8th Circuit upholds conviction of theft from Spirit Lake Nation

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence of a woman who stole from the Spirit Lake Nation of North Dakota.

Patricia Robertson, a tribal member, administered the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for the tribe. She approved assistance for two of her daughters without disclosing that she was a member of their households.

Had she disclosed her residency, her daughters likely would not have qualified for benefits because her income would have put them over the eligibility limits. She admitted her role in the matter and was indicted on charges of knowingly and willfully embezzling, stealing, and misapplying tribal property.

Robertson was found guilty after a jury trial and was sentenced her to three years probation, including six months of home detention. She was ordered not to consume alcohol as part of her punishment.

Roberston disputed her conviction but the 8th Circuit said the jury was instructed properly after the trial. The court also said it was "reasonable" to require her to remain free of alcohol during her probation period.

"Tribal law prohibits alcohol consumption by Indians within the reservation boundaries. It is reasonable to require Robertson to comply with tribal law while confined to her home as a more lenient alternative to incarceration," the decision stated.

Get the Story:
Appeals court upholds woman's conviction, sentence for embezzlling from Spirit Lake Tribe (AP 3/14)

8th Circuit Decision:
US v. Robertson (March 11, 2013)

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