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Federal appeals court rejects Peltier's sentence-reduction bid


ST. LOUIS (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected American Indian activist Leonard Peltier's request for reductions in the two consecutive life sentences he got in the 1975 killings of two FBI agents.

The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said his appeal came far too late.

An attorney for Peltier has argued that ballistics evidence not considered by the sentencing judge could have led to two concurrent life sentences, not the back-to-back ones Peltier has been serving since his 1977 conviction.

Under concurrent terms, his attorney has argued, Peltier would have been eligible for parole a decade ago. Now federally imprisoned in Leavenworth, Kan., the 57-year-old Peltier is scheduled for his next full parole hearing in 2008.

Earlier appeals, including a sentence-reduction request, have been denied.

On Thursday, the appeals panel noted that Peltier has known about the ballistics evidence since 1985, and ruled unanimously that the 120-day deadline for arguing it passed long ago. The panel also said Peltier's sentences were not illegal.

``It's disgraceful that someone has to serve time under these circumstances when it's clear the case was handled ineptly and dishonestly by the government,'' Peltier's attorney, Eric Seitz, said Thursday.

Seitz had not decided whether to ask the panel to reconsider or take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, was convicted in the slayings of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Both agents, who the FBI said were searching for robbery suspects, were shot in the head.

Peltier was charged with taking part in the slayings, but whether he fired the fatal shots was never proved.
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