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Man says 'not guilty' to kidnapping event on rez that ended in Riverton

May 9, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A Riverton man has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and domestic violence charges in a case that raises jurisdictional issues.

The Fremont County Attorney's Office can file charges only in areas in which it has jurisdiction, and it followed those guidelines in this case, officials said.

The attorney's office filed the charges against Robert Troy Afterbuffalo, 40, of Riverton, after Riverton police arrested him April 8 outside First Interstate Bank in Riverton.

Beating incident

An affidavit in the case alleges Afterbuffalo started beating his ex-wife Aldora White, 40, at a Fort Washakie residence after the two argued over who would receive some old appliances.

White told police she thought if she tried to get away from Afterbuffalo, he would beat her.

The pair left Fort Washakie and drove around the Ethete area, and Afterbuffalo continued to batter White, the document alleged. They came into Riverton and got out in the Rendezvous ponds area on East Monroe Avenue. There, Afterbuffalo beat White again and poured beer on her, the affidavit stated.

Investigators say the defendant told White he wanted to buy drugs and ordered her to withdraw money so he could do so, leading them to drive to First Interstate Bank. There, White wrote, "Call 911, he's killing me" on the check she passed to the teller, who called the police, according to the affidavit.

Deciding jurisdiction

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett noted that the Environmental Protection Agency's decision in November involving the boundaries of Wind River Indian Reservation raised the issue of jurisdictional lines, but in an interview, he limited his explanation to how he currently handles cases.

Land status is crucial to jurisdiction.

"First you have to figure out if you're on Indian or non-Indian land," he said.

Indian, in reference to people or land, is a political term the federal government employs, and his office does not define it, Bennett clarified.

"Once we've ascertained that a crime has been committed within the county on non-Indian land, that allows us to assert jurisdiction," he said.

In the Afterbuffalo case, the alleged crimes were kidnapping, unlawfully confining White with the intent of hurting or terrorizing her and not releasing her unharmed, and domestic violence battery, causing bodily injury to White.

Prosecutors will have to prove those crimes happened in non-Indian land to convict Afterbuffalo.

Bennett declined to comment on specifics of the Afterbuffalo case but said, "If we have a crime that starts ... on the Wind River Indian Reservation, I don't have any jurisdiction over those crimes if there's an Native American victim or a Native American perpetrator, but once they cross out of the Wind River Indian Reservation and onto those federally designated non-Indian lands such as Riverton (I have jurisdiction)."

Jurisdictions overlap on the reservation.

"If it's a crime committed by an Indian or against an Indian on Indian land, that's either tribal or federal jurisdiction," Bennett said.

Cases can overlap

Jurisdictions overlap off the reservation as well.

Bennett pointed to the example of Timothy Pitt, of Hudson, who in December was convicted on federal drug charges.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over controlled substances cases under an interpretation of a clause of the Constitution.

A trial date has not yet been set for Afterbuffalo.

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