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Press Release

Ponemah Man Convicted of Aggravated Sexual Assault on the Red Lake Indian Reservation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced the conviction of DANA LEE COBENAIS, 23, an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, for aggravated sexual abuse. A jury returned a guilty verdict after a three-day trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. A sentencing date has not been set.

As proven at trial, on March 14, 2015, a victim, Jane Doe, had spent part of the day with COBENAIS. When she decided to leave his company, COBENAIS got into her car and would not leave until she agreed to give him a ride. During the course of the ride, COBENAIS grew angry and punched the victim several times in the face. He proceeded to sexually assault her. COBENAIS then got out of the vehicle. The victim drove away but her vehicle ran out of gas near the town of Redby, Minn. Red Lake Police responded to a call for help and noticed that the woman was bleeding extensively. She was taken to the hospital where emergency surgery was performed to repair extensive injuries.

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

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 during their lives than Caucasian women.

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.

To learn more about the Justice Department’s Tribal Safety program, visit

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI and Red Lake Police Department.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.

Defendant Information:

Ponemah, Minn.


  • Aggravated sexual abuse, 1 count
Updated November 19, 2015