Monday, April 19, 2010

Tales from the Courtroom: Arlo Takes the Fall, Once Again

American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent's True Story About Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM) by Joseph H. Trimbach and John M. Trimbach

"Arlo [Looking Cloud] wants the jury to believe that anyone powerful and closely associated with Russell Means could be viewed as a very serious threat. He might be right about that. For the fellow who I spied in the courtroom, the one who gave the nod to Russell [Means] in 2004, was the same man Arlo says he fears. And his name is Charlie Abourezk."---AIM Myth Busters (4-18-10)

The AIM Myth Busters are attending the Rapid City, South Dakota trial of Richard Marshall, who is charged with the December 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash. The Myth Busters report on what is happening in the courtroom in their 4-18-10 post:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tales From the Courtroom: Arlo Takes the Fall, Once Again

It has been several years since I last entered the mahogany-lined courtroom on the third floor of the Federal Court Building in Rapid City, South Dakota. That trial, in February 2004, ended in door-opening justice. Despite a hazy murder timeline and a sometimes confused jury, Arlo Looking Cloud was found guilty of aiding and abetting the 1975 execution murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders mistakenly believed that Anna Mae was an FBI informant. Her punishment, allegedly sanctioned by AIM founder Dennis Banks, was death. Arlo’s conviction shed light on a murder conspiracy that involved at least 20 people, several of whom had testified in an effort to remove themselves from the line of fire. I remember seeing AIM leader Russell Means, sitting about four rows back on the right half of the courtroom. When Judge Piersol called for a recess, I watched a tall white man with a ponytail stand up and look around towards Russell. Figuring him for an Indian wannabe, I followed his eyes. He looked right at Russell, rolled his eyes and half-smiled as if to say, so far so good, pal. As it turned out, it was a good outcome for some, judging by the six-year lag in courtroom trials.

Now, in the year 2010, we’re back in the same courtroom with the same judge. Judge Piersol walks softly (and is sometimes difficult to hear) but carries a big gavel, as when he threatened to clear the courtroom if he hears another cell phone. One notable difference this time around: the big fish are nowhere to be found. However, the same AIM underlings are testifying, and once again demonstrating an acquired skill of prevarication under oath. And getting away with it quite nicely. There was Candy Hamilton [more here], gaunt and stern-looking, staring intently, telling the same old story of being surrounded by Anna Mae’s killers but not having a clue as to what was about to happen. Same for Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, still unable to summon any remorse for hosting Anna Mae’s abduction party. And Cleo Gates, the ex-wife of the accused, Richard Vine Marshall, saying they never kept a gun in their house during the most violent period in AIM history. The defendant sits expressionless next to his baldheaded defender, Dana Hanna, who is ready to pounce on any perceived inequity shown towards his client. At issue is whether or not Marshall, Russell Means’s former bodyguard, provided the murder weapon used to shoot Anna Mae in the head at close range. Marshall had already served time and admitted guilt for doing one [murder] for Russ, a fact the jury was not supposed to hear. Marshall’s 1977 murder sentence was commuted after he admitted fatally shooting Martin Montileaux in a barroom bathroom in 1975, the same year the AIM leadership condemned Anna Mae. Rumor has it that Montileaux was threatening to go public with information about secret AIM murders [more here] dating back to the Wounded Knee takeover in 1973. Standing next to Marshall when he shot Montileaux in the neck was his boss, Russell Means. Tried separately, Means was found not guilty.

Unlike many victims from the 1970s, the legacy of AIM leaders getting away with it is alive and well. Even at the time of the first trial, we knew Arlo’s conviction would become a hollow victory if the others did not follow him. You see, he was supposed to take the fall for his AIM leaders and their lying enablers. So far, so good. As is usually the case when adjudicating AIM violence, the real culprits slip through their escape hatch, to the waiting arms of semi-ignorant supporters, political opportunists, and Hollywood Lefties.

So now we’re faced with a similar dilemma in the courtroom: a confused jury, several co-conspirators committing perjury, and another uncertain outcome. And to make matters worse for the prosecution, Arlo has now become their star witness. Worse because Arlo had to explain changes to his story, twists that have kept the jurors awake. One was Arlo’s justification for previously not mentioning the stop at the Marshall residence for fear of what Russell’s hit man might have done to Arlo’s many reservation relatives. It was not until 2008 that Arlo changed his story to include the stop in Allen, South Dakota, and the house where Cleo said her husband did not keep a gun of any description. Unfortunately, I think the jury buys it. If they only knew how poorly Arlo has been served by previous defense counsel, that is, until a conscientious attorney by the name of Barry Bachrach decided to help Arlo, rather than help him roll over. Bachrach used to be Leonard Peltier’s attorney, until he saw the light and was bothered by a conscience that would not let him represent an unrepentant killer who has bilked millions of dollars from well-intentioned supporters egged on by the media. (But that’s a whole’ nother story!) At least Arlo shows true remorse, although it is difficult for the jury to see. Bachrach hopes the judge will allow him to violate his attorney-client privilege so he can testify on behalf of his client. Somebody needs to resuscitate Arlo’s story and credibility, and it might as well be his own lawyer. The judge will announce his ruling on the matter first thing Monday morning, despite Hanna’s calling it “extremely irregular.” Hanna was calm compared to when he loudly objected to Arlo blurting out that Marshall was “Russell Means’s enforcer.” “Objection!” thundered Hannah. “I move for an immediate mistrial… this has poisoned any chance for a fair trial for my client.” It did not seem fair that Arlo was forbidden from explaining why he feared Dick Marshall and had left out the part about being in Dick’s bedroom on the night of the murder. That was when Dick was allegedly handed a note with the instructions, “take care of the baggage” a quote Cleo changed to “take care of the luggage” when she was under oath. Hanna protests that Arlo’s new version is simply an attempt to have his life sentence reduced. The judge ruled that the show must go on.

Arlo’s other alteration came as an even bigger shock. 2008 was also the first time he mentioned the name of the man who greeted him at the door at Bill Means’s house, the second-to-last stop on Anna Mae’s final ride into the wilderness. When Arlo needed to use the bathroom, he temporarily left his prisoner in the back of the Pinto hatchback. When Arlo knocked on Russell's brother's door, he says he was greeted by Charlie Abourezk, Russell’s other main AIM buddy at the time. Today, Charlie is known as a well-placed lawyer in Rapid City and the son of South Dakota’s former Senator, James Abourezk. Arlo wants the jury to believe that anyone powerful and closely associated with Russell Means could be viewed as a very serious threat. He might be right about that. For the fellow who I spied in the courtroom, the one who gave the nod to Russell in 2004, was the same man Arlo says he fears. And his name is Charlie Abourezk [more here].


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