Feds indict Indian men whose cases led to sovereignty ruling

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation convicted of murder in state court and another convicted of sexually assaulting a child in cases at the center of a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal sovereignty are now facing felony charges in federal court, U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester announced on Monday.

A federal grand jury in Muskogee returned criminal indictments against Jimcy McGirt, 71, for three counts of aggravated sexual abuse, and Patrick Dwayne Murphy, 51, for murder and kidnapping. The FBI is the primary investigative agency in the two Native American men's cases.

Both McGirt and Murphy have been in state prison since the 1990s but had challenged their sentences, arguing they should have been charged in federal, not state court. Those challenges ultimately made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this summer that state prosecutors lack jurisdiction in certain criminal cases that occur on tribal lands.

Both cases involved the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which the high court ruled Congress never formally disestablished and therefore remains an Indian reservation.

Kuester said six of the 26 counties that make up the Eastern District of Oklahoma are within the boundaries of the Creek Nation and that his office has seen a major increase in the number of criminal cases his prosecutors are handling that typically would have been prosecuted in state court.