HELENA (AP) — State Sen. Shannon Augare will plead guilty to charges of drunken driving, reckless driving and obstruction of a peace officer if a magistrate judge rejects a request to dismiss the federal charges, his attorney said Tuesday in a court filing.
A change of plea would allow Augare, a Blackfeet tribal council member, to avoid defending himself in U.S. District Court against the same charges he pleaded guilty to in tribal court last month in connection with a May 26 traffic stop.
His trial had been scheduled to begin Thursday, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong delayed that trial to hear arguments on the motion filed Friday to dismiss the federal case.
Augare is accused of fleeing a Glacier County deputy who pulled him over on the Blackfeet reservation in May. The county turned the case over to the tribe, and the tribe's chief prosecutor in turn gave it to the U.S. attorney's office.
Augare's attorney Joe McKay argued that the federal government no longer has jurisdiction to prosecute his client after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in tribal court.
The sentence includes no jail time and no fine if Augare buys $200 worth of Christmas toys for the tribe's Toys for Tots drive. Augare also apologized for his actions at a news conference.
Federal prosecutors say they retain jurisdiction and Augare is attempting to manipulate the federal case by using "jurisdictional gymnastics."
McKay filed a new motion Tuesday that says if the judge rejects the request, Augare "does not intend to put the court to a trial on the merits" and will "accept responsibility and change his plea to all three charges to guilty."
McKay previously argued that the tribe has exclusive jurisdiction over victimless crimes involving Indians on reservations. Strong rejected that argument.
After that ruling, Augare requested the appointment of a special Blackfeet tribal prosecutor, and he was arraigned, pleaded guilty and sentenced by Blackfeet Chief Judge Allie Edwards.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Weldon said in a court filing Monday that Augare was attempting to use the tribal court proceeding to undercut the federal case.