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Native American Case Victory

Over the last six months, we defended a Native American client from an activist family on a high-profile criminal matter arising from our client’s actions in rescuing her son from danger.

Our client faced extremely serious charges of Burglary in the First Degree and Custodial Interference in the First Degree for violating a Tribal Court, as a result of our client having removed her son from a location where she reasonably believed that her son was being sexually assaulted and was not being adequately protected. Our defense of this client called for us to trace out a complicated history of Tribal Court litigation, and fully analyze the legal relationship between the Tribal and State Court jurisdictions. Our investigators gathered crucial documentation concerning wide-ranging law enforcement investigations in two States. Our defense team included professional investigators and forensic scientists, including a renowned forensic psychologist.

The charges that our client faced consisted of class “A” and “B” felonies, as to which Oregon law calls for a presumptive sentence of nearly two years in prison. Any jail time would have been devastating to our client and her family. We are very pleased that we were able to spare our clients from these consequences. During the course of nearly half a year of working with our client, we came to admire the courage and steadfast sense of purpose and determination which our client and her family demonstrated throughout this litigation.

As a result of our vigorous advocacy on behalf of our client, we accomplished a negotiated settlement that will not require our client to serve even a single day in jail. Of perhaps even greater significance, our victory has the result that future custody decisions concerning our client’s son will be made by the Tribal authorities, in full recognition of the unique Tribal customs and traditions associated with the Tribal legal system, without interference on the part of the Oregon State Courts. As a further benefit of the negotiated outcome which we accomplished in this litigation, after completing her probationary sentence our client will qualify for expungement of all official records associated with her arrest and prosecution in this matter. The outcome we accomplished for our client is in stark contrast to the much less favorable outcome received by the co-defendant, who faced less serious charges yet ended up being convicted of a felony that does not qualify for expungement and serving 30 days in jail.

We are very gratified by the victory we have accomplished on behalf of this client and others who have turned to our office for legal assistance over the years. Our success was due to the team effort of all associated with our defense team. Important assistance was received at critical stages from Attorney Steven Ungar of the Lane Powell law firm.

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