Zuni Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Domestic Assault by a Habitual Offender Charge
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women
ALBUQUERQUE – Vander Tsethlikai, 53, a member and resident of Zuni Pueblo, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a domestic assault by a habitual offender charge. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Tsethlikai will be sentenced to 18 months in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Tsethlikai was arrested on Jan. 6, 2016, on an indictment charging him with assault of an intimate partner by a habitual offender. According to the indictment, Tsethlikai committed the offense on July 13, 2015, on Zuni Pueblo in McKinley County, N.M. Tsethlikai was charged as a habitual offender based on his two prior domestic violence convictions in Zuni Pueblo Tribal Court. Zuni Pueblo Tribal Court records reflect that Tsethlikai’s prior convictions occurred in 2010 and 2014.
During today’s proceedings, Tsethlikai pled guilty to the indictment and admitted that on July 13, 2015, he assaulted the victim, his intimate partner, causing her to suffer lacerations above the right eye and on the right ear. He also acknowledged his two prior tribal court convictions. Tsethlikai was remanded into custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez 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.