Imprisoned in the U.S. for his beliefs

Discussion in 'Politics' started by RevoMystic, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. RevoMystic

    RevoMystic Member

    Peltier Legal Update Jan 28 '05

    author: "The Peltier Legal Team"
    by Barry Bachrach, Esq.

    In 2004, Leonard Peltier's legal team pursued several legal
    avenues - in Washington, DC, New York, and North Dakota -
    that could result in our ultimate goal: Leonard's freedom. =============================================

    Leonard filed an action in the United States District Court for the
    Eastern District of North Dakota challenging his illegal sentence
    and seeking his immediate release. The statutes under which
    Leonard was charged (18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1111 and 1114) required
    that the acts in question take place "within the special maritime
    and territorial jurisdiction of the United States". The shootout
    occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, neither "within
    the special maritime [or] territorial jurisdiction of the United
    States." So Leonard was simply convicted and sentenced for
    crimes over which the federal courts had no jurisdiction.

    Not only did the court lack jurisdiction in Leonard's case, but the
    trial judge inflicted punishment - two consecutive life terms -
    that the jury's verdict alone did not allow. The jury did not find
    all the facts "which the law makes essential to the punishment".
    According to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the judge
    exceeded his proper authority. See Blakely v. Washington, 124
    S.Ct. 2531 ( 2004).

    No hearing date has yet been set, but we hope to have this case
    heard sometime in January 2005.

    Needless to say, Leonard is very optimistic about this case and is
    calling on all of us to support this suit with the fervor it deserves.


    In September of 2004, Leonard joined with Yorie Von Kahl
    (another political prisoner who has suffered over 20 years of
    unjust incarceration in a lawsuit filed in Washington, DC,
    claiming that officials of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S.
    Parole Commission, and the Bureau of Prisons knowingly
    violated the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1984 (and its
    amendments) and illegally extended Leonard's and Yorie's prison
    terms for over a decade.

    The SRA was passed to address what congress thought were
    inconsistent sentences imposed by different judges on different
    Individuals convicted of the same crimes, as well as arbitrary
    parole decisions. A new system - one of determinate sentences
    - was born and the parole commission was abolished.

    At the heart of the suit is the government's refusal to enforce
    Title II, Chapter II, Section 235(b)(3) of the Sentencing Reform
    Act. Effective on October 12, 1984, this part of the law ordered
    that parole dates "consistent with the applicable parole
    guideline" be issued to all "old system" prisoners within the
    following five-year period, at the end of which time (on October
    11, 1989) the parole commission would cease to exist.

    Over three years later, on December 7, 1987, Congress amended
    Section 235(b)(3) by repealing the release criteria and restoring
    the criteria under 18 U.S.C. 4206. Significantly, Congress
    expressly provided: "The amendments made by this Act shall
    apply with respect to offenses committed after the enactment of
    this Act" (Public Law 100-82, §26). The Amendment did not
    resurrect the Commission which, according to the terms of the
    original Section 235(b)(3), expired as of midnight on October
    11, 1989.

    Lacking any statutory authority and ignoring the express
    mandate of the U.S. Congress under the original section
    235(b)(3) and the 1987 amendment, the parole commission
    illegally extended the terms of imprisonment of both men.
    Leonard and Yorie should have been given their release dates by
    October 11, 1989, minus sufficient time to exhaust appeals. Had
    the Parole Commission complied with existing law, both men
    would have been released over 12 years ago.

    The failure of the Parole Commission to give release dates to
    Peltier and Kahl violated the express statutory language of
    Congress and the ex post facto, Bill of Attainder, and Due
    Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Leonard and Yorie have
    demanded a permanent injunction preventing further
    misapplication of the SRA and its amendments by the
    government; enforcement of the rights created by the original
    Section 235(b)(3); and compensatory and punitive damages as
    determined by a jury because of the irreparable injuries they
    have suffered.

    Applying form over substance, the lower court ordered the case
    be transferred to the District of Kansas. Because the case was
    properly filed in the District of Columbia, Leonard and Yorie
    immediately filed a petition for a Writ of Mandamus with the
    U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This
    procedural issue will be decided soon and the merits of the case
    hopefully will be addressed in the District of Columbia. This
    civil complaint is supported by a strong legal position which
    could lead to the release of Leonard and Yorie who look forward
    to the court's consideration of the substantive merits.


    Led by Attorney Michael Kuzma, the Peltier legal team is
    feverishly pursuing over 140,000 documents which the
    government has still failed to hand over to us.

