A Native American woman who shot and killed her alleged rapist, and who initially claimed she did so in self-defense, was sentenced to more than six years in prison last week.
The sentencing comes after Maddesyn George, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and possession of methamphetamine. The case has drawn national attention and sparked local protests against her prosecution.
As the Inlander first detailed earlier this year, George says she was raped by Kristopher Graber in July 2020. That night, after the assault, she stole his gun, money and cash. The next day, Graber confronted George, who was inside a car. After a scuffle, George shot Graber through the window, killing him with his own gun.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson said before the sentencing that she found George's sexual assault allegation — told to tribal police shortly after the shooting — to be credible. Prosecutors were seeking a 17-year sentence. Peterson sentenced the 27-year-old to 6½ years, and George will receive credit for the time she's already served in jail.
George's mother, Jody George, tells the Inlander she was overcome with relief when she heard the sentence.
"It made me cry when I heard it," Jody George says. "We're thinking she should be home by Christmas of 2025."
In her plea agreement, George agreed that the shooting was "not legally justified because she exerted more force than was lawful under the circumstances."
"The facts that Ms. George admitted led to one inescapable conclusion: She chose to shoot and kill an unarmed man through a locked car door so she could keep the methamphetamine and money she had stolen from him," says U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref in a statement. "Whatever else can be said about this tragedy, neither violence nor vigilantism are the answers."
George and Graber both had criminal histories related to drugs, and Graber also had arrests related to domestic violence. George's attorney, Steve Graham, says she pleaded guilty because she felt sorrow for ending another person's life and she wanted to take ownership of her drug dealing.
"She was waist-deep in the drug underworld up there, and she messed up. And we didn't minimize any of that. She owned her mistake, and she just wants to move on," Graham says.
Activists and other community members have said the case represents the legal system punishing a Native woman standing up for herself even as it ignores violence and murder of Indigenous women.
Waldref, in her statement, says just because violent crimes against Indigenous women have gone unsolved doesn't mean the office will ignore other violent crimes and that "both injustices must be addressed."
Graham says it meant a lot for the George family that the judge found Maddesyn's account of being sexually assaulted credible.
"We were all delighted that there was not only a fair sentence but that finally, after a year and a half of mischaracterizations and gaslighting, a representative of the federal government for the first time looked at her and said that she was believed," Graham says. ♦