TRIBAL MEMBER SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS IN PRISON FOR VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER IN DEATH OF INFANT SON
Admits He Threw Child, Causing Fatal Head Injury
BARTHOLOMEW JEFFERSON, 30, an enrolled member of the Lummi Indian Nation, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to ten years in prison and three years of supervised release for Voluntary Manslaughter. In his July 2007, plea agreement, JEFFERSON admits he killed his five-month-old son when he threw the child into the hard armrest of a couch. U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez ordered JEFFERSON immediately into custody saying, “You took the life of an innocent child, completely dependant on the adults around him for love and protection.”
On November 20, 2006, JEFFERSON was caring for his 11-month-old and five-month-old children. JEFFERSON had worked the night shift the night before. JEFFERSON became agitated and frustrated when the five-month-old child would not stop crying, and threw the child with substantial force into the armrest of the couch. The child suffered swelling and bleeding of the brain. The child was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and later treated at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Nine days later the infant died from the head trauma.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office because federal law grants U.S. District Courts exclusive felony jurisdiction over Indians who commit "major crimes" such as murder or manslaughter within an Indian reservation. The underlying offense in this case occurred on tribal trust lands within the Lummi Indian reservation.
At an emotional sentencing hearing, Assistant United States Attorney Jill Otake asked the court to sentence JEFFERSON to ten years, remarking that JEFFERSON’s violence not only forever impacted the victim’s family, but also took from the Lummi Indian reservation its most vital resource – one of its children. Olivia Solomon, a victim’s advocate with the Lummi tribe, spoke for the victim’s family by reading from letters written by family members. The victim’s mother wrote, “His first Christmas, his first birthday I spent with him at his grave.”
JEFFERSON told the court he wished he could change what had happened that day. “I wish I had looked for help when I should have,” he said.
Judge Martinez remarked on the lost potential of the infant boy saying, “who knows what (the child) would have done in the future for his community and for the world.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Lummi Tribal Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Tate London and Jill Otake.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.