Lodge Pole man sentenced for witness tampering

Great Falls, Montana (AP) December 2010

Federal officials announced a new initiative to protect witnesses and victims of crimes on Indian reservations on the same day a Lodge Pole man was sentenced for threatening a witness in his son’s murder trial.

“We have seen retaliation against witnesses and victims in the past and we are taking a firm stand,” Scott Cruse, the FBI special agent in charge for Montana, said last week.

Elwyn “Jack” Has The Eagle, 57, was sentenced last week to nine years in prison for trying to get his son’s girlfriend to testify that his son was drunk and hearing voices in the hours before he stabbed two people to death in December 2008. The woman testified that just days before the trial was to start, Has The Eagle threatened to “take her out” if she did not lie on the stand.

The Fearless Justice Initiative is aimed at suppressing and punishing the intimidation of victims and witnesses to crimes on reservations.

“If the pursuit of justice is obstructed by these efforts then no amount of resources, diligence or effort on the part of the law enforcement community will be sufficient to fight crime on create a safe environment for tribal communities,” U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said last week. “No amount of assurance will instill confidence in victims and witnesses that the legal system can protect them, vindicate their willingness to come forward, or provide them with the justice they have a right to expect from the system.”

The initiative will train prosecutors and law enforcement officers in the investigation and prosecution of federal obstruction of justice statutes, counsel witnesses and victims on what to do if they are approached by anyone asking them to lie or not appear in court, give victims and witnesses 24-hour contact numbers to report such efforts, and provide tribal law enforcement with needed surveillance equipment, Cotter said.

The Department of Justice will also make a priority of prosecuting cases involving obstruction of justice, witness tampering and witness retaliation, he said.

In the case sentenced Monday, federal investigators recorded telephone calls from Has The Eagle to his son’s girlfriend urging her to testify that Jay Has The Eagle was “crazy” when he stabbed Doreen Manzanares, 63, and Calvin Snell, 69, to death on Dec. 17, 2008.

Jay Has The Eagle is serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders.