Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 9, 2017

Former FBI agent asks Obama to free Leonard Peltier

January 09, 2017
Contact:  Peter Clark, Co-Director, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, (505) 217-3612 or
Former FBI agent asks Obama to free Native American activist Leonard Peltier
In a letter dated January 3, former agent and charter member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association (FBIAA) John C. "Jack" Ryan wrote to President Obama to request a grant of clemency to Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Leonard Peltier should receive clemency, Ryan said, "…in the interest of the system of justice for which my two fellow agents died, and in the interest of reconciliation and compassion."
In 1977, Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the shooting deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. 
"… the circumstances surrounding the case in combination with the passage of 4 decades of time served support [Peltier's] request to live his final years at home… When Agents Coler and Williams lost their lives it was a devastating loss to us agents. Emotion ruled the decision-making process and likely clouded the judgment of the massive team of whom were driven to hold someone responsible for our loss," Ryan wrote. "If the government could do it all over again, it would respond differently. Through today's lens, Leonard Peltier was not treated fairly and did not get a fair trial."
In 2000, Congressman Don Edwards (also a former agent) stated: "The FBI continues to deny its improper conduct on Pine Ridge during the 1970s and in the trial of Leonard Peltier. The FBI used Mr. Peltier as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents."
Edwards' words ring true today. Last week, the FBIAA succeeded in pressuring American University to remove a statue of Peltier that was exhibited there, and when former U.S. Attorney James Reynolds' letter to the President to request that he grant clemency to Peltier was publicized, some sought to discredit Reynolds stating that he falsely claimed involvement with the Peltier case. 
"The FBI's perpetual demonization of Leonard Peltier is an effort to poison public opinion and avoid self-reflection. Mr. Peltier's clemency petition is not a referendum on federal law enforcement; it presents a moral imperative which President Obama can address," said Peltier attorney Cynthia Dunne, herself a former federal prosecutor. "By reckoning with the past and moving forward in the best interests of justice, reconciliation and compassion, we can become a stronger nation. It is time to free Leonard Peltier."
Currently imprisoned in a maximum-security facility in Coleman, Florida, Peltier is far away from his reservation in North Dakota.  Maintaining strong family ties has been difficult. He has never even met some of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  In December, Peltier's younger son passed away while in Washington, DC, advocating for his father's release. Prison authorities refused to allow Peltier to attend his son's funeral.
At 72 years, Peltier suffers from serious medical problems that impair his ability to walk, see, and conduct normal life activities. He suffers from severe diabetes, hypertension and a heart condition, and has been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Recently, he was told he needs prostate surgery. 
Imprisoned for 41 years, Peltier has long been eligible for release, but federal authorities have yielded to the objections of the FBI in denying Peltier's applications for parole—most recently in 2009 when he was told he will not receive another full parole hearing until 2024 when, if he survives, he will have reached nearly the age of 80 years. Peltier says he's eligible for mandatory release, but the government has failed to apply its 30 -year rule (after 30 years served, all sentences are to be aggregated and the prisoner released) or consider the good-time credit he has earned (20 years, to date).
Peltier's release from prison now depends on a grant of clemency by President Obama who leaves office on January 20.
Download Attachments:
January 3, 2017 Letter of former FBI agent John C. Ryan
December 14, 2000 Statement by former U.S. Congressman Don Edwards
December 21, 2016 Letter of former U.S. Attorney James Reynolds
What YOU can do:  Call President Obama for Leonard Peltier: 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414; email President Obama:; post a comment on Obama's Facebook page: or message him at (or; send a tweet to President Obama: @POTUS or @WhiteHouse; and/or write a letter: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.
International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Headquarters: 202 Harvard Drive SE, #5, Albuquerque, NM  87106
(505) 217-3612 
Mailing Address: PO Box 24, Hillsboro, OR  97123

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