HELENA — Tribal law enforcement officers Friday arrested a state senator and Blackfeet leader accused of not complying with the terms of a plea agreement for drunken driving, a charge he has called false and politically motivated.
Sen. Shannon Augare was found in a home east of Browning on Friday afternoon after two weeks of avoiding arrest, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council member Paul McEvers said.
The arrest was made because Augare did not pay his fine after pleading guilty to driving drunk and then fleeing a Glacier County sheriff’s deputy who stopped him in May 2013, tribal attorney Dawn Running Wolf said.
But the arrest also has political implications, with Augare a member of one side of a divided tribal council involved in a long-running power struggle. The dispute has led to government shutdowns, employee layoffs and payroll being withheld for the workers who remain.
Augare’s attorney in a federal case involving the 2013 drunken-driving charges did not return requests for comment. Augare told The Associated Press last week he paid the fine in December but the receipts that can prove it are in a tribal building that the opposing council faction led by Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. won’t allow him to access.
Augare has said the arrest warrant against him was prompted by the political dispute.
Members of Sharp’s faction, and the police chief they appointed, Josh Black Weasel, informed the AP of Augare’s arrest in a conference call.
Tribal officials said Augare was to be detained over the weekend and appear before a judge Monday morning, but he was released later Friday afternoon.
Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso of Butte said he spoke with Augare after law enforcement officers let him go. “They got to wherever they detained him and cooler heads prevailed,” Sesso said.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which operates the jail where he would be placed, had disputed Augare’s arrest warrant because it included no bond and the agency won’t accept him in its facility, Running Wolf said.
Anybody arrested by the tribe on a Friday on a no-bond warrant is usually held through the weekend, Black Weasel said.
Officials at Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Browning and in Washington, D.C., hung up the telephone without speaking when contacted for comment.
Before Augare’s release, tribal officials had said that if tribal officers couldn’t turn Augare over to the BIA, they would find another facility.
It is unclear whether Augare will be arraigned on Monday.
Running Wolf said Augare won’t receive special treatment because of his position on the tribal council and in the state Senate.
“Yes, he is going to get his due process,” Running Wolf said. “Any scumbag on the street, they have the right to due process.”