By Aditi Mukherji
A federal judge in Minneapolis recently tossed the indictments of five American Indians arrested in a major fish poaching bust on Indian reservations in northern Minnesota. The judge ruled the men were protected under an 1837 treaty.
But another federal judge in the same district came to the exact opposite conclusion -- even though the case was borne from the same undercover investigation.
The Eighth Circuit may have to get on board, get its feet wet on the issue, and reel in a solution to this extraordinary split.
The decision by Judge John Tunheim of Minneapolis to dismiss the indictments appears to directly conflict with rulings made by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle of St. Paul on Oct. 31, creating a sea of confusion about the law. Critics believe the conflicting fish poaching cases may set sail for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals as soon as next year, reports the Star Tribune.
In a motion filed Monday, attorneys for two Red Lake Indians whose indictments were not dismissed by Kyle urged the judge to reconsider his position in light of Tunheim's ruling.
Lawyers Robert Richman and Shannon Elkins wrote: "There is now not only a split of authority in this district, there is a split of authority in what is, for all practical purposes, a single prosecution.
In April, 10 people were indicted in federal court for transporting and selling walleyes illegally from reservations in Minnesota. In addition to the five dismissed Monday by Tunheim, one defendant has pleaded guilty and cases against four are pending.
Charges against 28 other people were filed in state and tribal courts, in what state authorities called the worst fish black marketing case in the last 20 years. More....