The district chairman of Cannon Ball, the reservation town closest to the pipeline protest camps, faces felony charges of incest and sexual abuse of a minor.
A five-count federal indictment from April accuses Robert Fool Bear Sr. of sexually abusing a young girl sometime from 2009 to 2010 and again in 2015. On one occasion, he allegedly also kicked her with his shoe.
Fool Bear, 54, is scheduled for trial at the federal courthouse in Bismarck on April 4. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 30 years in prison.
His attorney, Carey Goetz, said she will make the case at trial that the charges are unfounded.
"We’re going to argue obviously that it didn’t happen. This is a troubled kid who made some allegations that just aren’t true," said Goetz, adding the federal prosecutors' case relies mostly on statements and not on DNA evidence or a confession from Fool Bear.
"He’s a great guy," Goetz said.
Fool Bear was released from jail shortly after the charges were filed last year. He is supervised by a federal pretrial services officer and not allowed to have unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18.
He serves as the district chairman in Cannon Ball community on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In that role, he has spoken out to the Tribune and CNN against the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, who he argued were harming the community, and led several district meetings where a resolution to remove them was passed. Since then, some residents and protesters have criticized the district leadership for the decision, which was made mostly in members-only sessions.
Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Fool Bear declined to comment on the charges and whether they've affected his public role, which he said he has held since 2005.
He was most recently elected in May of 2015, according to the tribe's election office. District chairman elections take place every four years, according to the local statute.
Fool Bear said his focus is on his wife's health and on ensuring the protesters leave Cannon Ball.
"There is nothing to hide," he said.
The charges are attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child by force, assault with a dangerous weapon and incest.
The Tribune first learned of these allegations late last week.