May 1, 2002

News Release

U.S. Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20002-8002

For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2002

Contact: Michael Courlander
Public Affairs Officer
(202) 502-4597

SENTENCING COMMISSION CONVENES
NATIVE AMERICAN AD HOC ADVISORY GROUP

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 1, 2002) – The United States Sentencing Commission announced today the formation of a Native American Ad Hoc Advisory Group to consider any viable methods to improve the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines in their application to Native Americans prosecuted under the Major Crimes Act. The Native American advisory group will be comprised of 16 members representing a variety of interested groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal members, the federal judiciary, and law enforcement officials. The Native American advisory group will be chaired by the Honorable Lawrence Piersol, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of South Dakota. The Native American advisory group, which will meet over a period of 18 months, will present one interim report and a final written recommendation to the Commission.

"The Commission’s formation of the Native American advisory group represents a continuation of the Commission’s interest in and commitment to addressing issues and concerns regarding the application of the federal guidelines to Native Americans," said Commission chair, Judge Diana E. Murphy.

In June 2001, the Commission held a public hearing in Rapid City, South Dakota, to hear firsthand about the issues facing Native Americans who are prosecuted for crimes in the federal system. Testimony was presented by various witnesses with experience in federal investigation, prosecution, and sentencing in South Dakota. After the hearing, the Commission considered a number of initiatives aimed at addressing some of the concerns raised by witnesses. One such initiative involved sending Commission staff to South Dakota to provide defense attorneys with training seminars on the application of the federal guidelines. Seminars were held in Rapid City, Pierre, and Sioux Falls in October and November 2001. Approximately 100 defense lawyers attended these seminars.

On September 19, 2001, the Commission requested public comment on the formation of an ad hoc advisory group to address Native American issues. The Commission received universally favorable public comment on this idea.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines, which went into effect November 1, 1987, structure the courts’ sentencing discretion to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive a similar sentence. The Commission has ongoing responsibility to monitor and amend the guidelines.

The following are the members of the ad hoc advisory group:

Honorable Lawrence Piersol, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota (Chair)
Robert Ecoffey, Director, Office of Law Enforcement Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs
Kevin Gover, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson
Phil Hogen, Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior
Diane Humetewa, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona
Magdeline E. Jensen, Chief of Probation, Tucson, AZ
Thomas L. LeClaire, Of Counsel, Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, AZ
Elsie Meeks, Vice Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Honorable Donald W. Molloy, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Montana
Richard Monette, Tribal Chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Tom Peckham, Partner, Nordhaus Law Firm, Albuquerque, NM
Marlys Pecora, Victim Witness Specialist, U.S. Attorney’s Office, South Dakota
Celia Rumann, Assistant Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Jon Sands, Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of Arizona
Tracy Toulou, Director, Office of Tribal Justice, U.S. Department of Justice
Kevin Washburn, General Counsel, Indian Gaming Commission


United States Sentencing Commission: