Featured News: Federal Advisory Committee Examines Juvenile Courts and Justice System Programs for American Indian Children Exposed to Violence
On Feb. 11, 2014 more than 30 tribal leaders, juvenile court judges, child advocates, juvenile justice system experts and community members from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community testified in the second public hearing of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. The hearing focused on how juvenile courts and other programs within tribal juvenile justice systems address the impact of children’s exposure to violence.
“Too many native children encounter violence in their homes and communities that can disrupt a path to living healthy adult lives, and we must do all that we can to protect these young people,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West. “By intervening early, we can help these children avoid a fate involving courts and the corrections system.”
During the hearing, experts explained how children entering tribal, state or federal justice systems are screened and treated for trauma from previous exposure to violence. They also discussed issues facing Native children in juvenile justice systems, including the availability of legal representation, tribal court transfer of juvenile cases to adult courts, culturally sensitive programs and services that divert youth from entering the juvenile justice system.
“The long-term impact of a child’s exposure to violence depends heavily on how law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and corrections professionals handle that child’s case,” said Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs Karol V. Mason. “Through the work of the task force, we hope to find ways to make the justice system a force for positive change in a young person’s life.”
The Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children exposed to violence is comprised of a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma, victim services and child welfare and law.
The 13-member advisory committee will draw upon research and information gathered through public hearings to draft a final report of policy recommendations that it will present to Attorney General Eric Holder by late 2014.
Attorney General Holder created the task force in April 2013 as part of his Defending Childhood initiative to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence as victims and witnesses. The task force is also a component of the Justice Department’s ongoing collaboration with leaders in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve public safety.
Justice Department Announces Three Tribes to Implement Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction under VAWA 2013
Pilot Projects Allow Tribal Prosecution of Non-Indian Abusers for the First Time in More Than Three Decades
On Feb. 6, 2014, the Department of Justice announced that three American Indian tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon – will be the first in the nation to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status, under a pilot project authorized by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013).
“This is just the latest step forward in this administration’s historic efforts to address the public safety crisis in Indian country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Every day, we’re working hard to strengthen partnerships with tribal leaders and confront shared challenges – particularly when it comes to protecting Indian women and girls from the shocking and unacceptably high rates of violence they too often face. With the important new tools provided by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, these critical pilot projects will facilitate the first tribal prosecutions of non-Indian perpetrators in recent times. This represents a significant victory for public safety and the rule of law, and a momentous step forward for tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”
Although the provisions authorizing the special jurisdiction take effect generally in March 2015, the law also gives the Attorney General discretion to grant a tribe’s request to exercise the jurisdiction earlier, through a voluntary pilot project. The authority to approve such requests has been delegated to Associate Attorney General Tony West. Associate Attorney General West today congratulated tribal leaders on this historic achievement in letters to the three tribes.
“The old jurisdictional scheme failed to adequately protect the public – particularly native women – with too many crimes going unprosecuted and unpunished amidst escalating violence in Indian Country,” stated Associate Attorney General West. “Our actions today mark a historic turning point. We believe that by certifying certain tribes to exercise jurisdiction over these crimes, we will help decrease domestic and dating violence in Indian Country, strengthen tribal capacity to administer justice and control crime, and ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable for their criminal behavior.”
Since the Supreme Court’s 1978 opinion in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, tribes have been prohibited from exercising criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants. This included domestic violence and dating violence committed by non-Indian abusers against their Indian spouses, intimate partners, and dating partners. Even a violent crime committed by a non-Indian husband against his Indian wife, in the presence of her Indian children, in their home on the Indian reservation, could not be prosecuted by the tribe. In granting the pilot-project requests of the Pascua Yaqui, Tulalip, and Umatilla tribes today, the United States is recognizing and affirming the tribes’ inherent power to exercise “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction” (SDVCJ) over all persons, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, for crimes committed on or after Feb. 20, 2014.
As described in the Department of Justice’s Final Notice on the pilot project, today’s decisions are based on a diligent, detailed review of application questionnaires submitted by the tribes in Dec. 2013, along with excerpts of tribal laws, rules, and policies, and other relevant information. That review, conducted in close coordination with the Department of the Interior and after formal consultation with affected Indian tribes, led the Justice Department to determine that the criminal justice systems of the Pascua Yaqui, Umatilla, and Tulalip tribes have adequate safeguards in place to fully protect defendants’ rights under the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by VAWA 2013.
