Leonard Peltier Has COVID. Will Biden Finally Consider Freeing Him?

Jailed 77-year-old Native American activist Leonard Peltier has examined constructive for COVID-19 lower than per week after describing his jail situations as a “torture chamber.” Peltier was convicted of aiding and abetting the killing of two FBI brokers throughout a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 whereas a member of the American Indian Motion. He has lengthy maintained his innocence and is taken into account by Amnesty Worldwide as a political prisoner. We converse along with his lawyer and former federal choose Kevin Sharp, who says Peltier’s case was riddled with misconduct, together with witness intimidation and withholding exculpatory proof. Sharp argues Peltier’s well being, age and unfair trial make him the right candidate for government clemency. “The authorized cures are now not obtainable,” says Sharp on Peltier’s case. “Now it’s time for the [Bureau of Prisons] and the president of the US to repair this and ship him house.”

It is a rush transcript. Copy will not be in its remaining kind.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Battle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The jailed Native American activist Leonard Peltier has examined constructive for COVID, lower than per week after describing his jail as a “torture chamber.” Peltier, who suffers from a number of well being situations, says he and others held on the Coleman Federal Correctional Complicated in Florida have but to obtain their COVID booster photographs and describes worsening neglect and uncertainty. In an announcement, Leonard Peltier writes, “Left alone and with out consideration is sort of a torture chamber for the sick and outdated.”

The 77-year-old Leonard Peltier is a Lakota and Chippewa Native American from the state of North Dakota. He’s been jailed for 46 years. In 1977, he was convicted of killing two FBI brokers throughout a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. On the time, Peltier was a member of AIM, the American Indian Motion. He has all the time maintained his innocence. Amnesty Worldwide considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a good trial.

The 1975 shootout occurred two years after AIM occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days. The occupation of Wounded Knee is taken into account the start of what Oglala individuals consult with because the “reign of terror.” Throughout that point, some 64 Native People have been murdered. Most of them had ties to AIM. Their deaths went uninvestigated by the FBI.

Over the previous 25 years, Indigenous and human rights teams lobbied each President Clinton and President Obama to pardon Leonard Peltier, however they refused. Now President Biden is dealing with strain to take action. On Wednesday, Senator Brian Schatz, who’s chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, wrote a letter to Biden urging him to commute Peltier’s sentence.

We’re joined now by Leonard Peltier’s lawyer, Kevin Sharp. Kevin Sharp is a former federal choose who resigned from the bench to combat towards necessary minimal legal guidelines. He’s becoming a member of us from Nashville, Tennessee.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can we name you Decide Sharp despite the fact that you’ve gotten left your judgeship?

KEVIN SHARP: You understand, it’s one of many few issues I get to hold onto, the title.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Decide Sharp, first, for those who can inform us about Leonard’s situation? After which discuss why you took on his case.

KEVIN SHARP: Nicely, the situation half is hard, as a result of it’s tough to get data out of the BOP, the Bureau of Prisons. There are — he examined constructive on Friday, and so there have been individuals there that I used to be capable of speak to. Over the weekend, you’ve gotten a really skeleton crew, and there’s actually not a lot data I might get, though they’d speak to me briefly, besides to say he’s doing OK and has not needed to have been moved but. So, up to now, so good. As quickly as this section is over, I’m going to name the jail once more, and I ought to have the ability to come up with his counselor. However that’s the place we’re. He has COVID. He’s feeling actually poorly. That is the data I had on Friday. And he’s been quarantined. And so, that’s sort of the place we’re.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Decide Sharp, discuss why you took on Leonard Peltier’s case.

KEVIN SHARP: You understand, that’s fascinating, as a result of once I stepped down from the bench, I began engaged on clemency for a younger man that I had sentenced to life in jail. I believed that — it was a compulsory minimal sentence, very unfair. And I began engaged on clemency for him. And in the end we have been capable of get clemency from President Trump. However Kim Kardashian received concerned in that case. And with Kim’s involvement got here plenty of media consideration.

That media consideration caught the eye of a girl, Willie Nelson’s ex-wife, Connie Nelson, in Texas, who requested somebody to ship me the entire data on Leonard’s case. I sat right down to learn the stacks, simply reams of data on Leonard’s case, not likely coming at it with any preconceived notion. I didn’t know a lot about it. I used to be solely 12 years outdated when the occasions occurred, so I didn’t know a lot. And I got here at this it from the perspective of a federal choose. And what I noticed was stunning. The constitutional violations simply continued to stack up, and I used to be actually outraged that this man was nonetheless in jail, figuring out what everybody now knew. And so, with that, I agreed to tackle this case professional bono.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Kevin Sharp, I type of laid out the case of Leonard Peltier. However are you able to, after reviewing it, all of the paperwork, figuring out what you already know as a choose and a lawyer, lay out Leonard Peltier’s case? What most shocked you about it? After which, what are your grounds now for asking for the commutation of his sentence?

