Attorney Demands Info on Disappearance of|Black Man at 1973 Battle at Wounded Knee

     BUFFALO, N.Y. (CN) – An attorney sued the FBI for documents about the unexplained disappearance, and presumed death, of a black civil rights activist during the 1973 siege against the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee.
     Michael Kuzma, of Buffalo, sued the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act, for records he requested from the FBI on Ray Robinson, who went missing in 1973.
     Robinson, described in the lawsuit as a follower of Martin Luther King Jr., traveled in April that year to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where the AIM was locked in an armed standoff with the federal government.
     “Ray Robinson never returned home to his family, his body has not been found, he has been declared legally dead and little is known about what actually happened to him,” Kuzma says in his complaint.
     Kuzma is part of the defense team that has worked for years to secure the release of Leonard Peltier, a Native American serving two life sentences in a federal prison in Florida for the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 clash at Wounded Knee.
     The site is where the 7th Cavalry massacred 150 or more Sioux in 1890, to try to stop the Ghost Dance, which the Sioux hoped would make the Anglos disappear and the buffalo return. The U.S. government viewed it as a dangerous rebellion.
     In 1973, AIM activists, including Peltier, occupied the village for 71 days, trading gunfire with the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the National Guard in protests over internal Sioux politics and U.S. treaties.
     Even after the siege ended, violent clashes between AIM and tribal leaders continued, with the federal government keeping watch. When the FBI entered the village with an arrest warrant in June 1975, gunfire broke out and two FBI agents and an AIM member were killed.
     (The most complete record of the AIM v. USA standoff is Peter Matthiessen’s 1983 book, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.” The book set off an 8-year legal battle in which South Dakota Gov. William Janklow sued Matthiessen and Viking Press, claiming the book defamed him. Janklow managed to get the book banned in South Dakota for a while. Viking countersued, and won, on constitutional claims, but Janklow’s lawsuit delayed release of the paperback version for eight years.)
     In his complaint, Kuzma says he has used the FOIA since 2001 to seek records from the Department of Justice and FBI relating to Peltier, AIM and “RESMURS” – FBI shorthand for the 1975 “reservation murders.”
     In January 2011, he requested from the FBI copies of “all records pertaining to Ray Robinson.”
     The complaint does not state how or whether the request relates to Kuzma’s Peltier work.
     The FBI told Kuzma that some documents that might be relevant to his request were destroyed between 1993 and 1998, according to the complaint. Others were said to be unavailable because they had been designated for shipment to the National Archives and Records Administration.
     A subsequent FOIA request to that agency resulted in a letter stating that the FBI case file he sought “was not responsive to his FOIA request,” the complaint states.
     Kuzma then asked the FBI to “conduct a search of its indexes to locate potentially relevant case files pertaining to Ray Robinson.”
     He says the agency responded again that some potentially relevant records had been destroyed and that others “were not in their expected location and could not be located after a reasonable search.”
     Kuzma treated the response as a denial and filed an administrative appeal in March 2012. Six months later, an attorney with the appeals staff told Kuzma “that his FOIA request had been remanded to the FBI for further review and processing of records located subsequent to his appeal,” the complaint states.
     In December 2012, the FBI sent Kuzma “two pages in part,” but “an indeterminate number of pages were withheld in their entirety,” according to the complaint. Kuzma appealed again.
     That appeal was not processed as it should have been under Kuzma’s right to “prompt access,” he says, so he sued in Federal Court.
     He seeks expeditious disclosure of the requested records in their entirety, court costs and attorneys’ fees.
     He is represented by Daire Brian Irwin, of Buffalo.

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