|Leonard Peltier, apprehended in 1976, recaptured in 1979|
Peltier’s only relief comes from the false joy of bogus attributes and decrepit marketability as a Native American hero and, cough, a “human rights activist.” Borrowing a page from Native history, rife with examples of government swindles, broken treaties, and money wasted on bureaucrats, Peltier has learned how to stick it to his Indian brethren, diverting millions that could have alleviated genuine Indian hardship on the reservations to his defense fund scam. Not surprisingly, his handlers refuse to open their books and show where the money went, something that even a rabid supporter should find troubling. Rumor has it that much of the cash was doled out to “Friends of Peltier” and frivolous filings in a losing battle with the courts. For the record, Peltier’s appeals have been heard, analyzed, and disposed of in several published USDC decisions in two separate circuits. His legal arguments have been repeatedly and unanimously deemed “flawed.” In short, he is trounced every time his lawyers open their mouths.
Over the years, Peltier has also learned how to recruit low-information celebrities (Pamela Anderson comes to mind) and politicians who become part of the scam—-they learn to carry his water with buzz-words and phrases, spoken or sung on command. It should be noted that not all celebrities are mindless shills. Bono of U2 wisely distanced himself from Peltier’s lies after initially expressing support. The title track from the “How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” album, “Vertigo,” started out as “Native Sun,” a tribute to the Indian who claimed he was railroaded into prison. Bono sensed that something was not quite right, and the official version of the tune carries no reference to Peltier. Hence, the final cut resonates and rocks with a lot more honesty than anything twanged by the few musicians who wail about injustices that befall convicted, remorseless cop-killers.
Defenders of truth, therefore, should take heart; Peltier’s popularity withers with each passing year as his most notable fans, entertainers, become almost as irrelevant. They are, today, fewer in number, less credible, and are mostly ignored. Every now and then, a few of them congregate in tired celebration of Peltier’s "accomplishments," endorsed with phony awards and accolades from duped celebrities and organizations that claim to faithfully advance Native American interests. Just a few weeks ago, I witnessed such a gathering at the Beacon Theater in New York City, at a musical tribute to the unrepentant killer himself, led by the enduring if not endearing Jackson Browne of 70’s fame. There is reminiscent fondness for Browne, still regarded as an able musician, if not an able murder investigator; celebrity comes with the freedom of public embarrassment with no lasting repercussion. When you’re famous, you can afford to be ignorant; your fans will still love you. That is one of the reasons the other celebrities in attendance, actors Danny Glover and Peter Coyote, that famous paragon of wisdom, Harry Belefonte, and the Doonesburyish character, Michael Moore, took to the stage with silly incantations and stupid human tricks. They were joined by Pete Seeger, Hurricane Carter, rapper Common, and a few other aging hangers-on and wided-eyed young recruits. Although such humanity should never be taken seriously, there comes a point where evil incarnate should not go unchallenged, even when packaged as feel-good charity. So I decided to challenge it.
With the intent to inform the uninformed, educate the uneducated, and expose the eminently exposable, I and a volunteer dove into the snake pit of stupidity. We went in under the radar, posing as sycophantic clones bearing gifts. Our purpose was not to agitate, but to enlighten. We wanted to get people to think, to reason, to help them spot a fake who takes advantage of their good graces. Thinking is an activity sorely missing from the conversation, ever since Peter Matthiessen’s naivete launched a cottage industry of dog-whistled, bleeding souls, transforming cold-blooded murder into an activity of worldwide acclaim and Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
Under the marquee, with the help of my young assistant, we offered truthful information to all passersby, under the assumption that the truth still matters. Our handouts, titled truthfully enough, “Freedom for Leonard Peltier,” were sealed with a yellow sticker, symbolic of the great pretender’s cowardice. Our idea seemed to take off. We watched as our three-column missives sailed into the Beacon. We asked a young performer if she might deliver some to the stage; she said she would. We can imagine the entertaining outcome: “Uh, Mr. Glover, here’s something you might find interesting…. Mr. Browne, here’s one for you.” No one suspected or asked who I was, although one attendee broke the seal and read… and read. He stared and stared with an expression that morphed from curiosity to consternation, to bewilderment. He never said a word. This is what happens when a Peltierite is inoculated with facts; the initial twinge of discomfort subsides as rational thought flows through the brain. We dispensed dozens of truth-lets, and a pile landed on the front seat of the colorfully painted Oglala Sioux bus, parked just outside the theater. That undoubtedly made for a very long ride back to Pine Ridge. Our night of reverse indoctrination went off without a hitch as ticket buyers gladly accepted our free event “brochure.” Even the usually foul-mouthed and oafish Silent Bear (real name Mark Holtzman, no Indian blood), the self-appointed chief of security, had the good sense to walk right by us, more likely, agog with the chance to appear on a real stage with real performers; having special access from the Beacon hotel was a rare treat for somebody who is used to being shown the door.
