Pine Ridge council suspends indicted member

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 10-07

A 38-year-old man has been suspended from his post as a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council after being indicted on federal drug charges in New Mexico.

Don Garnier was arrested during September near Raton, N.M.

If Garnier is convicted of a felony, he will forfeit his office as a Pine Ridge District council member, said John Yellow Bird Steele, tribal president. Until then, “We have to follow due process,” Steele said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”

The tribe’s constitution bars council members from holding office if they have been convicted of a felony. It also says the council has the sole authority to judge the qualifications of its members, according to Steele.

Council members can be suspended for broad acts of malfeasance, he added.

In early October, Garnier and Anthony Leo Vocu, 42, were indicted for felony marijuana possession with intent to distribute. Their arraignment was in Albuquerque, N.M.

According to Steele, Garnier contends he caught a ride in the wrong car on his way back to South Dakota from a meeting in New Mexico.

Garnier and Vocu, who was the driver, were stopped at a checkpoint for driver’s licenses, registrations and proof of insurance. Authorities said they found 21 pounds of marijuana in the trunk.