June 5, 2005
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PELTIER HEARING TO ADDRESS LAKOTA NATION SOVEREIGNTY
As Mark Felt, one of the main responsible FBI officers overseeing illegal counterintelligence programs targeting the American Indian Movement and other groups in the 60s and 70's, is hailed as a hero for catalyzing the toppling of the Nixon administration, Leonard Peltier approaches his fourth decade of unjust imprisonment.
Today, from the perspective of the U.S. government, everything is excusable in the war theatre, even as the world questions U.S. policies and actions that point unequivocally to human rights abuses. A puppet government, people murdered and terrorized, that was the climate in the Pine Ridge reservation in 1975 when two FBI agents were killed in a shootout. Leonard Peltier and fellow warriors responded to the call for protection from the Oglala Lakota people, but he was blamed for the deaths of the agents and is serving two consecutive life terms for that.
However, his defense team has been granted a hearing to correct his illegal sentencing. The basis for this motion is that the United States District Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the statutes upon which Mr. Peltier was convicted and sentenced. The statutes in question require that the crime take place "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States". Since the deaths of the agents occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which is neither "within the special maritime [or] territorial jurisdiction of the United States", the Peltier defense team is asking the Court to grant Mr. Peltier's motion and vacate the illegal sentences imposed upon him. If the Court does not recognize the Pine Ridge Reservation as sovereign "then one must wonder, what does sovereignty mean?" stated Barry Bachrach, attorney for Leonard Peltier. "Sovereignty seems to be a concept that is given merely lip service. It is raised when the government does not want to get involved, and infringed when the government wants to take action." As Bachrach further stated, "This hearing is important because Mr. Peltier was never charged with crimes over which the United States had jurisdiction. The history of the constitution, and the statutes implicated, unequivocally establish that Mr. Peltier was not convicted under the Indian Crimes Act, which is the only possible authority under which the government could have tried and convicted Mr. Peltier. Whereas here, the court had no jurisdiction to convict Mr. Peltier under the crimes for which he was convicted, those convictions must be set aside as a matter of law."
The hearing will take place on Wednesday June 15th, 2005 at 2:00 PM at the Quentin N. Burdick U.S. Courthouse in Fargo, North Dakota (655 1st Ave. North - 4th Floor, Courtroom 1).
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
RUSS REDNER, LPDC DIRECTOR, 915-533-6655 or TOLL FREE 866-534-6151
BARRY BACHRACH, LPDC ATTORNEY, 508-926-3403