Victim or murderer?



Maddesyn George’s case is being worked on in the Spokane court system.

By Tahrae Bear Eagle, Contributor

In July 2020, 27-year-old Maddesyn George was raped by Kristopher Graber, a man she previously considered her friend. After he assaulted her, she stole his gun, drugs, and some money. The next day Graber approached her while she was in her friend’s car. (It was essential to know the car was blocked in and she was on the passenger side) 

Graber demanded his things back, threatening her, and of course, Maddesyn refused. Graber grabbed her, and Maddesyn shot at him, killing Graber instantly. 

She was detained by the police and taken in. Eyewitnesses backed up that Maddesyn acted in self-defense, but none of that mattered since federal cops seized the case. 

Not wanting to spend potentially years in a detention center, Maddesyn took a plea for manslaughter and possession with intent to distribute. But prosecutors threatened to up the charges. 

Since then, a campaign has started to clear Maddesyn’s name; it is unclear whether it can bring her home. So I emailed her lawyer, Steve Graham, to clarify some things.

Easterner: Did Ms. George intend to sell Graber’s drugs?

Graham: I am not sure. But she did share some of the drugs with some people, and she admitted to that.  And sharing without compensation falls within the definition of delivery for purposes of possession with intent to deliver.

Easterner: If multiple eyewitnesses said that Ms. George acted in self-defense, why is she still on trial for murder?

Graham: Witness accounts vary, but the prosecutors are assuming that Graber was not attacking Maddesyn. He was just trying to reclaim property they felt was taken from him.  

Easterner: What specific town did the shooting take place in?

Graham: The shooting occurred at the third HUD between the cities of Omak and Riverside, on the reservation side of the river.

Easterner: How hard is it/has it been to get Ms. George off of these charges?  

Graham: The prosecutor has fought us tooth and nail on these charges, so it has been very hard.  They don’t seem to recognize any nuance to this case and have looked at everything Maddesyn did in the worst light possible.

Easterner: Have you worked on similar cases that were easier/harder to dismiss, and what circumstances were similar/different to Ms. George’s?  

Graham: I have worked on similar cases and have represented many women who have defended themselves against abusive men.  Attached is a story from another jurisdiction.  This one has been challenging insofar as a lot of witnesses didn’t want to cooperate.  Although I have been licensed in the Colville Tribal Court since 1999, I felt I still needed help understanding the history of violence against Native women, and that was why I reached out to Earth Feather Sovereign with MMIWW.

Easterner: Did the trial take place on the reservation?  

Graham: She reached a plea deal, so there wasn’t any trial, but the case was prosecuted in federal court in Spokane.  We are now fighting over sentencing, i.e., the federal prosecutors recommend 17 years, and we are asking the judge to sentence her to just 5.

Easterner: Have you made any legal progress in her case?

Graham: We did make some progress in getting the prosecutors to see it from our side.  They initially made a plea offer of murder with a minimum of 20 years and now agreed to drop the charge to manslaughter.

Easterner: What has been/is being done to help her case?

Graham: Some national and regional organizations are writing letters on Maddesyn’s behalf.  We are filing legal briefs to explain the extenuating circumstances of why Maddesyn shot Mr. Graber.  Maddesyn has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has admitted that she acted precipitously in shooting him, but we feel there were extenuating circumstances that should mitigate the sentence down to 5 years. 

Easterner: Who is the judge on the case?

Graham: Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson.

Easterner: Will there be a jury in her hearing?

Graham: There won’t be a jury. It will be the judge that will decide her sentence.

Easterner: Statistically, how likely is it that she will win?

Graham: The judge can sentence Maddesyn to any sentence between 5 and 17 years.  In my estimation, it is far likelier that the judge will impose a sentence toward the lower half of that range.  We are hoping for 5 years. 

Easterner: Was she arrested and questioned by tribal police? If so, Why didn’t they take her seriously?

Graham: She was arrested and questioned by detectives Bob Marchand and David LaBounty with the Colville Tribal Police.  They did seem like they believed her at the time, but the prosecutors felt otherwise apparently, and it is up to them.

Easterner: Why didn’t they give her a rape kit?

Graham: Not sure.  She did get a pelvic exam, and apparently but this was like 14 days later.

Easterner: When did the federal government get involved?

Graham: November of 2020.

Easterner: What will happen if Ms. George wins/loses?

Graham: Maddesyn will have to face whatever sentence the judge hands down. We feel we have a fair judge and will respect the decision that she makes.

Easterner: What will it mean in the long run?

Graham: The treatment that Maddesyn has received from the federal prosecutors has been a little discouraging.  We understand that Maddesyn made many mistakes, but we don’t know why the federal prosecutors are unwilling. Still, we have to admit that she was raped.  Their actions have led a lot of Maddesyn’s supporters to question whether the federal government is willing to listen to women survivors, particularly those indigenous women.

Easterner: What will it mean for future cases?

Graham: Hopefully, there will be positive changes in the future in how the federal government handles such cases.

Easterner: What made them up the charges?

Graham: Not sure. You would need to ask them about this.  The prosecutors are Alison Gregoire and Richard Barker.

Easterner: would it be possible for the campaign to succeed in getting the charges dropped?

Graham: It is possible, but not likely.  An example of dropping charges that someone already pled to is Michael Flynn:

And even if the feds dropped the manslaughter charge, Maddesyn would face a minimum of 5 years on the drug charge.  I would like it if the federal prosecutors finally conceded that the evidence shows that Maddesyn was raped and joined us in asking for a reduced sentence.

If you wish to join the campaign to help Maddesyn George or want more information, sign the petition on and join the Free Maddesyn George to watch the zoom conferences and a documentary for updates and information as well as to help Maddesyn and her family actively