KEVIN SHARP: Nicely, they relate to one another. The issues that the majority shocked me was the extent of outright misconduct by the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace, the then-U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace, and the then-FBI, what they did within the type of intimidating and threatening witnesses, hiding exculpatory proof, suborning perjury. And all of that’s recognized. When Leonard appealed all of those points through the years, a few of it was recognized, a few of it wasn’t, however the requirements have been completely different. And if this case have been introduced up at present, no query: This verdict will get overturned.

And in the end, even the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace needed to admit that they don’t know who killed the brokers. And so, we’re sitting right here with the prosecutor saying, “We don’t know who did it, however, certain, life sentence for this man appears wonderful.” As a matter of truth, within the early ’90s, 60 Minutes did a section on this, they usually talked to the assistant U.S. lawyer who tried the case, and particularly requested him about perjury of one of many witnesses, a girl named Myrtle Poor Bear. And initially, the AUSA stated, “I didn’t comprehend it was perjured testimony,” however then he seems within the digital camera and says, “However so what if I did? It doesn’t trouble my conscience one whit.” And at that, I’m that and going, they knew it, and he’s admitting it right here on nationwide tv.

What they did was outrageous and utterly ignoring the Structure of the US in order that they might get a conviction. A part of the explanation for that, that sort of fervor to get a conviction at any value, is as a result of his co-defendants have been acquitted primarily based on self-defense. So he’s actually their final likelihood at getting a conviction. And so, it was a conviction at any value.

Now, as soon as it was found, one of many issues that they had accomplished was withhold exculpatory proof. That’s proof that tends to indicate the particular person isn’t responsible of the crime you’re accusing them of committing. And that exculpatory proof on this case was a ballistics take a look at that that they had testified didn’t exist, when actually it did exist. And it wasn’t found for years afterwards. So, by withholding that ballistics take a look at, it disadvantaged Mr. Peltier of a good trial. The Structure requires that that be proven. So, you already know, these items simply stack up, and that’s what so outraged me.

AMY GOODMAN: I need to return to Election Day 2000. I had an opportunity to interview then-President Invoice Clinton. He had known as our radio station, Pacifica station WBAI, in an try to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton for Senate and Al Gore for president. So I used the chance to ask him concerning the case of Leonard Peltier.

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton, because it’s uncommon to get you on the cellphone, let me ask you one other query. And that’s: What’s your place on granting Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist, government clemency?

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Nicely, I don’t — I don’t have a place I can announce but. I feel if — I imagine there’s a new utility for him in there. And when I’ve time, after the election is over, I’m going to assessment all of the remaining government clemency functions and, you already know, see what the deserves dictate. I’ll attempt to do what I feel the suitable factor to do relies on the proof.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I now need to flip to Leonard Peltier in his on phrases. Shortly after I interviewed President Clinton in 2000, I spoke to Leonard when he was being held on the Leavenworth federal penitentiary in Kansas.

LEONARD PELTIER: My title is Leonard Peltier. I’m a Lakota and Chippewa Native American from the state of North Dakota. I’m presently serving two life sentences for the deaths of two FBI brokers in Leavenworth United States Penitentiary.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you kill the FBI brokers?

LEONARD PELTIER: No, I didn’t. No.

AMY GOODMAN: Possibly we might return to that day that these FBI brokers have been killed, and you possibly can inform us what occurred.

LEONARD PELTIER: Nicely, at the moment, there was a — what is called at present as a area of terror occurring towards conventional individuals from the so-called progressives below a tribal chairman named Dick Wilson, who was very corrupt, who organized his personal non-public police pressure, sort of like a Contra group, and began terrorizing his personal individuals, personal traditionalists on the reservation. So the traditionalists requested for the assistance of the American Indian Motion. And the top consequence, after lengthy protests and my getting no responses from any legislation enforcement company within the nation, Wounded Knee II was then occupied, and there was a 71-day siege.

After that, he, Dick Wilson, once more intensified his goon squads. And the Common Accounting Service, an company of the US authorities, did an investigation, and earlier than the funding was — ran out, they discovered over 60 murdered Indian individuals, traditionalists. And so, on June twenty sixth, we didn’t comprehend it on the time, however we knew later from Freedom of Data paperwork, that the FBI, with the goon squads, have been planning on assaults on the Leaping Bull Ranch and one other ranch in Kyle — that’s one other group on the reservation — that they have been declaring American Indian Motion strongholds. And on June twenty sixth, a firefight began. And the top consequence was two FBI brokers and one Indian, younger Indian man, was killed.

