August 17, 2000 - Editor's Note: The following questions are based primarily on issues raised since the inception of the NPPA web site on April 30, 2000. A FAQ section on the site was not created initially because the site was designed to direct the concerned and interested reader and researcher to the substantive issues presented rather than a summary of the material discussed. The below listed answers have appropriate links to the site itself.
What is the Purpose of the NPPA?
The NPPA was launched in April, 2000. It's original intent was to create a mechanism to generate signatures to oppose the then upcoming parole (June, 2000) of Leonard Peltier. It's second purpose was to respond to the statements and allegations made by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) through their web site, www.freepeltier.org. The LPDC was, for a number of years, the only voice heard in the public forum (on the Internet) regarding Peltier's conviction and status.
Why, How, and Who Created the NPPA?
The author of the NPPA site retired as a Special Agent from the FBI after thirty years of service. He had been an officer in the Green Berets and a professional corporate jet pilot. He had investigated traditional criminal matters including organized crime, bank robberies, kidnapping, extortion, etc., but never worked an Indian Reservation related case and never met either Agents Jack Coler or Ron Williams. He remembers when these agents died, as well as when all agents during his career were killed in the line of duty.
On April 3, 2000, the author met Jack Coler's youngest son who was 1½ at the time of his father's death in 1975. The casual meeting had nothing to do with his father or Peltier but the author did learn about the upcoming parole hearing. That evening the author did a search on the Internet and was appalled by the results. There were dozens of web sites all calling for the parole or clemency of political prisoner Leonard Peltier. Each site was reviewed and the most prominent one, www.freepeltier.org was downloaded and reviewed in detail. The statements and allegations were disconcerting to say the least, which raised the obvious questions; Was the FBI's case against Peltier that bad, and was he wrongfully convicted? The only other information available about the Government's position on the Peltier case was on the FBI Minneapolis web site (Resmurs, for Reservation Murders). This material was also reviewed. The contradictions between both sides of the issue were glaring.
The author decided to do further research and relied on the advice of the LPDC and purchased the Peter Matthiessen book, In The Spirit of Crazy Horse and rented and viewed many times, the film Incident at Oglala. What developed from that initial review were many seemingly irreconcilable contradictions in the statements made by those closest to what happened at the Jumping Bull Compound on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on June 26, 1975. Statements of Dino Butler, Robert Robideau and Leonard Peltier contradicted the public statements being made by the LPDC.
Much more research was done and the web site was launched on April 30, 2000.
Who Makes Up the NPPA?
First, it is made up of those who have a personal connection to the vicious death of two FBI Special Agents. Secondly, men and women who carry a badge and gun and are willing to place their lives on the line to protect the safety and rights of every citizen, the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, Parents Of Murdered Children, those who believe in justice, and, finally, concerned people who are willing to consider all sides of an issue.
How Much Taxpayer Time and Money Go Into the NPPA and its Web Site?
This site was created on the personal time of the author and others and engaged the services of a professional web site designer and webmaster.
Why is the NPPA Approach to the Peltier Issue Different?
The NPPA did not attempt to reargue the trial, conviction or appeals of Peltier. It did what was not done up to this point in the debate about his guilt or innocence: IT RELIED ON THE WORDS AND STATEMENTS OF THOSE INVOLVED, namely Dino Butler, Robert Robideau and Leonard Peltier. What the site does is source its quotes and then highlight the contradictions made by those directly involved in the murders of the agents.
Isn't the NPPA Made Up of Racists Who Hate Indians?
The statement of a deep and abiding concern for the history and welfare of American Indians is prominent on the Home Page of the NPPA site.
What are the Two Major Differences Between the LPDC and the NPPA?
- The fundamental difference in the philosophy between Peltier's supporters and his detractors is:
The LPDC views the killing of Agents Coler and Williams in the historical context of the horrible treatment of American Indians at the hands of the U.S. Government and the period they refer to as the "Reign of Terror."
The NPPA views June 26, 1975 as an isolated criminal act of murder of two defenseless human beings.
