AIDING and ABETTING: To actively, knowingly, intentionally, or purposefully facilitate or assist another individual in the commission or attempted commission of a crime. Aiding and abetting is characterized by affirmative criminal conduct and is not established as a result of omissions or negative acquiescence. (Law Dictionary)
Darrelle (Dino) Butler, Robert Robideau and Leonard Peltier, the three principal defendants charged by the Federal Government with the murders and aiding and abetting in the killing of Agents Coler and Williams, exercised their Constitutional Rights, as well they should have, and did not take the witness stand in either the Cedar Rapids, IA trial (June, 1976, Butler, Robideau), or in the Fargo, ND trial (March, 1977, Peltier). Their own words, however, are important to measure and understand the context of that incident.
NPPA directs the reader to the 1991 Carolco documentary, Incident at Oglala ("Incident"), produced and narrated by Robert Redford, which chronicles the AIM and FBI struggle, the plight of Native Americans and the "Reign of Terror" between 1973 and 1975, the infighting between Indian and Indian (the Traditionalist versus the Non-traditionalists), the killing of the agents, both federal trials, and Mr. X.
It is here that any concerned researchers can hear for themselves the words delivered from the mouths of those who were there, what they saw, what they did, and their views on what happened that day. In a very real sense, it is their direct testimony.
In a medley of vignettes, the camera fades back and forth punctuating the statements of the participants for emphasis and corroboration.
The agents arrive in separate cars on the reservation and enter the Jumping Bull Compound following the now notorious red pickup. The occupants and the agents start shooting, Robideau and Butler join in with others, pinning the agents in the cross-fire. The shooting stops and Robideau goes down to the vehicles.
In the opening scenes, Bob Robideau makes a remarkable admission:
"I discovered that they both had been hit by my gunfire."
Of course, Robideau could make such a public statement, memorialized on film through his own demeanor, tone and inflection, that he knew that his bullets had hit the agents. Robideau had no fear of being prosecuted for those statements because he had his Fifth Amendment protection against double-jeopardy firmly on his side; at his and Dino Butler's trial in Cedar Rapids, they had both been acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. The readers here, and viewers of this film, must decide for themselves, whether, under those circumstances, Robideau was telling a truth, a truth that he knew was protected speech. IT IS LIKELY THAT HE WAS.
A crucial question then is how he knew this. The events of the film establish that they were supposedly firing at great distances (100 to 200 yards) at the two individuals (agents). Knowing that his bullets, at those distances, had hit the agents is suspect, unless, he knows more of what had happened to the agents.
Robideau also declares that:
"When we arrived at the cars, we discovered that both these individuals were dead."
This statement would serve to establish that the people in the red pickup had already killed the agents. These statements are made at the beginning of the film, although at the end of the film, as Robideau, Butler and Peltier fill in more details, the actions of Mr. X come into conflict with their description of the shoot-out. Robideau's story is classically detailed (as much as the defense attorneys, throughout the film, accuse the FBI of creating such neatly packaged events).
They describe the scene vaguely at first, maybe purposefully; the filmed shots at the beginning of the documentary show a furtive red Jeep Cherokee pickup, first with one occupant, then with three, then with one again as it departs, but never in proximity to the two agents and their vehicles. The film makers and the witnesses did not reconstruct that scene to show, at a minimum, exactly how close the vehicle was to the agents' cars or whether they (Mr X. and one other person with him) were in any danger from Robideau, Butler, Peltier and others in this crossfire situation. The raging gun battle, as he describes from the opening to closing of the film, according to the shots actually fired - was one sided - as the evidence has shown. A review of the available maps of the compound belies the crossfire to anyone but the agents who were in the middle, being fired upon from the people in the vehicle and those who ran up from the AIM camp to the South. Their concerns for the women and children, caught in a crossfire situation are misplaced; the residences were on the perimeter of the activity and all the firing from the agents from their position, was over in a few shots.
