The Accidental Jurist

Leonard Peltier. Stephen Miles. Now the witness who might break the Ramsey case. Itís no wonder Lee Hill thinks he needs to pack a pistol.

It is important to stop inappropriate use and "exploitation" of Indian spiritual rituals, Royce White Calf says, because it is "the final stage of colonialism. Our identity is based on our spirituality; it's who we are. Once they take over our spirituality, our people will become extinct. We will have no say in our intellectual or cultural property rights."

Cruz has since left his job, sold his house and moved out of state. Meanwhile, Naropa asked for the suit to be dismissed, arguing that First Amendment guarantees of free speech protected the school.

In December, district judge Roxanne Bailin announced that "broad claims of cultural genocide" won't be heard by the court. "Naropa correctly asserts that it has no duty to provide an adequate education," she noted.

Lee Hill
Lee Hill
Action figures: Steven Seagal and Lee Hill are working on movie and television projects.
Action figures: Steven Seagal and Lee Hill are working on movie and television projects.

Hill says that figures. "That's the crux of their argument. They have no duty under Colorado law to educate their students."

The judge also dismissed all the claims except "breach of contract." Still, Hill argues, the basic issue of the lawsuit -- that Naropa participates in "cultural genocide" -- remains at its heart. "The persons responsible know it for what it really is," he says. "Even though they're in denial."

Hill says it ticks him off that Naropa has made a big deal of noting that Lydia is white. "She has two children who are half-Indian," he says. "She is trying to protect their heritage from exploitation [by whites] to make a buck."

In 1996, the domino pattern appeared to be coming full circle when Hill was invited to be on a panel moderated by Ginsberg. Even back then, Hill had managed to irritate some members of the audience by commenting -- pointedly in the case of Naropa -- that it was fine to study and learn to respect other cultures, but that they should steer away from "misappropriating" traditional and spiritual practices.

Still, it was good to see Ginsberg, who was soon up to his old tricks, asking, "Remind me, did we ever get it on?" Later, the old poet got to the microphone for a little extemporaneous poetry that included asserting, several times, "I am a balding pedophile." The admission seemed to disturb no one but Hill. Some things never changed.

Through Ginsberg, Hill met Stephen Miles, the 47-year-old son of a well-loved Boulder physician. Miles was a photographer, a sort of photo biographer of Ginsberg who was also known for his pictures of rock stars. He'd been arrested in 1989 for possessing photographs of nude teenaged boys and had been charged with sexual exploitation of a child, but the photographs had turned out to be of a seventeen-year-old, above the age of consent. The exploitation charge had been dropped, though Miles had pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for supplying beer to an underage drinker.

Ginsberg had told him that he never knew when he might need a good lawyer, and recommended that he contact Hill.

Hill was in the middle of the worst year of his life. He was bankrupt. His second marriage was over. And it would not get any better when he woke up the day after Christmas to the news that a six-year-old girl named JonBenét Ramsey had been murdered in her family's home, just blocks from where he was living.

At first, Hill stayed out of the JonBenét fray. But in 1997, dismayed by the apparent lack of cooperation between the Boulder Police Department and the Boulder District Attorney's Office in the case, Hill decided to run for city council. He argued that there should be civilian oversight of the police department, which he viewed as some sort of rogue elephant.

It didn't win him the election. But it did bring him to the attention of Stephen Singular, who was working on a book about the Ramsey case. Cautiously at first, then increasingly as they got to know and respect each other, the two men exchanged ideas on the investigation.

Singular eventually theorized in his book, Presumed Guilty, that JonBenét's death may have links to where the child beauty-pageant industry brushes up against the child-pornography business. But, he argued, the public had only been given two choices: Either JonBenét's parent(s) killed her or an intruder broke into the house. The real truth, he contended, might lie somewhere in between. The police had not shown much interest in pursuing this avenue of investigation, even when he discussed having seen (but not downloaded, which was a felony) Internet photographs of young children being strangled (as was JonBenét) and sexually assaulted. But he found an interested listener -- at least -- in Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter and a like-minded comrade in Lee Hill. When the book was released in 1998, Singular dedicated it in part to Hill.

By that time, Hill was more involved than he had ever wanted to be. In October 1997, the National Enquirer ran one of its myriad stories on the Ramsey case, this one under the headline, "Dad: We Know Who Did It." Below a pouty-lipped photograph of JonBenét was a picture of Stephen Miles, along with the promise of an "exclusive interview with the man the Ramseys say killed JonBenét."

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