Violence Against Women Advocacy Group Names U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson Prosecutor of the Year
The South Dakota Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee (SDVCC) has chosen Brendan Johnson as their Prosecutor of the Year. Brendan Johnson began his career prosecuting violence against women cases as a state prosecutor and has been the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota since 2009. During this time the U.S. Attorney’s office has made human trafficking, domestic abuse and sexual violence a priority, and prosecution rates have increased.
“Brendan has demonstrated a heartfelt commitment to protecting women and holding defendants accountable,” said Brenda Hill, Native Co-Director of SD Coalition Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence, praised the selection. “He truly comprehends the entire continuum of violence against women and strongly supports our efforts to reduce domestic and sexual violence. Brendan Johnson is an excellent role model and provides remarkable leadership.”
The SDDVCC is an organization led by the South Dakota Coalition Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence and the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. The organization includes law enforcement leaders from the state, federal, and tribal levels and is designed to protect and represent the interests of survivors of domestic and sexual assault.
Krista Heeren-Graber, Director of the SD Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, also applauded the selection. “Brendan has an impressive track record in the fight against domestic violence. His grit and determination to bring these perpetrators to justice has been a turning point in the lives of several victims. Quite simply, he has given them hope,” said Heeren-Graber.
“I am extremely honored to receive this award, but want to recognize the work of my entire office and our law enforcement partners. Without them, none of this is possible,” said Johnson. “I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with violence against women advocates and am proud of our shared accomplishments. Progress has been made, but there is more work to be done.”
In Focus: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
Congress recently passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, or “VAWA 2013.” This new law includes significant provisions addressing tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence. These tribal provisions were proposed by the Justice Department in 2011. They allow tribal authorities to exercise their sovereign power to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence both Indians and non-Indians who assault Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in Indian country. VAWA 2013 also clarifies tribes’ sovereign power to issue and enforce civil protection orders against Indians and non-Indians. While tribal participation is voluntary, the authority of U.S. Attorneys (and relevant state/local prosecutors) to prosecute crimes in Indian country remains unchanged. With these provisions, tribes’ criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians will be limited to cases of domestic violence, dating violence, and criminal violations of protection orders. It is important to note that this law generally does not take effect until March 7, 2015. Earlier tribal participation may be allowed under a Pilot Project if specific guidelines are met.
For more information, see http://www.justice.gov/tribal/vawa-tribal.html.
Significant Criminal Prosecutions
Reehahlio Carroll Pleads Guilty to Murdering Catholic Nun During Commission of a Burglary on The Navajo Reservation (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Mexico)
On April 5, 2013, U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that Reehahlio Carroll, 21, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty to a second degree murder charge under an agreement that requires him to serve a 40 year federal prison sentence. U.S. Attorney Gonzales was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and John Billison, Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.
Carroll was arrested in November 2009, based on federal charges arising out of the murder of Sister Marguerite Bartz of the Order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The murder occurred on Nov. 1, 2009, during the burglary of Sister Bartz’s home on the Saint Berard Mission which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Proceedings in the case were delayed by protracted competency proceedings resulting in a judicial finding that Carroll was competent to stand trial.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “No one, especially one who had dedicated her life to the service of others, should have to endure the brutal and terrifying death that Sister Marguerite Bartz suffered at the hands of Reehahlio Carroll. Although Carroll’s guilty plea cannot atone for the loss of Sister Marguerite’s life, I hope that it can bring a measure of solace to her biological family and her spiritual family as well as the community she chose to serve.”
Cudi, N.M., Man Sentenced to Prison for Federal Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Mexico)
On April 4, 2013, U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that Jervis Wilson, 20, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, was sentenced to 37 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.
In Nov. 2012, Wilson pleaded guilty to killing Herman Willeto, a 52-year-old Navajo man, while driving under the influence of alcohol in March 2012 on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
According to court records, on March 2, 2012, Wilson drank alcohol and then drove a vehicle recklessly. Wilson struck a Jeep, causing property damage and then continued driving at a high rate of speed and side-swiped a Dodge sedan, causing moderate damage to the sedan and minor injuries to the driver. As Wilson continued to drive, his vehicle struck a Ford truck that was towing an excavator on a flatbed trailer. Mr. Willeto, the driver of the truck, was killed on impact.
