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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ponemah Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Aggravated Sexual Assault

United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced the sentencing of DANA LEE COBENAIS, 24, an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, for aggravated sexual abuse. Following a three-day trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle, a jury on November 19, 2015 found COBENAIS guilty. COBENAIS was sentenced today before Judge Kyle in Duluth, Minn. to 20 years in prison. 

As proven at trial, on March 14, 2015, COBENAIS brutally assaulted a woman on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, after forcing her to give him a ride in her car. COBENAIS grew angry during the ride and punched the victim several times in the face before sexually assaulting her. When the Red Lake Police responded to a call for help they found substantial amounts of blood in the car and on the victim. COBENAIS’ sexual violence was so severe that the victim needed surgery to repair the lacerations.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.


Defendant Information:


Ponemah, Minn.


  • Aggravated sexual abuse, 1 count


  • 20 years in prison
  • Lifetime supervised release


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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

Updated August 10, 2016