Local Attorneys Seek Federal Leonard Peltier Documents
by George Sax
On May 13, 2004, Buffalo attorney Michael Kuzma filed an application with the US Department of Justice for all records in its possession relating to one Frank Black Horse. Kuzma represented Leonard Peltier, a federal prisoner since 1976, convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975, during a siege of a reservation ranch by federal agents.
Last Friday, on Kuzma’s behalf, local attorneys Peter A. Reese and Daire Brian Irwin filed a suit in the US District Court in Buffalo seeking an order directing the Justice Department to release the requested records of Black Horse. (Reese has represented both Artvoice and one of its staffers.)
Black Horse, whose real name is Frank Deluca and who is no Indian despite his alias, has been a resident of Canada since 1976 when, under federal indictment, he fled this country after shooting and wounding an FBI agent at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. He and Peltier were both arrested in Hinton, Alberta on February 6, 1976, but only Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), was extradited to the States to stand trial. Despite the federal indictment against him, Black Horse has remained free across the border ever since. Peltier’s supporters, legal counsel and a number of independent observers have regarded this shadowy figure as someone who could shed light on what they regard as a concerted effort by federal authorities to railroad Peltier for crimes he didn’t commit. Hence, Kuzma’s long, dedicated, and tortuous attempt to obtain the Justice Department’s records on Black Horse.
The paper filed in federal court by Reese and Irwin included a list of events, turns and turnarounds in Kuzma’s unsuccessful over seven-and-a-half-year-long quest, accompanied by 21 copies of correspondence between him and either Justice or the FBI. Reese and Irwin’s suit alleges that Kuzma “has exhausted the applicable administrative remedies with respect to his FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request,” and that the government “has wrongfully withheld the requested records from the plaintiff.”
Very early in his tangled negotiation with the federal government, Kuzma agreed to accept only those “public-source” records in the government’s possession—such as news reports—and not seek any documents whose release could invade the privacy of third parties. These public-source documents, he explained in an interview Tuesday in his office, are very difficult or impossible to track down today because of their obscurity, age, and lack of availability on the Internet. The fact that the FBI collected them may be significant in explaining what its goals and methods were in this case.
And on November 14, 2008, after a number of delays and dead ends, an FBI official, David M. Hardy, wrote Kuzma informing him the bureau had “located approximately 927 pages which are potentially responsive to your request.” Hardy even provided an estimate of the cost to duplicate them: $82.70. But after Kuzma promptly remitted that sum, it was returned, with no explanation. In response to his puzzled inquiry, the bureau eventually told him that it had no public-source records it could share with him, after all. Despite several subsequent twists, including backing off from and then reinstating this position, Justice and the FBI have continued to deny Kuzma’s applications. (In a brief telephone interview, US Attorney William Hochul said he was unaware of the suit, but doubted that Justice would have any comment. Maureen Dempsey, a press representative at the FBI’s Buffalo office, said it knew of the action but could not make any statement about a pending civil suit.)
Peltier’s arrest, conviction, and imprisonment have long been regarded by many people as a product of the FBI’s illicit COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program) that was secretly operated from the 1950s through the 1970s, all too often in violation of the law and federal court decisions. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was a targeted victim of the FBI’s spying and character assassination, as depicted in Clint Eastwood’s recent movie, J. Edgar. In his A People’s History of the United States, the late Boston University historian Howard Zinn described the government’s massive response with over 200 heavily armed federal agents when AIM occupied the reservation village of Wounded Knee in 1973 to protest the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ miserable treatment of Native Americans. This was the political backdrop to the charges against Peltier.
Kuzma said that “the FBI set the wheels in motion that got its agents killed.” It had apparently infiltrated AIM with informants, including the bogus and violent Black Horse. Kuzma cites a document, previously obtained by Peltier’s defense, from January 15, 1976, in which Deputy Director General (Ops) M. S. Sexsmith of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RMCP) wrote to a colleague about Black Horse’s surreptitious provision of information from inside AIM.
Kuzma says it’s his hope that a federal magistrate judge will review the withheld material and say it should be released. Under FOIA, he said, “disclosure, not secrecy, is the focus.”
Tuesday, one of Kuzma’s lawyers, Irwin, said his goal is “to discover why it’s so important to the government to keep [Peltier] in prison,” and keep their documents secret. “What are they hiding?”
Nelson Mandela and 55 members of the US Congress, among others, have called for Peltier’s release.
