Tribal courts lack power over non-Indian abusers

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A high-level Justice Department official says tribal courts should have authority to prosecute people who are not American Indians in reservation domestic violence cases.

Associate attorney general Tom Perrelli says the lack of that authority often leads to law officers on reservations mistakenly believing they can't arrest non-Indians in such cases. A 1978 Supreme Court decision stripped courts of authority over non-Indians.

Perrelli also says it has meant many serious acts of domestic and date violence have gone unprosecuted and unpunished.

Perrelli was testifying Thursday before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee whose chairman Daniel Akaka of Hawaii has sponsored legislation that would give courts prosecutorial power over non-Indians.