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Clinic fracas yields a lengthy sentence

DENVER – A brawl at an IHS clinic on the Wind River Reservation, in Wyoming, led to a 10-year prison sentence for one of the Northern Arapaho tribal members involved who unsuccessfully appealed the term as “unreasonably long.”

A three judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals June 11 upheld a lower court’s sentencing of Dillon Yellowbear after he was convicted of two counts of assault for shooting Alfreda Monroe with an air rifle and stabbing her husband at the IHS facility about a year ago.

Those involved in the altercation knew or were related to each other, the petition states, noting that Yellowbear had fathered a child out of wedlock with Monroe, who “apparently exchanged derogatory comments” with Mary Headley, Yellowbear’s mother, at the clinic.

After a confrontation inside the clinic between the two women, Headley called her daughter and asked her to come to the clinic and Yellowbear testified that his sister called him and urged him to come at once to help their mother.

When Yellowbear arrived at the IHS clinic, he confronted Monroe, who was joined by her husband, Gary Blackburn Jr., and he pointed an air rifle pellet gun at Blackburn, who wrestled the rifle free “and the two began brawling,” according to the petition.

Yellowbear pulled a knife, stabbed Blackburn three times, shot Monroe with the air rifle, and then fled in his truck, according to the record, which noted that Yellowbear asserted self-defense to assault charges because Blackburn allegedly instigated the fight by punching him in the head.

After deliberating nearly two days, according to the defense counsel, “four or five of the jurors were crying as they returned to the courtroom” having acquitted Yellowbear of a charge of assault causing serious bodily injury to Blackburn but finding him guilty of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Despite the jurors’ tears, their split verdict, and other circumstances, the trial court justice was unavailable to preside at sentencing and asked another judge to take his place. Given the required guidelines and Yellowbear’s criminal and personal history, the second judge imposed two 10-year sentences for assault, to be served concurrently.

At sentencing, the court considered Yellowbear’s “personal characteristics, including his mental and emotional health, his substance abuse issues, and his educational background,” as well as his need “to obtain educational, correctional and medical treatment.” The 10th Circuit affirmed his sentence.