In 1989, according to the narrator, Robert Redford, and Robideau, Mr. X (arriving first as a passenger in the red pickup) comes forward to admit that he alone shot at the agents in self-defense, when they stopped and started shooting at him. Mr. X was concerned because of the load of explosives he brought with him. He then, after all the other firing stopped, went down to the agents, who again, attempted to shoot him, so he had to defend himself, once again, and kill them dead. He then, as the driver now, drove off, according to Robideau, in the red pickup. (Two agents, one losing massive amounts of blood from a nearly severed arm, and the other, shot three times and after waiving his white shirt in surrender, were going to shoot Mr. X, apparently, so he had to execute them.)
(A shadowy figure in dark clothing and ski mask, labeled as Mr. X, is briefly shown. He was, presumably, a stand-in).
Mr. X admits all this in 1989 (Peltier had already served twelve years in prison by then), but Robideau proves that his identity was NO SECRET OR SURPRISE:
"He was coming to the Jumping Bull home to deliver explosives that WE had asked him to bring here."
Peltier himself admits knowing Mr. X, but would not, because of his strong beliefs, religion, and culture, testify against this person. "It would be wrong," "I won't do it," he states. Although, his daughter Marquetta calls that "stupid", and the extremely vocal AIM spokesperson, John Trudell, says that he wished that Mr. X "wouldn't make a game out of it."
This, again (in the 1991 film) relates Mr. X's unnecessary admissions in 1989. what was there to admit? Everyone, Robideau, and the WE (Butler and Peltier) who ordered the explosives delivered to Jumping Bull, knew exactly who he was (and no doubt also the second person in the red pickup), in 1975!
Where was Mr. X earlier?
Peter Matthiessen, while preparing his thorough treatment of Pine Ridge, AIM, and the FBI, conducted in-depth interviews of all the participants in this drama. His research, of course, preceded the first publication of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse in 1983.
"Spirit" p. 158
In the next few minutes, one or more people approached the cars and killed both white men at close range with one or more high-powered rifles.
Perhaps someone panicked, though this seems unlikely; perhaps someone was settling an old score or simply had a murderous impulse, although this seems unlikely too. In view of the virulent hostility to AIM, especially the lawless atmosphere of Pine Ridge, the Indians present may have feared that whether or not these white men survived, anyone involved here would be shot on sight, even if they surrendered; there was no way they would ever get to trial. Even flight would probably be hopeless if anyone could be identified by the victims; their last desperate chance was to finish off the agents, one of whom seemed certain to die anyway from massive hemorrhage. And so, perhaps one or more of these tense men, excited and angry, horrified by so much blood, and full of dread, nerved himself to finish off the white men. Whether the killing was sudden, impulsive, or solitary, or whether it was done in quick consensus, and whether or not AIM Indians were involved, it was over quickly.
The readers are asked to make their own judgement about which part of this account is most telling.
The NPPA believes that the words:
"...seemed certain to die anyway from massive hemorrhage," and "horrified by so much blood," to any rational person, applying even a reasonable amount of logic and common sense, would conclude that for these observations to have been made:
THE PARTICIPANTS HAD TO BE THERE TO SEE IT!
Had it been otherwise, if the actions of Mr. X are believable, the agents were already dead: "When we arrived at the cars, we discovered that both these individuals were dead," as Robideau had already informed us.
No one in their right mind would have expected Butler, Robideau and Peltier to confess. There was just too much at stake. Then how else could men accused of such a crime, and claiming innocence of murder, relate the essence of that incident is such chilling detail? These statements and explanations are not just an incredible coincidence, but point directly to their guilt, as they aided and abetted one another in a double murder, escaped together, and continued to run until they were apprehended. By applying a modicum of reason to the explanation of Mr. X, his identity either dissipates into the dust on the prairie, or materializes in the person of one of the key participants. If they did not commit these murders, then the victims must still be alive. Robideau's confession in "Incident" is designed to place most of the blame for shooting the agents on himself, but removing the guilt from Peltier for having killed them.
(Peltier, at the conclusion of "Incident", says, "I didn't kill those agents," carefully using the word kill so as not to confuse the deadly actions of Mr. X. He could not say that he didn't shoot at the agents because he had already admitted shooting at the agents on 60 Minutes on September 22, 1991.)
Two juries heard the evidence and the Government's theory of the guilt of Butler and Robideau, and Peltier, at THE TRIALS.
Then there is Peter Matthiessen's personal interview: MR. X - THE INTERVIEW.