The handouts, mind you, were entirely factual and relevant, but with a twist: we simply restated what other people have said and done, ostensibly on Peltier’s behalf. This seemed like a simple yet powerful way to remove the blinders, especially since their words and deeds have done nothing but destroy Peltier’s chances for freedom. One by one, I listed these people, and recalled what they said and did, and how they have merely encouraged Peltier to carry on his grand deception, and thereby guarantee his life-long incarceration. With a little help from his friends, Leonard’s next appearance at a starless parole board won't be until 2024, the year he turns 80 years-old. It is not so far-fetched an idea that with each strum of Browne’s guitar in a song about his favorite convict, another day is added to his sentence. Convicted killers are allowed just so many bites at the apple, and then, it seems, they throw away the key. The people who have the actual authority to grant freedom for Leonard Peltier, the courts, the parole boards, the government prosecutors, are not singing. They are immune to the kool-aide by virtue of the facts, as best they can determine them, and a sense of duty, to protect the public from an unrepentant offender who said he would do it again if given the chance. And they’re wise to Peltier’s sob story about being the victim; unlike Holtzman, they don’t like being played for fools.
As I watched the blissfully unaware patrons file into the old landmark on Broadway, I sort of understood why the facts are frequently pushed aside. The myths are easy to digest when they fit one’s political template and validate one’s doctrinaire beliefs. Popular culture accounts for much of the illiteracy. The lies of Matthiessen’s, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, the related inventions of Robert Redford’s film, "Incident at Oglala," and the fraudulent reporting from the likes of Peter Worthington (Toronto Sun) have all contributed to the resilience of what may be the greatest fraud perpetrated against Indian Country in the last 40 years. True, most Peltier admirers are whites and wannabes, but the damage his falsified legacy has brought to Native history is incalculable. Hollywood’s well known saddle-bag of dysfunction honoring criminals pales in comparison to the contamination Peltier's rot-gut history has brought to the annals of the Native American Experience. No sinister government program could be as cleverly fiendish, undermining and perverting the legacy of authentic Indian warriors with the fibs of a chubby faker whose only real warrior skill is not missing from close range.
They called it the “Bring Leonard Peltier Home Concert” and of course it did no such thing. Like Peltier’s claimed achievements, it was so much hot air, set to music. When promoting a fantasy, the show is all that matters. This was just the latest publicized celebration of Peltier’s evil, complete with bogus intonations of bravery. While the Jackson Brownes of the world strum away, oblivious to the legal history of the murders, fellow activists fall in line; they all have a role to play. Peter Coyote later sits with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, reciting lie after lie in the old story of an aw-shucks “Injun” who just wants to go home. Harry Belefonte, we learn, was rapper Common’s font of wisdom for the night. (Does anyone really believe that facilitated Common's common sense?) And Amy Goodman scores an “exclusive” interview with the famous, shameless inmate, during which she raises not one question about his changing stories or incredible alibis, proving once again that Goodman and her organization are in the day-to-day business of political obfuscation, with no real interest in truthful reporting.
Back at the Beacon, far removed from the minds of the happy attendees, the reality of two young men, cut down in the prime of their lives, their faces shattered, left unrecognizable by point-blank fire, is all but forgotten. Of no consequence, that the courts determined only three men were physically present at the murder scene, within a narrow window of opportunity, and that one of them bragged about committing the murders, the same shooter seen running from the FBI cars carrying the murder weapon, and the same volatile fugitive who aspired to be Dennis Banks’ bodyguard. Of no concern to the theater dwellers, the evidence that shows the relatively inexperienced lawmen were virtually ambushed on the afternoon of June 26, 1975, caught exposed in an open meadow when Peltier opened fire. And how odd is it that a thug’s most dedicated fans appear oblivious to his own admissions, about taking up a firing position behind an old elm tree, where over a hundred shell casings were found, each one matching his assault rifle, as well the single casing left behind in the madness, or his pulled-teeth confession to CNN’s Mark Potter that he did in fact approach the wounded and disarmed lawmen at the critical moment (which explains why one of the casings was found in agent Coler's bureau car). Or the big one, Peltier’s sworn excuse that a mysterious Mr. X was the executioner, a whopper that even Mike Kuzma, Peltier’s lawyer, has blown out of the water. Then there's Peltier's boast about shooting Ron Williams as he sat pleading for his life, bellowed in Anna Mae Aquash's presence, evidently giving Banks another reason to get rid of her.
Peltier’s role in the murder of a fellow American Indian Movement (AIM) member is never, ever, ever mentioned at his freedom rallies. In the summer of ’75, Anna Mae survived Leonard’s gun-in-the-mouth interrogation, only to undergo several more. A few months later, she was sentenced to death by Leonard’s boss, AIM founder Banks, another Indian “hero” regaled by ignorant liberals. Banks convinced himself that Anna Mae worked for the same organization looking for Peltier at the time, the FBI. What Banks and several AIM members never realized is that Anna Mae was far more loyal to the Movement then any of the AIM members who conspired against her; she was never an informant. As it turned out, they were the real traitors to the cause, and still are.
