200-plus Rosebud Reservation criminal cases dropped

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 4-08

More than 200 criminal cases have been dismissed in Rosebud Sioux tribal court because tribal police officers were not properly certified, a Rosebud Sioux official says.

James Henry, a tribal council member, said many of the officers didn’t have tribal police certification, starting about nine years ago.

At least 217 cases already have been dismissed, Henry said. “That’s probably going to triple,” he added.

The tribe has more than 30 officers, and many of them let their certification lapse, Henry said. The tribe requires recertification every two years, but some officers apparently thought they didn’t have to renew their certificates, he said.

Tribal Chairman Rodney Bordeaux said all but two of the tribal officers now are properly certified and that certification is pending for the other two.

U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley said that tribal courts generally handle American Indian defendants charged with misdemeanor-type crimes punishable by up to one year in jail.

“Federal courts generally exercise felony jurisdiction over offenses on reservations that involve an Indian offender or Indian victim, as well as certain misdemeanor type offenses involving non-Indian offenders,” Jackley told the Rapid City Journal.

More serious crimes usually end up in federal court, and the certification problem also is being used to challenge three criminal cases there.

Henry said there probably are inmates in the federal system hoping to use the certification issue to overturn their convictions.

“I don’t support the rapists, child molesters and aggravated assault people,” Henry said. “I just feel Rosebud Sioux Tribe law has been broken.”

Jackley said his office will continue prosecuting defendants based upon investigations and evidence gathered by federal authorities and Rosebud Sioux Tribe police officers.