- The NPPA repeatedly invites anyone concerned or interested in Peltier's conviction and incarceration to go further and seek out both sides of the issue before making up their minds.
To nurture that discussion the NPPA offered a forum for debate. It invited dissenting opinions.
The LPDC only offers its own views of the evidence, and after repeated challenges, will not allow discussion or debate on its side.
What is the LPDC's Biggest Shortcoming?
It offers less than half the story.
They are more guilty of what they accuse others of doing.
Providing "...false information, or by the omission of key information with the intent to disinform." (page 10, LPDC letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, 6/26/00)
The LPDC makes statements that they must know are deliberately false and misleading, yet NEVER provide the follow-up information where those allegations have been repeatedly reviewed and found to be either wrong or without substance.
"Old Cowboy Boots" - Didn't the LPDC say that the shootout at Pine Ridge was over a stolen pair of used cowboy boots?
(Please see below for an update of the "Old Cowboy Boots" story with an interview with the victim, Jerry Schwarting: January 17, 2005)
Yes, the LPDC said that, but that's not really how it all started.
The backdrop to the shooting on June 26 began on June 23 by an incident at the Orville Schwarting ranch near Batesland on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Schwartings needed some help branding cattle. Orville Schwarting's son, Jerry, an agriculture student at the University of Nebraska, contacted Hobart Horse, a young Oglala who had worked for the Schwarting's so often he was considered almost part of the family. Horbart Horse said he could enlist three others to help. Jerry Schwarting and Robert Dunsmore, 14 (the son of the woman married to a hired hand), were taken captive at gun point by Horse and his associates - Herman Thunder Hawk, Teddy Pourier, and Jimmy Eagle (Gladys Bissonette's grandson), after the two had taken them back to Pouriers' home. They were held overnight and were robbed, threatened, and beaten. Dunsmore was undressed and kept away from Schwarting. Pourier slashed Schwarting on the arm with a pocketknife and both Dunsmore and Schwarting had a gun fired repeatedly over their heads. When the two were released, Schwarting's sister reported the incident to the Pine Ridge authorities. It was not a case of an overnight drinking session among friends that got out of hand and resulted in the theft of a pair of old cowboy boots.
Warrants for the arrest of the four involved in the kidnapping were issued. Pourier was arrested on June 25 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. That afternoon, Agents Coler and Williams, accompanied by BIA police officers Robert Ecoffey and Glen Little Bird, searched the White Clay area for the other suspects, especially Jimmy Eagle. The investigation led them to the Jumping Bull area and the home of Wallace "June" Little, less than a quarter of a mile from the Jumping Bull residence. They were told none of the suspects were there and a search of the house proved negative. The officers said they planned to continue the investigation in the Oglala area the next day. On the way back to Pine Ridge they questioned three youths, and took them back to Pine Ridge. None of them were among the wanted suspects and they were released that evening.
("In The Spirit of Crazy Horse" and "Wounded Knee")
(It is by no small coincidence that one of the three youths questioned by Agents' Coler and Williams and the BIA Officers that evening was Norman Charles. From that contact, Norman Charles knew full well who Agents' Coler and Williams were and the vehicles they drove. It was Norman Charles, along with Joe Stuntz, who accompanied Leonard Peltier in his borrowed red Chevrolet truck, that the Agents followed onto Pine Ridge the next day. It was Peltier, Stuntz and Norman Charles who first fired on the Agents.)
("Old Cowboy Boots" Revisited)
An element of the folklore surrounding Leonard Peltier is the continuing theme that Agents Coler and Williams went to Pine Ridge and Jumping Bull searching for someone who stole an old pair of cowboy boots.
A follow-up to this issue was prompted by a lengthy article in the Toronto Sun, within which the reporter stated, "On the morning June 26, 1975, Coler and agent Ron Williams drove into the Jumping Bull property, ostensibly to look for a teenager who had allegedly stolen a pair of cowboy boots." This article also precipitated another round of threats of lawsuits between a Peltier attorney and an editor who criticized the reporter and the article. The NPPA was prompted to finally get to the bottom of this incident.
