Suit involves slaying of FBI agents in 1975
Indian activist seeks documents
February 10, 2012 Buffalo News
When Leonard Peltier was arrested in connection with the killing of two FBI agents in South Dakota in 1975, the American Indian activist wasn’t alone.
Canadian police also picked up Frank Blackhorse, but he was never charged in the shootings and, 37 years later, remains a free man.
Decades later, Peltier’s lawyers are trying to find out why as part of a new suit in Buffalo federal court.
“They’re both arrested, and yet Blackhorse is never brought back to the United States,” said Michael Kuzma, a Buffalo lawyer and a member of Peltier’s legal defense team.
Kuzma thinks that Blackhorse — his real name was Frank Deluca—was an FBI operative posing as an Indian activist and that secret FBI documents may confirm that role.
Peltier, 67, an American Indian Movement leader in the 1970s, has maintained his innocence in the murder, and supporters have tried to get his 1977 conviction overturned ever since, claiming he was targeted for his activism.
As part of that effort, they are asking a federal judge in Buffalo to release 927 pages of FBI documents, once kept in Buffalo, from the nearly four-decade- old case. Their Freedom of Information request dates back to 2004 and is the latest in a series of court actions designed to pry loose secret government documents.
Kuzma said the FBI initially agreed to release the documents but later backtracked and decided they might violate Blackhorse’s privacy and therefore are exempt from federal disclosure law.
Even now, the killing of FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams evokes great passion among federal agents across the country.
About 500 active and retired agents held a march outside the White House 11 years ago, asking departing President Bill Clinton not to grant clemency to Peltier.
In 2009, Peltier came up for possible parole, and again, the FBI urged that he be kept in prison. “The inevitable haziness brought on by the passage of time does not diminish the brutality of the crimes or the lifelong torment to the surviving families,” Thomas J. Harrington, an assistant director at the FBI, said in a statement to the parole commission.
Peltier, who is serving his two terms of life in prison at the federal penitentiary in Coleman, Fla., was the focus of several nationwide protests last weekend, including one in Buffalo attended by dozens of supporters.