Beclabito, N.M., Man Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charge (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Mexico)
On March 22, 2013, U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that Stanford Benally, 41, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge under a plea agreement.
Benally was arrested in September 2012, on an indictment charging him with second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The second degree murder charge alleged that Benally caused the death of a minor female by serving her liquor and failing to provide care and seek medical attention for her in a manner that evinced a callous and wanton disregard for human life. The involuntary manslaughter charge alleged that Benally caused the death of victim, who was unconscious and intoxicated, by negligently failing to provide care or to seek medical assistance for the victim.
Benally pleaded guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge. In entering his guilty plea, Benally admitted that, on May 19, 2012, he killed his daughter by negligently failing to provide care or seeking medical assistance.
Former Employee of Santa Ana Star Casino Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Money From The Casino (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Mexico)
On March 20, 2013, U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that John Hoffman, 42, entered a guilty plea to the felony offense of theft by an employee of an Indian gaming establishment. His wife and accomplice, Michelle Fischer, 42, entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor offense of theft from an Indian gaming establishment.
Hoffman pleaded guilty to a felony information charging him with embezzling money belonging to the Santa Ana Star Casino, from December 2010 to August 2011. Hoffman admitted that he abused his position at the Santa Ana Star Casino by gaining access to active and inactive “Player’s Club” cards and adding money and credits to the cards without proper basis or authority. Hoffman further admitted that he then gave the cards to Fischer knowing that she intended to distribute the cards to others who would use the cards to gamble.
Fischer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor information charging her with theft of money belonging to the Santa Ana Star Casino. At sentencing, Hoffman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and Fischer faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison.
Navajo Man Sentenced to 180 Months In prison For Sexual Abuse (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona)
On April 2, 2013, U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo announced that On April 1, 2013, Kelbert Jay Nez, 22, was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Nez pleaded guilty to sexual abuse.
Nez was charged by indictment with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor and one count of sexual abuse. The charges in the indictment addressed the sexual abuse of two minor victims, ages 10 and 13 at the time of the abuse. The offense occurred on the Navajo Reservation.
Navajo Man Pleads Guilty to Assault and Gun Charges (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona)
On March 18, 2013, U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo announced that Lee Kinder Tso, 50, a member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty in federal district court to assault with a dangerous weapon and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
Tso had been charged with four counts of assault and four counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence. On Feb. 3, 2012, Tso used a rifle to shoot two victims on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, causing the victims serious physical injury.
Tohono O’odham Man Sentenced To 16-1/2 Years For Child Sexual Abuse (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona)
On March 27, 2013, U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo announced that Curtis Michael Garcia, 33, was sentenced to 16-1/2 years in prison. Following incarceration, Garcia will be on lifetime supervision with sex offender conditions, including registering as a sex offender. Garcia, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, pleaded guilty on Aug. 31, 2012, to two counts of abusive sexual contact. Between March 1 and May 30, 2009, Garcia sexually abused two minor females on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Man Indicted for Aggravated Sexual Abuse Against Children on Indian Reservation (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan)
On March 19, 2013, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced that John Charles Hart, 47, was arraigned after being indicted on March 13, 2013, by a federal grand jury in Bay City, Michigan for four counts of aggravated sexual abuse.
The incidents charged in the indictments spanned from 1996 to 2007 and involved two different victims on the Isabella Reservation. The indictment alleges that Hart strangled one of the victims while he raped her when she was 14 or 15 years old and sexually assaulted the other victim when she was six years old. If convicted, Hart faces a minimum of 30 years to life in prison.
Federal Jury Finds Native Mob Gang Members Guilty of Attempted Murder, Racketeering, and Other Charges (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota)
On March 19, 2013, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones announced that a jury found three members of the Native Mob street gang guilty on a number of charges related to the gang’s criminal activity. The jury found Wakinyon Wakan McArthur guilty on six counts, William Earl Morris guilty on four counts, and Anthony Francis Cree guilty on six counts, including racketeering and attempted murder (read the full release for specific charges).
