Tribe gets second VAWA conviction

by Aug 31, 2015NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


Marquis Ford, 34, was convicted on Tuesday, Aug. 18 in the Cherokee Court for Special Domestic Violence for Assault on a Female, Simple Assault, and three counts of Violating a Domestic Violence Protective Order, pursuant to the newly enacted Cherokee Code Section 14-40.1(c)(2). He was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment, suspended for 36 months and was given a split sentence of 90 days active confinement, after which, he will be placed on Supervised Probation and ordered to pay a fine of $250, a special domestic violence fine of $1,000, and $720 in restitution to the victim of the offense.

The sentence, issued by the Honorable Danny E. Davis, Cherokee Court Judge, was the second Cherokee Court conviction under the tribal provisions of the reauthorized Federal Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (“VAWA 13”) which enable the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to prosecute non-Native perpetrators for certain crimes of domestic violence occurring on Cherokee lands.

Tribal Prosecutor Jason Smith stated, “The speed with which we have already brought two cases involving non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence crimes to justice is truly a testament to the hard work and professionalism of the people who work in the field of criminal justice here in Cherokee. Like our first Special Domestic Violence conviction, this case was also investigated by Cherokee Police Officer Wahnetah Toineeta, and I want to thank her for her incredible dedication to this case which resulted in a high quality investigation.”

He added, “I would also like to thank Assistant Tribal Prosecutor Justin Eason and Domestic Violence Advocate Iva Key for their time and efforts to this case and to the victim. They have been instrumental in our efforts to keep this victim safe. This was actually our first non-Native, Special Domestic Violence defendant charged, and this case involved three separate offenses. This case proves that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians takes domestic violence offenses very seriously and will incarcerate those guilty of such crimes when appropriate.”

This is the second Special Domestic Violence conviction against a non-EBCI perpetrator handed down by the Cherokee Court. John Michael Arkansas was convicted less than a month prior, on July 21, and he was sentenced to 75 days suspended for one year. Prior to June 8, the date on which the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians adopted the VAWA13 jurisdictional provisions in Cherokee Ordinance Number 526, both of these perpetrators would have only been subject to prosecution in Federal District Court in Asheville. There is currently one other Special Domestic Violence case pending before the Cherokee Court.

Smith concluded, “The importance of having these types of cases prosecuted locally in the Cherokee Court cannot be overstated. I have personally prosecuted misdemeanor level domestic violence cases in Federal Court, and while the Federal Court provides an unparalleled forum for the administration of justice, it was simply not designed to handle the daily needs of misdemeanor domestic violence cases. From date of offense to sentence, Ford’s three cases were prosecuted in less than seven weeks, and the Arkansas case in exactly two. Further, the local Cherokee victims in these cases were not required to drive over an hour one way for each court appearance. Although Cherokee is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with its Federal partners and a relatively short distance to the Federal Courthouse, many Tribes nationwide have very limited relationships and hundreds of miles separate them from their Federal venues. VAWA13 is a critical first step in the restoration of Tribal criminal justice, and the professionalism and thoughtfulness with which each VAWA13 Special Jurisdiction Tribe has handled their implementation and prosecutions speaks volumes for their ability to administer justice within their jurisdictions. I am hopeful that the next step will be amendments to remedy the gaps in this legislation affecting child victims.”

The specific provisions of the Cherokee Code which were added pursuant to VAWA 13 can be found in Section 14-40.1(c) which is accessible online at or through the Cherokee Tribal Operations Program 359-7021.

– Office of the Tribal Prosecutor