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Press Release

Browning man admits assaulting corrections officer at Bureau of Indian Affairs jail

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

GREAT FALLS — A Browning man suspected of trying to put a federal corrections officer in a chokehold while incarcerated at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ jail on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation admitted to an assault charge today, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Joseph Ernest Potts, 32, pleaded guilty to assault on a federal officer as charged in an indictment. Potts faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for Nov. 16. Potts was detained pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that on Aug. 15, 2021, Potts was in custody at the Browning jail, which is a federal correctional facility operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A corrections officer, identified as John Doe, was supervising male inmates as they returned to their respective cells from the dayroom. Doe saw Potts pacing back and forth between his cell and a cell across the hallway. Potts then grabbed the officer around the neck and began struggling with him, attempting to put the officer in a chokehold. Other inmates had to intervene and pull Potts off the officer. The officer reported pain and discomfort for more than a week after the assault.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kalah A. Paisley is prosecuting the case. The FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services conducted the investigation.



Clair Johnson Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated June 26, 2023

Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 23-196