A state senator and Blackfeet tribal council member has been arrested for not paying a fine after being convicted of obstruction and drunken driving last year. Blackfeet Tribal Law Enforcement arrested council member and state Sen. Shannon Augare on Friday afternoon, according to Chairman Willie Sharp.
Police acted on an arrest warrant signed by a tribal judge earlier this month. The warrant, signed by Judge Marshalene Last Star, states that Augare disobeyed a court order to buy $200 worth of toys for the Toys For Tots program. Augare, who talked to the Associated Press shortly after news of the arrest warrant broke, said the scheme was politically motivated and that he paid his fines last year.
“This bogus warrant was issued by non-recognized judges appointed by the Willie Sharp faction (of the council),” Augare told the AP. “It’s nothing more than a political football.”
On May 26, 2013, Augare was pulled over for reckless driving near Cut Bank. The Glacier County sheriff’s deputy said he smelled alcohol in the vehicle and asked Augare to step out of the car. Augare said the deputy did not have jurisdiction on the Blackfeet Reservation and then drove off.
Last summer, federal prosecutors charged Augare with drunken driving, obstructing a peace officer and reckless driving. His lawyer contested that the federal government did not have jurisdiction on the reservation and that the charges were an issue of tribal sovereignty.
Last October, Augare pleaded guilty in tribal court to driving under the influence and threatening an officer. While Augare faced a fine of $1,150 and up to 37 days in jail, Judge Allie Edwards rolled back the charges, instead handing him a 37-day suspended sentence and forcing him to buy $200 worth of toys.
After being charged in tribal court, Augare’s lawyers argued he could not be charged in federal court, too, citing double jeopardy; however, a federal judge disregarded the claim. On Nov. 7, Augare pleaded guilty in federal court and was ordered to pay $1,250 in fines, a special assessment of $30 and to attend a substance-abuse treatment class.
Augare said he has paid all of his fines and even paid more money upon hearing there was a warrant for his arrest.
Friday’s arrest was just another chapter in a long political saga that has gripped the Northwest Montana reservation. The Blackfeet government has been plagued with problems for more than two years, but it took a turn for the worse last fall when the nine-member tribal council split. On one side are Sharp and Forrestina Calf Boss Ribs, who reappointed suspended tribal members Bill Old Chief, Cheryl Little Dog and Paul McEvers. Sharp’s faction also appointed two new tribal council members last year, Allen Goss and Leon Vielle.
On the other side of the council are Roger Running Crane, Chief Earl Old Person, Shannon Augare and Leonard Guardipee, who don’t recognize the members appointed or reappointed by Sharp’s administration. Because the council is split, neither side has a quorum of seven members, as required in the constitution.
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