Mille Lacs Tribal Court awards $4.2M in gang case

By Amy Forliti
Minneapolis, Minnesota (AP) June 2011

A member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe who was brutally beaten in 2006, dragged behind a car and left for dead in subzero weather after refusing to join the Vice Lords has been awarded more than $4.2 million in tribal court, his attorney announced.

The civil judgment requires that defendant, Keith Wayne Reynolds, to pay Cody St. John $3 million in punitive damages. The judge said the award would deter others from using intimidation to further gang activity.

“If ever there was a case that warranted punitive damages, this case is it,” Judge Richard Osburn wrote in his judgment filed last week.

On Feb. 13, 2006, Reynolds demanded in front of other band members that St. John join the Vice Lords. St. John, who was 22 at the time, refused.

On his way home he was assaulted. Court documents say Reynolds and another man dragged St. John behind a car, carved the initials “VL” into his face, arm and back, and left him barely dressed in subzero weather. St. John suffered multiple injuries, including frostbite and a traumatic head injury which led to memory loss and behavioral problems.

Osburn wrote that Reynolds left St. John on the road in front of a community center “for the entire community to see.”

“It is reasonable to infer that defendant Reynolds wished to send a message of violence to the entire Mille Lacs Tribal community,” Osburn wrote. He called the crime a reprehensible act against the community.

Reynolds has been convicted of third-degree assault. A working phone number for him was not available and he did not have an attorney.

St. John’s attorney, Patrick Noaker, said: “Clearly this judge is sending his own message to these gangs. And the message is that violent intimidation is not welcome in their community.”

Besides the punitive damages, $1.28 million will help compensate St. John for past and future medical and mental health expenses.