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Man sentenced to prison for violent assault in Navajo Nation

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 27 2010 5:44 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A member of the Navajo tribe who played a role in a violent assault of woman is headed to prison.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart this week sentenced Michael Whitehorse to 46 months in a federal penitentiary. Under federal guidelines, Whitehorse, 21, of Montezuma Creek, faced up to 37 months in prison. But Stewart increased the sentence due to several factors including the victim's severe injuries and the fact was abandoned in a remote area of the Navajo Nation.

Whitehorse pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual conduct for participating with his mother, Cynthia Bitsuie Jones, 40, and acquaintance, Johnson Joe, 42, in the beating. He admitted touching the victim inappropriately while the other two restrained her. Prosecutors say the trio had been drinking heavily with the victim and a 17-year-old girl when the victim became upset that Bitsuie Jones was allowing her children to drink.

The group left and then returned and held the woman down while they alternately punched, kicked and sexually assaulted her. When the victim woke up, she found her clothing but could not find her jacket or car keys. She used a tool to start her vehicle and with both eyes nearly swollen shut, drove to a hospital. Prosecutors said doctors documented 42 distinct injuries on her body.

Bitsuie Jones and Joe earlier pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse and face a potential sentence of life in prison. Joe is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 23. Bitsuie Jones' sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 4.

— Dennis Romboy

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