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Press Release

Upper Skagit tribal member sentenced to 15 years in prison for assault

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Shot and paralyzed victim as part of a drug rip-off

Seattle – A 44–year-old member of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 15 years in prison for three federal felonies in connection with a February 6, 2019, shooting on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.  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 imposed 3 years of supervised release to follow the prison term.

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.

In asking for the 15-year sentence, prosecutors noted the suffering of the victim in this case. “He is no longer self-sufficient and is forced to rely on family to assist with his basic needs…. He is in constant and severe pain. The pain medication impacts his memory and focus, making it hard to participate in classes or perform even the most routine tasks,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

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

The case was 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 November 9, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime