(CN) - The 9th Circuit vacated the convictions of two men with minimal Native American blood, saying they aren't Indian enough to be prosecuted under the Major Crimes Act, which addresses serious crimes committed by Indians in Indian country.
Gordon Ray Mann Jr. was convicted of one count of sexual abuse of a minor. He committed the crime at his home, which is within the boundaries of the Blackfeet reservation. Since 1987, Mann has been enrolled as a member of the Little Shell tribe of Chippewa Cree, a tribe that's recognized by the state of Montana but not by the federal government.
Mann argued that he should be acquitted on the ground that he's not a Native American under the Major Crimes Act.
His case was consolidated with that of Shane Medore Maggi, who was convicted in Montana for assault with a weapon.
According to the ruling, Maggi's "degree of Indian blood is 1/64 from the Blackfeet tribe and 1/32 from the Cree tribe." He isn't an enrolled member of any tribe, but has been prosecuted in the past in the Blackfeet tribal court. He sought acquittal on the same ground as Mann, but the district court denied both motions.
On appeal, the three-judge panel in Seattle ruled that "the government did not establish facts sufficient to demonstrate tribal or government recognition of Maggi as an Indian."
Judge Margaret McKeown explained: "Maggi has just one full-blooded Blackfeet ancestor in seven generations, or put another way, 1/64 Blackfeet blood corresponds to one great-great-great-great-great grandparent who was full-blooded Blackfeet, and 63 great-great-great-great-great grandparents who had no Blackfeet blood."
In Mann's case, the panel ruled that Mann should have been acquitted because he "has no blood from a federally recognized tribe."