    At the time of Leonard's trial in 1977, the government turned
    over roughly 3,500 pages of material to his attorneys, claiming
    that this was the extent of the material in its files on the shooting
    deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    on June 26, 1975.

    In the early 1980s, after Leonard was tried and convicted, the
    legal team submitted a request to the FBI under the Freedom of
    Information Act (FOIA). In theory, FOIA is a law that is
    designed to ensure public access to records maintained by the
    federal government. As a result of this request, it was
    discovered that the FBI actually maintained 18,000 pages related
    to Leonard's case, documents which should have been originally
    produced. Even then, only twelve thousand (12,000) pages were
    released in full or in part. It was only when these documents
    were produced post-trial did Leonard's legal team discover that
    the government intentionally withheld exculpatory ballistics
    evidence which undercut the fabricated evidence offered by the
    government at trial.

    In 2001, the legal team sent a new round of requests to every FBI
    Field Office in the U.S. By virtue of these FOIA requests and
    several subsequent federal lawsuits, it has been discovered that
    the FBI actually has 142,579 pages of material that have never
    been made available to Leonard or his attorneys. The
    Minneapolis Field Office alone has 90,000 pages. The data
    maintained by this FBI Field Office is particularly important
    because it was the Office of Origin for Leonard's case.

    A FOIA request made to the FBI Field Office in Manhattan
    (New York) on November 1, 2002, has revealed that its file on
    Leonard Peltier is allegedly missing. Correspondence from the
    FBI claims that the so-called "missing" file is on "special locate".
    Nearly two years later, this file has yet to be located by the FBI.
    The "missing" Manhattan file is of particular significance
    because a number of Peltier's attorneys including William M.
    Kunstler, Elliot A. Taikeff, and Ramsey Clark were based in

    Currently, there is a FOIA lawsuit pending in the U.S. District
    Court for the Western District of New York. Of 812 pages, the
    FBI Field Office in Buffalo has released 797 pages in full or in
    part. Fifteen pages are being withheld in their entirety. This
    suit is extremely important because some documents already
    released strongly infer that an informant infiltrated Leonard's
    legal team before and during trial.

    The majority of the sought-after documents in the Buffalo case
    are over 25 years old. Documents are supposed to be
    automatically declassified after 25 years under Executive Order
    12958. The FBI is arguing, however, that this material should
    not be subject to automatic declassification because it could
    cause serious damage to national security and the so-called war
    on "transnational terrorism". The FBI also contends that release
    of the data could have a chilling effect on the free flow of
    intelligence information and strain diplomatic relations between
    the United States and a foreign government.

    On August 11, 2004, the Leonard's attorneys filed a
    Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the government's Motion
    for Summary Judgment in the Buffalo case. A hearing was held
    on this matter in September of 2004. We are still awaiting a
    decision on these important documents.

    We will continue pushing for production of the over 140,000
    documents still being withheld by the government.

    YEAR 2005

    We anticipate that many of the issues discussed above will be
    resolved in 2005. The legal team also is planning several other
    future actions which we cannot discuss due to confidentiality

    In 2005, we must work together to increase public awareness of
    Leonard's plight. We urge each of you to educate at least 25
    new people about Leonard's situation and urge others to take
    action. Do it and keep doing it until our complacent society
    demands Leonard's freedom. Remember that what has
    happened to Leonard can happen to any one of us. In the
    political environment in which we now live, any one of us could
    find ourselves in Leonard's Kafkesque world.

    Leonard's freedom depends on all of us taking an active roll in
    securing his release. More than ever before we must join
    together and, as Harvey Arden and Peter Matthiessen have
    urged, show the government that we will not go away. Let us all
    commit ourselves to work together - selflessly and tirelessly - to
    make Leonard's freedom a reality in 2005.


    End Note: The cases of Leonard and Yorie are strikingly
    similar. They were tried by the same judge (Paul Benson) and
    the same federal prosecutor, i.e., Lynn Crooks. While Leonard
    and Yorie have different political views, they agree that the U.S.
    government does target activists and attempts to "neutralize"
    activist groups. Their respective cases show that federal law
    enforcement agencies, which are charged by law with
    investigating crimes and preventing criminal conduct, have
    themselves engaged in lawless tactics, including fabricating
    evidence, and fomented violence and unrest. Their respective
    cases also show that federal prosecutors have aggressively
    supported these actions and played an important role in the
    wrongful conviction of both men. To learn more about Yorie's
    case, we suggest the book written by Yorie, "A Writ of Habeas
    Corpus: Documenting the Cause of the Federal Assault on
    Gordon Kahl at Medina, ND," and his website at


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