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Feds post new attorney in Spokane to try crimes committed against indigenous people

Courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior

Spokane’s U.S. attorney’s office is getting extra help in prosecuting cases that involve Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.

U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref says the Justice Department is assigning five attorneys around the nation to focus exclusively on crimes that involve American Indian and Alaska Native victims. One will be in eastern Washington.

“There’s so much nexus between violent crime, narcotics traffickingand sexual assault that we really want to address this holistically and to continue collaborating closely with our tribal partners, our tribal leadership and all of the really critical services that are present on the reservations," Waldref said.

She says a dedicated attorney can help to identify crimes and develop strong cases against defendants.

“Build those strong relationships with your tribal law enforcement, with your victim advocacy groups on the reservations and with your tribal advocates to ensure that people feel safe coming forward with information about crimes. That’s really critical to our prosecutions to have effective ways of proving cases and providing evidence and bringing these cases to trial," she said.

Waldref says the attorney assigned to those cases is Richard Barker, the tribal liaison in her agency’s Spokane office. He will also try cases in federal court in Yakima.

She says the rates of violent crime among Native people in the Northwest are among the highest in the nation. She says part of Barker’s job will be to build and deepen the trust level with Indian people and urge them to report crimes.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.