Criminal Injustice

I am not finished with my next installment on the Nikki LaDue January case, so instead I offer this.
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In 2010, 19-year-old John Anczarski joined friends and began riding his bicycle across the United States.


The former Eagle Scout, published poet, and honor society student was in his second year of an engineering program at the University of Colorado.

And, John and friends were not riding for personal glory.

Instead, they rode daily to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research through an initiative called "The Pink Pedal."

In June of that year, John's ride and life ended much too soon while cycling when he was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Gilbert Waconda in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico.

Because the collision occurred on tribal lands, tribal police investigated.

The accident scene was examined, witness statements were taken, evidence was collected, and the case file was given to a Federal prosecutor for review--since state authorities do not have jurisdiction on tribal lands.

But last week, a year-and-a-half after young Anczarski's death, Federal authorities announced that they would not pursue charges in the case.

Now, it would be unfair for me to criticize the US Attorney's Office for not prosecuting the felony charges against the driver since so little is known about the case.

Instead, I'll applaud the Tribal Police and thier local prosecuting attorney who made a meaningful announcement as well: they will pursue prosecution.

But, there is one problem.

A large problem.

Tribal authorities are only permitted to prosecute crimes as misdemeanors--meaning that the most punishment that Mr. Waconda could receive is one-year in the local jail.

Despite this, Laguna Pueblo Police Chief Michelle Ray had this to say to the victim's family:

"I want them to know that we haven’t stopped investigating this, we haven't stopped working on this, and something will happen with Mr. Waconda..."

Glad to hear that someone is fighting for victims and their families.

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What if he the driver is convicted for vehicular homicide and sentenced to a whopping 365 days in jail?

That would be a clear example of the American Criminal Injustice System.

Either way, I would hope that Mr. Waconda would become the most charitable individual in Laguna Pueblo.

That he grows from this experience and dedicates his life in service to others.

A terrible mistake that could be the starting point of something positive.

30 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Never surprised by the twisting and all the ins and outs of the law anymore. There always seems to be a way to weasel out of what you did with a slap on the wrist. But as you say hopefully something good comes out of it.

The Blonde Duck said...

What a tragedy.

Miranda Hardy said...

Too bad this life was cut so short. Glad to hear something will be done, but that sentence is ridiculous. Of course, I don't know the entire circumstances, but the fact that it's the limit is ridiculous.

Clarissa Draper said...

What a sad story. I hope that the young boy will be given justice.

Jax said...

How sad that such a young life was ended, especially when he was doing such a good deed.

Given the circumstances were that the situation was a sincere accident, I feel that living with the knowledge that you killed someone could be punishment enough. I can't imagine having to wake up every day knowing that I committed something so awful.

Matthew MacNish said...

How sad.

Is there no way to know what happened?

Diane said...

I think the only silver lining is the one you propose at the end of your post. If he can repent and truly want to "make up" for what he has done. At least others can be helped.

Shauna Nosler said...

You have done him some justice at least, by printing this and his picture - what a great smile he had! And I never would have thought about Tribal laws ... sounds like this could be a novel!

Lydia Kang said...

What a sad, sad case.

Brian Miller said...

ugh...i guess we can hope...i do like the statement that they put out...might be a little tribal justice eh...smiles.

Hilary said...

That's a heart breaker.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

So interesting they can only prosecute crimes as misdemeanors. I never knew that.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Sad situation. What a Catch 22.

Momma Fargo said...

The one year sentence would be typical of most vehicular homicides here in Wyoming as well, unless you added alcohol on board, drug influence, or reckless driving.

Carol Kilgore said...

This is sad for all concerned. I hope Mr. Waconda learns something beneficial during the year.

Sarah Ahiers said...

How terrible for that boy and his family. What a tragedy

Abby Minard said...

Oh that's so sad...I hate hearing when something like that happens. Maybe the driver has tried to make up for it- I hope he will!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That is sad. He made a sacrifice to help out a good cause. He shouldn't be the one to lose everything. At least someone is looking out for him. Too bad justice won't be what it should be.

BobKat said...

Two things:

1) John Anczarski was doing very good at his age for himself and others.
2)You're correct there's nothing that we know to shed any light on John's death.

What I do find perplexing is the ever increasing complexity - and the pre-existing complexity of law enforcement.

I also find it surprising that tribal law enforcement is so restricted and controlled by outside regulations! And that it has to be "monitored/overseen" by the federal gov't.

Actually, I'm not surprised. Who am I kidding?

Janet Johnson said...

So sad! But I'm glad that the tribal police, at least, are pursuing this. Like you said, let's hope this man turns his life around.

Kristin said...

That is so sad.

LD Masterson said...

Some things are just wrong.

JoDee Luna said...

Was this an accident?

WomanHonorThyself said...

justice ...how tragic that it is seldom seen Slam...

ladyfi said...

What a terrible tragedy for all involved.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Very interesting. How sad first off, I hate hearing of lives cut short... especially when they're noble ones.

It is nice that tribal authorities are going above and beyond their call of duty with respect to the victim.

You're right- I hope it turns into something positive too.

Maxi said...

State authorities do not have jurisdiction on tribal lands? Nothing goes beyond a misdemeanor?

This is outrageous … state and national laws should apply to all no matter where an accident happens.

A young man has lost his life; what did tribal authorities tell his family?

terri said...

So very sad. The father of the victim offered a very generous statement, considering most people having lost a loved one wouldn't feel compelled to be so kind.

Lisa said...

I guess my biggest question is why tribal jurisdictions can't prosecute cases as felonies on tribal land? Such a shame.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Stories like this just chap my hide!