They usually indicted 4 of us — Bob Robideau, Dino Butler, Jimmy Eagle. After a 12 months, they dropped the costs on Jimmy Eagle. And Bob and Dino went to trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was discovered not responsible by causes of self-defense. I used to be later — my trial was mysteriously moved from Cedar Rapids, which I used to be imagined to go to trial on the identical place below the identical choose as my co-defendants — was mysteriously moved to Fargo, North Dakota.

Later paperwork present that the FBI then went choose buying to get a choose to work intently with them. And Decide Paul Benson agreed to do it. And I used to be not allowed to place up a protection. They manufactured proof. The homicide weapon was perjury by authorities witnesses. And the choose erred in his rulings, which prevented me from placing up a protection.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Leonard Peltier in 2000, virtually — properly, over twenty years in the past. He was at Leavenworth. I spoke to him in 2012. It was the day after a significant fundraiser for him on the Beacon Theatre, a significant live performance fundraiser, and there was an occasion the following day. And it was in that room that he was capable of name in. I spoke to him on the cellphone from jail. At that time he was in Florida, and this was throughout the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Leonard, that is Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! I used to be —

LEONARD PELTIER: Oh, hello, Amy. How are you?

AMY GOODMAN: Hello. I’m good. I used to be questioning when you’ve got a message for President Obama?

LEONARD PELTIER: I simply hope he can, you already know, cease the wars which can be occurring on this world, and cease getting — killing all these individuals getting killed, and, you already know, give the Black Hills again to my individuals, and switch me free.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you able to share with individuals on the information convention and with President Obama your case for why you need to be — your sentence must be commuted, why you need clemency?

LEONARD PELTIER: Nicely, I by no means received a good trial, for one. … They wouldn’t permit me to place up a protection, and manufactured proof, manufactured witnesses, tortured witnesses. You understand, the checklist is — simply goes on. So I feel I’m an excellent candidate for — after 37 years, for clemency or home arrest, at the very least.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Leonard Peltier 9 years in the past in jail from Florida. Decide Sharp, now Leonard Peltier’s lawyer, are you able to speak concerning the significance of what he stated in these two conversations — and in addition, the primary one, talking to him throughout Clinton, actually, wasn’t President Clinton near granting him clemency? — after which below Obama, and what you hope might be completely different below President Biden?

KEVIN SHARP: Nicely, sure. Let me sort of take these in items. What Leonard stated was correct. Most of what he stated, a few of it was as a result of he was there, so he’s received his personal private accounts, and a few of it’s backed up by paperwork turned over throughout the Freedom of Data Act — or, by means of a Freedom of Data Act request. We now know that the witnesses have been intimidated. He’s completely proper about that. We now know that exculpatory proof displaying this was not his weapon that killed the brokers — we now know that was hidden. We now know that Myrtle Poor Bear was compelled to lie. We all know that the younger boys who have been the most important witnesses, eyewitnesses towards him, recanted that testimony. It wasn’t true. So we all know these issues. But right here we’re 46 years later nonetheless speaking about whether or not or not this man must be freed.

The U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace, the federal authorities, says, “We have no idea who killed the brokers.” They ended up — due to the entire misconduct that was found within the trial, they modified their idea from one which he shot these brokers to aiding and abetting. Nicely, then the query turns into: Who did he support and abet? As a result of his co-defendants have been acquitted primarily based on self-defense. So, who did he support and abet? When requested that query, the assistant U.S. lawyer, in a single sense, a flippant response was, “I don’t know. Possibly himself.” Nicely, that’s not possible. You can’t support and abet your self.

So, all of these issues stacked up with time inform you this — sufficient is sufficient. And I notice I say that, however it’s completely true. This has to finish. And, sure, my understanding from speaking to the individuals concerned on the time of the Clinton administration was that the papers have been on his desk to be signed. Why they weren’t signed, I don’t know. I don’t know. The identical with President Obama. I don’t know the way shut he received. But it surely tells you there’s a constituency.

The massive false impression about that is that Leonard Peltier was convicted of capturing two brokers. He was not. They needed to drop that, as a result of there was — the proof that that they had introduced that he had shot two brokers was false. It was perjury. It was manufactured. In order that they needed to drop that case and give you a brand new idea, and that idea was aiding and abetting. And when Leonard talked about not having the ability to placed on his protection, one of many issues that Decide Benson stated was — when he excluded the proof associated to the misconduct within the reign of terror, was that the FBI isn’t on trial right here. However as soon as he did that, it’s important to put all of this in context. That’s why Decide Heaney, who was on the eighth Circuit, who heard his enchantment — and though upheld the conviction, later got here out himself in favor of commuting this sentence — stated the federal authorities has to take accountability for what occurred right here. And completely, they do. Context issues. However the lack of proof that this man killed somebody additionally issues.

