Delegates tell painful stories during budget debate
Painful stories by delegates were revealed during a discussion over budget matters last Thursday.
Delegate Amber Crotty reported that 27 child-sex cases were declined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
With more money, more prosecutors could be hired, preventing child-sex cases, said Crotty in the Sept. 9 Council budget session.
In 2017, Crotty posted a list of crimes the Navajo Police had responded to, which totaled more than 234,000 calls for service.
Out of these calls, police responded to 264 reports of rape, 2,023 reports of sex offenses, 917 reports of child abuse, and 32 reports of homicides.
“We need to support our Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor,” Crotty said.
Before concluding her remarks, Crotty said she sent out a message to the other delegates asking if they could contribute to a family from St. Michaels that needed to make a court hearing for their child’s case.
“I’m going to send that out to my colleagues, so that you could see the type of damage that is afflicted on our children and how the family is coming together to try to get justice for her,” she said.
Shiprock Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton said she read Crotty’s email.
Memories don’t fade
“And it’s really touching,” Charles-Newton said, who shared a personal story with the delegates. “It’s really hard.”
“And I have never ever shared my story with anybody,” she said as she became emotional.
“When I was 17 years old, I was raped and beaten for three days straight, repeatedly,” she said. “And that man, who did this to me, carved his initial into my body, so that I could remember him.
“I was told by the investigator that it was my fault, that if I just stayed home, none of this would have happened,” she said. “I live with that every single day of my life.
“In fact, I represent the man who did this to me as a Council delegate,” she said. “This man is in my community. I see him when I’m shopping. I see him when I’m with my husband. I see him when he drives by my house.”
Charles-Newton said her case was declined because it was never referred.
“I think that this is a prime example that we are debating, giving $636,029 to the Washington office, $200,000 going to renovation,” Charles-Newton said. “And we’re sitting here debating this issue. When the argument that’s being made is this is going to services that our people need.”
‘It happened to me, my son’
After Charles-Newton shared her ordeal, fellow delegate Herman Daniels Jr. spoke up about his own experience.
Though he did not go into details, Daniels said in Navajo, “It happened to his son.”
“It happened to me, to my son, to this day he’s not here no more,” Daniels said. “So, I face this pain and move forward. His case was never heard too. It has been bothering me ever since. It brings those memories back and it is really troubling me.”
Daniels said the delegates – during the budget session – needed to stay focused on the request for funding from the NNWO.
“We are talking about taking money from one program and putting it into another program,” he said. “This concerns me very much.
Charles-Newton said, “I shared that story with them today. Because my case was declined. It never made it to the FBI.”
“It took me a long time to tell myself that to God,” she said. “And I went through this phase where I questioned God and asked God why I had to go through something like that.
“But now today, I’m OK,” she added. “And I know that, you know, God, put me through that for a reason.
“And I did go through bouts of destruction,” she said. I contemplated suicide I even acted on it. And I was very fortunate to find a good husband to find a good support system to have a sister like I did.”
2017 crime-fighting bill fails
So what is the purpose of the prosecutor’s office?
The Navajo Nation Department of Justice reports that the Office of the Prosecutor manages and oversees the start and resolution of adult criminal and juvenile delinquency cases.
They also handle white-collar crime, government corruption cases and child dependency cases as well.
A March 2021 NDOJ report suggested the prosecutor’s office supported “victims of crimes, hold individuals accountable, and advocate for the best interests of the Navajo Nation’s children.
“We strive to do our work in a way that promotes K’é and Hózhó to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all of the citizens of the Navajo Nation,” the report said.
When former attorney general Ethel Branch hired Gertrude Lee in 2016, one of her first priorities was to hire more prosecutors.
The 23rd Navajo Nation Council praised her appointment. In 2017, A bill sponsored by Edmund Yazzie was introduced as the Navajo Nation Public Safety System Fund Act of 2017.
The bill, if passed, would have amended the Navajo Nation Code. It would have also established the Ramah Chapter’s $58.4 million settlement to become its funding source.
Yazzie’s legislation bounced back and forth until it failed to gain enough votes. Yazzie eventually withdrew the bill.
The bill would have also allowed for the hiring of more police officers, prosecutors, and would have funded the Navajo Division of Public Safety, Office of the Public Defender, the judicial branch, Office of the Prosecutor, Navajo Department of Health, and Division of Social Services.