TULSA, Okla. — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland recently announced the recipients for the 69th Annual Attorney General’s Awards, recognizing Department of Justice employees and partners for extraordinary contributions to the enforcement of our nation’s laws.
this year, 298 Justice Department employees received awards, while 54 non-department people were also honored for their work. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shannon Cozzoni, Ryan Roberts and Edward Snow, of the Northern District of Oklahoma, were all recognized for Exceptional Service in Indian Country.
“This year’s awardees have served selflessly to further the Department’s important work upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights,” said Garland. “I am proud to recognize these individuals for their professionalism, skill and leadership, and I am grateful for their service to our Department and our nation.”
U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson said, “The professionalism and forward-leaning approach exhibited by Shannon, Ryan, and Edward were critical to my office during a time of unprecedented jurisdictional change in Oklahoma that tripled our caseload. As part of my leadership team today, their efforts continue to move this office forward in a positive direction. I am thankful for Attorney General Garland’s recognition of their dedicated service to the people of northeastern Oklahoma.”
As Oklahoma’s jurisdictional landscape transformed following the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) decision in McGirt v Oklahoma and subsequent court decisions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office became responsible for federal criminal prosecutions involving Native American defendants, and/or victims residing within the Muscogee, Cherokee and Quapaw Nations’ reservations.
In anticipation of SCOTUS’ July 2020 decision, the Indian Country team held law enforcement and in-house trainings regarding jurisdiction and discussions on what would happen next. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said their training efforts intensified following the McGirt decision. The team met with district attorneys, judges and law enforcement to discuss how the Northern District of Oklahoma would be notified of cases and how discovery would be transferred as part of the office’s intake process.
The intake process was developed in conjunction with Information Technology staff to track, review, and prioritize the large influx of cases brought forward by law enforcement. Cozzoni, Roberts and Snow further worked with local, federal, state and tribal partners to develop protocols for arrests, federal and tribal holds, prisoner transfers, jail contracts, transfer of cases to the federal government and tribes, cross-commissions and more.
Following the McGirt decision, the Northern District of Oklahoma explained that their criminal caseload tripled when compared to previous years. From July 9, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, alone, the office stated they reviewed 560 Indian Country cases, opening 300 for prosecution and referring others to Muscogee Nation.
Currently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they have accepted more than 1,200 Indian Country cases for prosecution.
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