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News Release

Campaign to Free Maddesyn George

On Monday, November 8 at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET, leading scholars of violence against Indigenous women and families and the criminalization of domestic and sexual violence survivors will address the urgent self-defense case of Maddesyn George at a virtual press conference.

Among the featured speakers are attorney and award-winning playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle and professors Val Kalei Kanuha (University of Washington), Alisa Bierria (University of California Los Angeles), Dian Million (University of Washington), and Megan Ybarra (University of Washington).

Maddesyn George is a young Native mother from the Colville Reservation in Washington State and a survivor of domestic and sexual violence. She is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington for acting in self-defense against a white man who raped and threatened her. After being incarcerated for more than a year, facing multiple charges, and fearing the unknowns of a jury trial, George accepted a deal from the prosecutors that included pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a charge of drug possession with intent to distribute. Now, prosecutors are recommending a punishment that significantly exceeds the sentencing guidelines for these charges: a prison term of 17 years and lifetime state supervision. George’s sentencing hearing is set for November 17.

The case has inspired a broad-based grassroots campaign of Indigenous and anti-violence organizers to fight for her freedom. Nearly 8,000 individuals and 80 social justice organizations from around the country have endorsed a call for the charges to be dropped before George’s sentencing hearing.

In response, prosecutors have doubled down on discrediting and minimizing George’s account of rape, using her criminal record and the fact that she took drugs and cash from her attacker to deny her victimization claim. At the same time, they have willfully ignored the deceased’s criminal record of violence against multiple women. As George’s attorney told the Intercept, "What the prosecutor is telling is a story of robbery by a drug-addicted Native woman, playing into stereotypes about substance use and Native people to undermine her claim of self-defense.” 

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George’s supporters argue that her survival actions prevented her from becoming another MMIW statistic. Indeed, Washington State ranks second highest in the country for missing and murdered Indigenous people, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. And yet, for acting in self-preservation, Maddesyn is being punished —she has become one of the many survivors from colonized, racialized, and otherwise marginalized communities that have been ensnared by the “abuse-to-prison pipeline.”

It is not too late for the Department of Justice to reverse course, and George’s supporters implore them to do so. George should be reunited with her now 19-month-old daughter and community and provided with resources for recovery and healing.

Registration required for Zoom link to press conference: A press kit will be emailed to journalists upon registration.

Pictured: The Free Maddesyn George Campaign is set to hold a virtual press conference November 8, 2021.

Pictured: The Free Maddesyn George Campaign is set to hold a virtual press conference November 8, 2021.

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Related coverage: 

Activists call on Department of Justice to drop charges against incarcerated Native sexual and domestic violence survivor Maddesyn George