The Supreme Court is still squabbling with the law, but in an appeal the justices will hear this week (Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta), the facts are also disputed. Oklahoma Says 2020 High Court Ruling in McGirt gave impunity to criminals in half the state. Other parties categorically deny it. Here are some direct FBI statements about what is really happening on the ground.
Edward Gray is the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Field Office in Oklahoma, making him the best G-man in the state. It started in January, in the middle of the McGirt replicas. “When I applied for this job,” he said in an interview, “I knew exactly what I was getting into.”
the McGirt decision revived six Native American historic reservations in Oklahoma. Within these borders, the state cannot prosecute crimes by or against natives. Thousands of cases have been transferred to federal authorities, with the FBI as lead detective. The Oklahoma Field Office, Director Christopher Wray said last year, “now has the FBI’s greatest investigative responsibility.”
Nearly two million Oklahomans are inside the reservation lines. “The second largest reservation, by comparison, that the FBI covers is the Navajo Reservation,” Gray said. “About 169,000 inhabitants.” To fill the void, the office is sending agents from around the country for 90-day deployments to Oklahoma. He deputized for several hundred local police officers as FBI task force officers, allowing them to work on federal cases.
“Obviously our priorities are going to be on the most violent offenders and cases involving children,” Gray said. These crimes the FBI is “pledged not to let pass”, and the bureau seems to be trying hard to do so. Yet the agency is not equipped to investigate every law violation involving a Native American in every corner of eastern Oklahoma.
Since McGirt the volume of cases “has increased exponentially”, says Mr. Gray, with “about 30 to 40 per week that we open”. If a case involves drugs or firearms, the FBI can refer it to the DEA or ATF. If the offender is Native, the case could go to tribal prosecutors. But the tribes lack authority over non-indigenous authors.
So what happens to less serious cases, for example, if a white thief steals a Cherokee’s car? “Well . . . yeah, nothing,” says Mr. Gray. , the US Attorney’s office does not have the ability to try these or even any other misdemeanor cases. ”
Plus, everyone in Oklahoma seems to know it. “I spoke to the leader of Tulsa PD,” Mr. Gray said. “They can arrest an individual who stole a truck from a Native American, and they can just arrest him and take the truck back.” The FBI could arrest, but Mr Gray says that in some circumstances local cops ‘can’t even hold him down until we get there’.
The locals learned the drill. “It’s really not something they’re going to send back to us,” says Gray. “Now they will pass this name on to the tribe. They will send it to us. The FBI keeps records of these offenses and can take action if officers “start to see a pattern,” such as a series of crimes committed by a single person.
Federal authorities are also not set up to handle minors. Girls cannot be detained with boys or adults. “Sometimes late at night, if we make an arrest, I try to find where to put people,” says Mr. Gray. On whether the minors face charges: “The ones I know of and that we are tracking are quite serious. They are detained under federal adult laws.
Mr. Gray wants a resolution that the FBI isn’t the only agency that can investigate a car theft in half of Oklahoma: “We’re hopeful for that. But again, it’s out of our way as to how it’s going to play out. Until there? “Unfortunately, these crimes are not being investigated or prosecuted.”
It’s been Oklahoma’s story for nearly two years, which hardly anyone outside the state has bothered to notice. Mr. Gray’s franchise is a public service. To our knowledge, he is the first federal official to recognize the reality. Two American lawyers refused our interview requests. This mess isn’t their fault, but it won’t be cleaned up until other people like Mr. Gray can find the courage to raise their heads above the parapet.
The tribes are in denial. “Virtually all of the evidence demonstrates that the criminal justice system is functioning well throughout Oklahoma,” Chief Choctaw wrote to Us in a recent letter. They seem to think officials like Governor Kevin Stitt (a Cherokee, in this case) are still fighting McGirt out of sheer stubbornness. No. They fight because it is intolerable for criminals to be released simply for targeting a racial minority.
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