The Continued Fraudulent Prosecution of Leonard Peltier

Guest Commentary

“Of all the fabrications that the government has used to keep me imprisoned, this one hurt so deeply.” Leonard Peltier

Is true investigative journalism really dead? Is  The New York Time’s writer Eric Konigsberg aware of his complicity in continuing the illegal, unconstitutional incarceration of Leonard Peltier?

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier has been in prison for 37 years

It is a fact that Darlene Ecoffey (previously Kamook Banks), wife of Robert Ecoffey (the lead investigator of Anna Mae Aquash’s murder and superintendent of the BIA on Pine Ridge), and ex-wife of AIM leader Dennis Banks, had worked with the FBI for perhaps more than a decade by the time of the trial of John Graham for the murder of Anna Mae in 2010. Mrs. Ecoffey previously testified in the Federal trial of Arlo Looking Cloud for the same crime.

Did Mr. Konigsberg read the transcripts from John Graham’s trial from which he shares so freely and irresponsibly, Mrs. Ecoffey’s uncorroborated, hearsay testimony against Leonard?

While Mrs. Ecoffey was on the stand testifying as a witness for the prosecution, John Graham’s defense attorney, John Murphy, expertly broke down her self developed theories, and motives during cross-examination.  It is no small matter that there has been testimony that Ecoffey had assistance in developing her theories. Mrs. Ecoffey’s actions and testimony as a paid informant for the Federal government were clearly manipulated to include more fabricated evidence against Leonard Peltier. The alleged statements by Peltier were not shared by the former Kamook Banks until 2000, and came at a time of great support for his clemency bid. The same testimony was improperly used to deny his parole in 2009.  Mr. Peltier has not had the ability to face his accuser and has been denied due process of law.

Like Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement members Robert Robideau and Dino Butler were charged for the deaths of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler, at the shootout on Jumping Bull’s property, (Oglala), on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. A young Indian man Joe Stuntz was also killed in the gun fight. His death has never been investigated. In a separate trial prior to Peltier’s arrest, both Robideau and Butler were found not guilty by reason of self defense. Before his death in 2009, Robideau had adamantly asserted that he alone fired the fatal shots at the agents in “… self defense to the end..”

In early 2005, Leonard Peltier provided a signed affidavit describing that he was promised freedom in return for providing false testimony against John Graham. Leonard Peltier has consistently maintained his innocence despite his parole being contingent on an admission of guilt. Mr. Peltier has now served nearly 40 years of two consecutive life sentences.

“Kamook’s testimony was like being stabbed in the heart while simultaneously being told your sister just died…Of all the fabrications that the government has used to keep me imprisoned, this one hurt so deeply,”

said Leonard Peltier about Ecoffey’s similar testimony at Looking Cloud’s 2004 trial. In that trial,   Mrs. Ecoffey’s testimony against Peltier was entered into court record as hearsay. In motions before the trial of John Graham, presiding Circuit Judge John Delaney reversed his own prior decision to keep out the very same testimony against Peltier.

Free Leonard PeltierOnce again false evidence against Leonard Peltier has been produced, and entered into court record. Darlene Ecoffey was paid over $49,000 for her work wearing a wire against her old friends and family. In 1976, she faced 80 years in prison for weapons charges following an accidental detonation of explosives that blew up the car in which she was traveling near Wellington, Kansas. She was given three years federal probation.

Regardless of hearsay scenarios put forth by anti- American Indian Movement and pro- Federal government “reporters”, Leonard and Anna Mae (many who knew her call her Annie Mae) were friends. Mary Crow Dog’s 1991 book, “Lakota Woman,” has a chapter about Anna Mae in which she says: “In the months before her death she (Anna Mae) got really close to Leonard Peltier. She admired him and could not do enough for him …. but things turned out tragically for both of them.” Leonard did not believe Anna Mae to be an informant. This fact was made evident by Mrs. Ecoffey’s own testimony on cross examination, and by the actions of both Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae following the shootout at Jumping Bull’s property on June 26, 1975.

On January 24th  of this year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Professor) James Anaya, Lenny Foster, David Hill and I visited with Leonard Peltier, where he is now incarcerated at United States Penitentiary Coleman 1 near Wildwood, Florida. During our lengthy discussion, we recalled how, during the effort leading to receive a grant of Executive Clemency from President Bill Clinton, then FBI Director Louis Freeh brought photograph’s of the agents mortally wounded bodies around to offices within the United States Federal government, including the Office of Pardon Attorney, and demanded that Leonard never be released from prison.

During that same meeting at USP Coleman last January, we discussed and speculated what the response might be by the FBI, federal government and anti- Peltier forces, to both the historic visit by Professor Anaya, and the ongoing campaign for Executive Clemency from President Obama. One speculation was that there might be an ad, or article against Leonard Peltier in the major news media, not unlike the anti-Peltier piece placed in the Washington Post in November of 1999 by members of the FBI.  Truth and reconciliation in Indian Country will remain impossible until the United States government releases long withheld information on the murder of Anna Mae, and the fraudulent prosecution, conviction and incarceration of Leonard Peltier. Clemency for Mr. Peltier will be a major step towards justice and healing.

Peter Clark serves as the international chapter coordinator for the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.


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