The Native Mob is a regional criminal gang that originated in Minneapolis in the early 1990s. Members routinely engage in drug trafficking, assault, robbery, and murder. Membership is estimated at 200, with new members, including juveniles, regularly recruited from communities with large, male, Native American populations. Association with the gang is often signified by wearing red and black clothing or sporting gang-related tattoos. According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the Native Mob is one of the largest and most violent American Indian gangs in the U.S. and is most active in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The evidence presented at trial proved that since at least the mid-1990s, the named defendants and others have conspired to conduct criminal activity through an “enterprise,” namely, the Native Mob, in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
To that end, gang members distribute illegal drugs, from crack cocaine to ecstasy. They also provide monetary support to other members, including those incarcerated; share with one another police reports, victim statements, and other case discovery; hinder or obstruct officials from identifying or apprehending those wanted by the law; and intimidate witnesses to Native Mob crimes. Moreover, they maintain and circulate firearms for gang use and commit acts of violence, including murder, against individuals associated with rival gangs.
- On Dec. 21, 2012, Shaun Michael Martinez, also known as Tinez, pleaded guilty to one count of murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants committed numerous overt acts as evidence of their “criminal enterprise”:
- On March 4, 2010, McArthur, Cree, and others attempted to kill a man by shooting him three times with a .40-caliber handgun, the attack being in retaliation for the man’s supposed cooperation with law enforcement.
- On March 7, 2010, in south Minneapolis, Native Mob members attempted to kill a Native Vice Lord gang member by shooting him in the neck.
- On Aug. 24, 2010, McArthur ordered members of the Native Mob a drive-by shooting of a rival gang member’s apartment in Bemidji.
- On March 28, 2011, McArthur ordered members of the Native Mob to conduct a home invasion in Cass Lake.
For their crimes, the defendants who were tried and convicted in this case face a potential maximum sentence of between 20 years and life in federal prison. Since the federal justice system does not have parole, prison terms will be served virtually in their entirety behind bars. U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim will determine their sentences at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.
Blackduck man indicted for involuntary manslaughter (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota)
On March 25, 2013, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones announced that Dustin Michael Johnson, 27, was indicted in connection with the Oct. 23, 2012, death of a young woman.
The indictment alleges that on October 23 Johnson killed the woman without malice. It alleges that Johnson was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and crashed. The victim, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was killed. If convicted, Johnson faces a potential maximum penalty of eight years in prison on each count.
Ryan James Parker Sentenced in U.S. District Court (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana)
On April 1, 2013, U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter announced that Ryan James Parker, a 26-year-old enrolled member of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, was sentenced to a term of 37 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $3,998 in restitution and a special assessment of $100. Parker was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter.
In an Offer of Proof, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following: On June 14, 2012, on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, Parker caused a collision between the vehicle he was driving and another vehicle in which an individual died. Parker was intoxicated at the time of the collision
Winnebago Man Sentenced for Assault on a Federal Officer (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Nebraska)
On March 25, 2013, U. S. Attorney Deborah R. Gilg announced that Landon J. Blackdeer, age 26, was sentenced upon his conviction for assaulting a federal officer. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Kopf sentenced Blackdeer to twelve months and one day of in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Blackdeer was arrested in June 2012 by a uniformed officer of the Winnebago Police Department. Blackdeer had managed to get free of his handcuffs and attempted to flee when the officer opened the door to the police vehicle. A brief struggle ensued before the officer was able to gain control of Blackdeer. During the struggle, Blackdeer punched and elbowed the officer several times.
Cannon Ball Man Sentenced for Assaulting a Federal Officer (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of North Dakota)
U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on March 27, 2013, Raymond Blue Arm, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland on a charge of assaulting a federal officer. Blue Arm pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2012.
