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Press Release

Upper Skagit Tribal member convicted of assault connected to drug rip-off

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Shot victim in scheme to rob him of an ounce of heroin

Seattle – A 44–year-old member of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe was convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle of three federal felonies in connection with a February 6, 2019, shooting on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Joseph Sam a/k/a William Earlystar Clark was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury following a four-day jury trial.  U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour scheduled sentencing for October 4, 2021.

According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, Sam participated in a conspiracy to rob the victim of an ounce of heroin.  The co-conspirators’ plan was for one of them to pose as a buyer of the heroin and for Sam to then show up and rob the victim. Sam arrived at a residence where the other two co-conspirators were waiting with the victim.  His face was covered to hide his identity and he had a gun. When the victim fought back, Sam shot him in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down.  Following the robbery and shooting, law enforcement was able to piece together the gunman’s identity by reviewing social media posts and obtaining warrants for Facebook accounts and other electronic information.  Sam was arrested on May 15, 2019 and has been in custody since his arrest.

The jury deliberated about four hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

Conspiracy to commit robbery is punishable by up to five years in prison.  Robbery is punishable by up to fifteen years.  Assault resulting in serious bodily injury is punishable by up to 10 years.  Judge Coughenour will determine the appropriate sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the Tulalip Tribal Police Department and the FBI. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rebecca Cohen and Cecelia Gregson.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated June 11, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime