The Supreme Court always quarrels with the law, but in an appeal, the judges must hear this week (Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta), facts are also disputed. Oklahoma says the High Court’s ruling from 2020 in McGirt has given criminals impunity in half of the state. It flatly rejects other parties. Here’s some direct talk from the FBI about what’s really going on on earth.
Edward Gray is the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Oklahoma field office, making him the state’s best G-man. He started in January, in the middle of McGirt aftershock. “When I lined up for this job,” he says in an interview, “I knew exactly what I was getting into.”
That McGirt The ruling revived six historic Native American reservations in Oklahoma. Within these limits, the State may not prosecute crimes committed by or against natives. Thousands of cases have been moved to the FBI, with the FBI as the lead detective. Oklahoma’s field office, Director Christopher Wray said last year, “now has the FBI’s greatest investigative responsibility.”
Nearly two million Oklahomans are within the reservation lines. “By comparison, the second-largest reservation the FBI covers is the Navajo reservation,” he said. Gray. “Approximately 169,000 inhabitants.” To fill the gap, the agency sends agents from across the country for 90-day broadcasts to Oklahoma. It has appointed hundreds of local police officers as FBI task force officers, allowing them to work on federal cases.
“Clearly, our priorities will be on the most violent offenders and cases involving children,” says Mr. Gray. These crimes the FBI is “obliged not to get through,” and the agency appears to be reaching out to do so. Still, the agency is not equipped to investigate every piece of crime involving an Indian in every corner of eastern Oklahoma.
Since McGirt the caseload “has grown exponentially,” says Mr. Gray, with “about 30 to 40 a week as we open.” If a case involves drugs or weapons, the FBI can refer it to the DEA or ATF. If the perpetrator is native, it can go to tribal prosecutors. But the tribes lack authority over non-native perpetrators.
So what happens to less serious cases, e.g. if a white thief steals a Cherokee’s car? “Well… Yes, nothing,” Mr. Gray says. not the capacity to try these or even any kind of offense. ”
What’s more, everyone in Oklahoma seems to know it. “I’ve talked to the head of the Tulsa PD,” he said. Gray. “They can stop someone who has stolen a truck from an Indian, and they can just tow him and take the truck back.” The FBI could arrest him, but Mr Gray says local officers “in some cases” can not even arrest him until we get there. “
The locals have learned the exercise. “It really is not something they will refer to us,” says Mr. Gray. “Now they will pass that name on to the tribe. They will pass it on to us.” The FBI keeps records of such offenses and can act if agents “begin to see a pattern,” such as a round of crime by a person.
The Feds are also not set up to deal with young people. Girls can not be kept together with boys or adults. “Sometimes late at night, if we make an arrest, I try to find where I can house people,” says Mr. Gray. As to whether minors are being prosecuted at all: “Those that I am aware we are tracking are quite serious. They are being held under the federal statutes for adults.”
Mr. Gray wants a decision by which the FBI is not the only agency that can investigate a car theft in half of Oklahoma: “We hope so. But again, it’s out of our control as to how it’s going to happen. . ” Until then? “Unfortunately, these crimes are being investigated and prosecuted.”
Such has been the story in Oklahoma for nearly two years that hardly anyone outside the state has bothered to notice. Mr. Gray’s honesty is a public service. As far as we know, he is the first federal official to acknowledge reality. Two U.S. attorneys denied our interview requests. This mess is not their fault, but it will not be cleaned up until more people like Mr. Gray finds the courage to lift his head over the breastplate.
The tribes are in denial. “Almost all evidence shows that the criminal justice system works well across Oklahoma,” the Choctaw chief wrote to us in a recent letter. They seem to believe that officials like Governor Kevin Stitt (a Cherokee, as it happens) continue to fight McGirt of sheer pig’s head. No. They are fighting because it is intolerable for criminals to go free simply because they were targeting a racial minority.
Copyright © 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8