Tribal court awards victim of Vice Lord beating $4.2 million in damages
After refusal to join Vice Lords victim was beaten, cut and dragged on Mille Lacs Band of Ojibewa reservation
(St. Paul, MN) Cody St. John, a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibewa Indian, who in 2006 when he 22 years old and refused to join the Vice Lords gang, was beaten, dragged and left on a reservation street in sub-zero weather, was awarded a civil judgment of $4.2 million by the tribal court against one of his assailants.
The assailant, Keith Wayne Reynolds, 24, a member of the Vice Lords and a Mille Band of Ojibewa Indian, was earlier criminally convicted of felony assault in Mille Lacs County District Court.
District Judge Richard D. Osburn, who presided over the civil trial in April of this year, said in his findings that St. John was particularly vulnerable and that Reynold’s actions, including carving the letters “VL” on the victim’s face, arm and back, before taking his clothing “and then (leaving) him for dead in 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit temperatures were clearly meant to terrorize others on the reservation.
The Judge reasoned that because “It is reasonable to infer that Defendant Reynolds wished to send a message of violence to the entire Mille Lacs reservation community” a considerable punitive award was necessary, “not only to punish Reynolds but to deter others from attempting to intimidate the Mille Lacs reservation community into compliance with criminal gang activity.”
Attorney Patrick Noaker, who tried the case for Jeff Anderson & Associates, said the judgment was important because St. John suffered long-term and permanent physical and mental damage and will require significant health care for the rest of his life. “In my experience, a judgment of this size from a tribal court is very rare. But clearly, this judge is sending his own message to these gangs. And the message is that violent intimidation is not welcome in their community.”
The full judgment of $4.288,937.30 consisted of past and future medical of $1,038.937.30; past and future mental injury of $250,000.00; and, $3,000.000.00 in punitive damages.
A copy of the court’s order can be found under “Case Resources” at www.AndersonAdvocates.com