These laws played roles in the Maddesyn George case

SPOKANE, Wash.– Three Congressional laws were taken into consideration when a judge sentenced an indigenous woman who shot and killed a man on tribal land.

Maddesyn George’s case got national attention. It was debated whether or not she shot the man she said sexually assaulted her in self-defense.

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and drug charges. On Wednesday she was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

For the sentencing, Judge Rosanna Peterson applied the Savanna Act, the Not-Invisible Act and the Power Act of 2018.

“There is nothing simple about a Native American woman who has been sexually assaulted,” Judge Peterson said.

So, what exactly are the acts she applied to George’s sentencing?

The Power Act works to empower and represent those who have extremely high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. Those are things Clinic Director for the Native Project Dylan Lodge said they deal with on a daily basis.

“Working in Indigenous healthcare I know that 98 percent of our indigenous women either have experienced or have exposed to intimate partner violence or domestic violence and that is a huge health epidemic in our community,” Lodge said.

The Savanna Act and the Not Invisible Act direct law enforcement agencies to increase communication when investigating crimes related to missing and endangered women and violent crimes in indigenous communities.

The Director of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington, Earth-Feather Sovereign, said sharing that information in this case mattered.

“It doesn’t only cover when someone goes missing or when they’re murdered,  it covers when there’s domestic violence involved, when there’s sexual assault involved, when there’s sex trafficking involved and a lot of those instances, it leads up to women or a person becoming a statistic,” Sovereign said.

Even though the laws were applied in this case, Sovereign said there’s more to be done.

“There’s so many cases in the past where our tribal communities, they didn’t feel like they received justice. A lot pertains to the decision where a lot of non-tribal members are set free when they do commit a crime against a tribal member, and you know that fear is still there,” Sovereign said.

It’s something George’s attorney said needs to be worked on.

George admitted to killing Kristopher Graber, though she says she did so in self-defense. George claims Graber sexually assaulted her the day before the shooting and that she was afraid for her life, though the assault was not reported until after he died.

According to court documents, George stole money and drugs from Graber, then took his gun while he was sleeping. The next day, she came back to a friend’s house on the reservation and Graber was looking for her, the document said.

Witnesses said he was confronting her for stealing his drugs, a gun and cash.

In court in October, George said Graber came up to her car and asked for his stuff back. That’s when she grabbed his gun and shot him through the closed car window.

George still has two weeks to appeal the sentence.

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