Charges in ‘In­dian coun­try’ on the rise

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY CUR­TIS KILLMAN Tulsa World cur­[email protected]­

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Ok­la­homa filed more crim­i­nal cases in “In­dian coun­try” in 2017 com­pared to the prior year, ac­cord­ing to a na­tional re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day.

In 2017, U.S. at­tor­neys in the three ju­di­cial dis­tricts in Ok­la­homa filed charges in 80 of 130 In­dian coun­try mat­ters re­ferred by the FBI, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment re­port.

Over­all, the num­ber of In­dian coun­try fed­eral prose­cu­tions in Ok­la­homa in­creased about 31 per­cent from 2016 to 2017.

Na­tion­wide, the num­ber of In­dian coun­try fed­eral prose­cu­tions de­clined from 1,763 in 2016 to 1,499 in 2017.

The ma­jor­ity of crim­i­nal of­fenses com­mit­ted, in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted in tribal com­mu­ni­ties are ad­ju­di­cated in tribal jus­tice sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to the In­dian Coun­try In­ves­ti­ga­tions and Prose­cu­tions Re­port.

U.S. At­tor­ney for the North­ern District of Ok­la­homa Trent Shores, in a state­ment, said the re­port re­flects that the many co­or­di­nated ef­forts among United States at­tor­neys and tribal jus­tice of­fi­cials are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

“In Au­gust, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Na­tive Amer­i­can Is­sues Subcom­mit­tee met and re­newed our com­mit­ment to find­ing mean­ing­ful and prac­ti­cal tools to help put an end to the dis­pro­por­tion­ate rates of vi­o­lence af­flict­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans,” Shores said.

The depart­ment is ex­pand­ing the use of cross­dep­u­ti­za­tion agree­ments, ac­cess to crim­i­nal data­bases, fund­ing for ju­ve­nile pro­grams serv­ing at-risk na­tive youth and ser­vices to vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, said Shores, chair­man of the subcom­mit­tee.

Fed­eral law gives U.S. at­tor­neys ju­ris­dic­tion to pros­e­cute cases in­volv­ing mur­der, man­slaugh­ter, sex­ual abuse, ag­gra­vated as­sault and child sex­ual abuse when com­mit­ted by Amer­i­can In­di­ans on tribal land.

In 2017, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Ok­la­homa de­clined 50 mat­ters in­volv­ing In­dian coun­try. Most of those cases were de­clined due to a lack of ev­i­dence or an­other ju­ris­dic­tion pick­ing up the case, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

In 2017, most of the cases de­clined in­volved the cat­e­gory of phys­i­cal as­saults or sex­ual as­saults, sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, or fail­ure to reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“While the rel­a­tively high dec­li­na­tion rate is trou­bling, it is also not en­tirely un­ex­pected given the chal­lenges in­her­ent in pros­e­cut­ing these types of crimes — chal­lenges that are not unique to the fed­eral sys­tem,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

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