- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

President Clinton, with 12 more days in office, is considering additional pardons, prompting some FBI agents and other law enforcement authorities to renew their opposition to any clemency order for Leonard Peltier, convicted of murdering two agents in 1975.

Mr. Clinton, who pardoned 59 persons Dec. 22, including former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, a one-time Washington powerhouse who pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud in a corruption scandal, is reviewing clemency requests pending in the White House Counsel's Office.

"I would not expect anything until towards the end," White House spokesman Jake Siewert said Friday. "He's asked to review some more. Counsel's office is looking at them, and I think they'll probably present a package to him at some point."

John Sennett, president of the FBI Agent's Association, said he hoped Mr. Clinton would consider the facts in the Peltier case before making any decision.

"We can only hope the president has been impressed at what a bitter disappointment this would be," he said. "We still have faith that he understands the significance of law enforcement officers making the ultimate sacrifice."

Mr. Clinton's 59 pardons last month went mainly to people convicted on drug crimes, tax-evasion and fraud charges, including a longtime Arkansas friend, Archie Schaffer III, a Tyson Foods Inc. executive who was implicated in the probe of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

He did not address such high-profile cases as Peltier; former junk-bond king Michael Milken; Susan McDougal, a partner of Mr. Clinton's in the Whitewater real estate venture; and Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy convicted of espionage in 1985.

The FBI has vigorously opposed Peltier's release, along with that of Pollard. The Justice Department's criminal division and the CIA also have announced their opposition to Pollard's release, and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told Mr. Clinton there is no compelling reason to release the convicted spy.

Last month, hundreds of FBI agents staged an unprecedented, somber protest outside the White House, calling on Mr. Clinton to deny clemency for Peltier. About 500 former and current agents, other law enforcement officials, FBI workers and friends silently marched two-by-two around the White House to deliver a petition of 9,500 signatures opposing Peltier's clemency request.

They said the American Indian Movement leader "executed two FBI agents lying on the ground" who posed no threat to him and, as a result, he was not deserving of a pardon. Some of the marchers wore blue ribbons or badges bearing the names of the two agents and "1975." Three agents at the front of the march held a banner that read: "Never forget."

Mr. Clinton promised during a Nov. 8 radio interview to consider both sides of the Peltier case.

Peltier, eligible for parole in 2009, is serving two consecutive life terms at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., for the murders of Agents Jack R. Coler, 28, and Ronald A. Williams, 27. He was sentenced June 2, 1977, in Fargo, N.D., two years after the killings at South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, near Wounded Knee.

The killings occurred June 26, 1975, after Peltier's vehicle was stopped by the agents, who were looking for a suspect in a kidnapping and assault. According to court records, Peltier fled the vehicle with two other men and began shooting at the agents with semiautomatic rifles. Agents Coler and Williams were immediately wounded.

Crime-scene experts said the agents fired five shots before being hit, compared with 125 bullet holes in their car. Prosecutors said Peltier and two others fired three shots at pointblank range, hitting Agent Williams in the face as he knelt and Agent Coler, who was unconscious, twice in the head.

The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has the support of the Hollywood community, including several big donors to the Democratic Party. The clemency effort is being led by such celebrities as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Robin Williams and Robert Redford.

The committee, which contends the FBI withheld evidence and coerced witnesses, has said it received positive reaction from both Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore concerning a possible pardon. The committee has sent petitions with more than 500,000 names to the White House in support of the convicted murderer.


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