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Former MP calls for justice, again

Friday, November 05, 1999

By Peter Worthington
Toronto Sun

As anyone knows who has ever tried, even in a minor way, to correct an injustice done to someone knows it can be a long, arduous, frustrating, tortuous path - just ask Warren Allmand.

When Indian activist Leonard Peltier was arrested in Canada in 1976 and extradited to the U.S. for the 1975 shooting deaths of two FBI agents during a range war on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reserve (near Wounded Knee), Allmand was first Canada's solicitor-general and then minister of Indian affairs.

He later realized the extradition was fraudulent, based on false affidavits acquired by the FBI from an Indian woman (Myrtle Poor Bear) who had never met Peltier, was not in Pine Ridge at the time, but who claimed to be his girlfriend and had watched him kill the agents.

Peltier is in the 23rd year of two consecutive life sentences. At first, I felt Peltier was guilty, but over years of examining the case and evidence, became convinced he didn't do it.

There seems not the slightest doubt that the FBI framed him. Even today, the FBI is determined he'll never go free - even though they now admit they haven't a clue who did the actual shooting.

In 1994, Allmand reviewed the case for then-justice minister Allan Rock, as did other justice department lawyers. Allmand released his report this week, after Justice Minister Anne McClellan released her own report (after contacting U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno) that the extradition was on the up-and-up and proper. Here are the highlights of Allmand's 1994 report on the extradition, with comments on memos submitted by Justice lawyers:

* Of three Poor Bear affidavits, one was never included in the extradition case in which she said she hadn't witnessed the shooting, and had departed Pine Ridge. The FBI later acknowledged Poor Bear was "incompetent" and her affidavits "unbelievable." (Yet McClellan effectively still vouches for them.)

Evidence 'fabricated'
* No circumstantial evidence was considered by Judge Schultz in the extradition and circumstantial evidence in Canada was different from that presented at Peltier's U.S. trial. Ballistic evidence accepted at this trial was later shown to be "questionable and in part, fabricated."

* After two other Indians were acquitted (Bob Robideau and Dino Butler) when their trial was shifted to Iowa, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI refused to let Peltier's trial take place in neutral territory and "pounded the community with adverse publicity regarding Peltier and the American Indian Movement (AIM)."

* A Canadian Justice lawyer went to the U.S. and co-operated with the FBI on the Poor Bear affidavits. Assistant FBI director Ronald Moore noted in a memo that it was on the Canadian lawyer's recommendation "that only Poor Bear's second and third affidavits were used."

Allmand concludes that if the Canadian lawyer didn't know about the excluded affidavit, "the FBI was guilty of trying to manufacture a case and mislead the Canadian justice system." (The lawyer himself denied any involvement and accused the FBI of trying to cover their butts.)  

Three judges questioned FBI integrity. Judge Ross of the U.S. Court of Appeal asked "why the prosecutor's officer continued to extract more from her (Poor Bear) ... is beyond my understanding." Appeal Judge Gerald Heaney: "The FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition ..." Judge R.P. Anderson of the B.C. Supreme Court: "It seems clear to me that the conduct of the U.S. government involved misconduct from inception." Judge Heaney determined that violence at Pine Ridge (over selling uranium resources that tribal elders opposed) was the "culmination of the federal government's refusal to respond to the 'legitimate grievances' raised by the Indian community."

The FBI supplied vigilante snipers with weapons and ammunition. The FBI concealed ballistic evidence indicating that Peltier's rifle could not have fired the shots that killed the agents. This "suppressed evidence" cast a strong doubt on the government's case.

Allmand found it's not unusual for the U.S. government to use illegal methods to return individuals to U.S. territory: a false extradition to get one individual returned from Mexico; kidnapping another in order to return a wanted man; the British House of Lords refused an extradition on grounds that evidence was shaky.

The FBI blocked publication of Peter Mathiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse for eight years with legal actions at a cost of some $25 million.

One oddity rarely mentioned is that the two murdered FBI agents (Ron Williams and Jack Coler) were supposedly entering the Jumping Bull compound to question one Jimmy Eagle about stolen cowboy boots.

Stolen boots are an FBI concern? Give us a break. They were there as the vanguard for concentrated attack - giving rise to the "self-defence" acquittal of Butler and Robideau.

In essence, Allmand in 1994 was "convinced that there was fraud and misconduct at both the extradition and the trial."

He recommended contacting the U.S. Attorney General and urging either a new trial or clemency. Failing that, he urged "an independent judicial inquiry" into circumstances of the extradition.  

Copyright Sun Media Group 1999