Peltier moves to Indiana penitentiary

Leavenworth becoming medium-security institution

Leonard Peltier, serving two life sentences for the 1975 slaying of two FBI agents in South Dakota, has been moved to a federal penitentiary in Indiana, according to his attorney and the Bureau of Prisons.

Peltier’s relocation to the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., was prompted by a change in mission at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., where he has been held.

Maximum-security prisoners had to be moved out of the penitentiary so the facility can be transformed into a medium-security institution.

“We kind of thought he was going to be transferred,” Peltier’s attorney, Barry Bachrach, said Wednesday. “We didn’t know when.”

It apparently happened last week and Bachrach found out Friday when Peltier’s grandson went to visit him.

Peltier’s move also means that the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee is in the process of moving from its downtown Lawrence headquarters to a new location in Terre Haute.

Paula Ostrovsky, media and public relations officer for the committee, said it made sense for the organization to be located near Peltier.

“It is his wishes that we move as he moves,” Ostrovsky said.

Bachrach said he talked to Peltier by telephone Wednesday afternoon. Peltier was told by prison officials that he will remain in solitary confinement indefinitely but “was given no reason,” he said.

Initially, prison officials told Peltier he would be “in the hole” until his paperwork arrived, Bachrach said.

“The situation is not good,” he said. “He has no fresh air, no stamps, no way to call and he’s about ready to run out of his meds.”

Peltier, who suffers from diabetes and other ailments, has two days of medication left, Bachrach said.

“I’m going to try to get U.N. and congressional intervention. There’s a U.S. Supreme Court case that says they can’t do this,” he said.

An employee at the Indiana prison said no one was available to answer media questions about Peltier’s status.

Peltier, 60, was a member of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s and was convicted in Fargo, N.D., of killing agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler 30 years ago, on June 26, 1975. Both men were shot in the head at point-blank range after being injured in a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

AIM member Joseph Stuntz also was shot that day. The Justice Department concluded an FBI sniper killed Stuntz, who was clad in Coler’s FBI jacket when his body was found.

Peltier has maintained his innocence, but numerous appeals have failed to overturn the convictions or order a parole hearing. Several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have called for Peltier’s release.

At a hearing last month in Fargo, N.D., Bachrach argued that the government had no right to send Peltier to prison. An assistant U.S. attorney argued the claim is frivolous and the only way Peltier could get back in court.

Bachrach said he’s still awaiting a ruling on his request.

Peltier’s move came just days before the death of 75-year-old Calvin Jumping Bull, whose family ranch was the site of the killings.

Peltier’s defense committee had been located in Lawrence for at least the past 13 years, which is the amount of time Peltier has been housed in the Leavenworth penitentiary, Ostrovsky said.

The office, located at 932 Mass., already was in a state of transition before the unexpected transfer of Peltier. Ostrovsky and her husband, Russell Redner, were in the process of moving from Olympia, Wash., to Lawrence to run the office. Ostrovsky said they would rather be in Lawrence than Terre Haute but were willing to make the move for Peltier’s sake.

“We really can not live in peace knowing that he is suffering,” Ostrovsky said.