Former Washoe tribal police chief reports to halfway house
RENO, Nev. – The former chief of the Washoe tribal police force has reported to a halfway house to begin serving a one-year prison term.
Lionel Ahdunko is in the ”corrections component” of Bannum Place on Gentry Way, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons official said Monday.
In a plea bargain earlier this year, Ahdunko pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a fully automatic rifle and for making false statements in a police report about a 1997 vehicle accident.
”He has very limited access to the community,” said Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Diane Griffin in Dublin, Calif. She said Ahdunko is allowed only to leave the facility to work or attend religious services.
A leader of the Washoe Peoples’ Reform Council thinks the punishment is too lenient.
”Justice hasn’t been served,” Vernon Wyatt of Gardnerville said. ”A halfway house doesn’t mean prison. Why bother to sentence him at all?”
Tribal reformers have been critical of initial delays in getting Ahdunko charged, and then with the plea agreement that reduced the level of his offenses.
Ahdunko, fired by the Gardnerville-based tribe last year, faced the possibility of being charged with felony theft. He was accused of taking an M-14 rifle from the tribe. In his deal with federal prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft.
A second complaint of making false statements for allegedly giving erroneous information to a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator in an attempt to cover up the accident was dropped.
Under federal law, an M-14 is considered a machine gun. According to court documents, Ahdunko took the firearm to his Carson City residence and later to Washington state after he landed a job as police chief for the Makah Tribe.
The Makah tribe terminated him after Bureau of Indian Affairs officials threatened to cut off federal money to the tribe if it continued to employee him after he pleaded guilty.