Peltier fans evidently believe that he was the only AIM member of the inner circle not involved in murder and mayhem in the 1970s. He was, they gush, one of Anna Mae's good friends, even though Peltier himself admits crossing the border from his Canadian hideout to the US where he reportedly made contact with Banks. This was the period, November to December, 1975, when Banks presided over Anna Mae’s death sentence and subsequent cover-up. We are supposed to believe that the virtuous Mexican-looking part-Indian lug who followed Banks’ every command knew nothing, heard nothing. Not that it matters to the “peace and freedom” crowd, but Anna Mae was also shot in the head at point-blank range. Her executioners, AIM lieutenants at the time, have joined Peltier behind bars.
Since freedom is something Peltier will never experience, absent clemency (“not gonna happen” I’m told), another name seems appropriate for that special night of staged perversion. How about the “Running On Empty Concert”? Too obvious. The “Dying Legends Concert’? Too close to home. What about, the “Concert for Kuzma”? Yes, that seems to hit the mark. We saw him entering the theater, late, with a you-know-what-kind of grin on his face. No wonder--inmate Peltier’s lawyer, it appears, might be finally reimbursed for billable hours. Kuzma had to be the happiest guy in the crowd; the gas receipts alone could be substantial. Unbeknownst to the show-goers, Kuzma could pocket some of the proceeds, estimated at around $20,000 in blood money. Surely, Kuzma knows or least suspects that his client is guilty as hell. Perhaps ingratiating himself with the Buffalo Chapter of Far Left Loons sufficiently soothes his troubled conscience. Kuzma was one of the stars of our brochure. Here it is, along with, ahem, a link to a very informative web site!
Leonard Peltier, winner of several human rights awards, was convicted in 1977 of aiding and abetting the murders of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler. Co-defendants Robert Robideau and Dean Butler, tried separately, were found innocent by reason of self-defense. Since Leonard’s conviction, questions persist as to the fairness of his trial and whether or not Leonard received competent legal counsel. There’s also the matter of Leonard’s closest supporters–-have they really acted in his best interest, or have they put up barriers to parole? Consider:
Robert Robideau: Forced Leonard into admitting that he approached the wounded agents during the critical moment. (1999 CNN interview)
Dean Butler: Destroyed Leonard’s only alibi, Mr. X, claiming it was a made-up story.
Mike Kuzma: Leonard’s attorney says the Mr. X story was concocted and states that President Obama (Leonard’s best chance for Executive Clemency) is a “big disappointment.” Kuzma has also said former counsel Eric Seitz was “ill-prepared” to represent Leonard at his most recent parole hearing and that presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton “in no way” will help Leonard gain his freedom.
Bruce Ellison: Former legal counsel and named co-conspirator in the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, thus raising questions about conflicts of interest in representing Leonard. Both Leonard and Ellison have been accused of interrogating Anna Mae, after which American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders ordered her execution.
Peter Matthiessen: Former member of the CIA, authored many falsified, defamatory, and incriminating statements in his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, such as placing Leonard at the crime scene during the critical moment by quoting him: “I seen Joe when he pulled [Coler’s FBI jacket] out of the [FBI car] trunk and put it on, and he gave me a smile.”
Ramsey Clark: Privately admitted that he believes Leonard is guilty but defended him by saying that this is how the game is played, adding, “…you know how it is.”
Judge Gerald Heaney: Although supportive of Leonard’s legal battle, repeatedly upheld his conviction (thus ensuring Leonard would need to qualify for parole), affirmed the ballistics evidence, and authored opinions in support of findings such as: “The two witnesses testified outside the presence of the jury that after their testimony at trial, they had been threatened by Peltier himself that if they did not return to court and testify that their earlier testimony had been induced by F.B.I. threats, their lives would be in danger.”
Robert Redford: Prominently featured the Mr. X story in his documentary, "Incident at Oglala," and relies on Ellison’s questionable tactics as a legitimate legal defense, has been called “a great entertainer, but a terrible murder investigator.”
Dennis Banks: Although organizing events on Leonard’s behalf, refuses to admit that it was he, not Leonard, who fired on the Oregon State patrolman in November 1975 during an attempted arrest. Banks, implicated in the murder of Anna Mae, has remained silent on Leonard’s alleged involvement in her murder.
Bill Means: Questionable alliances and motives, implicated in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash by his brother, Russell Means, who said on camera, “Vernon Bellecourt made the phone call to the house on Rosebud, which... is my brother’s house… and Clyde Bellecourt took the call from Vernon and then issued the order for her death, her murder.”
In short, Leonard has received poor legal advice, support, and counsel from many who have ulterior motives and conflicts of interest. Actions supposedly meant to help Leonard gain his freedom have only succeeded in guaranteeing his life-long incarceration. Why is that? Why have they allowed Leonard to languish in prison for crimes they say he was not involved in, and yet fail to speak up for him when it does not serve their own legal and personal interests? If parole is the only option, why do they continually destroy its chances for success? Perhaps Leonard’s friends are not as interested in securing his freedom as they claim. From the DOJ policy statement on parole: “…the U.S. Parole Commission may grant parole if (a) the inmate has substantially observed the rules of the institution; (b) release would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense or promote disrespect for the law; and (c) release would not jeopardize the public welfare.”
Successive parole boards have found that parole for Leonard would potentially violate all three conditions. For more information, see whoareleonardsfriends.com.