Articles Posted in Native American Law

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Defendant moved to dismiss charges of federal felony offenses, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because a 1905 Act of Congress diminished the Red Lake Reservation, removing the town of Redby from Indian country. The district court denied the motion and defendant conditionally plead guilty. The court concluded that the record did not adequately support the district court’s determination that Redby is part of Indian country as a matter of law. Therefore, the court vacated the order, allowed defendant to withdraw his plea, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and resident of the Tribe's reservation, appealed her 37 month sentence after pleading guilty to one count of child abuse. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court committed reversible error by failing to rule on her objection to the PSR's recommended two-level increase for the victim's bodily injury pursuant to USSG 2A2.3(b)(1)(A). The court reasoned that an absence of a specific ruling on defendant's objection to the PSR was not by itself a significant procedural error because the record reflected sufficient evidence for the district court's findings to receive meaningful appellate review. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by deciding to count defendant's 40 tribal court convictions in reaching its sentence; the district court had an ample basis for discounting her alleged mitigating good behavior, especially considering her virtual repeat offense; and the sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court gave an individualized assessment of defendant's criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the conviction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Velnita Jolette Hairy Chin" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for four counts of sexual abuse of a minor and one count of assault to his girlfriend resulting in serious bodily injury, all occurring in Indian country. Defendant's girlfriend died from her injuries twenty-one months after the assault. The minor is a relative of the girlfriend who was living with the couple. The court concluded that the minor's testimony was sufficient to support the sexual abuse convictions; the district court erred in admitting the hearsay statement of the girlfriend's former husband where the girlfriend had stated that defendant was the person who committed the assault, but the erroneous evidentiary ruling did not affect defendant’s substantial rights where the record as a whole, excluding the testimony, was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for the assault; the evidence amply supported the verdict; and, in regard to defendant's sentence of 293 months in prison, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying an upward departure under USSG 4A1.3 for inadequacy of criminal history category, and USSG 5K2.1 for conduct resulting in death. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Stoney End of Horn" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of one count of assault and two counts of domestic assault by a habitual offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 117. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting testimony of defendant's then girlfriend about the facts underlying his three prior tribal-court convictions for domestic abuse because the testimony was relevant to prove that the convictions had occurred and that she was a spouse or intimate partner; regardless of whether the testimony was relevant to prove that defendant's prior crimes constituted "any assault" under section 117, it was admissible for other purposes; and any prejudicial effect that the testimony might have had on the jury was mitigated by the district court's curative instruction. The court also concluded that, because the right of counsel does not apply in tribal-court proceedings, the use of defendant's prior tribal-court convictions as predicate offenses in a section 117(a) prosecution does not violate the Constitution. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Drapeau" on Justia Law

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Appellants filed a class action claiming the right to title and possession of twelve square miles of land in southern Minnesota. Appellants allege that they are lineal descendants of the Mdewakanton band of the Sioux tribe who were loyal to the United States during the 1862 uprising, and that the Secretary of the Interior set apart the twelve square miles for the loyal Mdewakanton and their descendants. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that appellants failed to state a claim under federal common law as set forth in the progeny of Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida; the district court properly granted defendants' motions to dismiss on the ground that Section 9 of the Act of February 16, 1863, Act of Feb. 16, 1863, ch. 37, 9, 12 Stat. 652, 654, does not provide a private remedy to the loyal Mdewakanton; the district court abused its discretion when it imposed sanctions, and the claims regarding the appellate-cost bond are moot; and, because the district court made no findings regarding the propriety of the Municipal Appelllees' motion for costs, the motion was moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of appellees' motion to dismiss; vacated the order imposing sanctions and requiring an appellate-cost bond; and remanded for limited consideration of Municipal Appellees’ motion for costs Under Rule 54(d) and 28 U.S.C. 1920. View "Wolfchild v. Redwood County" on Justia Law

