Back in 2003, right after the invasion of Iraq, two New Hampshire men were visiting Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, which is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. While there, they had a bit too much to drink and ran into a Saddam Hussein lookalike. The two men announced that “We’re kicking your ass over there and we’ll do it here,” then proceeded to do so. The lookalike, Michael Barbosa of Randolph, MA, suffered severe injuries (including several broken bones in his face).
The two New Hampshire men were tried in Connecticut court for assault. One of them was given conditional release, the other a fine and release.
But the Pequot tribal court decided to take action themselves. They summoned the two men to a hearing. And when they blew it off, they fined them over $33,000. The victim’s attorney then registered the judgment in a New Hampshire court for the settlement.
An attorney for one of the men is fighting the claim, saying the tribal court has no jurisdiction in New Hampshire, and they don’t fall under the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution.
Now, it’s indisputable that we have a long and distinguished history of screwing over the Indians. Letting them have casinos and exempting them from taxes and other issues seems, to me, the least we could do to try to make up for it. And letting them have some measure of sovereignty on tribal lands is certainly in the spirit of the treaties we signed, but never really honored.
And while I think there is a certain level of validity to the argument that the tribal court, as a court of a sovereign body, is not necessarily binding on state and federal courts, I think that in this case the dumbasses deserve a stronger penalty than the slap on the wrist Connecticut gave them. $33,070 sounds about right.