On the evening of January 17, 2005 Mr. Jerry Schwarting was telephonically contacted and asked if he would be willing to discuss the incident which occurred on June 23, 1975. He agreed. Mr. Schwarting stated that he considered Hobart Horse a family friend and after a day of branding cattle with several other individuals agreed to provide Hobart Horse a ride to the residence of Teddy Pourier. Also at this residence were Herman Thunder Hawk and Jimmy Eagle. Accompaying them to Pourier's residence was a younger male, Robert Dunsmore. Mr. Schwarting is white; the other individuals were Native Americans.
While there, after some prompting and friendly dares from Hobart, Schwarting agreed to wrestle Hobart Horse for fun; he did, and beat Hobart three times. It was at that point the evening turned from an impromptu social gathering into a dangerous and criminal confrontation. Schwarting was beaten by the others, and held, along with the young teenager Dunsmore who was stripped of his clothes. They were both threatened, even with castration, and had guns repeatedly fired over their heads by the others.
During the telephonic interview, Mr. Schwarting, on his home computer, reviewed the NPPA section (above) concerning this incident and agreed that it was an accurate summary of what had happened. Mr. Schwarting added that at one point they stole his vehicle, jacket and boots, and clarified that the boots were only two months old and cost $200. Two hundred dollars in 1975 was a good sum of money to pay for a pair of boots.
Mr. Schwarting stated that during this episode he was put in fear for his life, was cut several times by Hobart and still carries the scars to this day.
He recalls being interviewed by FBI Agents Coler and Willilams, providing them with the details of the incident and later being held in protective custody for a period of time.
The final outcome of the charges in this incident is irrelevant. The fact remains that there was a violent confrontation, felony laws were violated, charges were filed, including robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, warrants issued, and on June 25th, one of the subjects, Teddy Pourier was arrested. Agents Coler and Williams were pursuing a fugitive investigation at that point and were attempting to locate and apprehend Jimmy Eagle on June 25, and at Jumping Bull on June 26.
To claim that the "Incident at Oglala" was over a stolen pair of old cowboy boots, as Peltier and the LPDC have repeatedly suggested, would be like saying Leonard Peltier has never changed his version of what happened at Jumping Bull that fateful morning.
What is the Most Important Thing for People Concerned About This Issue to Do?
Read the Court Decisions
Read the Court Decisions
Read the Court Decisions
It is within those decisions that EACH AND EVERY COMPLAINT AND ALLEGATION made by Peltier's attorneys and the LPDC have been addressed repeatedly, reviewed exhaustively, and resulted in Peltier's conviction having been upheld.
Was Peltier's Trial and Conviction Perfect?
But that is how the system works.
Peltier's attorneys noted errors and inconsistencies, challenged evidence and testimony, and appealed to the District Court, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Peltier had every opportunity, as the legal history of his case clearly demonstrates, to challenge the Government's case against him. The Courts heard all the arguments, allowing at one point a separate hearing on the ballistics evidence, where they had yet again another opportunity to attack the case against him. The Courts heard all the arguments and did not agree.
But Didn't the Prosecutor Admit That They Couldn't Prove Who Shot the Agents?
This allegation, perhaps more than any other statement made by the LPDC, is the most egregious.
The LPDC states:
"At the appellate hearing, the government attorney conceded, 'We had a murder, we had numerous shooters, we do not know who specifically fired what killing shots...we do not know who shot the agents.'" (LPDC web site, Statement of Fact section)
"Although Assistant United States Attorney Lynn Crooks now admits that no one knows who actually pulled the trigger and fired the fatal, close range shots at the two agents..." (page 8, LPDC letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, 6/28/00)
The LPDC's obvious intent and purpose of these statements is clear enough.
Peltier appealed again to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that because of the prosecutor's statement the government had changed its theory of the prosecution.
But, what AUSA Lynn Crooks actually said was:
"Well, undoubtedly, it wouldn't but I have no doubt whatsoever that we still would have convicted him. I think the best precedent that one can point to is the recent murder of our two marshals. We have exactly the same kind of situation. But we can't prove who shot those agents." (8th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1993.)
