Young witness' handling deepens tribe-county feud

Published May 10, 2007

VINELAND, Minn. - The 11-year-old boy was led from his school in handcuffs, held overnight in a juvenile detention center and hauled into court in shackles and a prison jumpsuit.

His crime? Missing a court date to testify as the victim of an assault.

The treatment of the boy, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, has reignited a decades-old feud between the tribe and officials from the surrounding county in central Minnesota.

"There's other people out there they could have picked to make an example of, " said Kristie Lee Davis-Deyhle, the boy's mother. "Not an 11-year-old."

Tribal leaders are calling for the resignation of the Mille Lacs County attorney, Jan Kolb, who says she was just carrying out policy in the face of a long history of band members ignoring subpoenas. The uproar, she said, "is a way to make Mille Lacs County look like it's racist."

The Mille Lacs Band and some of its neighbors have long had a tense relationship in their shared home around Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota's second-biggest lake and a choice spot for walleye fishing.

The boy was allegedly the victim of an assault by a 13-year-old classmate. Kolb said the county was having trouble prosecuting the 13-year-old because the younger boy and his mother ignored subpoenas and missed several court dates. Davis-Deyhle said the family never got the subpoenas, and a tribal lawyer said the county is not diligent in making sure subpoenas are served.

When the boy missed a hearing in early April, Kolb's office requested that the judge issue a warrant for his arrest. A tribal officer was sent to his school, where he was handcuffed and transported to the detention center. He spent the night there, about 60 miles away, and was brought to the court hearing the next morning in shackles. Prosecutors then announced that they wouldn't press charges and that he was free to go.

Kolb is unapologetic about the boy's treatment. "This family knew his appearance was needed in court."