United States v. Sadekni

Decision Date01 March 2017
Docket Number3:16-CR-30164-MAM
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Dakota

Marwan Sadekni ("Sadekni"), a non-Indian, has moved to dismiss the criminal charges lodged against him - for allegedly assaulting another non-Indian in an Indian Health Services ("IHS") facility located on an Indian reservation1 and leased to the United States. The dispositive question is whether the facility falls within the federal government's territorial jurisdiction. Because it does, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case and Sadekni's dismissal motion must be denied.


The IHS facility is situated on 155 acres of land located in Rosebud, Todd County, South Dakota, and is within the exterior boundaries of the Rosebud SiouxIndian Reservation. The United States owns the land but holds it in trust for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. On August 1, 1988, a representative of the Secretary of the Department of Interior ("DOI"), acting on behalf of the Tribe, entered into a lease agreement with IHS, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"), for the purpose of operating a new comprehensive healthcare facility and associated living quarters on the land. The lease incorporated a tribal resolution which approved the lease and building of the facility. The lease was renewed in 2008, with the approval of the Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"), for another 20 years.

Sadekni is a medical doctor who was assigned to the Rosebud IHS facility for several weeks in 2015. Michelle Knepper is a physician assistant who worked as an independent contractor with the BIA at the facility during the same time period. Both Sadekni and Knepper are non-Indians.

In January, 2015, while working a shift together at the hospital portion of the facility, Sadekni supposedly "yanked" Knepper by the neck and shook her after she placed a lab order that upset him. Then about a month later, while working together at the hospital, Sadekni again became unnerved at Knepper - this time for ordering a CT scan and arranging a transport of one of his patients without his permission - and reputedly shoved her against the wall, grabbed her by the neck and began to choke her.

Ultimately, Sadekni was indicted and charged with two counts of assault by striking, beating and wounding in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§7 and 113(a)(4). He later moved to dismiss the Indictment, insisting that the United States lacked jurisdiction andthat he could not be prosecuted in federal court because the State of South Dakota had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter.


A. Reservation and Land History

The Rosebud Reservation was included as an undefined portion of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and made up part of what was called the Louisiana Territory.2 Between 1851 and 1863, Indian tribes signed six treaties with the United States that collectively accounted for all of the land in what is now South Dakota.3 The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851,4 constituted a "cease of hostilities" agreement between Indian tribes against each other and the United States.5 The Treaty also etched tribal boundaries and made the tribes responsible for depredations committed in their territories.6 The last of the six treaties, the Treaty of 1868,7 created the "Great SiouxReservation" which paved the way for the minting of the Rosebud Reservation two decades later.8 By the terms of the Treaty, lands were set aside "for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians."9 The federal government guaranteed that no persons would be allowed to pass through or settle on these lands.10 In return for government benefits, the Sioux gave up claims or rights in lands outside of the Reservation.11

A trilogy of acts diminished the boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation12 but all of the Todd County Reservation land remained unaffected by post-statehood enactments.13 Since 1988, the IHS facility and its hospital have occupied Reservation land in the County.14

The establishment of the State of South Dakota occurred about the same time as, but distinctly from, the spawning of the Rosebud Reservation. The 1861 Organic Act carved out the Dakota Territory, which included North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and a small part of Nebraska.15 By 1868, this territory was pared down and consisted of only what are North and South Dakota today.16 In 1889, the territory was divided into the States of North and South Dakota.17 That same year, the United States passed the Enabling Act18 which allowed South Dakota to be admitted as a state upon ratification of a state constitution.19 Nine months later, the State formally became a member of the Union.20

In an abrupt change from its earlier policy of allotment and assimilation, Congress enacted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA)21 which provided a mechanism for the federal government to acquire land in trust for the benefit of Indiantribes and to proclaim new reservations on lands so acquired.22 The IRA also encouraged tribes to adopt constitutions to govern their internal affairs and engage in economic development.23 In response to the enactment of IRA, the Rosebud Tribe adopted its own Constitution and Bylaws which DOI approved in 1935.24 Article VIII of the Constitution authorized the federal government to take all non-allotted lands into trust and hold them on behalf of the Tribe.25 The acreage the IHS facility and its hospital were built on is government owned trust land and has been, and continues to be, used by federal agencies with the Tribe and BIA's approval.26

At no point in its history, has South Dakota ever had any possessory interest, or exercised jurisdiction over, the Indian land27 where the IHS facility is situated.28 This is because of the supremacy of the United States in matters involving such land.29

B. Territorial Jurisdiction Statute

By its terms, §113(a)(4) requires that the assault occur "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States." This realm of special jurisdiction includes:

Any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building.30

The primary source of §7(3) is the "Enclave" Clause of the United States Constitution.31

1. Legislative History

Although in its present form, §7(3) dates to 1940, the statute can be traced back to several provisions of an act passed by the first Congress entitled "An Act for the Punishment of certain Crimes against the United States" ("1790 Act").32 The 1790 Act did not have a marked jurisdictional provision (like §7), but instead incorporated the jurisdictional limits of federal courts separately into the substantive definition of eachoffense.33 Section 3 of that Act, for example, provided "[t]hat if any person . . . shall, with any fort, arsenal, dock-yard, magazine, or in any other place or district of country, under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, commit the crime of wilful murder, such person . . . shall suffer death."34 The jurisdictional language of the Act was clearly based on and came from the Enclave Clause.35

The 1790 Act was codified and slightly amended in 1874,36 but remained essentially unchanged until 1909, when Congress passed "An Act To codify, revise and amend the penal laws of the United States" ("1909 Act").37 The 1909 Act sweepingly codified all existing federal criminal law, including the offense of assault by striking, beating and wounding.38 And in the Act, Congress unveiled a separate and distinct section on jurisdiction. That section, provided that the territorial jurisdiction of the United States included:

Any lands reserved or acquired for the exclusive use of the United States and under the exclusive jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, dock-yard and other needful building.39

The 1909 Act remained intact until 1940, when Congress amended the Act in two ways ("1940 Act").40 First, the word "exclusive" was deleted from the initial phrase, so that jurisdiction no longer required that lands be reserved or acquired "for the exclusive use" of the United States.41 Second, the words "or concurrent" were inserted between "exclusive" and "jurisdiction" in the succeeding phrase, so that jurisdiction extended to "any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof."42 Congress thus granted, for the first time, federal courts jurisdiction over crimes committed on lands that were not exclusively under the jurisdiction of the United States.

The House report concerning the 1940 Act unequivocally states that the amendments were prompted by the Supreme Court's decision in James v. Dravo Contracting Co.,43 three years earlier, in which the Court held that the Enclave Clausepermitted states to retain partial or concurrent jurisdiction over land they consensually transferred to the United States.44 Congress believed that the holding in Dravo necessitated a revision to the 1909 Act because that Act "limited the criminal jurisdiction of the Federal Government to such Federal reservations in respect to which the United States had acquired exclusive jurisdiction."45 Hence, the purpose of the 1940 amendment was "simply [to] restore[ ] to the Federal Government the jurisdiction it was recognized as having until [the Dravo decision] was handed down."46

2. Current Version

Section 7(3) as it appeared in 2015 and still today, can best be understood if it is...

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