Steven Van Zandt Tried To Get Trump To Release Leonard Peltier From Prison

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Politics

On Monday, for the 45th time, Leonard Peltier celebrated his birthday in a federal prison.The Native American rights activist, now 78, has spent most of his life behind bars. He was convicted by the U.S. government of aiding and abetting in the murder of two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.There are so many problems with Peltier’s imprisonment that it’s hard to know where to begin. There was no evidence that he committed a crime. The FBI threatened and coerced witnesses into lying during his trial. The prosecutors hid exculpatory evidence. His two co-defendants were acquitted based on self-defense. A juror admitted she was biased against Native Americans on the second day of the trial but was allowed to stay on anyway.AdvertisementIn the decades since, some of the same U.S. government officials who helped put Peltier in prison in the first place ― including a federal judge and a U.S. attorney ― have admitted how flawed his trial and treatment have been and have pleaded for his clemency. His prolonged imprisonment has sparked outcry from federal lawmakers, leaders in Indigenous communities, celebrities and international human rights leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King and Amnesty International USA.As recently as July, United Nations legal experts took the extraordinary step of calling on President Joe Biden to release him immediately.So why is Peltier still in prison? Because the FBI continues to oppose releasing him, leaning on arguments that are wildly outdated, misleading or flat-out wrong. To many, Peltier is now simply America’s longest-serving political prisoner. In anticipation of Peltier’s birthday, HuffPost last week talked to one of his most visible and dedicated advocates: Steven Van Zandt. Most people know Van Zandt as Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, a mobster actor on “The Sopranos” or through his various artistic accomplishments. But he has also been publicly calling for Peltier’s freedom for decades. He wrote a song about Peltier, he regularly talks about him on Twitter and, it turns out, Van Zandt thought he had a real shot at convincing former President Donald Trump to grant him clemency, except… everyone he was working with on Trump’s team kept going to jail.AdvertisementHere’s a transcript of our interview, during which Van Zandt urged Biden to release Peltier and said he previously asked Springsteen to also be an advocate with former President Barack Obama. Van Zandt also called on Biden to embrace the edgy, lasers-shooting-out-of-his-eyes, super-genius ”Dark Brandon” meme that progressives are clamoring for and even offered Biden a speech to deliver to the nation about why everyone should vote for Democrats, because, as he put it, ”we’re in the middle of a fucking war. A war, OK?”This interview has been edited f …

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