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News Release

Campaign to Free Maddesyn George

In Spokane, Washington, on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, Colville tribal member Maddesyn George was sentenced in federal court to serve 6.5 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and drug possession with intent to distribute. Maddesyn is a sexual violence survivor who defended herself in July 2020 against a white man named Kristopher Paul Graber who raped and threatened her. The prosecutors in the case, stunning in their commitment to punish Maddesyn for her survival actions, argued that she be sentenced to 17 years behind bars. While Maddesyn and her mother and father, siblings, aunts, and cousins are incredibly relieved that the prosecutors failed in their efforts to secure a longer sentence, her family and defense committee strongly maintain that the prosecution was unjust from beginning to end.

Pictured: Maddesyn's family members and supporters in front of the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse in Spokane after Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

Pictured: Maddesyn's family members and supporters in front of the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse in Spokane after Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

The grassroots Campaign to Free Maddesyn George undeniably made a difference in the outcome of the sentencing hearing, and we thank everyone who signed the drop-the-charges petition, provided an organizational endorsement, and wrote letters to Maddesyn.

Maddesyn accepted a plea deal in July 2021, after spending a year in jail and separated from her infant daughter, and in the face of a murder charge and the unknowns of a jury trial. Over the last four months, we fought for the charges to be dropped before her scheduled sentencing hearing, but the US Attorney’s Office remained committed to punishing a Native survivor for defending herself.

The prosecution stuck to its racist, sexist, anti-survivor arguments to the bitter end, bringing witnesses to court to discredit Maddesyn’s account of rape and insisting to the Judge that United States v. Maddesyn Danielle George was “simply a drug trafficking case.” However, Judge Rosanna Peterson made it unequivocally clear that she found Maddesyn’s account of sexual assault to be credible. She also challenged the prosecutors on their willful omission of Kristopher Paul Graber’s well-documented history of violence against multiple women and cited this history as a factor in her decision-making. The judge additionally pointed to the systemic uneven prosecution of drug charges as well as the failure of the US Attorney’s Office’s to prosecute Graber for violating federal gun laws. In further explaining her decision to limit Maddesyn’s sentence, Judge Peterson cited the Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, signed into law in October 2020, which are designed to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW). 

Pictured: Maddesyn George with baby Shynne and mother Jody. George, a young Native mother from the Colville Reservation in Washington State, is currently incarcerated and being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for defending herself against a white man who raped her and threatened her life.

Pictured: Maddesyn George with baby Shynne and mother Jody. George, a young Native mother from the Colville Reservation in Washington State, is currently incarcerated and being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for defending herself against a white man who raped her and threatened her life.

While the Biden Administration and Department of Justice have pledged more resources to addressing the MMIW crisis, they must also take steps to address the intersecting crisis of the abuse-to-prison pipeline that has entrapped Maddesyn and many other colonized and racialized survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The DOJ that has promised action to end the MMIW crisis and the DOJ that criminalizes Indigenous survivors who act in self-defense are one and the same, and the contradiction in policy becomes clear in a case like Maddesyn’s. Incarceration is a tool of Indigenous removal, and Maddesyn is now missing from her community.

In a press release on November 18, 2021, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Vanessa Waldref – appointed by President Biden – praised Assistant US Attorneys Alison L. Gregoire and Richard Barker for prosecuting the case with “fairness, compassion, and justice.” The defense committee emphatically rejects this characterization of the prosecutors’ strategy, which rested on denying Maddesyn’s account of rape and self-defense, decontextualizing the case from the broader conditions of MMIW, and advocating for a lengthy sentence beyond the standard range.

Because Wednesday’s hearing was not a trial, we knew Maddesyn would be sentenced to prison; the question was for how long. The standard sentencing range for the two charges she pleaded guilty to is 9–11 years in prison. Judge Peterson rejected the prosecutors’ motion for a sentence beyond that range and used her discretion to impose a sentence below it. The drug charge carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, and the judge sentenced Maddesyn to 6.5 years for the voluntary manslaughter charge, to be served concurrently. Maddesyn will get credit for her time served in the Spokane County jail, and she will also be eligible for “good time” credits and credit for participating in an intensive drug abuse program (RDAP). This means she could be home as soon as January 2025. 

Of course, we believe that Maddesyn should be home now. We will continue to follow Maddesyn’s lead and support and organize with her and her family. And we will continue to collectively resist the cruelty of the colonial legal system and its ceaseless efforts to wrest our loved ones from us.

Maddesyn will remain at the Spokane County jail for at least a few more weeks. She cherishes letters from supporters. Visit freemaddesyn.com/takeaction for information on how to send her mail. Would you like to receive updates and information about how you can support the Campaign to Free Maddesyn George? Visit here to join our listserv.

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Related coverage:

Colville tribal member Maddesyn George scheduled to be sentenced on November 17

Leading scholars call for end of prosecution of Colville tribal member Maddesyn George

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