American Indian activist Dennis Banks, who has lived in California for seven years as a fugitive from a South Dakota conviction for riot and assault, is expected to face a new extradition request soon that governor-elect George Deukmejian says he will honor.
Banks, who says he fears he will be murdered in prison if he returns to South Dakota, has been protected by the refusal of the current governor, Democrat Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., to honor extradition requests from South Dakota.
South Dakota's Republican Gov. William J. Janklow, who originally prosecuted Banks in 1975, said this year that he had let more than 90 accused burglars, drug dealers and other criminal defendants flee to California in retaliation for Brown's decision; however, prosecutors in South Dakota denied this.
Deukmejian had criticized Brown in 1978 for failing to return Banks for sentencing on the riot and assault conviction stemming from a 1973 brawl between demonstrating Indians and sheriff's deputies in Custer, S.D.
While campaigning for governor this year, Deukmejian said that if elected, he would extradite Banks. A spokesman for Deukmejian confirmed today that Banks will be extradited "as long as there is no legal complication."
Bob Timm, chief deputy attorney general in South Dakota, said Janklow would issue a new extradition request for Banks as soon as Deukmejian is sworn in as governor in January.
Banks, 52, currently chancellor of the tiny Indian-oriented Deganawidah-Quetzlacoatl (D-Q) University in Davis, Calif., said Janklow and one or two state prison guards had threatened his life. Banks said that if he were sentenced and imprisoned on the charges, which carry a maximum 15-year prison term, "I assume there would be a summary execution and they would get away with it."
Banks said his supporters were organizing and will attempt to change Deukmejian's mind. Failing that, Banks said, he will try to find another state to give him refuge.
An organizer of the American Indian Movement and a participant in the 70-day occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973, Banks said he had assaulted no one in the Custer incident and was convicted by a jury that included no Indian members. He said Janklow bore a grudge against him because Banks, serving as a tribal attorney, once attempted to prosecute Janklow for rape on an Indian reservation.