Tēna koe Barack
Dear Mr President
I know your time as Prez is coming to an end, so you won’t have too much time for stuff from down here in Aotearoa, but there’s a little something I’d like you to do for our Native American whanau up your way.
And it’s not Standing Rock, although the sooner you can stop the militarized pigs from stompin’ all over the people the better. Standing Rock has been a great rallying call for the people and I’m pickin’ they’re gonna win it.
No – what I’m coming to you about is something only you can handle. It’s about LEONARD PELTIER, a member of AIM – the American Indian Movement. Leonard’s been in prison the past 40 years for the killing of two FBI agents, during a stand-off between AIM and the FBI on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota in 1975.
Although Leonard admitted being present at the time, he has always denied shooting the FBI agents, but he was convicted in a trial he had no chance of winning.
The only person who “said” she saw Leonard shoot the FBI was a Lakota woman from Pine Ridge, Myrtle Poor Bear, who later retracted her testimony – issuing a public statement that her testimony was the result of months of threats and harassment from the FBI.
Her testimony formed part of the prosecution case even though they didn’t call her as a witness at the trial, and the judge refused to allow Leonard’s attorneys to call her as a defence witness because her testimony “could be highly prejudicial to the government”.
Then in 1980 Leonard’s lawyers filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, and got access to documents which would have helped Leonard’s defence but had been withheld by the prosecution at trial. And unfortunately for Leonard, in 1986 the US Court of Appeal denied him a retrial, stating that: “We recognize that there is some evidence in this record of improper conduct on the part of some FBI agents, but we are reluctant to impute even further improprieties to them.”
And then on top of that the US Parole Commission continues to deny Leonard parole because he refuses to accept criminal responsibility for the murder, even though they acknowledged that “the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that you personally participated in the executions of two FBI agents”.
Bro – Leonard is 71 years old, he’s been in jail 40 years already, a lot of it in solitary confinement, they got him way down in Florida (about as far away from his home in North Dakota as you can get) he’s got diabetes, and he’s just been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
And here’s where you come in … one of the things you get to do as outgoing President is release people from prison. I know that because over the years I’ve watched other presidents release corporate criminals, bagmen, dodgy politicians and all sorts of creeps. Leonard ain’t like that; I got to talk to him back in the day and I can tell you – he’s a good man (although I hope you don’t hold that against him).
Bro – you got the power, and nobody else will ever have the courage to do it, so if you don’t mind … FREE LEONARD PELTIER.
heoi ano ra