Published On: Thu, Oct 12th, 2017

Tribal Prosecutor’s Report – September, October 2017

 

Ammons convicted on drug charges

Earl Ammons, 38, was convicted on Sept. 20 in the Cherokee Court for two counts of Trafficking in Controlled Substances. He received a sentence of 60 months of active incarceration from the Honorable Thomas Cochran, Cherokee Court Judge.

Lead Tribal Prosecutor Justin Eason stated, “This plea sends a clear message that the importation and sale of opioid pills will be met with harsh sanctions on the Reservation. The community has spoken, and while those who suffer from addiction should be offered opportunities for treatment, those who push pills and work to addict and exploit enrolled members should be given no leniency. I would like to thank and recognize Tribal Prosecutor Cody White and all of the members of the Narcotics Division of the Cherokee Indian Police department for the tireless work they do to help combat the scourge of opiate addiction.”

The five-year active sentence is the longest sentence imposed this year in the Cherokee Court, supplanting the previous high of three years in the case of Marquis Ford. Earlier this year, on June 28, 2017, Marquis Ford was convicted of two counts of Special Domestic Violence for Assault on a Female and one count of Special Domestic Violence Assault with a Deadly weapon,  pursuant to the Cherokee Code Section 14-40.1(c)(2) and was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment. The sentence, issued by the Honorable Randal Jones, Cherokee Court Judge, was the single longest conviction for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians under the tribal provisions of the reauthorized Federal Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (“VAWA 13”), which enable the Tribe to prosecute non-Native perpetrators for certain crimes of domestic violence occurring on Cherokee lands. To date, it is the longest sentence imposed by any Tribe anywhere in the country for such offenses.

Eason commented, “The speed with which we have already brought many 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.  I want to thank Det. Sgt. Neil Ferguson for his incredible dedication to this case which resulted in a high quality investigation.  The VAWA 13 law has been instrumental in providing the Eastern Band with the means to keep its members safe from domestic violence offenders.  This case shows that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians takes domestic violence offenses very seriously and will incarcerate those guilty of such crimes when appropriate.”

He concluded, “This recognition by the Federal government in VAWA 13 of the inherent sovereignty of Native tribes to punish all perpetrators of crimes occurring within their boundaries is an important first step in returning full criminal jurisdiction to tribal governments.  However, I understand in discussions with some of the other tribes who have implemented VAWA 13 that the continued limitations on criminal jurisdiction have created situations where justice remains elusive.  Particularly in domestic violence cases involving child abuse and maltreatment, because of the limitations that remain in the VAWA 13 tribal provisions, tribes remain unable to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence for acts committed against or involving child victims.  While VAWA 13 and its previous versions have created several specific Federal domestic violence crimes available for prosecution in Federal Court, there remain gaps when child victims are involved.  In those situations, we are forced to push for prosecution in Federal or State Courts or are left without recourse where those gaps exist.  I am hopeful that as we continue to successfully implement the provisions of VAWA 13, we will gain support for future amendments which will remedy these gaps 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 www.municode.com or through the Cherokee Tribal Operations Program at 828-359-7021.

 

Clinkscales pleads to federal strangulation charge

Howell Joseph Clinkscales, 36, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 in Federal Court in Asheville to Assault by Strangulation before the honorable Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell. The maximum punishment for these offenses is 10 years’ imprisonment. A date for sentencing has not been set.

Lead Tribal Prosecutor and Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin Eason said, “The Federal Courts provide an unparalleled forum for the administration of justice, and cases of serious domestic violence should be pursued to the utmost. Domestic violence is an endemic problem on the Boundary and it is the obligation of the Prosecutor’s Office to combat it with every tool available to us. The Special Assistant United States Attorney status agreement allows for serious cases such as this to receive prioritization and attention from start to finish. Cherokee is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with its Federal partners. I would especially like to recognize the diligence and professionalism displayed by our Tribal Police in the investigation of this case, and to thank Det. Sgt. Neil Ferguson for his efforts in seeing this case through. This case should send a message to abusers on the Boundary that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, be it Tribal or Federal.”

 

Teesateskie pleads to federal strangulation, assault charges

Steve Allen Teesateskie, Jr., 26, pleaded guilty on Monday, Oct. 2 in Federal Court in Asheville to Assault by Strangulation and Assault on an Intimate Partner Inflicting Substantial Bodily Injury before the honorable Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell. The maximum punishment for these offenses is 15 years imprisonment. A date for sentencing has not been set.

Lead Tribal Prosecutor and Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin Eason said, “The Federal Courts provide an unparalleled forum for the administration of justice, and cases of serious domestic violence should be pursued to the utmost. Domestic violence is an endemic problem on the Boundary and it is the obligation of the Prosecutor’s Office to combat it with every tool available to us. The Special Assistant United States Attorney status agreement allows for serious cases such as this to receive prioritization and attention from start to finish. Cherokee is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with its Federal partners. I would especially like to recognize the diligence and professionalism displayed by our Tribal Police in the investigation of this case, and to thank Det. Sgt. Neil Ferguson for his efforts in seeing this case through. I would also like to thank Sgt. Wahnetah Toineeta-Bigmeat for her thorough investigation which laid the groundwork for this successful resolution. This case should send a message to abusers on the Boundary that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, be it Tribal or Federal.”

– EBCI Office of Tribal Prosecutor