Trial of Arlo Looking Cloud
Call your next witness.
MR. McMAHON: Bob Riter.
called as a witness, being first duly sworn, testified and
said as follows:
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. McMAHON:
Q. Mr. Riter, will you introduce yourself to the jury, please?
A. Certainly. My name is Bob Riter, I am a lawyer in Pierre.
Q. How long have you been practicing law, Bob?
A. I have been practicing law for thirty years.
Q. Sorry. Have you been in Pierre all that time?
Q. You have an occasion to represent Anna Mae Aquash?
Q. When did that come about?
A. I was appointed to represent her in September of 1975.
Q. What was the charge?
A. If I recall correctly, she was initially charged with a
complaint for possession of a firearm with an obliterated
serial number, and then later there was an indictment and
there were two counts, one of which was that same count and
then one similar as far as a firearm, and I don't really
remember the other count.
Q. Do you remember when she made her first appearance?
A. She made her first appearance in early September. I
can't tell you right now the exact day.
Q. That's close enough. Was she let out on bond?
Q. When she was let out on bond, I am assuming you had
discussions with her about her case prior to her leaving Pierre?
A. Mr. McMahon, my position on this is that I have an
attorney/client relationship with her, and I don't believe
that I am in a position to testify as far as what she and I discussed.
Q. I am not going there, I am just asking if you had discussions?
A. Yes, I had discussions with her.
Q. As a part of those discussions, did she give you ways to
try to get in contact with her after she left?
A. I am sure she must have. I don't specifically recall
that at this time.
Q. I am assuming then that probably not right then, but
after she was indicted there was an initial appearance date
set, or another appearance date set?
A. Yes, there was an arraignment.
Q. Was that set for November 10th?
A. Actually, no. The arraignment did occur in early
October, and she did appear for her arraignment in early October.
Q. Was there another court date scheduled for November?
A. Yes, I believe it was. A motion hearing was scheduled
on November 10th.
Q. Did she appear for that?
A. No, she did not.
Q. Prior to November 10th and after she had made her
appearance in October, did you attempt to get in contact with her?
Q. How did you do that?
A. I guess you just asked me how. By mail. I also
attempted to contact her telephonically.
Q. I am assuming you had some type of a telephone number for her?
A. You know, I don't know that I had a number for her.
Frankly, I had a number down in. Pine Ridge that I am not sure
it was her number, but it was a way to make contact with her.
Q. Were you ever able to speak with her prior to November
10th, after she had left Pierre I am talking about?
Q. So from the time in early October when she made the
appearance for her arraignment, between then and November 10th
you weren't ever able to speak with her?
A. I do not recall having been in contact with her during
that period of time.
Q. Did you ever ask anyone to help you contact her?
A. I asked Bruce Ellison.
Q. Why did you ask Mr. Ellison to help you?
A. When the initial appearance occurred in early September,
Mr. Ellison was present. There were other attorneys present
as well. If I recall correctly there were a number of
defendants charged, and so there were quite a few attorneys
from Pierre like myself who had been appointed to represent
some of the other defendants. And as I sit here today I am
not sure if Mr. Ellison who had been appointed to represent
one of the defendants or was associated with the Wounded Knee
Legal Defense Fund.
Q. So prior to November 10th you weren't able to contact
her. Was Mr. Ellison able to help you get in contact with her?
Q. When was the next time you saw her?
A. The next time I saw her was on November 23.
Q. How do you remember it was November 23?
A. Well, in preparation for coming today I did look at my
file. I recall that she was brought back to South Dakota,
there was a trial scheduled for November 25, and I visited
with her the next time two days prior to that trial.
Q. Was she under arrest when she was brought back to South Dakota?
A. Well, she was still I guess under arrest from the
initial information. I understand that she had in Oregon been
placed in custody, because she had not appeared earlier at her
hearing. I don't know if she was formally under arrest, I am
not sure of that.
Q. Well, she was in custody when she first appeared in Pierre then?
Q. Did she once again get out on bond?
A. Yes, she did.
Q. Did that surprise you?
A. Yes, it did.
Q. How did that come about?
A. On the 24th, the day before the trial was scheduled, I
recall correctly that there was a United States District Court
Judge from Virginia, or a southern state who was up here
handling some matters including this particular trial. There
were a number of attorneys in Pierre, many of them either
representing some of the other defendants about which I spoke
earlier, or some that I believe were associated with the
Wounded Knee Legal Defense Fund. And that day, the 24th when
I visited with my client, either right prior thereto or after
I had visited with her, it was suggested to me by one of the
attorneys, none of them, it was not an attorney from Pierre,
one of the other attorneys, that perhaps the Judge would let
her out on bond for preparation efforts for the trial the next
day, and also, frankly, so she could be better able to respond
the next day to the trial.
Q. You said it surprised you she was let out on bond, why was that?
A. It surprised me because they had just picked her up in
Oregon and brought her back to South Dakota because she had
not appeared at a prior hearing. So I didn't anticipate that
they would do that, but if I recall correctly, we appeared in
front of the Court and made that request and the Court did allow it.
Q. So she got out on bond again?
A. She got out on bond again on the 24th of November.
Q. Leading up to the 24th of November had the United States
made any offers for reduced charges in return for a guilty
A. Yes, we had communication from the United States
Attorney's office regarding that.
Q. Did you send those on to Anna Mae?
A. I think that is asking for me to testify as regards
something that would be protected by the attorney/client
privilege as far as what was included in the correspondence I sent her.
Q. Well, I am going to try to avoid that issue if we can.
Normally wouldn't you feel it was your obligation to
communicate plea offers to your clients?
Q. And do you normally comply with your ethical obligations?
Q. Did you share any of those letters with any of the
attorneys for the other defendants?
A. I do not believe that I shared them with any of the
attorneys for any of the other defendants.
Q. Was one of those letters a letter that you gave to Bruce
Ellison to try to get it to Anna Mae?
A. No, I wrote Mr. Ellison a separate stand alone letter
where I told him that there was a hearing scheduled, that I
would appreciate his help in seeing what he could do to get
her to appear at the time of the hearing, because I wasn't
confident myself at the time that she was going to be there on
Q. Once Anna Mae was let out on bond again, that would have
been November 24th?
Q. Of 1975?
Q. Her trial was scheduled for the following day?
Q. Did you ever see her again?
A. I may have seen her at the St. Charles Hotel, because a
number of these attorneys who were from out of state were
staying up at the St. Charles Hotel. It was kind of a
strategy room up there that was being used to discuss
witnesses and evidence and testimony that might be presented.
As I sit here I do not have a clear recollection of seeing her
up at the St. Charles Hotel, but my expectation would have
been that after she got out she did come up there, but I don't
Q. And if you would have seen her at the St. Charles Hotel
in Pierre, that would have been on the 24th some time?
A. That's correct. I should say, Mr. McMahon, I don't mean
to volunteer, but in response to your earlier question I am
confident that on the 24th I also told the U.S. Attorney's
office that we were going to trial, there had not been any
Q. So then the trial was set for the following day,
November 25, 1975. Did she show up to go to trial?
A. No, she did not.
Q. Did you ever see her again?
A. Never did.
Q. Ever hear from her again?
MR. McMAHON: That's all I have.
MR. RENSCH: No questions.
THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Riter, you may step down.
Well, just about time for a mid afternoon break, we might as
well take one five minutes early. Remember what I told you
before, don't talk about the case with each other, don't make
up your minds until all the evidence is in. We will be in
recess for fifteen minutes.
(Recess at 2:25 until 2:40).