In a letter sent to President Obama, a former FBI Special Agent called for the president to grant clemency to Native American activist and federal prisoner Leonard Peltier, who has served over 40 years in prison after being convicted in a flawed trial for the deaths of two FBI agents.
Former Agent John C. “Jack” Ryan wrote in the letter “In my opinion…the circumstances surrounding the case in combination with the passage of 4 decades of time served support his request to live his final years at home.”
Peltier was convicted in 1975, and has remained behind bars despite concerns about political bias and injustice that have clouded his case. Now the 72 year-old’s health is failing, he has exhausted all appeals, and he is not up for parole until 2024. More than 100,000 people have signed an Amnesty International petition calling for him to freed.
Ryan was a charter member of the FBI Agents Association and was with the Bureau from 1966 to his removal in 1987, when he refused to investigate activists protesting U.S. involvement in Nicaragua because he believed that they had done nothing wrong. As an agent, he wrote in his letter, “we were taught to follow orders and we acted on good faith on the directions given, believing we were doing the right thing.” Of the events that led to the end of his FBI career, he said “I was faced with a moral dilemma and did what I thought was right.”
“The FBI's perpetual demonization of Leonard Peltier is an effort to poison public opinion and avoid self-reflection,” said Cynthia K. Dunne, a former federal prosecutor and co-counsel for Peltier. “Mr. Peltier's clemency petition is not a referendum on federal law enforcement. It presents a moral imperative which President Obama has the opportunity to address. By reckoning with the past and moving forward in the best interests of justice, reconciliation and compassion, we can become a stronger nation. It is time to free Leonard Peltier.”
“Leonard Peltier may die in prison unless the president acts before his term is up,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International USA. “President Obama should seize the opportunity to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier as a humanitarian gesture that President-elect Trump cannot reverse.”
Last week, the former head of the prosecution team that convicted Peltier also wrote to President Obama calling for clemency. Former U.S. Attorney James H. Reynolds wrote that clemency for Peltier would be “in the best interest of Justice.”
Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault II also sent a letter to President Obama about the case. Over 50 Members of Congress and others—including federal appellate Judge Gerald Heaney, who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier’s appeals—have all called for his immediate release.