The Department of Justice is posting notices of the pilot-project designation on the Tribal Justice and Safety Web site (www.justice.gov/tribal/) and in the Federal Register. In addition, each tribe’s application questionnaire and related tribal laws, rules, and policies will be posted on the Web site. These materials will serve as a resource for those tribes that may also wish to participate in the pilot project or to commence exercising SDVCJ in March 2015 or later, after the pilot project has concluded.
For more information on VAWA 2013, please visit www.justice.gov/tribal/vawa-tribal.html.
In Focus: Laguna Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Domestic Assault by a Habitual Offender Charge
Habitual Domestic Violence Prosecution in Laguna Pueblo Results from Federal-Tribal Initiative to Address Violence Against Native Women
On Feb. 3, 2014, Miles J. Riley, 32, pleaded guilty to a domestic assault announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough and DuWayne W. Honahni, Sr., Special Agent in Charge of District IV of BIA’s Office of Justice Services.
Riley, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna who resides in Mesita, N.M., was arrested on Nov. 29, 2013, based on a criminal complaint alleging that he assaulted his intimate partner, a Laguna Pueblo woman, by striking her on the face on Aug. 25, 2013. Riley subsequently was indicted and charged with domestic assault by a habitual offender based on his two prior domestic violence convictions in the Pueblo of Laguna Tribal Court.
Riley pleaded guilty to the indictment and admitted assaulting the victim. Riley has been in federal custody since his arrest and will remain detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Riley faces a maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the Laguna/Acoma Agency of BIA’s Office of Justice Services and the Pueblo of Laguna Police Department and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Adams. It was brought pursuant to the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department’s on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.
Significant Criminal Prosecutions
Honduran Man Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison for Sex Offenses Against Two Native American Females (U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona)
On Feb. 7, 2014, Hernan Ramirez-Ortega, 39, of Honduras was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson to 27 years in prison as the result of his guilty pleas to one count each of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. Ramirez-Ortega admitted to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Tohono O’odham girl in March of 2010 while he was living on the Tohono O’odham Nation, and sexually abusing another adult female who is a member of, and was living on, the Gila River Indian Reservation in August of 2010. After Ramirez-Ortega completes his 27 year prison sentence, he will be immediately deported to Honduras. He will also be placed on 20 years of federal supervision, which includes a prohibition against his return to the United States.
Navajo Man Sentenced To 204 Months in Prison for Sexual Assault of a Minor at the Boys and Girls Club (U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona)
On Feb. 18, 2014, Ty Colin Bia, 22, of Many Farms, Ariz., a member of the Navajo Nation, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow to 204 months in prison, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release. Bia is also required to register as a sex offender in compliance with federal, state and local laws. In Jan. 2013, the FBI received a report that a Navajo man had been texting inappropriate messages to a minor. Through further investigation, agents determined that Bia, a staff member at the Boys and Girls Club, had sexually assaulted a juvenile female while she was under his care on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. Bia pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2013, to abusive sexual contact.
William Davis, Jr. Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Sexually Abusing a Minor in 2007 (U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana)
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that on Feb. 7, 2014, Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, sentenced William Decature Davis, Jr., 47, of Havre, Montana, to a term of 36 months’ in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for the 2007 sexual abuse of a minor. Davis was convicted of sexually abusing a six-year old girl after a four day jury trial that began on Nov. 12, 2013. At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Betley presented evidence that the victim came forward in August of 2012 and was interviewed by the FBI. She alleged that the defendant, William Davis, Jr., who also goes by “Rooster,” raped her in the summer of 2007 when she was six. The defendant, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was at the time a neighbor of the girl and her mother in a trailer park on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
George Theodore Sutherland Sentenced for Assault (U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana)
On Feb. 6, 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced during a federal court session in Great Falls, that George Theodore Sutherland, 21, of the Box Elder, was sentenced to 21 months in prison to be followed by three years supervised release. Sutherland was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to assault resulting in serious bodily injury. In an offer of proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Danna Jackson, the government stated that on or around April 3, 2012, the defendant, who is an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Indian Tribe, chased the victim down a road, intentionally kicking her, causing the victim to fall and strike her head on the ground.