10 Feb 2012, 17:18
As co-author of the exposé, American Indian Mafia, one of the few truthful accounts about Leonard Peltier’s killing spree, I am appalled at the inaccuracies and cavalier regard for the truth in this article. Although it’s not surprising coming from Kuzma, misstating and distorting the facts has become part and parcel of the Peltier legal strategy. It is a vicious lie to say that “the FBI set the wheels in motion that got its agents killed” as it is to say the FBI used a COINTELPRO against the AIM leadership. Frank Blackhorse had nothing to do with Peltier’s murderous rampage, nor is it true that slain FBI Agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler were engaged in a siege of the Jumping Bull Compound when Peltier, a wanted fugitive at the time, opened fire on them.
When a convicted murderer’s lawyer whines that his client is innocent, it is wise to crosscheck his claims with court documents and the conclusions of parole boards. For example, Peltier’s 1993 board concluded:
“Although the above evidence is consistent with your having, while at the scene of the murders, aided and abetted the use of the above-mentioned AR-15 rifle by another individual to execute the agents, the Commission is persuaded that the greater probability is that you yourself fired the fatal shots… It would be unjust to treat the slaying of these F.B.I. agents, while they lay wounded and helpless, as if your actions had been part of a gun battle. Neither the state of relations between Native American militants and law enforcement at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prior to June 26, 1975, nor the exchanges of gunfire between individuals at the Jumping Bull Compound and the law enforcement agents who arrived there during the hours after Agents Coler and Williams were murdered, explains or mitigates the crimes you committed… Your release on parole would promote disrespect for the law in contravention of 18 U.S.C….”
What Kuzma will also never mention is that the Peltier murders are connected to the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, an AIM member falsely accused of being an FBI informant. A few weeks before she was interrogated, raped, and murdered, Peltier bragged to Anna Mae and others that he shot Agent Williams in the face at point-blank range. This was something Anna Mae was not supposed to hear and it helped get her killed. Anna Mae was also shot in the head at point-blank range. Two recent convictions in her murder case and information found in our book makes it clear that Peltier was involved, and that his crime boss, Dennis Banks, likely called for Anna Mae’s execution. A former Marine, Peltier himself interrogated Anna Mae by putting a loaded gun in her mouth.
Inmate Peltier has yet to show remorse for his crimes. On the contrary, he has milked his one-quarter native ancestry and made-up persona of political prisoner into an I’m-the-victim scam. And he’s done quite well at it. Despite his ever-changing alibis, and getting caught in several lies, he’s fooled a lot of people by trumpeting celebrity endorsements and phony comparisons to authentic Indian warriors. Even behind bars, he offends.
Peltier remains a coward, a liar, and a guilty killer. The friends and family members of his victims still grieve the loss of their loved ones. Until he asks forgiveness from them, and fully cooperates in the Aquash murder investigation, inmate Peltier should stay in prison for the rest of his rotten life.
10 Feb 2012, 22:04
lol That’s so full of shit forreal Mr. So called John Trimbach…wouldn’t happen to be related to Mr. Joe Trimbach would you? Funny you act like you were there to have seen what happen, and you call Dennis Banks the “Boss” and the American Indian Movement the “American Indian Mafia”…But wasn’t the so called “helful” FBI coming in on the reservation before all this happen to help the tribal government get rid of the American Indian Movement so they could take over and Mr. Dick Wilson could keep stealing federal funds that were to go to the people, so the so called “American Indian Mafia” as you call them were there to help the elders when the tribal government was not….Not to mention the unlawful uranium drilling that has permanetly contaminating the water and land due to radiation. You tell me that if someone was to come into your home or your grandparents homes and steal yours or their things and mistreat you that you would just stand there and let that happen? You tell me it’s ok for them to stand there and let others tell them what they should do, how they should act, how they should live? Just take their land from them and they can not fight back. What about all those American Indian members and supporters that were killed (over 60 of them), that have gone unsolved and uninvestigated? What about that Mr. Trimbach? What about those families who worry about them and get no damn help from your so called FBI agents that are to supposed to help? Then two agents get pushed onto a rez in unmarked cars with Native americans who did not know what was going on and they were defending themselves as should be. Robbert Robideau and Dino Butler both tried for the same crime and got off in self defense, while Peltier was railroaded, and the whole time the FBI was lying to the canadian government so they would hand him over. As you for you saying Mr. Peltier has US all fooled in believing he is innocent, you are wrong about that. We are not fooled and won’t be and that is why we are called warriors and we will continue to expose all those government officials who use COINTELPRO. And contrary to what the FBI and federal government believe we are not the mafia, we are not militants, we are mothers, we are fathers, we are sisters, we are brothers we are children we are WARRIORS who will continue to fight for the rights of our people, the rights of our freedom. Mr. Kuzma is an honest man defending an honest Mr. Peltier.
14 Feb 2012, 16:39
In 1986 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recognized the FBI misconduct that occurred with respect to the investigation, extradition, and prosecution of Mr. Peltier. The Court found, “ . . . evidence in this record of improper conduct on the part of some FBI agents . . .” United States v. Peltier, 800 F. 2d 772, 778 (8th Cir. 1986).
