On June 26, 1975
two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ron Williams, entered the Jumping Bull
Ranch in South Dakota. The FBI says they were seeking to arrest a
young Native American man they believed they had seen riding in a red
pick up truck. A large number of supporters of the American Indian
Movement, known as AIM, were camping on the property at the time.
According to witnesses there, the more than thirty men, women and
children on the property were surrounded by more than 150 FBI agents,
SWAT team members, BIA police and local posse members, and barely
escaped through a hail of bullets. The FBI disputes that account.
When the gunfight
ended, a Native American named Joe Stuntz, as well as the two FBI
agents Coler and Williams, lay dead. The agents had been wounded in
the gunfight and then shot point blank through the head.
Three people were
charged with first degree murder for the deaths of the agents. They
were all AIM leaders - Leonard Peltier, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau.
Butler and Robideau stood trial separately from Peltier, who had fled
to Canada, saying he didn't believe he would receive a fair trial in
the United States. The two men were found not guilty by reason of self-defense.
Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada and was tried for the
murders. He declared that he was innocent. But he was found guilty
and sentenced to life in prison. He has spent the last 25 years in a
federal penitentiary, always professing his innocence.
Peltier is asking President Clinton to grant him executive clemency
before he leaves office. Time is running out, with just weeks to go
before the presidency changes hands.
In an exclusive
interview with Pacifica's WBAI last month, Democracy Now! asked
President Clinton whether he would grant this clemency request.
Clinton addressed the Peltier case publicly for the first time,
saying that he would make a decision on the case before he left the
The FBI's director
Louis Freeh countered with a letter to Clinton asking him not to free
Leonard Peltier. Attorney general Janet Reno chastised Freeh for
going public on the case, saying that "these matters should be
confined to a discussion with the president." FBI agents are
also planning to hold a rally this Friday in front of the White House
opposing clemency for Peltier. Thousands also protested in front of
the United Nations this past Sunday calling for Clinton to grant
Today, part two of
a debate between the FBI and Peltier's attorneys.