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United States v. Denezpi, 979 F.3d 777 (10th Cir. Oct. 28, 2020)

Oct 28, 2020

Denezpi, a Navajo tribal member, was prosecuted twice – first by Ute Mountain Ute tribal authorities in a Court of Indian Offenses, or “CFR” court, overseen by the Department of the Interior; and later by federal prosecutors in a United States district court, based on the same alleged sexual assault of another tribal member. Upholding his federal conviction, the Tenth Circuit determined as a matter of first impression that prosecution of Denezpi by both tribal authorities and federal prosecutors did not violate the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause. Although the CFR court is technically administered by the federal government, tribal authorities exercise inherent sovereign tribal authority, rather than federal authority, in prosecuting offenders there.