The Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is located within the Western District of North Carolina. The primary section of the Qualla Boundary spans Swain and Jackson Counties, with smaller out-parcels found in Cherokee, Graham, and Haywood Counties. At its center is the town of Cherokee, which is approximately one hour west of the City of Asheville.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee is the largest federally recognized Indian tribe east of the Mississippi River, currently consisting of over 13,000 enrolled members. The Cherokee Nation once resided in an area spanning eight southern states. The Eastern Band members primarily consist of descendants of Cherokee who resisted or escaped the Trail of Tears, the forcible relocation of several eastern tribes to Indian territory (now Oklahoma) during the 1830's. Today the Eastern Band is one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the other two being the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (both in Oklahoma).
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina derives its criminal jurisdiction over cases originating from the Qualla Boundary from Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1152 and 1153. This jurisdiction is often (but not always) concurrent with the Cherokee Tribal Court and the state courts of North Carolina.
John Pritchard, Tribal Liaison
AUSA Pritchard serves as the Tribal Liaison for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. As Tribal Liaison, he prosecutes all federal crimes arising from the Qualla Boundary and consults and coordinates with tribal justice officials, victim advocates, and law enforcement to address any issues involving the prosecution of criminal cases in Indian country. In that role he has prosecuted all manner of violent crimes, including murder, aggravated assault, and sex crimes.
AUSA Pritchard joined the United States Attorney’s Office in 2011 and has served as Tribal Liaison since 2015. He previously served the public as an Assistant District Attorney, most recently in Buncombe County from 2006 to 2011. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2000, and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina in 1997.
Justin Eason, Special Assistant United States Attorney
Justin Eason is currently the Lead Tribal Prosecutor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, having been appointed to that position in May, 2016. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Prosecutor for the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor in Cherokee beginning in July, 2012. Mr. Eason has been primarily responsible for handling all criminal cases in the Cherokee Court during his time with the Tribe. Mr. Eason also now serves as a Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) for the Western District of North Carolina. In this capacity he is able to prosecute Indian country cases in federal court on behalf of the United States.
Mr. Eason previously served as an Assistant District Attorney for the 30th Prosecutorial District in North Carolina for almost five years, beginning in January, 2008, where he was primarily responsible for prosecuting all criminal cases in Jackson and Haywood Counties. During that time, he tried numerous major felony cases, including assaults, child sexual abuse cases, and drug offenses. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in History in 2004. Eason received his JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2007 and has been licensed to practice law in North Carolina since 2007.
Community Prosecution Strategy
Our work on the Community Prosecution Strategy was guided by the thoughtful discussions we have had over the course of the past eight months, as well as by the recently enacted Tribal Law & Order Act and the Justice Department's Indian Country Initiative.
The Community Prosecution Strategy begins with an overview of the Western District of North Carolina and describes our unprecedented level of engagement with members of tribal communities and law enforcement leaders. It also includes a summary of the changes we are making before setting out the details of the Community Prosecution Strategy and what it means for tribal communities. Finally, we have also included some highlights from North Carolina's Tribal Listening Conference which was held last February and which, in my view, was a great success.
The Community Prosecution Strategy will not solve all of our law enforcement challenges in tribal communities, but it is my hope that it signals a new era of government to government relationships and a concerted effort to address public safety cooperatively.
The key aspects of this strategy include:
• Additional Prosecutive Resources: We have a SAUSA, a member of the Tribal Prosecutor"s Office, who works closely with our office to handle cases arising in Indian country. Our hope is that this will enable us to prosecute more cases, more expeditiously.
• Violence Against Women: Our office will continue to prosecute cases involving violence against women, and our Community Prosecution Strategy will outline some of the new steps that will be implemented to ensure we remain vigilant and aggressive.