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Lower Brule Leaders' Have Day In Court

Photo by Jim Kent

 Newly elected Lower Brule Sioux tribal leaders were in court last week as directed by subpoenas first-served on them last December. As SDPB’s Jim Kent reports, Lower Brule Sioux tribal members were surprised by what took place in the courtroom – both before and during the proceedings.

It’s warm inside the Lower Brule Sioux tribal court building as I step inside from the crisp plains winds that are battering the exterior. I’m here along with two dozen tribal members to witness the first meeting between 3 newly-elected tribal officials and Mike Jandreau since the tribal chairman walked out of a council meeting in November 2014.

Credit Photo by Jim Kent
The Lower Brule Sioux tribal court was closed to tribal members and the press for 4 hours while opposing tribal leaders "negotiated".

The incident came as a result of tribal vice-chairman Kevin Wright and tribal council repsSonny Ziegler and Desiree LaRoche accusing Jandreau of corruption and mismanagement of funds under his watch – which spans 30 years.

Jandreau refused to address Kevin Wright’s allegations and walked out of the November council meeting along with two tribal council representatives aligned with him. Wright held a subsequent meeting in December and replaced Jandreau and his allies with the aid of the two newly-elected council reps. 

Over the next month, Jandreau had subpoenas issued for Wright, Ziegler and LaRoche with the intention of placing a gag order on all three with regard to any tribal issues. Their court date was cancelled twice. That brings us today.

Credit Courtesy Vicki Ziegler
Lower Brule Sioux tribal member Vicki Ziegler.

  But the tribal judge has a flat tire and arrives late. Then the tribal members and press are told to leave the court room without explanation.

It’s something tribal member Vicki Ziegler hasn’t seen happen before.

“I feel frustrated,” Ziegler comments. “This whole court system runs on no due process. Where else in the whole United States…where a court system would be funded by federal dollars….taxpayer dollars…and yet the tax payers have no legal right to due process.”

After 4 hours, tribal members and press are permitted back into the courtroom having been advised that both sides had been “negotiating”. The brief hearing by B.J. Jones…a retired judge from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation…results in Jones dismissing the subpoenas as well as the defendants’ removal of Jandreau and the two council reps.

Judge Jones then ordered a tribal council meeting be held in March during which both sides have been instructed to resolve their differences.

Vicki Ziegler says she’s looking forward to the outcome of that meeting.

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