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Associated Press, Published March 15 2013

White Earth first tribe to team up with US prosecutors

MINNEAPOLIS – An American Indian tribe in northern Minnesota will become the first in the country to team up with federal prosecutors under a law designed to improve public safety on reservations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

The White Earth Nation will share jurisdiction with the Justice Department when it comes to prosecuting crimes such as murder, rape or felony child abuse, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole announced Friday. Starting June 1, federal, state and tribal authorities will work together to examine those types of cases to see where prosecution makes the most sense.

The shared jurisdiction is possible under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which gave the Justice Department discretion to accept requests for shared jurisdiction with tribes that are also subject to state jurisdiction in six states: Minnesota, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Nebraska. Though other tribes in the country have requested shared jurisdiction, White Earth’s application is the first to be accepted.

Cole said the decision to partner with White Earth came down to several factors, including the tribe’s solid application and the fact that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota already has a great deal of experience working on crimes in Indian Country. Department officials also examined whether the opportunity for federal prosecution of some crimes would improve the security of people on the reservation.

“We were able to make the determination that we could help with public safety in Indian Country at White Earth,” Cole said. “We’re going to do the cases that will have the greatest impact for the tribe.”

Joe Plumer, a tribal attorney for the White Earth band, said the partnership would give the tribe an extra tool to fight crime.

“The most dangerous offenders with the longest felony criminal histories will be the best candidates for prosecution under this new jurisdiction,” Plumer said. “I think it’ll be a very useful tool for the band.”

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