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals stated regarding this very issue:
- "Peltier's arguments fail because they are fatally flawed."
- "First, as the district court recognized in the section 2255 proceeding, it is unclear whether the references to 'those agents' was to the 'two marshals' mentioned two sentences earlier who had recently been murdered, or to the two FBI Agents killed in this case. In any event, this eight-word comment in response to Judge Heaney's statements is a totally inadequate basis for asserting that the government conceded that it had not proved that Peltier personally shot the agents at close range, or that that was the sole basis upon which the government tried the case."
- "It is impossible to conclude that, in all the circumstances, Crooks, who had participated in the trial of the case, intended by his unartfully phrased statement, 'We can't prove who shot those agents,' to abandon one of the two theories upon which the government had tried the case and upon which the case was submitted to the jury."
Peltier's attorney's were wrong in their theory and conclusions and the Court told them so.
The LPDC certainly understands what the Court of Appeals said and meant, their language is concise and straight forward on this issue.
But the LPDC continues to deliberately mislead everyone on this very important point.
Didn't Leonard Say That Mr. X Killed the Agents?
Peltier claimed that when the first shots were fired he was a couple of hundred yards away in "tent city" (the AIM, American Indian Movement camp) to the south, and joined others defending themselves and was firing at the agents from a distance.
Yet Peltier said, over many years, that he personally knew the individual who actually shot the agents at point blank range and drove off in the red pickup truck. When this lie apparently did not work, and in 1995 when his accomplice Dino Butler made public statements that it was, in fact, a lie, Peltier and the LPDC tried to distance themselves from what Peltier and Robert Robideau had concocted.
Mr. X is addressed at length in three sections of this site, Mr. X The Movie, Mr. X The Interview, and Mr. X The Lie.
If Peltier can so readily lie to his supporters about Mr. X, why should anyone believe his claims of innocence?
Wasn't the FBI Responsible For, or Contributed to, the "Murders" of 64 Native Americans?
But that is what the LPDC has claimed.
"During this Reign of Terror, some sixty-four Native Americans were MURDERED (See attached list)...The FBI had jurisdiction to investigate major crimes, and in fact the FBI to civilian ratio during this time frame was extraordinarily high. Yet these deaths were NEVER adequately investigated and NO PROSECUTIONS were brought." (LPDC web site, Statement of Fact section.)
"Meanwhile, there was no serious investigation of the 64 MURDERS, let alone the other related acts of violence by the goon members. Virtually all of these cases have gone UNRESOLVED, with NO CHARGES brought and NO TIME served."(emphasis added) (LPDC letter dated 6/26/00 to Attorney General Janet Reno.)
The intent of the LPDC with repeated statements such as these is apparent:
That the FBI had complicity in the deaths of innocent residents and did nothing about it!
The fact is, the FBI investigated every one of the deaths and in July, 2000 published the results of the list provided by the LPDC and another organization.
(The list provided by the LPDC contains 56 named deaths and 10 unnamed. The 10 unnamed cannot be addressed here. But, the disappearance of ten people who would have gone unnoticed by any law enforcement agency is beyond any reason and common sense. The LPDC does not detail this incredible assertion.)
Although the LPDC can argue the outcome of some of these deaths, they cannot ignore that what they have been alleging is FALSE and not backed by what actually occurred. The statistics can be viewed in many ways; this is just one possibility that the reader can contemplate:
The 56 named deaths include:
Child abuse 3, Domestic Violence 4, Alcohol related 5, Robbery 2, Fights/Personal disputes 14, Vehicular Homicide 4, Accidental Shooting 2, Health Reasons 2, Suicide 1, Accidental 2, No record of death 1.
Of these 56 named deaths:
21 resulted in Federal convictions and/or trials, 1 resulted in a local conviction, 22 were investigated but did not result in convictions for a number of valid reasons, at least one investigation remains pending, and 11 were not within the FBI's jurisdiction.
