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A Canadian man charged with killing a former American Indian Movement member in 1975 acknowledged on an audiotape that he was with her moments before she was shot and left for dead in a ravine, according to a transcript obtained by The Associated Press.
John Graham is charged with first-degree murder in the kidnapping and slaying of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, who prosecutors say was killed because AIM leaders suspected she was a government informant. Prosecutors say Graham shot her in the back of the head as she begged for her life.
Graham, a former AIM member who remains free on bond in Canada, has denied killing Aquash. Former AIM member Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted of murder last month in Aquash's death, and is to be sentenced to life in prison next month.
The 2001 conversation on the tape was arranged by a senior AIM leader, according to people familiar with the tape who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said the interview was intended to provide Graham an opportunity to present an explanation for his whereabouts during the final moments of Aquash's life.
Prosecutors would not comment on the tape. During a telephone interview this week with the AP, Graham also refused to discuss it.
"If they have me on tape saying all this stuff, bring it on. I'm going to keep my comments to the courts," said Graham, who was due in court Monday for a hearing involving his extradition.
Paul DeMain of Hayward, Wis., an Indian journalist who has researched Aquash's death and also has the transcript, said the tape contains important details about the slaying.
"It's Graham in his own voice qualifying certain facts about the last hours and literally minutes of Anna Mae's life. He's not admitting to a lot of things other than being there. But he's qualifying who's driving, when they went certain places," said DeMain, who did not conduct the interview.
Aquash was among the Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days in 1973 - a standoff that became a symbol of 1970s Indian conflicts.
Her slaying occurred amid a series of violent clashes in the 1970s between federal agents and American Indian Movement leaders, who were fighting for treaty rights and self-determination for Indians.
Authorities said they only recently found enough evidence to prosecute the case. A break came when the former common-law life of one-time AIM leader Dennis Banks came forward.
The tape focuses on a Denver-to-South Dakota trip in 1975 that included Aquash, Graham, Looking Cloud and fellow AIM member Theda Clarke.
Witnesses at Looking Cloud's trial testified that Looking Cloud and Graham walked Aquash to the edge of a ravine in South Dakota's Badlands, where Graham allegedly shot her.
On the tape, Graham places himself on the trip from Denver and to the spot where she was killed, according to the transcript.
He does not directly acknowledge killing Aquash, but he never said Looking Cloud killed her either, according to the transcript.
At Looking Cloud's trial, John Trudell, AIM chairman at the time, testified he believes Graham, Looking Cloud and Clarke were ordered to kill Aquash during a stop at the home of AIM member Bill Means.
On the tape transcript, Graham said he was there.
"I don't remember going into (Means') house. I stayed in the car (with Aquash), I know that. Theda went in. And I don't know if Arlo went in or not, I can't really remember that too clear," he said.
Asked if Clarke took over the driving when they left Means' house for Wanblee, where Aquash was killed, Graham said: "Yeah. I do remember that. Theda did some driving. Theda drove from Bill Means'."
Clarke has not been charged in the case. She is in her 80s and lives in a nursing home in Nebraska.
One of Aquash's daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou, now is executive director of the group Indigenous Women for Justice, which has a copy of the tape. Its members challenged Graham to take a lie-detector test or respond to its contents.
Graham refused and instead challenged the group to make the tape public. A Graham supporter questions the credibility of the interview.
"We have not heard the tape, so we don't have much to say," said Matthew Lien of the John Graham Defense Committee. "What you are alleging this apparent tape says is the first time I have ever heard any deviation or any expressing of knowledge."
Lien questions the significance of the tape, pointing to the fact that it has yet to surface as evidence in the case. He said that, according to Graham, Aquash asked him to accompany her from Denver to a safe house on the Pine Ridge reservation, which he did.
"They were very close, very close friends and traveled together during those days, during sometimes intense circumstances," Lien said in a telephone interview.
Maloney Pictou denied that her mother and Graham were close, and said that she has never heard from him.
"When you are someone's friend and your friend goes missing or your friend is found murdered, don't you think you'd want to contact your friend's children?" she said.
"AIM Tape Puts Accused Killer at Scene."
We gave John Boy Graham every opportunity to call our spokeswoman to ask us to air this tape – he didn't, but his supporters persisted in accusing us of not having the tape . In a communication to one of his supporters that is posted on this site, we stated that if these accusations persisted we would have no choice but to give the press access to the tape of Graham, and we went so far as to copy that response to the Associated Press. The accusations from Graham's supporters continued and so we made the material available to the Associated Press: maybe now Graham's supporters and his attorney will realize that the Indigenous Women for Justice are in possession of everything we say that we have; we are not the ones who need to fabricate. John Boy told the AP that if we had the tape to "Bring it on," and we did. How about you now "bringing it on" with the polygraph, John?
For the record, on the tape John Boy is asked if he ever had a relationship of any kind with Annie Mae, to which he replies, "No." He is then asked again if he had a relationship or friendship of any sort with her, to which he says, "No. I never ever did." So much for him being "very close friends" with Annie Mae. So far as Lien's other comment about the evidentiary value of the tape, Lien has no idea what evidence prosecutors will present against Graham, and like everybody else, he will not know until such time as Graham has an attorney in the US and the discovery process takes place. As we keep reminding people, an extradition hearing is not a trial, and prosecutors don't generally present any more than they have to at an extradition hearing – in other words, they don't give the defendant the advantage of seeing all they have, only a minimum to meet the standard, as indicated by a review of extradition proceedings.
We are looking forward to Graham's response, which we expect will range from: the Associated Press is in cahoots with the FBI;
We thank our members and supporters for their continued prayers for Annie Mae, and belief in this cause.
In the spirit of Anna Mae Pictou, Marley Shebala (Navajo/Zuni) — Spokeswoman-Indigenous Women for Justice — firstname.lastname@example.org
We are no longer silenced by fear
The IWJ is a unity sisterhood of women from indigenous nations located