And so it’s time. We’re now 46 years later. We’ve received a 77-year-old man with a number of well being points, and his tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, saying, “We are going to embrace him. Please ship him house to us.” And that’s what I’m asking the president to do: Ship him house.

AMY GOODMAN: Decide Sharp, what did J. Edgar Hoover should do with this case, the previous head of the FBI on the time?

KEVIN SHARP: You understand, that comes again into COINTELPRO, the place there was a division contained in the FBI tasked with working counterintelligence towards our personal residents. They usually did that with respect to Martin Luther King, the scholar nonviolent motion, the Black Panthers and the American Indian Motion. In the event that they thought-about them to be subversive, then they have been working counterintelligence towards them. And so, though Hoover was passed by 1975, we’re just one director faraway from Hoover, and the techniques — if not a bunch inside the FBI that had that title, the techniques nonetheless existed. And that’s precisely what was occurring. It’s very Vietnamesque.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wished to learn part of Senator Schatz’s letter, the senator from Hawaii, who appealed to President Biden. He’s chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He wrote, “Mr. Peltier meets acceptable standards for commutation: (1) his outdated age and significant sickness, (2) the period of time he has already served, and (3) the unavailability of different cures.” Clarify what he’s saying.

KEVIN SHARP: Nicely, there may be the power to launch prisoners below compassionate launch and as a part of the commutation powers of the president of the US. And he’s asking the president, primarily based on these standards, to finish this and ship Leonard house. And he’s completely proper about that. That is — and I hear this from executives, who say, “Nicely, the prison justice system labored. I’m not going to step in and inject myself into the prison justice system.” What they’re doing, although, is abdicating their accountability as a part of the prison justice system, the president or governor, within the case of a state, that they’re the prison justice system, they usually have the power to step in and proper a unsuitable like this, the place the authorized cures — notably due to the usual of assessment on the time, the authorized cures are now not obtainable. Now it’s time for the BOP and the president of the US to repair this and ship him house.

AMY GOODMAN: I need to finish by studying extra from Leonard Peltier’s assertion on the present situations contained in the Coleman jail. Leonard Peltier writes, “I’m in hell, and there’s no solution to take care of it however to take it so long as you may. I cling to the assumption that persons are on the market doing what they will to alter our circumstances in right here. The worry and stress are taking a toll on everybody, together with the employees. You may see it of their faces and listen to it of their voices. The entire establishment is on complete LOCKDOWN.”

He says, “Out and in of lockdown final 12 months at the very least meant a bathe each third day, a meal past a sandwich moist with slightly peanut butter — however now with COVID for an excuse, nothing. No cellphone, no window, no recent air — no people to assemble — no liked one’s voice. No reduction. Left alone and with out consideration is sort of a torture chamber for the sick and outdated.”

He writes, “The place are our human rights activists? You’re listening to with me, and with me, many determined women and men! They’re turning an already harsh setting into an asylum, and for a lot of who didn’t obtain a demise penalty, we are actually staring down the face of 1! Assist me, my brothers and sisters, assist me my good pals.”

These are the phrases of jailed Native American chief Leonard Peltier after 46 years in jail, now on the Coleman jail in Florida. Decide Kevin Sharp is his new choose and — is his new lawyer and is interesting for clemency from President Biden. Lastly, Kevin Sharp, has President Biden responded to your plea?

KEVIN SHARP: He has not. And I observed within the press convention final week a reporter requested him about that and — or requested the press secretary about that, and she or he begged off of that, stated, you already know, she was unable to reply that query. So, you already know, I do know that it’s on the president’s radar, and he has the chance to repair this. And he has the chance to be a president with braveness and a president who cares about the US Structure. It’s, you already know, choose up the pen and signal the paper, and let’s finish this. Let’s cease speaking about this. The FBI says, “We aren’t the FBI of the Nineteen Seventies.” And I imagine them. However now let’s present it. Present it and assist clemency for Mr. Peltier.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Sharp is a former federal choose and now an lawyer who represents Leonard Peltier. Once more, the most recent information, Leonard Peltier is sick with COVID.

Subsequent up, President Biden is assembly with New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams. Each need to put extra police on the road. We’ll have a look at the nationwide debate over policing with Patrisse Cullors, one of many founders of Black Lives Matter, creator of a brand new e book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook. Stick with us.