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Benefit Concert for Peltier

November 06, 1987

Your publication of Richard T. Bretzing, head of the Los Angeles FBI office, comments in a letter addressed to Pacific Amphitheatre general manager Steve Redfearn (Part I, Oct. 24) concerning the "Cowboys for Indians" concert on Oct. 27 contributed to a deliberate attempt at misinformation.

Bretzing's letter stressing Leonard Peltier's conviction for the murder of two FBI agents in 1975, stated that he was "utterly revolted" at the idea of a benefit concert. He went on to say, "I would like to believe the sponsors and participants of this program are not aware of the facts surrounding the murder of agents (Ronald) Williams and (Jack) Coler."

As the head of the Los Angeles FBI office, Bretzing is aware that his agents died in a fire-fight involving over 30 people. He knows that three people other than Peltier were originally accused of the deaths of the agents, and of those three, two were acquitted by an all-white jury, and the government dropped charges against the third.

The government went to such extreme lengths to convict Peltier that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (long before the Oct. 27 concert) acknowledged serious judicial errors in the FBI's prosecution, including the fabrication of evidence, the suborning of witnesses, and withholding of ballistics evidence indicating that the bullets that killed the agents could not have come from Peltier's gun. The court (which upheld his conviction) suggested that such evidence might possibly have changed the mind of the jury had it been presented.

Ten percent of the United States House of Representatives have recognized these irregularities and harbor enough concern about them to have supported the unsuccessful application to the Supreme Court for a new trial. Furthermore, 50 world religious leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, and Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson have concurred in that opinion and filed formal papers in support of a retrial. The weight of Peltier's conviction on our judicial system weakens our credibility when we attempt to argue human rights issues before the world, and offers unnecessary support to the arguments of our adversaries.

It is these judicial irregularities that the concert was trying to focus attention on. Watergate and the Iran-Contra hearings have shown us all the tremendous damage that can be done when an overzealous government bends the rules and goes to any lengths to achieve its goals. If it can violate the constitutional rights of one individual, it can do it to any of us, and that and only that, is the issue that we were trying to address.

Suggesting that we were deliberately scorning the victims of a tragedy amounts to a "disinformation campaign" that has wounded feelings, polarized the community and in no way reflects the spirit of the occasion, as the concert reviews demonstrate.

PETER COYOTE

Mill Valley

(Coyote organized the concert.)

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