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Peltier gets first parole opportunity in 15 years

FARGO - Leonard Peltier will receive his first full parole hearing in 15 years on July 28 in a Lewisburg, Pa., federal penitentiary, where he has spent the past few years in maximum security, his niece Kari Ann Cowan said Sunday.

Peltier, 64, is serving two life sentences for the deaths of FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, who were shot in the head at close range after being injured in a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier's trial was held in Fargo.

Although Peltier has received interim parole hearings, his last full parole hearing was in 1993, Cowan said. He will be represented at July's hearing by Eric Seitz, a Honolulu attorney.

Peltier's supporters have long maintained he was framed for the execution-style killings.

Cowan, who also serves as a local press contact for the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, said Peltier has been a model prisoner for the past 30 years, breaking up fights in prison and leading sweat lodges - an important spiritual ceremony for Native American prisoners.

"For the family, this is something everyone has been waiting for," Cowan said. "It would mean he gets to be home and live his last winter years with his family."