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INVESTIGATES: McGirt ruling's impact on Tulsa Co. crime victim

Posted at 6:03 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 00:39:05-04

TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa County crime victim and Cherokee Nation tribal member is worried after her burglary case was dismissed last week.

“I feel like I'm, I feel like I'm being punished for her crimes,” said LaDonna Nair, burglary victim.

The case against a family member she said stole from her has been dropped in state court and the charges haven’t yet been filed in tribal court.

The case falls under the recent McGirt Supreme court ruling that redefines the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules much of eastern Oklahoma remains tribal reservation

“I never dreamed I would walk into court today, and they would tell me all charges were dropped. It was a disappointment,” Nair said.

The case included one count of larceny from a house and burglary in the 3rd degree.

Those charges don’t fall under the "Major Crimes Act" so the case won’t be picked up by federal prosecutors but by MCN Tribal Court.

“After I left the courthouse I called the Creek Nation and Cherokee Nation to ask them, you know, what do I do as a victim to keep myself safe for the future, and what's gonna happen with the CASE," Nair said. "I didn't get an answer from anybody at either place at Cherokee or Creek. And so, that leads you know that leaves it wide open for all criminals.”

The McGirt ruling re-established Indian Territory for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

That territory stretches nearly 7,000 miles across 11 counties in Northeastern Oklahoma.

Under the decision, anyone who is a member of a federally recognized Tribe and is involved in a crime within those boundaries is subject to the McGirt decision.

READ MORE: McGirt v. Oklahoma: How SCOTUS tribal ruling will impact crimes in Oklahoma

That means only federal or tribal courts have jurisdiction to prosecute, cutting out state prosecutors like Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

“Those kind of things are the things that I worry about. The things that we would have prosecuted and continued to prosecute on a daily basis, but if it's a Native American, either as a defendant, or as a victim we're divested of jurisdiction and my empathy goes out to those victims,” Kunzweiler said.

LaDonna isn’t sure what will happen in her case and she’s concerned for her safety in the meantime.

“I’ve been through so much already," Nair said. "So, my only thing I can think of now is to pack our stuff and to move."

“It's very frustrating, it's frustrating for me," Kunzweiler said. "I've been doing it for 32 years and now just to be divested of things in which I had close relationships with families."

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation sent 2 Works for You this statement from the attorney general:

Our office has not yet received a report on this case. In these instances, It’s important that we communicate that the victim should obtain a protective order against the defendant from the MCN District Court. The protective order would be in effect while we await the report. Once we receive the report, charges will be filed in MCN District Court. The protective order would remain in effect throughout the process unless revoked, recalled, dismissed or rescinded by the court.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation also has resources available through the Family Violence Protection Program.

MCN FVPP Hotline 918.732.7979

If you are Native American and the victim of a crime, harassment or violence, call the Lighthorse Police to file a protective order.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation could not say when charges will be filed in LaDonna’s case.

However, she’s not just worried about getting justice for herself, she worries about others like her who feel left in the dark.

“I feel like if, if that's, you know, this is just my situation, there's going to be a whole, there's other people with situations like this, too, and there's going to be a lot of people set free,” Nair said.

Tribal leaders and the Department of Justice are trying to establish protocol under the new ruling.

Attorney General William Barr is hosting a roundtable discussion with Cherokee Nation leaders in Tahlequah, Okla. on Wednesday along with the Northern and Eastern District’s of Oklahoma.

The McGirt ruling is expected to be a topic of discussion among other things.

For updates on that roundtable discussion, tune into 2 works for You on Wednesday.

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