Leonard Peltier’s son says his imprisoned father is without funds and they will have to rely on his supporters to pay the court-ordered costs.
A federal judge has ordered Native-American activist and convicted cop-killer Leonard Peltier and his son to pay more than $17,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees to the two retired FBI agents they had sued for halting a state-sponsored art show of Peltier’s paintings.
Last July, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed defamation and civil-rights claims against the two former agents filed by Peltier and his son, Chauncey Peltier, of Portland, alleging defamation and civil-rights claims.
The former agents — Edward Woods and Larry Langberg — had written letters of protest to Gov. Jay Inslee and the director of the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) after four pieces of Native American-themed art painted by Leonard Peltier in prison were on display at the L&I headquarters in Tumwater as part of Native American Appreciation Month.
Woods and Langberg have dogged Leonard Peltier since he was convicted of killing two FBI agents during an American Indian Movement standoff at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.
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Pressure put on the state by the agents and others resulted in the paintings being removed, which the Peltiers claimed was in violation of First Amendment rights.
Judge Leighton dismissed the agents from the Peltiers’ lawsuit this past summer, citing the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law that prevents people from using the courts to quash legitimate public discourse.
Claims against the governor and officials at the L&I are still pending.
Anyone prevailing under the anti-SLAPP statute is eligible for an award of $10,000 and attorneys fees and costs. Leighton declined to give the agents the penalty, saying they didn’t deserve it.
“It is ironic that Woods and Langberg seek a statutory award protecting their free speech against Peltier, who is also attempting to exercise his right to free expression,” the judge wrote.
However, the judge did give them their fees and costs, and on Tuesday ordered the Peltiers to pay Woods $3,950 and Landberg $13,476.
Chauncey Peltier says his father is 73 years old, in federal prison and without funds. However, he said the movement to free him “still has supporters” whom he says he’ll have to rely on to pay the court-ordered costs so the lawsuit can continue.
“We’ll just have to come up with it,” he said. “We are not going to give up.”
Chauncey Peltier said his father had a right to display his art. He also said the state’s actions in removing the paintings and now the court’s requiring him to pay money to men who have dedicated their lives to seeing that he is never released “just goes to show you that the rules don’t apply to Leonard Peltier.”
Woods operates a website and blog, the No Parole for Peltier Association, which keeps a running clock of the time elapsed since the agents died.