..to Cascade County Attorney, Brant Light. Back on July 5, 2006, a Mr. Shawn White Wolf had a letter to the editor printed in the Great Falls Tribune:

Reason for Move

Kudos to the correctional system for implementing a tribal liaison into their complex court and prison system. It’s about time.

There is only one problem: The Cascade County attorney’s office, Cascade County and Great Falls law enforcement and the courts maintain a solid practice of institutional racism against American Indians. It’s nothing new. So my statements shouldn’t shock anyone.

If the people of Cascade County really want to address the problems with the numerous American Indians filling the jails and prisons, then the people should consider cleaning house.

Be rid of those county attorneys, law enforcement individuals and judges who consider themselves above the law and human rights.

I grew up in Great Falls. I attended school in Great Falls. I spoke out against the practice of institutional racism then and am not afraid to say it now. When it’s safe for American Indians to walk and drive in the city of Great Falls without a law enforcement officer lurking around behind them and when the courts start working for justice for all, then I’ll believe it’s a new day in Cascade County.

It’s a new day in the rest of Montana. Growing up, my brother and I used to leave home in the morning and walk all over town. Today, I can’t walk down the street without being stalked by the local patrol. I don’t live in Cascade County now. Hmm, I wonder why? Something stinks, and it isn’t the refinery.

Shawn White Wolf-Helena

I read the letter with interest at the time. I found it difficult to believe that our County Attorney's office would discriminate against Native Americans. While I have had issues with the office over the years, Mr. White Wolf's allegations seemed beyond the pale; the County Attorneys were always professional in my dealings. So, today I was interested to see this response:

Light responds

This letter is in response to Mr. White Wolf and his allega­tions that the Cascade County Attorney’s Office, law enforce­ment and the judges of this county practice racism against American Indians.

First, Mr. White Wolf is fac­ing felony charges of theft and tampering with a witness.

White Wolf test-drove a Cadil­lac and never returned it to the victim.

More important, prior to being arrested, White Wolf con­tacted the victim and demand­ed he drop the charges or he would “create” a legal and pub­lic situation. Mr. White Wolf told the victim that the last per­son who refused to work things out with him “has since been jailed twice, his personal and business credit ruined, his busi­ness reputation damaged and he came under scrutiny with the IRS ...” Mr. White Wolf also threat­ened to force the police and city of Great Falls into a politi­cal situation if he was arrested.

Finally, Mr. White Wolf called me and indicated that if I would not drop his charges, he would go public and claim racism.

I told Mr. White Wolf in very strong terms that I would not be intimidated and that he in fact would be arrested. The White Wolf case is not about the treatment of Native Ameri­cans or other minorities by our justice system; it’s sadly about a common thief and his attempts to use the threat of racism to his own benefit.

If Mr. White Wolf wants his day in court, I will be more than happy to accommodate him.

— Brant Light, Cascade County Attorney, Great Falls

I imagine the courts will sort this thing out. But I laud Brant Light for telling "the rest of the story" in a very direct and articulate way.



SallyT said...

And isn't it interesting that Light had to write a letter to the editor to get the rest of the story out?
The Trib is as derelict as ever.

Wulfgar said...

sallyt, I think you expect far more than should be from journalists. A letter to refute a letter seems terribly appropriate to me. The Trib does not owe a defense of the county attorney's office against allegations leveled in a letter. Besides, I don't think Light needed any backup here. He did a fine job.

Geeguy, as you keep an eye on this case, I would caution you to keep an eye on the recent murder case in Bozeman as well. Though the Comical stinks (The Trib looks vastly better in comparison) allegations of racism are already coming into play, but in a reverse way. Some folk are already mentally convicting the acused, not because of evidence but because they are black, and that's what black people 'do'.

I won't say that Montana is in a no-win situation, but we are in a tough one. Because we are minority light (to coin a phrase) race will be a factor in any given prosecution. I'm not convinced that we can dismiss those charges out-of-hand, and yet we can't blindly accept them either.

Also, I think I see where White Wolf's letter ended and your commentary began, but I'm uncertain. A little clarification might help.

GeeGuy said...

Thanks for the formatting heads-up, Wulfgar. I think I fixed it.

I don't know that it is fair to say that "race will be a factor in any prosecution," but I might be arguing semantics. It might be more accurate to say that "there could be suggestions that race is a factor in any prosecution."

I am probably demonstrating my naiveté, but I just don't think that race impacts these things that much. It might be easy to assume the two guys accused in Bozeman are guilty because they are black when one is reading the paper, but it takes a pretty low human sitting on a jury to convict someone because of their race. I think more of people than that. I am sure there are some, but I am confident that the vast majority of Montanans I know would do the right thing when an accused life is on the line.

SallyT said...

Wulfgar--well, you seem sensitive to race. You don't expect a reporter..er, journalist would investigate to see if there was a story?

The Trib requires letters be non-libelous. Yet they don't even check on charges of racism--against the city--in a letter to the editor?

Oh, wait, that's right--they rarely apply that old-fashioned restriction, because it takes effort to determine if an accusation is true...plus, most of the Bushophobic letters wouldn't be printable.