News and Press Releases

Man Engaged in Pattern of Sex Abuse of Young Relative

December 4, 2009

THOMAS LEE PETERS, 47, an enrolled member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years in prison and ten years of supervised release for three counts of sexual abuse of a minor. PETERS molested a young relative while residing on the Swinomish Indian Reservation in Western Washington. At sentencing Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ordered PETERS to get a sexual deviance evaluation and register as a sex offender. Chief Judge Lasnik said “the crime was like throwing a rock in a pool and sending out waves of damage that impact PETERS’ family and community.”

PETERS pleaded guilty in September 2009, admitting that on multiple occasions in 2005, 2006, and 2007, he sexually molested a young relative. Because PETERS is a tribal member, and the abuse occurred on tribal land, the case was prosecuted in federal court.

Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London said in court today that the “cases of sexual abuse of children in Native American communities are some of the most difficult we see.... and we have a strong commitment to prosecuting these cases.”

In the government sentencing memo, Mr. London, quoted from a letter written to the court by the Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Senate, Brian Cladoosby. Chairman Cladoosby wrote to the court “[e]specially in cases involving the sexual abuse of children, it is important that a sentence reinforce the message that families can safely report abuse when it occurs, and that families which take the difficult step of reporting can know that there will be meaningful consequences for the perpetrator when he is prosecuted.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Swinomish Tribal Police. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London. Mr. London is the U.S. Attorney’s Office Tribal Liaison to the Native American communities in Western Washington.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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