Bakken Drug Case Defendant Sentenced in Federal Court (U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana)
On Feb. 18, 2014, in a court proceeding in U.S. District Court in Billings, Judge Donald W. Molloy sentenced Samuel Davis Everson III, 47, of Fairview, North Dakota to 168 in prison and five years supervised release for the possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The prosecution was part of Project Safe Bakken, a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota. U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter, whose office prosecuted the case in federal court, stated “This case demonstrates the serious sort of drug trafficking at play in the Bakken oil fields. But it also shows how cooperative work between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies as part of Project Safe Bakken can successfully combat crime in the region. This effort will continue for as long as it takes to ensure the Bakken is safe place to live and work.”
Northern Arapaho Man Sentenced For Escape from Custody (U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming)
U.S. Attorney Christopher A. Crofts announced that on Feb. 5, 2014, Garrett Blackburn, a 21-year-old enrolled Northern Arapaho man from Arapahoe, Wyoming, appeared in Federal District Court in Casper for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl on the charge of escape from custody. Blackburn had previously been sentenced to 16 months in prison following his conviction for a charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Blackburn was transferred from FCI Englewood to the Volunteers of America Community Corrections Center (VOACCC) in Gillette, Wyoming to complete his period of imprisonment. At the time of his escape from VOACCC, Blackburn had approximately nine weeks left to serve on his original sentence. For this offense, Blackburn was sentenced to 13 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. The case was investigated by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Kirtland, N.M. Man Sentenced to Ninety-Seven Months in Federal Prison for Sexual Assault Conviction (U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico)
Hareldo Horse, 31, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Kirtland, N.M., was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for his sexual assault conviction. Horse will be required to register as a sex offender when he completes his prison sentence. Horse was arrested on March 11, 2013, on an indictment charging him with sexually assaulting a woman in a location within the Navajo Indian Reservation on Oct. 20, 2012. He has been in federal custody since that time. On Sept. 10, 2013, Horse pleaded guilty to the indictment and admitted inappropriately touching the victim’s genitals at a time when the victim was physically in capable of declining to participate in the sexual act. The case was brought pursuant to the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both.
Malone Man Convicted of Conspiring to Distribute Marijuana (U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York)
Allan Peters, 42, of Malone, N.Y.,was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana by a jury yesterday following a four-day jury trial in Syracuse, New York. Peters is scheduled to be sentenced on July 10, 2014 in Syracuse. He faces a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine. During trial, the government offered evidence that from at least 2005 through 2011, Peters and many others smuggled thousands of pounds of marijuana into the United States and sent millions of dollars in drug proceeds back to Canada. They used property controlled by Peters in Syne, Quebec, Canada on the Akwesasne Mohawk Indian Reservation as a staging area for the hockey bags of marijuana being smuggled into the United States. The bags, which normally contained 100 to 200 pounds of marijuana, were then transported into the United States.
Canadian Man Sentenced for Smuggling more than $5 million worth of “Molly” into the United States (U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York)
Joel Cunningham, 30, of Ottawa, Canada, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Glenn T. Suddaby. The sentence follows Cunningham’s Sept. 20, 2013 guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. On April 9, 2013, Cunningham was observed entering the United States from Canada through an unmanned border crossing in the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation. Members of the Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Massena, New York followed Cunningham and later stopped him. Law enforcement officers searched the sport utility vehicle driven by Cunningham and found 58,183 grams of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine Hydrochloride (commonly known as “Molly”), as well as over $140K in U.S. currency, in hidden compartments and duffel bags. The street value of the substance was over $5 million.
Nevada Man Sentenced for Voluntary Manslaughter (U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota)
U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on Jan. 24, 2014, Waylon S. Hicks, 22, Schurz, Nev., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland after having been convicted of a charge of voluntary manslaughter by a federal jury on Sept. 20, 2013. Judge Hovland sentenced Hicks to nine years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. On July 20, 2012, Hicks stabbed Jeremiah Sage in the chest while the two were in a motor vehicle parked at the New Town Marina on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The vehicle subsequently caught on fire. Sage’s body was located inside the vehicle after the fire was extinguished. According to testimony from the North Dakota State Medical Examiner, Sage died from the stab wound to the chest.