Judge Gerald W. Heaney, who retired from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in August of 2006, after having served 40 years on the bench, wrote United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye on April 18, 1991. In this letter, Judge Heaney indicated that: “ . . . the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier’s extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case.”
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2003 made it clear that, “Much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed.” Peltier v. Booker, 348 F. 3d 888, 896 (10th Cir. 2003).
Peter A Reese
16 Feb 2012, 06:23
Mike Kuzma and Daire Irwin are warriors.
16 Feb 2012, 13:55
I’m just waiting for Trimbach to deny that the Indian Reservation Leonard Peltier lived on was rich in Uranium and that Nixon wanted the land.
16 Feb 2012, 14:05
Fairly lame arguments. Why not show the whole statement which was addressing Peltier’s main legal defense of what the court termed a far-fetched “massive collusion” among FBI agents, government lawyers, and an ever-expanding list of Indian and non-Indian conspirators, an argument that has been repeatedly and soundly rejected by every court that has ever reviewed this murder case:
“We recognize that there is 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.”
How about imputing improprieties to an unrepentant killer who the court concluded, based on circumstantial evidence, shot two young injured men in the face at point-blank range? Here’s what preceded the never-adjudicated “improper conduct” statement from the court concerning the murder weapon:
“When all is said and done, however, a few simple but very important facts remain. The casing introduced into evidence had in fact been extracted from the Wichita AR-15. This point was not disputed; although the defense had its own ballistics expert, it offered no contrary evidence.”
And preceding the “facts are not disputed…” statement (clearly disputed and defeated on appeal), the court concluded:
“Previous federal court decisions provided the [Parole] Commission with ample facts to support its conviction that Peltier personally shot Agent Coler and Williams…. While Mr. Peltier, asserts ‘the Commission identified no plausible evidence that [he] shot the agents after they were incapacitated,’ this statement is simply not true. The evidence linking Mr. Peltier to these crimes is enumerated above. The most damning evidence, the .223 shell casing found in Agent Coler’s trunk, may be more equivocal after the surfacing of the October 2nd teletype, but it has not been ‘ruled out,’ as Mr. Peltier contends. There is no direct evidence that Mr. Peltier shot the agents because no one testified they saw him pull the trigger. But as we stated above, and restate here, the body of circumstantial evidence underlying the Commission’s decision is sufficient for the purpose of rational basis review.”
Evidence that has come to light since that appeal (most notably Peltier’s confession in front of four witnesses) supports the unmistakable conclusion that he in fact pulled the trigger.
As for Peltier’s extradition, see the letter from the Canadian Minister of Justice, 4th document at americanindianmafia.com/peltier.html and the key phrase “…Peltier was lawfully extradited to the United States.”
Finally, although Judge Heaney was entitled to his opinion, even he was among the unanimous justices who concluded that Peltier was fairly tried and fairly convicted. Any other conclusion is based on smoke and mirrors.
The real tragedy is the blood-money success of Peltier’s innocence scam which does nothing but ensnare naïve Indian wannabes (some of whom honor him with human rights awards and Nobel Peace Price nominations) and denigrate genuine Indian heroes. Where is the outrage?
17 Feb 2012, 07:25
John john john..”Trimbach”….where is the outrage, indeed…seems it’s right here.
Same old same old, some things never change, eh? yourself included. Rant n rail all you want, newsflash: your predecessor/hero, hitlers PR man goebbels, was not entirely right..telling a lie over and over might & oft does convince the weakminded it was true..but for anyone with eyes to see Truth is Truth, and always will be, the Truth, and it Always…Always..comes out in the end…so..just stop with all the “outrageous” lying & go slither back into your cave somewhere & eat yer shorts you snot nosed sniveling unscrupulous azzkissing attention seeker…run away, quick, before your Karma bites your backend.
17 Feb 2012, 16:17
I think the real question should be when is an INNOCENT MAN going to be Released? AND you forget John Trimbach you guys started the war not us!
17 Feb 2012, 16:39
Listen Here Bitch !!! I Am 14 Years Old And I know The Truth !!! all u government people hide the truth and leonard is innocent. when are you going to confess and when will you be tried for the murders of innocent people like the AIM members?
17 Feb 2012, 20:08
darn, no response from mr trimbach…ran away crying like a little girl, but still here reading im sure, i can see your eyes shining in the dark, behind the bedskirts.
..i was hoping we cold dance again, john, but i guess you fear blurting interesting things in a public place, eh? Ah well..i’ll talk to the bedskirts then *smile* Above all other things, remember this, john, the Truth shall set You Free…so.why keep running from it?
