Ponemah Man Indicted For Involuntary Manslaughter
MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, an indictment was unsealed, charging a 46-year-old man from the Red Lake Indian Reservation community of Ponemah with one count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the August 19, 2012, death of Kaishauna Thunder. On January 8, 2013, Gordon Dean Johnson was charged with the crime. The indictment was unsealed following Johnson’s initial appearance in court today.
The indictment alleges that during the early morning of August 19, 2012, Johnson killed Thunder without malice. It alleges that at approximately 3:00 a.m., Johnson was operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner while under the influence of alcohol. He struck Thunder, who was walking alongside State Highway 1.
If convicted, Johnson faces a potential maximum penalty of eight years in prison. All sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge. This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Red Lake Tribal Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.
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.
An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.