Ongoing Denver Post Series: US Attorneys’ Firings

From the Denver Post:

Grasping for a way to explain the breakdown of justice on America’s Indian reservations and the role of the Justice Department in that failure, Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Arizona and a Bush appointee, picks this moment:

Talking with superiors about a gruesome double murder on the Navajo reservation, Charlton was stopped midsentence and asked by a high-level Justice Department official why he was involved in a case on the reservation in the first place.

To Charlton, it was suddenly clear that the official didn’t understand the most basic aspect of federal Indian law — that on most reservations, U.S. attorneys are the sole authority empowered to prosecute felony crime there.


Of the eight fired U.S. attorneys, five had played leadership roles pushing for aggressive Indian Country prosecutions or systemic reform — Charlton, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Margaret Chiara of western Michigan, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and John McKay of western Washington, according to testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

As U.S. attorney for western Michigan, Margaret Chiara, right, made violent reservation crime a priority but said a bureaucratic culture resisted her efforts. She was one of eight U.S. attorneys whose firings sparked a Capitol Hill uproar. (Grand Rapids Press / Kary Batdorff)