Assault case involving former Muskogee police officer forwarded to federal officials

·2 min read

Oct. 28—TAHLEQUAH — Prosecutors forwarded to tribal and federal officials law enforcement reports they drew from to file an aggravated assault charge against a former Muskogee police officer.

A Cherokee County judge ordered the dismissal of the felony charge after Mark Vernon Ridley Jr. presented evidence showing he is an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. Because the alleged crime occurred "on Indian land that has not been disestablished" and the accused is Native American, the state of Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction to prosecute the case.

Ridley, who is serving a 10-year deferred sentence in Muskogee County for kidnapping and assaulting his ex-wife, is accused of grabbing a woman's wrist and breaking it as she attempted to help a friend involved in an altercation. Witnesses allege the events occurred Feb. 5 at the Dam Bar north of Fort Gibson.

Mindy Pinord, according to an affidavit filed by Cherokee County Deputy Jimmy Tannehill in support of the application for an arrest warrant, pushed her way through a crowd gathered around the altercation. On the way, she encountered a man, identified later as Ridley, who allegedly cursed her and squeezed her wrist until it snapped.

An arrest warrant issued in May was recalled Oct. 15 after his lawyer, Janet Bickel Hutson, arranged for him to surrender on Wednesday. A motion was filed during the interim, alleging the state lacked jurisdiction as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that determined, for purposes of federal criminal law, that Congress never disestablished the Muscogee Nation reservation.

Oklahoma courts have ruled since then the same applies to other federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma that were granted land by treaties with terms similar to what the Supreme Court considered in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

Assistant District Attorney Eric Jordan said he was surprised there was no mention of Ridley's tribal affiliation in law enforcement reports. He also was surprised the issue did not come up when Ridley's lawyer called and requested the outstanding warrant be recalled.

"What we do when we are required to dismiss on a McGirt motion is forward the reports to federal authorities for them to determine if it falls under the Major Crimes Act," Jordan said. "We also forward the reports to tribal authorities, and we let those two work it out."

Jordan said it would be up to federal prosecutors to determine whether the felony alleged in state court would qualify as a federal crime under the Major Crimes Act.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting