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Press Release

Navajo Man from Arizona Sentenced to Eight Years for Aggravated Sexual Assault Conviction

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Vernon J. Atcitty, 29, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Sweetwater, Ariz., was sentenced today for his aggravated sexual assault conviction.  Atcitty will serve an eight-year prison term followed by five years of supervised release.  He also will be required to register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence.

Atcitty was arrested on Feb. 26, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging him with aggravated sexual abuse, and subsequently was indicted on that same charge on March 11, 2014.  According to court filings, Atcitty sexually assaulted a Navajo woman on Feb. 22, 2014, in Shiprock, N.M., which is located within the Navajo Indian Reservation. 

On May 23, 2014, Atcitty entered a guilty plea to the indictment.  Atcitty admitted taking the victim to an abandoned house and refusing to let her leave until after he raped her.  Atcitty admitted forcing the victim to succumb to his demands by punching and grabbing her, and by telling her that he would not let her leave the abandoned house.
 This case was investigated by the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety with assistance from the Farmington office of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback. 

The case was brought pursuant to the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department's on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.

Updated January 26, 2015