MINNEAPOLIS - The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe wants the state attorney general to intervene in the alleged mistreatment of an 11-year-old crime victim who was apparently detained by Mille Lacs County officials, forced to wear handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, and kept in a holding cell for hours.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Attorney General Lori Swanson, Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin suggested that the boy, who has been accused of no crimes other than missing a court appearance, was detained improperly and may have been subject to discrimination.
"As Chief Executive, I am extremely concerned about the safety and welfare of other innocent Band children whom the county attorney might have arrested at any time," Benjamin wrote.
Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Kolb did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The 11-year-old was assaulted by a 13-year-old at school last September, said Rjay Brunkow, legal counsel for the Mille Lacs Band.
Brunkow said he didn't know if the county had subpoenaed the 11-year-old to testify in court proceedings involving the assault; He said Kolb has a practice of mailing subpoenas to witnesses and assuming they've been served if the letter doesn't come back undeliverable.
"That does not conform with Minnesota law," Brunkow said.
But, after the 11-year-old apparently missed a court appearance, Mille Lacs County issued an arrest warrant on April 10, for contempt of court.
Later that day, Benjamin alleged, the boy was removed from his school by a tribal police officer and turned over to county law enforcement. He was handcuffed, processed at the county jail and detained overnight at a juvenile detention facility, Benjamin wrote.
The next day he appeared in county court, where "he was restrained with handcuffs and shackles, and was forced to wear a jail-orange jumpsuit. This course of action was taken despite the fact that the boy was completely cooperative throughout the process and made no attempt to resist," Benjamin wrote.
The boy waited more than two hours in a holding cell, followed by more time in the courtroom before he was told to make sure he was present at the next court date and then sent home, Benjamin wrote. There haven't been any further court dates, Brunkow said.
Benjamin acknowledged that getting victims to testify against their assailants has been "a problem that we need to address in our Band community ... However, the manner in which this child was mistreated and re-victimized by the county is inexcusable."
Benjamin also alleged that on the same day the boy was transferred to the courthouse, a non-Indian juvenile girl also was transported in the same vehicle but was not handcuffed, shackled or required to wear a prison jumpsuit.
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