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U.S. attorney wants closer tribal ties

From the Durango Herald

U.S. attorney wants closer tribal ties

Herald Staff Writer

Article Last Updated; Friday, September 24, 2010  12:00AM


U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh is in Southwest Colorado this week visiting officials from the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes.

One of Walsh's key priorities is to work closely with the two tribes on law-enforcement matters, he said Thursday during a visit with The Durango Herald's editorial board.

"This is an area I have a personal commitment to," said Walsh, who was sworn in as Colorado's chief federal prosecutor in August.

It is important to maintain a good working relationship with the tribes because of the multiple jurisdictions involved in policing and prosecuting crimes on reservations, he said.

Agencies that play a role in tribal justice include the federal government, state government, tribal governments and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Which agency takes the lead often depends on the type of crime committed, where it occurred and whether the suspect is American Indian.

"It's a messy and complex issue," Walsh said.

It is also helpful to cross-deputize peace officers in the region so they can respond to crimes regardless of reservation boundaries, he said. It is an initiative started about four years ago by then U.S. Attorney Troy Eid.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado is headquartered in Denver but has two satellite offices: one in Grand Junction and one in Durango.

The Durango office is unique in that it deals with everything from traffic infractions to homicides. That is because non-Indians who get a speeding ticket from tribal police are summonsed to the federal court in Durango.

The satellite office has three full-time prosecutors.

Walsh said he supports holding federal trials in Durango and establishing a full-fledged federal court here. As it is now, trials are often held in Denver unless a federal judge agrees to hear the case in Durango.

Walsh was nominated on April 14 by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. attorney. He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5 and began work on Aug. 16.

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