The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Leonard Peltier
Dear President Obama:
Today, symbolically, on National Peace Officers Memorial Day, we write this letter on behalf of over 20,000 active and former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who are members of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI and the FBI Agents Association. We speak with one voice to reaffirm our strong belief that the convicted killer of FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams must never again be a free man.
We are concerned that you may be called on to use your authority to release this killer -- Leonard Peltier -- from prison. Providing any form of early release to him would be unjust and harmful. An unbiased review of the court record, along with his statements and actions over nearly four decades, make it clear that Peltier should remain imprisoned. Releasing Peltier would send a negative message to all Americans about the importance of the rule of law and would be a chilling blow to the entire law enforcement community.
In the midst of activist and celebrity appeals, it can be easy to lose sight of the facts surrounding Peltier’s crimes. On June 26, 1975, Special Agents Coler and Williams were conducting a fugitive investigation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In an unrelated matter and unknown to the agents, Peltier had an outstanding warrant for his arrest and happened to be on the reservation that day. Seeing the agents’ cars in an open field, Peltier stopped his vehicle about a hundred yards away, and he and his passengers opened fire on them. Others continued shooting at the agents from another location. Witnesses testified that Peltier was a shooter and was among those who approached the wounded agents. Evidence at trial proved that the agents were defenseless and were executed at point-blank range, and the weapon used to kill them was linked to Peltier. Forensic evidence determined that over 125 shots were fired at the wounded agents.
In April 1977, Peltier was convicted in federal court for his role in the first-degree murders of the two agents. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. He was later sentenced to an additional seven-year consecutive sentence for an armed escape from Lompoc Penitentiary.
Peltier has challenged his convictions through a wide range of legal maneuvers, and, on every occasion, Peltier’s conviction and sentencing have been affirmed. Peltier has changed his version of the shootings many times in an attempt to escape justice. At every turn, his alibis have been repudiated by those most knowledgeable and personally involved in the case.
Most recently, in 2009 the U.S. Parole Commission denied Peltier’s request for parole. We agree with the statement made by U.S. Attorney Drew Wigley after that decision: “Leonard Peltier is an unrepentant, cold-blooded murderer who executed FBI Special Agents Williams and Coler, and in doing that he tore them from their families and from their communities forever. . . . Leonard Peltier is exactly where he belongs -- federal prison, serving two life sentences.”
It is unfortunate -- and we contend, a mistake -- that Peltier and his supporters have had some success in publicly framing his conviction in terms of the historical mistreatment of Native Americans. Peltier is the wrong person to be the symbol of the plight of Native Americans in America. Peltier is a murderer with an utter lack of remorse for his actions, and it is wrong to assign any political or moral high ground to his case.
We trust that you, and other appropriate officials, will review the entire history of this matter before considering providing Peltier with any assistance in avoiding his duly imposed sentences. This is a matter of great importance to the law enforcement community. We appreciate your consideration of our views, and we are prepared to provide information about the facts underlying Peltier’s convictions and his record of fabrications and inconsistencies.
cc: Additional copies sent
Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI
FBI Agents Association