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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Oklahoma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tulsa Man Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison for Strangling a Former Girlfriend

A Tulsa man who repeatedly violated a protective order and strangled his former girlfriend was sentenced today in federal court, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.

U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell sentenced Ernie Wayne Standingsoldier Jr., 35, of Tulsa, to 41 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. The defendant previously pleaded guilty to assault of an intimate partner and dating partner by strangling and attempting to strangle or suffocate in Indian Country. 

“Strangulation is a precursor to homicide on the domestic homicide risk assessment. When a man puts his hands around a woman’s neck to strangle her, the chances of the victim dying from a domestic assault increase tenfold. Ernie Standingsoldier Jr. strangled and abused his victim, and today he faced the consequences for his actions,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Every year, more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner. And with such a fine line between unconsciousness and death, law enforcement and prosecutors take special note when strangulation is involved. Standingsoldier now begins a 41 month sentence in federal prison where he will no longer be able to harm this victim.”

In January 2018, Tulsa County District Court issued a protective order against Standingsoldier Jr. in response to his repeated intimidation and abuse of the victim. The Court ordered Standingsoldier Jr. to have no contact with his former girlfriend for five years. Despite the protective order, Standingsoldier Jr. beat and strangled or attempted to strangle the victim in her own home two times within a month. 

On Feb. 20, 2020, the defendant entered the victim’s apartment, grabbed her by the hair, punched her in the face, and strangled her. She managed to escape and called authorities. A medical team later found that she suffered from a concussion and a small subconjunctival hematoma, indicating strangulation. Three weeks later on March 16, Standingsoldier Jr. returned and forced his way into the victim’s apartment, punched the victim in the face and attempted to strangle the her a second time. In both cases, the defendant fled the scene before officers arrived. On March 28, 2020, the defendant again returned to the victim’s apartment, banging on the victim’s door when she was not at home. The apartment complex security officer called authorities, and Standingsoldier Jr. was arrested.

In a motion for upward variance, the United States argued the defendant should receive 41 months in prison, the highest end of the agreed to sentencing range. Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Lash noted the grave nature of Standingsoldier Jr.’s violent assaults and his lack of respect for the law he when repeatedly violated the protective order. She argued that researchers and law enforcement professionals have determined that nonfatal strangulation is a leading indicator of escalating violence in a relationship and an important risk factor for homicide in women.

Lash cited expert testimony which noted that strangulation is the “ultimate form of power and control” because “the perpetrator can say to the victim: With this act, I can kill you if I want to. I can…let you live if I want to, and you will remember that.” Lash also cited research suggesting that the strangulation of women is increasingly prevalent in Oklahoma. Of the Oklahoma women who were in abusive relationships from 2009 to 2013, 80% reported being strangled by their partners, and 40% of those women reported multiple strangulations, according to a lethality assessment study in seven Oklahoma police jurisdictions. (Whitney Bryen, Strangulation of Women Is Common, Chilling – and Often a Grim Harbinger, Oklahoma Watch, May 29, 2019)

The Tulsa Police Department and FBI are the investigative agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Lash is prosecuting the case. AUSA Lash is a prosecutor from the Eastern District of New York. She volunteered to assist prosecution efforts here in the Northern District of Oklahoma due to the increased volume of cases since the Supreme Court’s ruling which stated the Creek Nation Reservation had never been officially disestablished by Congress. The United States and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation have jurisdiction of all cases that occur on the reservation involving Native American victims or defendants.

Topic(s): 
Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Public affairs 918-382-2755
Updated February 23, 2021