First, I want to offer my condolences to the families of Ben Clifford Jr. and Calvin Kills In Water, Jr.
Ben was a Grandpa. Calvin was a Dad. Each came from a large extended family and many relatives mourn their premature passing.
The violent murders of an elder and a young man are tragic. Many of us wonder if the way their lives were taken could have been prevented.
Accused murderers BillyRay and Riley McCloskey are brothers. Both are in their early 20’s which is normally a time we look forward to a life full of promise. These young men now sit in a federal jail awaiting trial for second-degree murder.
36 year old Crystal Red Hawk helped the McCloskey brothers try to cover up their crime. She is also in federal custody awaiting trial on accessory after the fact.
The federal justice system is predicable. The accused will remain in custody until their scheduled trial date of March 11, 2014. I sincerely hope they are not released on third party bond. I would not feel safe if any of them were to return to the Rez.
All three will be appointed an attorney, who will visit them in jail to discuss their case. At some point the government will offer a plea bargain. The appointed attorney will go over those documents and will most likely advocate for the accused to accept the plea bargain.
Most tribal people indicted for a federal crime will accept the deal offered and enter a guilty plea to their charges. This might result in a lighter sentence than if they had gone to trial and been found guilty.
Second degree murder cases are not ones which will put someone away for life. Even when a defendant goes to trial and is found guilty the sentence could be anywhere from 10-20 years, depending on sentencing guidelines.
Ben Clifford, Jr. was 76 years old. Calvin Kills In Water was 33 years old. Perhaps a jail term of 109 years, without the possibility of parole, is a fair exchange for their deaths.
Yet, Calvin left behind small children who will grow up deprived of their father. Ben’s wife is now a widow. It isn’t fair to them. Many lives were changed. Forever.
A plea bargain will most likely see these people be released from jail at some point. Most of tribal members who serve time usually wind up coming home to the Rez.
Personally, I would be in favor of establishing banishment laws on the Rosebud Reservation. Violent murderers should not be able to live on our homelands. Our young people and elders deserve to be safe on their own Rez.
Yet, even if we advocated for our tribal government to enact banishment laws against our own tribal members, where would they go upon being released from jail? They have to go somewhere. Other people will be at risk from convicted murderers living nearby.
A violent mind often sets violence into motion. No matter where they live.