WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seemed likely Thursday to preserve a constitutional rule that allows state and federal governments to prosecute someone for the same crime.
Several justices expressed concern about upsetting the long-standing rule that provides an exception to the Constitution's ban on trying someone twice for the same offense, even as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described it as a “double whammy'' for criminal defendants.
The court is considering the case of federal prison inmate Terance Gamble. He was prosecuted by Alabama and the federal government for having a gun after an earlier conviction for robbery.
A ruling for Gamble could have a spillover effect on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But that issue did not come up at all in Thursday's arguments.
Instead, justices focused on the practical effects that might result from siding with Gamble.
“Look at the door we're opening up,'' Justice Stephen Breyer said, mentioning federal prosecutions for crimes of racial violence and domestic violence against Native American women that could be imperiled with a ruling for Gamble.
To that list, Justice Department lawyer Eric Feigin added the massacres in a Charleston church in 2015 and a Pittsburgh synagogue in October as examples in which federal murder charges might have to be dropped if Gamble were to prevail. Thirty-six states that include Republican-led Texas and Democratic-led New York also are on the Trump administration's side.
The session provided an opportunity for new Justice Brett Kavanaugh to talk about the importance of the court adhering to earlier rulings, an issue he addressed repeatedly during his confirmation hearings as Democratic senators worried Kavanaugh would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling.
A party asking to overturn an earlier ruling must “not just show it's wrong, but that it's grievously wrong, egregiously wrong,'' Kavanaugh said. Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that close to 30 justices have voted at some point to uphold the exception Gamble wants to eliminate.
Gamble's case drew the court's attention after Ginsburg and Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in 2016 that the exception to protection from double jeopardy should be reconsidered. Justice Neil Gorsuch indicated at arguments that he might also be on Gamble's side. At least one other justice had to vote to hear the case.
One reason for taking a fresh look, Gorsuch said, is that “with the proliferation of federal crimes...the government's ability to seek a second conviction is a problem.'' Liberal and conservative groups urged the court to rein in successive prosecutions for the same crime in large part because of the marked growth in federal criminal prosecutions in recent decades.
Gamble was arrested in 2015 for possessing a 9 mm handgun and faced state and federal charges. He pleaded guilty in state court and tried to have the federal charge dismissed. When that failed, he pleaded guilty in federal court as well, with the idea of mounting the constitutional challenge that is now before the Supreme Court.
Gamble is not scheduled for release from prison until 2020, nearly three years later than he would have been freed from conviction on state charges alone, his lawyer, Louis Chaiten, wrote in court papers.
The relevant portion of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment says that no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.''
Chaiten disputed that a ruling for his client would carry harmful practical consequences. He told the justices that even a slight difference in the crime charged by state and federal prosecutors would be enough to eliminate double jeopardy concerns.
He also disputed that federal civil rights prosecutions would be affected. Civil rights charges to fight crimes of racial violence have been a key tool for federal prosecutors, especially when Southern juries were unwilling to convict defendants. Another high-profile example was the successful federal prosecution of Los Angeles police officers who had been acquitted of state charges in the beating of Rodney King.
Gamble's is the relatively rare case that violates the Constitution, Chaiten said.
A ruling for Gamble could be relevant if President Donald Trump were to pardon someone implicated in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe and a state wanted to pursue its own charges against that person.
Supreme Court lawyer Tom Goldstein joked at a Washington event before the term began in October that the high court case should be called New York v. Manafort, a reference to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Trump has refused to rule out an eventual pardon for Manafort, who has been convicted of federal financial fraud and conspiracy crimes. It's by no means certain that the high court ruling will affect future prosecutions.
A decision in Gamble v. United States, 17-646, is expected by late June.
MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) — Twenty-nine years ago Stephanie Tobey-Roderick, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, entered her first drug rehab program.
She went to a treatment facility in New Hampshire called Spofford Hall, a long-term inpatient treatment facility that is now defunct. She remembers the moment she knew she had a problem.
“My son was four,'' Tobey-Roderick said. “I kept promising him tomorrow — tomorrow we'll go to the park. And tomorrow never came.''
Tobey-Roderick had been struggling with addictions to cocaine and alcohol; she first began experimenting with substances as early as the age of 15. She liked to party at events like the powwow, the tribe's annual homecoming, Tobey-Roderick said.
“I was surrounded by alcohol and drugs,'' she said.
After getting treatment, she spent 13 years sober while her son — a skilled Native American drummer — went to school. Then she relapsed.
Ultimately, Tobey-Roderick managed to overcome her illness at the Partridge House, an inpatient addiction program specifically for tribes run by the New York-based Mohawk Tribe. The facility is the only native-specific program licensed through the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services that looks at how addiction affects Indian communities, according to its website.
“I knew there was an Indian reservation that helped natives,'' said Tobey-Roderick, who just before entering into the tribe-based program was admitted to McLean Hospital in Belmont after she tried to commit suicide.
Inspired by a Mohawk tribal counselor, Tobey-Roderick has since become a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and is applying for a trademark on a product she'd designed to use as a therapeutic tool, called “My-Life-Ball,'' to facilitate conversation in a group counseling setting.
In recent years, Tobey-Roderick, her sister Laura Miranda and the tribe's medicine man, Guy Cash, held weekly meetings at the Old Indian Meeting House to provide emotional support to tribe members suffering from addiction, Miranda said.
The meetings were not sponsored by tribal political leaders, said Miranda, who was a tribal council member. Tobey-Roderick, determined to maintain her sobriety, played an important mentoring role to tribe members to keep them from straying from the path to recovery, Miranda said.
“The people she's actually helped are still sober today because of her,'' Miranda said.
When Tobey-Roderick last got sober, she returned home jobless, carrying nothing but a plant, Miranda said.