**First, i apologise to any readers here whom may be disturbed by my scathing words..just know they have been dearly earned, and in his case, Much deserved. That said, on to john.
Where is the Proof the killing bullets came from Leonards gun? eh, john? Where are the bullets, john? did they just..evaporate? or..are we expected to believe no ballistics tests could be performed on them back in that day…? dropping casings, here, there, everywhere, without a single fired bullet to show for it..is..darn suspicious, wouldn;t you say john? uh uh..won’t work, will it..this has always been a BIG problem for you, ennit? Bet you wish now ya had thought of that back then.
well, john..it’s like this ya see….
Have you ever read the trial transcripts? Apparently not… Firstly, the weapon that kiled the agents..the court also wondered why was there no bullet identification done..no exact match? This has had to be done in Countless cases before Proof can be established..instead…we are given a bullet casing from the trunk…that is of the ‘same type’ used in that gun (and hoiw many others…?)…..c’mon!
Everybody Knows..how fbi works, by now…their repetitive gross incompetence makes sure of that..what goes on in training anyway? not a good job, thats certain…..but, getting back on topic here.
…i make one last appeal to your rational, if you even have one…
what if….what if..someone, like..lets say..those dread russkies you guys love to hate so much..lol..came here and fed you false promises, while setting up your demise…would you immediately capitulate? would you drop to your knees and say Yes! Yes!, Please take us!! oh Great Masters!….this is precisely what you expected of us.
It saddens me to see the disrespect of the families of Colier & Williams, the two very young FBI agents murdered June 26th, 1975 at Jumping Bull, South Dakota… executed while begging for their lives by AIM member, Leonard Peltier.
I find the mean & unnecessarily rude comments towards James Simon, when the other commenters are confronted with the facts & truth from James Simon of the reality of Peltiers unrepentant crime, counter productive….
The raging Lakota boy, talking trash needs to get educated as to what actually happened during AIMs reign of terror across Indian Country over the last 40 years, instead of babbling AIMs lies & propaganda, when he actually has no idea what he is talking about, other than what AIM, the media, & AIMs myth makers have programmed the public to believe.
I am a Tetuwan Minneconjou Lakota Historical Scholar, & spiritual presevationist… who was there in South Dakota in 1975 when the 2 FBI agents & Anna Mae Aquash-Pictous murders were commited by AIM, sanctioned & carried out on the orders of AIM leadership.
I was participating in the White Buffalo Calf Cannunpa Revival Ceremonies & accompanying Sun Dance ceremonies with the Tetuwan Traditional Spiritual Elders, & those Lakota Elders did not support, or have anything to do with AIM after AIMs real agenda in Indian Country was revealed to them through AIMs own murderous & violent actions claimed many innocent 1st Nations & non-Native lives.
I witnessed the carnage & collateral damage of AIM, & experienced 1st hand at 17, being a rape victim of American Indian Movement leader, Russell Means…while 18 other AIM members were in the same room & did NOTHING to stop the assault upon me…
I know what AIM has done, & what AIM is capable of doing. I watched it happen to so many many good people…. who tried to stop AIM, & were murdered by AIM for trying to stand up & do the right thing, & expose AIM for what they really are…MONSTERS, the epitemy of EVIL!
So Kuzma…all I see here with your little hate spewing group, is a collection of misfits who think murdering innocent people is ok, should be rewarded with celebrity, fame & riches…while the victims of AIM are many, 7 whos remains are still hidden at Wounded Knee by AIM, murder victims….who went into the Knee as AIM supporters, & lost their lives for questioning AIM true agenda…
Kuzma, you are the last person any of us needs as a Senator in an already corrupt government, if you support & endorse urban militant domestic terrorists, which is exactly what AIM is….and where AIM originated from, freed from prisons & set upon real authentic Native people…Look at AIMs blood quantum, non-existent!
Wounded Knee a staged event!
Which cost innocent people their living, their homes, pets, cars, livestock, township, their lives, right down to their wedding rings…everything LOST, all over the American Indian Movement….& you should be sued for trying to make AIM into heros & role models!
You can see the truth about AIMs blood quantum on my website at www.lookingbackwoman.ca and, here on my WordPress blog, twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn…
AIM are nothing more than faux-1st Nation frauds who have hijacked Native spirituality, history & culture…
All for AIMs own personal profit…
AIMs true agenda never had anything to do with self-determenation for 1st Nations people, ever!
Quite the opposite!
So, for all of the commenters…. along with Michael Kuzma, you make myself & all the other victims & survivors of AIMs criminal activities relive our horrible experiences everytime we have to read comments like yours, when you support & idolize the American Indian Movement..who arent really 1st Nations people at all & are guilty of murder, rape, cultural theft, pedofile behavior…and, many other crimes you will most likely try to help AIM get away with!!!!!!!!