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Meskwaki jurisdiction again raises question- Prior case before Iowa Supreme Court - await ruling

Trial set for man accused of breaking slot machine glass

July 26, 2019
By John Speer - Editor (jspeer@tamatoledonews.com) , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

By John Speer

Editor

jspeer@tamatoledonews.com

Trial for a Newton, Iowa, man accused of breaking the glass on a slot machine at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino west of Tama has been set in Tama County Magistrate Court in Toledo.

Court records show Jason Edward Trotter, 52, pleaded innocent to a State of Iowa charge of 4th degree criminal mischief entered on July 19. Magistrate Richard Vander Mey scheduled the non-jury trial for Aug. 9. Trotter had 10 days from July 19 to demand a trial by jury.

The original complaint filed by Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police states Trotter "admitted to breaking the glass on slot machine on June 6, 2019 at Meskwaki Casino." It is dated July 19 at 5:30 a.m.

Fact Box

Sheriff's Office off Settlement

By John Speer

Seeming to complicate the Meskwaki jurisdiction issue further is the request made by Meskwaki Attorney General Jay Finch to Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera for his officers to not enter the Meskwaki Settlement without permission. That communication was made Dec. 13, 2019.

The Sheriff's Office told The News-Herald on Tuesday this continues to be the policy as did Tama Police Chief Jason Bina concerning his department.

Toledo Police Chief Bob Kendall said, "Because we don't have a 28-E agreement anymore with the tribe, I don't have a policy per-se regarding the assistance of MNPD.

"If there is a situation that calls for emergency aid to MNPD Officers, we will go out and assist." He says he cites an Iowa Code requirement to assist other officers in an emergency when questioned about this response.

"Other than that, we don't go out there," Kendall said.

It is known Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police do act off the Settlement borders.

The Tama County Sheriff's Office told The News-Herald Trotter was brought to the jail in Toledo by Meskwaki Police and released the next morning on the magistrate's order.

Who Is In Charge?

The case again raises questions about whether Tama County is responsible for prosecuting the case and if Iowa courts are to be involved.

Setting the trial date conflicts with an earlier ruling by Vander Mey in a different case which has been challenged.

The issue was before the Iowa Supreme Court on July 11 when heard from the offices of the U.S. Attorney and the Meskwaki Attorney General.

Meanwhile, Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren told The News-Herald on Tuesday, "The investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses on the Tama Settlement should be handled by the federal government or the tribe - depending on the race of the defendant and victim. If the defendant is a Native American, the case should be handled in tribal court. If the defendant is not Native American, the case should be handled in federal court."

Before Iowa Supreme Court

Two weeks ago the Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments involving an earlier case which was thrown out by Magistrate Vander Mey on Jan. 1 when he ruled "Federal jurisdiction was recently enacted which removed state jurisdiction for crimes committed on the Settlement."

Vander Mey ruled then, " "Federal jurisdiction was recently enacted which removed state jurisdiction for crimes committed on the Settlement."

He goes on to write, "The understanding of the undersigned is that the lack of state jurisdiction prohibits tribal police officers as well as Iowa peace officers from initiating state criminal charges for conduct on the Settlement regardless of the race or ethnic background of any potential defendant."

In the case, Meskwaki Police had charged Jessica Stanton,41, Marshalltown with trespassing, violation of a no contact order and possession of drug paraphernalia. The court records on file at the time show Stanton had been charged on Dec. 13, 2018, at 11:12 p.m. at 1504 305th Street, Tama, the address of the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel by Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police, and was taken into custody.

Magistrate Vander Mey's ruling came on the heels of federal legislation signed on Dec. 11, 2018, by President Trump which placed legal jurisdiction for the Meskwaki Settlement in the control of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki). In 1948, federal legislation put the responsibility for Settlement jurisdiction in the control of the State of Iowa.

Eric Tabor, spokesperson for the office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, told The News-Herald on Tuesday no decision had yet been handed down although and "expedited" resolution has been sought.

Oral arguments on the issue of Meskwaki jurisdiction were heard before the Iowa Supreme court on July 9.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Aaron Rogers had challenged the magistrate's order in a filing with the Iowa Supreme Court charging Vander Mey's reading of the law was incorrect.

Magistrate Vander Mey ruled, in part, "The understanding of the undersigned is that the lack of state jurisdiction prohibits tribal police officers as well as Iowa peace officers from initiating state criminal charges for conduct on the Settlement regardless of the race or ethnic background of any potential defendant."

In the nine-page Supreme Court filing, Assistant Attorney General Aaron Rogers calls for a quick resolve in the court filing say it will have a "broad effect" - "If this issues is not quickly settled statewide, there are other tribal lands at risk of a law enforcement vacuum if the same misreading of the 2018 act persists and spreads."

In a brief to the Supreme Court Assistant Meskwaki Attorney General Joshua Canterbury and lead prosecutor Christopher Nydle said, "If the decision of the magistrate is allowed to stand it will create a class of criminal offenses on the Meskwaki Settlement over which no government will have criminal jurisdiction. The Tribe has no criminal jurisdiction over Non-Indians, except for the limited grant contained in the Violence Against Women Act."

They also maintain, "The Meskwaki Settlement attracts thousands of visitors each year the majority of which are Non-Indian, many of the Tribe's employees are Non- Indian, and a few Non-Indians reside on the Meskwaki Settlement. Allowing the magistrate's decision to stand means Non-Indians could commit victim-less crimes which are harmful to the community on the Meskwaki Settlement with no consequence.

"Further, Non-Indians could commit crimes against other Non-Indians on the Meskwaki Settlement for which the victim will receive no justice. The magistrate's decision would create a gap in jurisdiction that has the potential to turn the Meskwaki Settlement into a haven for lawlessness by Non-Indians which the tribe wants to avoid and so should this honorable court."

A host of federal officials also are seeking reversal of Vander Mey's ruling in a joint appeal. They contend "In this case the United States lacks jurisdiction as the Defendant is Non-Indian and the alleged offenses are victim-less violations of state law. If the State does not have jurisdiction over the offenses, then no government does.

They claim, "The Magistrate's decision would create A jurisdictional vacuum on the Tribe's land" and go on say, "The magistrate suggested that "any charges for conduct upon the Meskwaki Settlement can be pursued in tribal court or federal court." State Pet. Ex. D. But the applicable jurisdictional rules clarify that neither the Tribe nor the United States can prosecute crimes involving only non-Indians in Indian country."

Submitting the appeal were U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Adams, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, Deputy Attorney General Matthew Miner and Ann O'Connell Adams, U.S, Department of Justice criminal division attorney.

 
 
 

 

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