AG's office looking into Mille Lacs allegations 5-3-07

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Two lawyers from the Minnesota attorney general's traveled to Mille Lacs County Thursday to look into allegations that an 11-year-old American Indian crime victim was treated like a criminal himself.

Brian Bergson, spokesman for Attorney General Lori Swanson, said the attorneys were interviewing witnesses and were charged with determining if the state has jurisdiction in the matter.

Melanie Benjamin, the chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, had a day earlier sent Swanson a letter laying out the allegations of mistreatment of the boy, who was detained by police last month after missing a court appearance as a crime victim.

Benjamin said the boy was held overnight, and in his court appearance the next morning was shackled, handcuffed and forced to wear an orange prison jumpsuit. She also suggested he was treated rougher than other prisoners because he's Indian.

Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Kolb said Wednesday the case was handled properly and that the boy and his mother had been given numerous chances to appear in court.

Rjay Brunkow, an attorney for the tribe, said Thursday that the boy's parents did not want to speak to the media.

The ACLU of Minnesota jumped into the fray Wednesday, sending letters to several state officials including Gov. Tim Pawlenty, asking them to intervene and “ensure that no other child should go through what this child was forced to go through.” The ACLU also sent a letter to Kolb demanding all documents pertaining to the boy's arrest and detention.

Bergson said that if the state attorneys determine they don't have jurisdiction, that the information gathered will be turned over to “the proper government agencies.”