Carmen Tageant has been recalled from public office, sexually harassed, cyber stalked, and physically assaulted by Nooksack political actors. Tageant’s home has been burglarized twice, and Nooksack police looked away. She has sought protection from tribal, federal, and state law enforcement, to no avail. But last Thursday, the former Nooksack Tribal Councilwoman who has been relentlessly persecuted since speaking out against the Nooksack 306 disenrollment in 2016, scored a legal victory in a Seattle federal court against Nooksack Police Chief Mike Ashby, who she alleges assaulted her at the Tribe’s Election Office on January 5, 2018.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart denied Ashby’s motion seeking to require the United States to defend him from a personal injury lawsuit that Tageant filed against him in Whatcom County Superior Court soon after the incident.
“I am gratified by the Judge’s decision,” said Tageant. “I am grateful for anything that will help protect me or other Indian women or elders from violence or harassment by Nooksack cops.”
In her state court suit, Tageant claims that as she attempted to file papers to declare her candidacy for re-election to the Nooksack Tribal Council, Election Superintendent Katrice Rodriguez announced to her, “you’re too late.” Then “Ashby forcefully grabbed both of [her] arms just above her elbows and violently pushed her back” out of the Election Office, which sits on fee lands beyond the Nooksack Indian Reservation. Tageant “was stunned by Defendant Ashby’s action, telling him, ‘what are you doing? Don’t touch me.’”
In March 2018, Ashby tendered Tageant’s state court lawsuit to the U.S. Department of Justice for defense pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), given a federal “638” funding agreement between the Nooksack Tribe and United States that assures Nooksack officers federal legal protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act for personal injuries they cause while working under that contract.
A year later, both the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Justice denied Ashby’s defense request. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Brian Moran determined that Ashby was not “acting within the scope of his employment” at the time of the incident because the “638 Contract was not intended to cover Chief Ashby’s off reservation enforcement activities.”
Ashby then sued to compel the United States to defend him, and the matter ended up before Judge Robart.
Agreeing with the federal government, Judge Robart ruled that because the alleged assault occurred on lands beyond the Nooksack Reservation, the Tribe’s 638 contract did not afford Ashby a federal legal defense because he acted beyond the scope of his employment. Rejecting Ashby’s arguments that his job description and Nooksack law enforcement protocols somehow extended Federal Tort Claims Act protection to his off-reservation activities, Judge Robart explained:
“It's outside the reservation, it's outside Indian Country, and saying that it's in his job description or it's standard operating procedure somehow loops it back to be under [the contract] is simply not factually or legally supportable.”
Judge Robart dismissed the matter of Ashby’s Federal Tort Claims Act defense request with prejudice and remanded Tageant’s case back to Whatcom County Superior Court, where it will proceed towards trial.
In support of Tageant, another Nooksack woman,
Deborah Alexander, stepped forward to explain to Judge Robart how on December 15, 2016, Ashby also put his hands on and assaulted her, without provocation.