U. S. Attorney for the District of Montana Michael Cotter held a press conference in Great Falls Monday describing a new program intended to reduce coercion and intimidation in Indian Country.
Cotter unveiled the Fearless Justice initiative, being conducted in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and tribal governments, following Elwyn “Jack” Has The Eagle being sentenced to nine years in prison for tampering with a witness during the murder trial of his son, Jay Has The Eagle.
Jay Has The Eagle was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for killing Calvin Snell, 69, and Doreen Manzanares, 62, at their residence in Lodge Pole Dec. 17, 2008. He was convicted of the murders on Oct. 29, 2009.
Jack Has The Eagle was convicted Aug. 4 of trying to convince a witness to perjure herself during the trial to support his son’s insanity defense.
In a press release, Cotter said it is clear, based on experiences of investigators and prosecutors, as well as concerns expressed by tribal leaders, that victims and witnesses to crime in Indian Country often are the subject of intimidation, pressure from family or friends, threats, shunning and other types of coercion.
Starting this month, the U. S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI will prioritize cases involving obstruction of justice, witness tampering and witness retaliation, the release said. Allegations of intimidation or coercion will be thoroughly reviewed and investigated, and, where sufficient proof exists, prosecuted.
Components of the initiative include:
• Increased technical support: The FBI has committed to providing all resident agencies in Indian Country with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment to gather evidence against those who seek to interfere with investigations and prosecutions.
• Focused training: Both the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI will provide particularized training to law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys in the investigation and prosecution of federal statutes relating to the obstruction of justice.
• Consultation with witnesses: Victims and witnesses will be counseled on what to do if they are approached by anyone seeking to get them to lie or fail to appear. Emergency contact information for law enforcement and the U. S. Attorney’s Office will be provided to every witness to violent crime.
• Rapid response contacts: Victims and witnesses will be given 24-hour contact numbers for agents and victim-witness specialists so that a rapid response can be made in the event anyone is threatened or intimidated.
• Legal response commitment: Investigators and prosecutors will react quickly and decisively where witness tampering can be established. If a defendant released from pre-trial custody engages in the conduct, the United States will immediately petition to have him arrested. If a friend or family member engages in the conduct, the United States will file a complaint and seek an immediate arrest.
• Coordination with courts and probation: The United States Attorneys Office will request “no contact” provisions in all release orders and work closely with the United States Probation Office to monitor the activities of a charged defendant while on pre-trial release.