Turtle Mountain Star: Keplin found not guilty of assault

BELCOURT – A six-person jury found Wayne Keplin not guilty of assault last week in Turtle Mountain Tribal Court in Belcourt, according to the Turtle Mountain Star in Rolla.

Judge Joseph Vetsch of Grand Forks presided over the trial.

Last October, Keplin was arrested after a confrontation with Tribal Councilwoman Alice Lunday at tribal headquarters.

Keplin, who was elected chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in 2016, said his attorney Don Bruce provided video evidence refuting the claim of assault and also pointed out inconsistent statements given by police officers involved in the matter, according to the Star.

“It took the jury less than 15 minutes to come back,” Keplin told the Star.

The Star reported that there was conflict in tribal government during the weeks prior and following Keplin’s arrest in October. Keplin denies allegations that he was involved in “numerous financial misappropriations, attempts at misappropriations, self-dealing and unauthorized use of position.”

The Star also reported that the tribal council claimed that Keplin had resigned and then took back his resignation.

That led to another series of actions from both sides, with Keplin issuing an executive order removing the eight council members and replacing them. The existing council countered by formally removing him from office with a 7-0 vote, according to the Star.

About a week later Keplin was arrested on the assault charge involving Lunday. He was cuffed, shackled and taken to jail. At the time, he called the incident “humiliating, embarrassing and totally uncalled for.”

Last month, the council voted to make then-District 1 councilman Jamie Azure the new chairman.

Keplin told the Star that he is still the chairman and was elected by the people. He told the Star that he plans to continue to fight a restraining order filed in tribal court that keeps him from occupying his office at tribal headquarters. He told the Star that he is waiting for the tribal court to schedule the case.