FROM THE ARCHIVE

Peltier seeks reduction in prison sentence

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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2002

Attorneys for American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier were back in federal court on Tuesday to seek a reduction in sentence for the ailing prisoner.

More than 100 supporters and family members showed up in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the hearing. A drum group rallied the group outside the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a small ceremony by Lakota elder David Chief was held.

Inside, a three-judge panel of the court considered pleas to change two consecutive life terms Peltier is serving in Leavenworth, Kansas. Attorney Eric Seitz said a federal judge relied on faulty evidence to send the internationally-known figure to jail.

Instead of receiving a sentence for the murder of two FBI agents, Peltier should serve time for aiding and abetting, Seitz said. Accompanying court documents note that two charged for the crime were acquitted.

Also, federal prosecutors were unable to conclusively determine who pulled the trigger on June 26, 1975, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier did not fire "the fatal shot," Seitz told the panel.

Representing the government was retired former assistant U.S. attorney Lynn Crooks, who argued against Peltier at a 1985 evidentiary hearing. He said the challenge was too late and presented no new information.

The court did not say when it would rule. But Seitz and Bruce Ellison, another Peltier attorney, indicated they were pleased with the proceedings.

If successful, the defense team wants a reduction to concurrent sentences instead of consecutive ones. That would mean Peltier, 57, is eligible for freedom because he has already spent 25 years in jail.

Peltier's health has deteriorated over time. He suffers from diabetes, hypertension and related ailments.

A member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Tribe of North Dakota, Peltier became involved in AIM during its heyday. The FBI maintained heavy presence on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the mid-1970s.

Peltier has been denied parole repeatedly and is up for review in 2008. President Bill Clinton denied executive clemency before he left the White House in January 2001.

Peltier has filed a separate lawsuit against the FBI, alleging violations of civil rights by opposing his bid for clemency.

Relevant Documents:
Peltier Brief (5/6) | U.S. Brief (6/3) | Peltier Reply Brief (6/17)

Relevant Links:
FBI - http://www.fbi.gov
Free Leonard Peltier - http://www.freepeltier.org
The Leonard Peltier File, FBI - http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/minn/peltier.htm
The Peltier Trial Transcripts - http://ishgooda.nativeweb.org/peltier/trial.htm
The No Parole Peltier Association - http://www.noparolepeltier.com

Related Stories:
FBI says not hiding Peltier information (7/22)
FBI author of Pine Ridge list promoted (4/12)
FBI truths subject of probe and Peltier suit (4/4)
Freeh takes blame for 'serious error' at FBI (5/17)
Review of FBI 'mistakes', culture sought (5/14)
Peltier foe announces resignation from FBI (5/2)
Peltier blasts decision against him (1/30)
Clinton passes over Peltier clemency (1/22)
Bush to keep Peltier foe in FBI (1/5)
Decision near on Peltier (12/22)
Reno mum on Peltier details (12/8)
Clinton: I'll decide on Peltier (11/09)
Text of Clinton's remarks on Peltier (11/09)
In Television: Peltier subject of documentary ( 10/16)
FBI recalls Oglala shootout (06/26)
FBI: 'Brutal slaying' at Oglala (06/26)
Group seeks Peltier clemency (05/17)
FBI Promises to Prevent Peltier Pardon (04/21)
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