Judge Hovland sentenced Blue Arm to 10 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Blue Arm was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Crime Victim’s Fund. On July 4, 2012, at Prairie Knights Casino, Blue Arm was harassing patrons and was asked to leave, but he refused. When law enforcement officers arrived, Blue Arm used a backpack to hit one of the officers.
Moore Man Who Stole Veteran Grave Markers From Tribal Cemetery To Sell For Salvage Will Serve Prison Time (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Oklahoma)
On March 26, 2013, U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats announced that Jason P. Paras, 33, of Moore, Oklahoma, was sentenced to serve four months in prison for the theft of two grave markers from a Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Intertribal Cemetery. Paras was charged in Sept. 2012 and pleaded guilty in Oct. 2012.
Paras admitted that in June of 2012 he stole several brass grave markers from the Deyo Mission Cemetery, a Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Intertribal Cemetery located on Indian trust land. Paras admitted he stole the brass markers to sell as scrap metal. One of the grave markers was that of a Comanche Tribal member and “Comanche Code Talker” from World War II. Another marker belonged to Comanche tribal member who was a Vietnam veteran. As part of the sentence, Paras will be required to pay to replace the two markers he stole and sold as scrap metal.
Pendleton Man Sentenced to 21 Months in Federal Prison for Vehicular Homicide (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon)
On March 18, 2013, U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall announced that Roberto Medellin, 54, was sentenced 21months in prison by U. S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty for vehicular homicide. In December 2012, the defendant pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Judge Haggerty ordered the defendant to spend three years on supervised release, during which the defendant must not possess or consume alcohol.
On May 14, 2012, on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Medellin was driving his jeep on a highway in which Misty Dawn Sheoships, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, was a passenger. The vehicle went off the highway, crashed into a ditch, and Sheoships died as a result due to severe head and neck trauma. In a mirandized statement, Medellin said that he had been drinking earlier in the afternoon, prior to going out driving, and that he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Pine Ridge Man Receives 30-Year Sentence for Second Degree Murder (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Dakota)
On April 1, 2013, U.S. Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Kyle C. Yankton, 22, was sentenced for Second Degree Murder by Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Court.
Yankton was sentenced to 30 years’ in prison, 5 years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund. Yankton pleaded guilty to the Second Degree Murder charge in Nov. 2012.
The murder charge stems from an incident on June 30, 2012 when Yankton unlawfully and forcibly entered a residence in Pine Ridge. Pablo Galindo was sleeping in the basement of the residence, where Yankton located him and struck Galindo multiple times in the head with a baseball hat, causing death by blunt force trauma.
Mission Man Sentenced for Assault by Habitual Domestic Offender (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Dakota)
On March 27, 2013, U.S. Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Willard Dorian, age 36, was sentenced to 38 months, 2 years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund by U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange after his conviction of Assault by Habitual Domestic Offender.
Dorian was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2012 and pleaded guilty to the charge in Jan. 2013. The conviction stems from an incident that took place on July 3, 2011 when Dorian assaulted his domestic partner causing her bodily injury.
Porcupine Woman Pleads Guilty to Controlled Substance Charge (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of South Dakota)
On March 25, 2013, U.S. Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Cassie Winters, 28, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on March 19, 2013 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The charge relates to Winters’ conspiring with others to distribute at least 100 kilograms or more of marijuana in South Dakota between 2008 and 2012.
Wyoming Man Indicted for Violent Assaults (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Wyoming)
On March 27, 2013, U.S. Attorney Christopher A. Crofts announced that Bryson Brown of the Wind River Indian Reservation appeared in Federal Court in relation to a four count indictment charging him with one count of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm, one count of Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and two counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in connection with a domestic violence incident. The charges carry a maximum penalty of ten years to life.
Wyoming Man Charged with Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm (U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Wyoming)
U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming Christopher A. Crofts announced that on March 21, 2013, Shawn Antelope, Jr., a 19-year-old Northern Arapaho Tribal Member, was charged in an indictment with one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm in violation. The charges against Antelope stem from an incident that occurred in Aug. 2012 and an incident that occurred in Dec. 2012, both on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Antelope is facing a potential ten year term of in prison on each count, and could be ordered to pay restitution, a fine, and special assessment.