Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best of Decade part 5

Hey y'all.  I'm back with the best of the decade.  Today this choice is actually a "worst of".  Here it is:
Worst Missed Opportunity to Grant a Pardon to Leonard Peltier: Lame Duck Bill Clinton January 2000

Just before Bill Clinton left office in January 2000, he granted over 100 pardons.  One of the names that people had hoped would be on that list was Leonard Peltier.  Unfortunately he was not.  If you don't know who Leonard Peltier is you should go here and here.  Leonard is an artist, activist and author and was convicted of killing two FBI agents even though there is not a shred of evidence to suggest he killed them.  His trial was one of the biggest shams in the history of the United States Justice System and let's be honest there have been some pretty big shams to compare it to.  He has more supporters than Santa Clause.  When your supporter list includes: The Dalai Lama, Mikael Gorbachev, the entire European Parliament, U2, Naomi Campbell, Kevin Spacey and Coolio, you deserve a chance at freedom.  

Leonard Peltier had that opportunity when Bill Clinton agreed to take a look at Peltier's case.  In response to this, hundreds of FBI agents marched to the White House in what was an unprecedented event.  I remember two phone interviews made by Amy Goodman at the time.  One was with Bill Clinton when he actually called in to her show and she asked him if he would release Peltier, his response was "I'm going to consider it."  Shortly afterwards, Goodman interviewed two FBI Agents that reminded me of the guys in suits from the Matrix.  While insisting Peltier was guilty, one of them said something like: "If Leonard didn't shoot the agent, than someone else did." There he was acknowledging the presence of reasonable doubt in Leonard's case to thousands of listeners across the country. Former Congressman and FBI Agent, Don Edwards had this to say: “The FBI continues to deny its improper conduct on Pine Ridge during the 1970's and in the trial of Leonard Peltier. The FBI used Mr. Peltier as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents.”

On the night Clinton signed the pardons he declined to offer clemency to Leonard Peltier.  He did however pardon a former governor charged with bank fraud and a former CIA director accused of mishandling evidence.  He also pardoned billionaire Mark Rich.  Rich was indicted on tax-evasion and living in exile in Europe, meanwhile his wife was donating large sums of money to Hillary Clinton's New York Senatorial Campaign.  Maybe if Peltier had been a billionaire he would be free, unfortunately he is still in prison.

Honorable mention: George W. Bush and Barack Obama

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