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Jimcy McGirt pleads guilty ahead of his second retrial

The man at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that reshaped tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma has pleaded guilty to the crimes he was challenging and will soon be free.

Jimcy McGirt, 75, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country. As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, he agreed to a 30-year sentence with five years probation.

Prosecutors will recommend he receive credit for time served at a sentencing hearing on a later date. He has been incarcerated for roughly three decades in both state and federal prisons.

He was initially convicted in state court in 1997 of felony sex crimes involving a then-4-year-old victim.

In 2020, he was then re-convicted in federal court after the Supreme Court ruled McGirt was wrongly tried in state court because the crimes were committed on the Muscogee Nation reservation, a standing reservation that had never been disestablished by Congress. McGirt is a member of the Seminole Nation.

That decision reaffirmed several reservations in Eastern Oklahoma, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Ottawa, Peoria, Quapaw and Seminole.

The Supreme Court ruling meant that crimes involving Native American defendants which happened on reservations are to be tried by the federal government or tribal prosecutors. Several people were released from state custody following the decision and given federal trials, including McGirt.

Earlier this year, federal appeals judges ruled McGirt’s conviction should be overturned because his 2020 jury was wrongly limited in how to weigh inconsistent witness testimony from 1997. The court says in its order while the jury could have still found McGirt guilty, the judges were unsure they would have.

In that re-trial, McGirt had been sentenced to three life sentences.

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Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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