News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

Federal jury finds man guilty of assaulting a woman on the Bois Forte Indian Reservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS – Earlier today in Duluth, a federal jury convicted a 53-year-old man for
the domestic assault of a woman on the Bois Forte Indian Reservation. Chris Neil Ferguson was
specifically found guilty of one count of domestic assault by a habitual offender. This is the first
time the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota has prosecuted anyone under the
federal “domestic assault by a habitual offender” law. Ferguson was indicted for this crime on
September 20, 2011.

According to the indictment and the evidence presented at trial, on December 19, 2009,
Ferguson, a non-Indian who was residing in a halfway house, committed a domestic assault
against the Indian victim while the couple was visiting others on the reservation. The victim
sustained injuries to her face. Ferguson has five prior assault convictions, including convictions
in St. Louis County for felony domestic assault (2008) and gross misdemeanor domestic assault
(2002).

For his crime, Ferguson faces a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison. U.S.
District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis will determine his sentence at a future hearing. This
case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”), the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by
Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.

Because the Bois Forte Indian Reservation is a federal-jurisdiction reservation, some of the
crimes that occur there are investigated by the FBI in conjunction with the BIA. Those cases are
prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The U.S. Justice Department is taking steps to increase engagement, coordination and action
relative to public safety in tribal communities, including the creation of the Violence Against
Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force. This task force will explore current issues
raised by professionals in the field and recommend “best practices” in prosecution strategies
involving domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Violence against American Indian women occurs at epidemic rates. In 2005, Congress
found that one in three American Indian women is raped during her lifetime, and American
Indian women are nearly three times more likely to be battered in during their lives than
Caucasian women.

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