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Defendants Christopher and Jordan were found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2, 113, and 1153. The court concluded that the admission of the certificates of the degree of Indian blood did not violate Christopher’s and Jordan’s Sixth Amendment rights because they were admissible as non-testimonial business records. In this case, the enrollment clerk here did not complete forensic testing on evidence seized during a police investigation, but instead performed the ministerial duty of preparing certificates based on information that was kept in the ordinary course of business. Moreover, in addition to the certificates, the government elicited testimony from the deputy superintendent for trust services that Christopher and Jordan were enrolled in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the lesser-included-offense instruction; there was no error in the district court’s questioning of the emergency room doctor; and the evidence was sufficient to convict Jordan of assault with a dangerous weapon or assault resulting in serious bodily injuries. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Rainbow" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for domestic assault in Indian country by an habitual offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. 117. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying defendant’s motion in limine and in allowing the government to use his prior simple-assault conviction as a predicate offense under section 117(a); it was reasonable for the jury to credit the victim’s corroborated testimony and find defendant guilty of domestic assault; and defendant's sentence is substantively reasonable where the district court sentenced him at the bottom of the Guidelines range after considering various factors such as his health, history of criminal assault, seriousness of domestic violence, failure to accept responsibility, and his lack of remorse. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Harlan" on Justia Law

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Bettor Racing sought judicial review of NIGC finding that Bettor Racing had committed three violations of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2711(a), and NIGC's issuance of a Notice and Civil-Fine Assessment. The court concluded that the facts support NIGC’s finding that Bettor Racing (1) operated without an NIGC-approved management contract, (2) operated under two unapproved modifications, and (3) held the sole proprietary interest in the gaming operations. Therefore, the district court did not err in upholding the charged violations. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in finding the $5 million fine both reasonable and constitutional. Finally, the court rejected Bettor Racing's contention that NIGC violated its right to due process when the agency dismissed the case on summary judgment without a hearing because NIGC relied on undisputed facts in reaching its conclusion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bettor Racing, Inc. v. National Indian Gaming Comm." on Justia Law

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Long, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, operated the “OC Store,” a novelty store, on the reservation. The store had few exterior windows. BIA Officer Spargur encountered juveniles, carrying fireworks. One juvenile stated that he just bought them at the OC Store. Spargur went to the Store, was unsure whether it was closed, but concluded the store was open because of lights, music, unlocked doors, and the juveniles’ report that they had “just” purchased fireworks. Spargur entered through two unlocked doors, stopped at a third door, and “knock[ed] and announce[d] police.” Receiving no response, Spargur opened the main door, and, seeing Long’s son, entered the store. Another of Long’s sons acknowledged the juveniles had been in the store. Spargur noticed a small package on one of the concession tables that, based on his experience and training, he “recognized . . . as a package normally holding synthetic marijuana.” Once Long emerged, Spargur reminded him not to sell fireworks after Independence Day, left the store, and prepared an affidavit for a search warrant. A judge, 60 miles away, approved the warrant by telephone. Spargur and others searched the store, seizing 80 grams of synthetic marijuana. Long conditionally pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The Eighth Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to dismiss, finding that the officers’ actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Long" on Justia Law

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The indictment alleged that "within the Omaha Indian Reservation in Indian Country, [Webster], an Indian male, did knowingly engage in a sexual act with A.C., a child who had not attained the age of 12 years.” The jurisdictional statute, 18 U.S.C. 1152, provides: Except as otherwise expressly provided … the general laws of the United States … shall extend to the Indian country. This section shall not extend to offenses committed by one Indian against the person or property of another Indian, nor to any Indian ... who has been punished by the local law of the tribe. The indictment did not allege A.C. was a non-Indian or that Webster had not faced tribal punishment. At trial, Webster stipulated that he is an Indian and A.C. is a non-Indian. The court excluded references to a tribal complaint filed against Webster, which had been dismissed. Webster was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c). The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence and upholding the decision not to admit the tribal complaint. Even if the victim’s status is an element of section 1152, the indictment’s failure to allege A.C.’s status did not render it “so defective that by no reasonable construction can it be said to charge the offense.” View "United States v. Webster" on Justia Law