United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref Testifies Before United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about Fentanyl in Native Communities
Spokane, Washington – Senior U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson sentenced Emmalena Ann Michel, age 35, of Inchelium, Washington, to 60 months in federal prison for Involuntary Manslaughter and Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury stemming from a drinking and driving incident that occurred in October 2021 on the Colville Reservation. Judge Peterson also imposed 3 years of federal supervised release. Michel pled guilty to both offenses earlier this year.
According to court documents and proceedings, on October 23, 2021, officers with the Colville Tribal Police Department responded to a traffic collision wherein two minors had been struck by a drunk driver in a Tundra truck driven by Emmalena Ann Michel. The first victim was a 13-year-old female, and the second victim was a 15-year-old male. The female child was transported by helicopter to Sacred Heart Medical Center where her considerable injuries were treated. The male victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. Michel struck another vehicle after hitting the teenagers spinning the second vehicle 180 degrees. Michel then exited the truck and fled on foot.
A 10-year old witness saw Defendant exit the Tundra and say, “I’m sorry,” before running from the scene. The 10-year old noted Defendant smelled of alcohol, another witness stated he was driving behind the Tundra, but had fallen back from the Tundra because the driver seemed to be drunk and was driving down the middle turn lane.
Washington State Patrol prepared a collision synopsis indicating the Tundra was traveling at a rate of speed over 46 miles per hour (in a 25 mile per hour zone), when Michel struck the children. The Tundra was searched and found to have alcohol containers inside.
Later that same evening, Michel turned herself into law enforcement. She provided a breath sample that showed her blood alcohol content to be above the legal limit.
At sentencing, the female victim noted her continued pain. She also described a metal rod in her right femur bone and a metal plate in her right forearm. But worst of all, she lost her best friend, the male child involved in the accident.
The deceased child’s mother stated losing her son “is beyond anything I have ever endured. The pain has not subsided, and it never will.”
In pronouncing today’s sentence, Senior Judge Peterson emphasized the seriousness of the offense and the impact on the Colville Community, stating, “This is a very tragic situation. The offense is significant, and the impact is significant.” Speaking directly to Ms. Michel, Senior Judge Peterson added, “Whether or not you intended this damage, you did this. You have been stopped by law enforcement repeatedly for drinking and driving. While you cannot change what happened, you can change yourself.” While recognizing Ms. Michel’s remorse for what she had done, Senior Judge Peterson, emphasized, “If you cannot control the alcohol, you should never drive again.”
At sentencing, Michel apologized to the victims noting, ““I want everyone to know how bad I feel for taking a life. My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone involved.” She continued, “I never should have been behind the wheel at that time . . . I have shame and guilt that will remain with me forever.”
“No sentence can heal the pain the family will continue to feel from the tragic loss of this 15 year old boy,” U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref stated. “However, it is important that our whole community see such reckless actions come with very serious consequences, and we will continue to hold accountable those who engage in criminally reckless violence in our community.”
“It’s sad how many people’s lives were affected by Ms. Michel’s decision to drive impaired that day” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Seattle field office. “The actions of Ms. Michel were particularly deplorable and tragically ended the life of one child and severely affected the life of another. Rest assured the FBI is committed to holding offenders like Ms. Michel accountable for their actions.”
The case was investigated by the Colville Tribal Police Department, Washington State Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retired Assistant United States Attorney Joseph H. Harrington indicted the case. Assistant United States Attorney Alison L. Gregoire, who also serves as the Criminal Chief for the Eastern District of Washington, represented the United States at today’s sentencing.
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