Tobey-Roderick would take the Hyannis shuttle bus to find work, often walking to meet potential employers and to 12-step meetings, her sister said.
“She would walk to wherever she had to go,'' Miranda said.
Tobey-Roderick said she grew up relatively free of serious trauma, but her father, Edgar F. Tobey Sr., who struggled with alcoholism, was among a group of tribe members spearheading a bid for federal acknowledgement, and was named in the lawsuits brought against New Seabury in the early 1970s.
Tobey Sr. was among a founding group of tribal leaders who sat on a board of directors at the time the tribal government was formally established. That board functioned as the tribal council does now, according to a tribal spokeswoman.
Tobey-Roderick said she remembers her father talking about the tribe every night at the dinner table. She didn't realize, until he was dying, how important the politics surrounding land loss and federal recognition were to him.
“I never knew how hard of a time it was for my dad,'' she said.
She described her own pain as intergenerational, as passing from previous generations.
The term is used throughout Indian Country to describe the deep wounds associated with the loss of historic homelands, she said.
Mainstream psychiatrists accept the concept of transgenerational trauma as it applies to Native Americans, African Americans and other marginalized groups whose ancestors had suffered for various causes and who, too, carry the pain of previous generations.
“They said I had this ‘moral anger,''' she said, referring to staff members at the Partridge House.
Tobey-Roderick credits the 12-step-program model, specifically steps one through five, which got her to look back at her childhood and make sense of what happened to her.
But she believes her trauma is intimately tied to historical injustices against her people, she said.
“They've faced tragedy,'' said Mary LeClair, who served on the board of Gosnold Inc., for 27 years. “But they have an inner strength that is tied to their fight for land.''
Tobey-Roderick's father ultimately achieved sobriety for the remaining 25 years of his life, a feat she said resulted from a “spiritual awakening'' that led him to become a Jehovah's Witness.
In 2016, there were 11 opioid-related deaths among the roughly 3,000-member Mashpee tribe, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency. According to state data, there were 24 opioid-related overdose deaths among Native Americans in Massachusetts between 2014 and 2016.
The tribe has now launched a new effort — dubbed Project 360 — to better connect its members to treatment and recovery programs, as well as to conduct a community needs assessment to identify gaps in resources used to address the crisis, according to a document detailing the plan.
Tribe members are four times as likely to abuse substances than the state's nontribe residents, according to the document. Tribe members are 150 percent more likely to experience emotional distress and depression than their nontribe neighbors, and that 25 percent of tribal members report having attempted suicide during their youth, the document says.
And the state recently announced funding for a new program that would provide substance-misuse-and-prevention support services for Native American youth throughout the state. There will be $1.2 million allocated to target Native American middle schoolers to “enhance self-esteem, develop problem-solving techniques, reduce stress and anxiety, and build effective defenses against pressure to use tobacco, alcohol, opioids and other drugs,'' according to a statement on the program.
Tobey-Roderick now has more than eight years of sobriety under her belt, and she's getting ready to launch her “My-Life-Ball.''
But she still heralds the power of conversation in helping others achieve recovery.
“That's what my business card says,'' she said. “To just talk about it.''
SEATTLE (AP) — A bill that would make it easier to kill sea lions that feast on imperiled salmon in the Columbia River has cleared the U.S. Senate.
State wildlife managers say rebounding numbers of sea lions are eating more salmon than ever and their appetites are undermining billions of dollars of investments to restore endangered fish runs.
Senate Bill 3119, which passed Thursday by unanimous consent, would streamline the process for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and several Pacific Northwest Native American tribes to capture and euthanize potentially hundreds of sea lions found in the river east of Portland, Oregon.
Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican who co-sponsored the bill with senators from all three states, said the legislation would help ensure healthy populations of salmon for years to come.
“As endangered salmon face extinction, we must take steps to protect them,'' Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, said in a statement.
The Senate bill is similar to one passed by the U.S. House in June and sponsored by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican, Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat and others.
The House will have to consider the Senate's bill, or vice versa, before it heads to President Donald Trump for consideration. “We have reason to believe they will by the end of the year,'' said Kaylin Minton, communications director for Risch.
Supporters, including the governors of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, fishing groups and tribes, say the bill will give wildlife managers greater flexibility in controlling California sea lions that dramatically increased from about 30,000 in the 1960s to about 300,000 under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Critics called it ill-conceived and say it won't solve the problem of declining salmon, which also face other problems such as habitat loss and dams.
“This bill changes the core protective nature of the Marine Mammal Protection Act by allowing for the indiscriminate killing of sea lions throughout the Columbia River and its tributaries,'' Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for Animal Welfare Institute, said in a statement.
Washington, Idaho and Oregon wildlife managers currently have federal authorization to kill problem sea lions that eat salmon in the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam east of Portland.
But they must first go through a lengthy process to identify and document specific sea lions that cause problems, including observing them eating a salmon and using non-lethal hazing measures on them.
Both the House and Senate bills would remove those requirements, so states and several Native American tribes could get a federal permit to remove any sea lion east of the Interstate 205 bridge that connects Vancouver with Portland, as well as in tributaries of the Columbia River where there are federally protected fish.
Several Native American tribes, including the Yakama Nation, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes, also would be granted authority to manage sea lions.
Under both bills, the total number of sea lions removed cannot exceed 10 percent of a specified level, called the potential biological removal. For California sea lions, for example, that limit would be no more than 920 animals.
Nate Pamplin, policy director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the actual number of animals removed would be much lower because there aren't that many eligible to be removed.
While there are several thousand California sea lions in the Columbia River estuary, only about 200 to 300 swim more than 100 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean and would be eligible for removal, state wildlife officials say.
An orca task force convened by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also backed the legislation to boost the fish for the struggling population of southern resident killer whales.