MCN Supreme Court determines level of charges
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court issued an opinion Sept. 6 in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation v. Bim Stephen Bruner case to clarify Bruner will be charged on felony counts with the proceeding remanded back to MCN District Court.
The opinion ruled in favor of an appeal filed by MCN stating that Bruner should be charged with a felony for his attempt to open an unlicensed casino even though this was not explicitly outlined in the statutes within tribal code.
Initially, the Bruner party requested the MCN District Court to clarify whether the charges against him were felonies or misdemeanors alleging said charges were not specified in tribal code.
In response, MCN, stated that the tribe’s self-governance allows it to ‘classify crimes in the manner it sees fit.’
It also stated that other past updates to the criminal and gaming codes reflect the intent of the National Council to have the statutes used to charge Bruner, Title 21 ‘Gaming,’ Section 11-103 ‘Possession of unlicensed gaming device’ and Section 11-104 ‘Gambling premises’ to be felonies.
The MCN District Court said the charges still did not specify a felony or misdemeanor level and determined the proceedings would continue with the punishment of up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines without the charge level specified.
The MCN sought review from the MCN Supreme Court on the grounds that the MCN District Court failed to classify the charges as felonies.
The SC opinion agreed with this stating, ‘It is clear to this Court that, at the time of enactment, the National Council intended MCNCA Title 21, ss 11-103 and ss 11-104 to place the prohibited conduct in the highest possible punishment range available to the Nation. This is consistent with the Nations’ felony designation at that time, and is conversely inconsistent with the Nation’s misdemeanor designation.’
The opinion further explained, ‘As such, we find that the prohibited criminal conduct, as defined by MCNCA Title 21, ss 11-103 and ss 11-104 is to be classified as a felony crime.’
The SC continued its opinion, ‘Further, it may be advisable for the legislative and executive branches of government to conduct a review of the Nation’s laws to ensure that the provisions in each Title work in tandem with, and not contrary to, other provisions in the same or other Titles throughout the Nation’s code.’
The SC described the decision to do such a review as ‘ultimately a decision left for the political branches of government and this court will weigh in no further.’
Proceedings to charge Bruner began in the aftermath of an Aug. 16, 2017 raid on a restaurant and dance hall on a Muscogee (Creek) allotment in Broken Arrow less than a mile from where the Kialegees previously attempted to open a casino in late 2011.
With more than 100 electronic gaming machines allegedly found on the property and a gaming license nowhere in sight, as the allotment’s owner, enrolled KTT member and former MCN National Council representative, Bruner was arrested for operating an unlicensed gaming facility.
Mvskoke Media will continue coverage of the case that will be back in MCN District Court with Bruner charged on felony counts.