiding and abetting” in the shooting.
Peltier’s request for clemency is asking that Obama reduce his sentence. Many of Peltier’s friends, family and supporters worry that should his application for clemency be denied he will die in prison.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada’s largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.
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