MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Leonard Peltier has agreed to a settlement in a
lawsuit he filed against publisher and editor Paul DeMain in answer to
published statements that were defamatory toward Peltier.
The settlement, which occurred more than one year after the original libel
lawsuit was filed, required that DeMain issue a letter agreeable to both
parties. That statement was to correct information originally printed by
DeMain that implied that Peltier was somehow involved in the death of Anna
Mae Pictou-Aquash in 1975. DeMain stated that according to his sources the
motive for her killing was her alleged knowledge that Peltier had
personally shot to death two FBI agents at Oglala, S.D. in 1975.
DeMain had to agree to write that there were numerous instances of
questionable conduct by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in
connection with prosecution of American Indians. He was also to print that
there was a legal, social and political environment on the Pine Ridge
Reservation during the 1970s that would compare to a war zone. Also he was
to admit misconduct in the judicial system historically as regarded cases
with American Indians.
Most important DeMain was to make the statement he didn't believe that
Peltier received a fair trial in connection with the FBI agent's deaths;
and that he did not believe, according to the evidence and testimony that
he now had, that Peltier had any involvement in the death of Pictou-Aquash.
Peltier agreed to dismiss the lawsuit against DeMain with prejudice,
meaning that he would not file it again.
The original statement printed by DeMain in News From Indian Country as an
editor's note to an article read: "News From Indian Country, and I as
editor of that publication, stand by our credible and trusted sources and
my present belief, that the primary motive for the murder of Annie Mae
Pictou-Aquash by other members of the American Indian Movement in
mid-December 1975, allegedly was her knowledge that Leonard Peltier had
shot the two agents, as he was convicted.
"She shared that information with other people I've met and a resolution to
the Aquash case will bear this out," DeMain wrote.
The original complaint filed by Peltier requested a trial by jury. Peltier
wanted no compensation, just a statement of truth from DeMain.
Peltier was convicted in the 1975 killings of two FBI agents near Oglala on
the Pine Ridge Reservation during what has been termed by many as a time of
war on the reservation. Peltier has always maintained his innocence. He is
imprisoned at Leavenworth, Kan.
"Justice is possible for both Anna Mae and Leonard Peltier, but justice
won't be done in either case by people falsely pointing fingers of blame,"
said Barry Bachrach, attorney for Peltier. "Leonard's only concern is for
truth, which is why monetary damages are not a part of this settlement."
DeMain's original statement that Peltier was involved in the shooting
incident was false because the federal government admitted it could not
prove that Peltier shot the agents, the complaint stated.
The original complaint stated that DeMain published and circulated the
statements and did so with "reckless disregard whether or not they were
As a result, the complaint states, Peltier suffered mental anguish and
damage to his reputation.
When the libel suit was filed, DeMain, in an interview with Indian Country
Today, said Peltier was painted into a corner. He said many people would
like "to find out who I'm talking to."
Bachrach didn't indicate that the sources for DeMain's information was a
top priority. The most important point in the lawsuit was the printed
defamatory statements. When the libel suit was filed Bachrach said Peltier
was tired of DeMain making statements based on unknown sources.
Peltier has been denied a parole hearing until 2008 and an appellate court
decision has denied any appeal hearing before that time. Peltier has served
more time without parole than any other person that received the same
The federal government has admitted, with testimony from Lynn Crooks,
assistant U.S. Attorney at the time of the trial in 1977, that a case
cannot be proven that Peltier pulled the trigger that killed the two FBI
"The case against Mr. Peltier was tried on the basis that he was shooting
from the sidelines at least and that was first degree murder," Crooks told
the Circuit Court. "Insofar as the United States was concerned, this case
was tried on an aiding and abetting theory. It was argued that way. It was
tried that way."
For nearly 25 years DeMain, through his publication and in person, has
supported the Free Peltier Movement and printed information that would help
"After looking at the trial records, the evidentiary appeals of Peltier,
the Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits, the issue of ballistics test, I had
believed the FBI may have engaged in the fabrication of evidence," DeMain
"I have since come to believe that the FBI may have fabricated evidence to
frame a guilty man. I always thought that it was a coin toss in regards to
guilt or innocence when you look at the issue of the judicial process I
came to believe that his claim that he was innocent may be true. I had an
element of doubt," DeMain said when the libel suit was filed.
Before printing the defamatory statement, DeMain said he interviewed 50 or
60 people and conducted 90 interviews in the Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash case.
He based his comments on those interviews.
DeMain previously told Indian Country Today he didn't believe that
Pictou-Aquash was an informant, based on all he read and the people he had
interviewed; and he also said he doubts that she would have ever turned
Peltier in to the authorities. He said his information came from people who
witnessed the shooting or who were at Oglala at the time. He declined to
reveal his sources' identities, but said they may be willing to come
forward in the future.
DeMain said the settlement statement was negotiated and that he was not
asked, nor would he have recanted the original story. He repeated to ICT on
June 9 that he would stand by the credibility of his sources.
Four American Indian people were arrested for the murder of the two FBI
agents. Robert Robideau, Darrell "Dino" Butler, James Eagle and Peltier.
Robideau and Butler were acquitted by a jury in Iowa after which the case
against Eagle was dismissed.
Peltier was tried in North Dakota and convicted in June 1977 and sentenced
to two consecutive life terms.
Arlo Looking Cloud was arrested and John Graham was indicted for the murder
of Pictou-Aquash. Looking Cloud was convicted of aiding and abetting in
that murder and is serving a life sentence. Graham will face an extradition
hearing from Canada in December.
Peltier has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian
work while in prison.