The climate on Pine Ridge during this period was the result of many cultural, historical and social issues, each converging in what can arguably be called a Reign of Terror, which left many innocent people caught in the middle. There were many factors present. The personal costs of many who were there, and the children who were affected by the events surrounding them, can be seen in a personal account from someone who was there. Analyzing all the history leading to June 26, 1975 would be a monumental task, and although painfully important, would not support the premise that this was a solitary and singular criminal act. The shoot-out, for however one-sided it was, could be attributed to those pent-up emotions and frustrations we know existed, but it was Leonard Peltier, knowing he was a fugitive and did not want to go to prison, who precipitated the initial assault on the two agents. And, going down to the agents and shooting them in the face at point-blank range, was horrible, criminal and totally unnecessary.
There are approximately 6 unresolved cases that are arguably contentious, but the point is that for the LPDC to make such a sweeping allegation against the FBI, without providing any factual basis, demonstrates that they were WRONG. The LPDC is either deliberately misinforming Peltier supporters or reluctant to pursue the results of these cases in order to continue its own agenda. The concerned reader is welcome to dispute the results for a number of these deaths, but the fact remains, they were ALL INVESTIGATED and many resolved through FEDERAL PROSECUTIONS.
Didn't Leonard Say the Agents Were Killed in Self-Defense?
Yes, he did.
With all that has been written and said about the shootout and timing of the agents' deaths, a few very basic facts remain: The agents were caught by surprise, out numbered and out gunned, and were severely wounded. It is probably certain that Agent Williams waved his shirt as a white flag of surrender before using it as a tourniquet on his dying partner's nearly severed arm. But they weren't allowed to surrender. Peltier's jury heard testimony that he, Robert Robideau, and Dino Butler went down to the agents' vehicles, where the agents lay helpless and defeated, and were then shot to death with direct shots to their faces.
This is Peltier's idea of self-defense.
Even after all these years, Peltier had this to say when asked this very question on CNN, September 10, 1999:
Interviewer: "So the deaths of those agents are not murders?"
Peltier: "NOT IN INDIAN - NOT IN INDIAN PEOPLES EYES"
Interviewer: "What are they?"
What Does Leonard Say About LPDC Efforts to Gain Clemency?
For all the work the LPDC and Peltier supporters have done to try to gain recognition for Peltier, and perhaps clemency from the President of the United States, this is how Leonard rewards their efforts and shows just what he thinks of the one person who could help him, with his now infamous, sleazebag statement:
Excerpt taken from Boulder Weekly - March 9, 2000
BW: How do you feel about the way things are going?
Peltier: Well... I still can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. These politicians are such sleazebags that you just don't know. You can't really get anything from a lot of them once they get into power. They totally forget about all their commitments. The poor people elect them, and they forget about all the poor people. When Clinton was running seven years ago, he was questioned by his campaign constituents, "What will you do for Leonard?" And he said, "I'll look into it." And here it is seven years later, and he still hasn't done anything. We know that the Federal Pardon Attorney in his first term recommended clemency. It went through Janet Reno's office. And it's been sitting in Janet Reno's office ever since. Numerous people have met with Clinton, and he knows about the case. Peter Matthiessen met with him, Thom White Wolf, the head of the United Methodist Church, has seen him several times. Clinton was on Pine Ridge last year, and he saw some of my supporters out there waving signs for my release. But Harold Salway [Oglala Tribal President] told me that when he and Clinton were by themselves, Clinton asked him, "Who's Leonard Peltier?" So it doesn't look that good for me when you got people saying those types of things, ya know?
Peltier says, "These politicians are such sleazebags that you just don't know." Peltier then, very specifically and deliberately, identifies one of the politicians he's referring to with TWELVE (12) SPECIFIC REFERENCES (plus a related quote) to the President of the United States.
IF THERE IS ANY OTHER WAY, AS THE LPDC TRIES TO SUGGEST, TO MISINTERPRET WHAT PELTIER SAID, CONCERNED READERS MUST MAKE THEIR OWN JUDGEMENTS.
Can the LPDC Successfully Re-Argue Peltier's Trial?
Because they ignore the legal history of this case.
Read the decisions.