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Ex-BIA officer gets 13-month-term for April incident in county

Oct 18, 2016 By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

William Arthur Curran could have faced a maximum sentence of more than 11 years.

A former U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs policeman must serve 13 months in federal custody on a kidnapping conviction stemming from an armed confrontation with his wife, a federal judge in Wyoming ordered Monday.

Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne on Monday accepted a plea agreement between prosecutors and former officer William Arthur Curran. The agreement limited Curran's sentence to a maximum of 13 months on the kidnapping count while federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss a separate charge of using a gun in a violent crime.

Prosecutors say Curran's wife reported he had handcuffed her, loaded a pistol and then threatened to kill her at their home in Fort Washakie, on the Wind River Indian Reservation, in April.

Curran, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, declined to address Johnson on Monday. Johnson rejected a request from defense lawyer H. Michael Bennett to sentence Curran to home confinement or to release him immediately.

Curran will get credit for about three months he has spent in custody since pleading guilty in July. Bennett argued that ordering Curran to serve the remaining 10 months would interfere with his desires to pursue his education, spend time with his children and start a construction business.

A federal probation officer had recommended in a pre-sentence report to Johnson that Curran should serve his full sentence in custody, Bennett said. Bennett said the probation officer stated that to do any less would diminish the severity of the kidnapping offense.

However, Bennett said he believed that Curran wasn't like most of the other criminal defendants who come through federal court. Bennett said Curran had no criminal history and had served in the military before entering law enforcement.

"The point of this, your honor, is that 10 months of incarceration is going to get in the way of what we want," Bennett said.

Federal prosecutor Stuart Healy told Johnson he agreed with Bennett that Curran didn't appear likely to commit any more crimes.

However, Healy said that with all the discussion of Curran's good qualities, it was important not to forget the seriousness of his crime.

Healy said federal sentencing guidelines called for a maximum sentence of over 11 years for the kidnapping count. Healy said Curran's lack of previous criminal history and other circumstances accounted for his office's willingness to accept such a lower sentence.

Healy said U.S. Attorney Christopher "Kip" Crofts has expressed concern to the Bureau of Indian Affairs about how the Wind River Police Department handled a 911 emergency call that Curran's wife had placed without Curran's knowledge while he was restraining her.

According to an investigator's statement filed in court, a Fremont County emergency dispatcher alerted the Wind River Police Department after receiving the call from Curran's home.

The department didn't follow up after calling Curran and hearing from him there was no need for an emergency check.

Healy said it's unacceptable, "when the victim whispers 'help' into the phone, and no help comes."

In accepting the plea agreement, Johnson said the 13-month sentence appeared to take into account the circumstances of Curran and his offense.

Johnson said Curran and his wife had marital problems before he took an extremely stressful law enforcement job on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

"It's a very, very tough and challenging occupation," Johnson said of police work on the reservation. He said officers are required to use great restraint every day in dealing with the alcohol problems they encounter.

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