The article was originally published by Four Points Press on November 2, 2021.
A non-Crow Meeks, born in 1995, was booked into the Yellowstone County Detention Center by the U.S. Marshalls on Aug. 25 on a federal hold due to multiple Oregon warrants for felony escape and parole violation and misdemeanor failure to appear charges.
He was indicted on Sept. 17 in U.S. Federal Court in Billings on felony prohibited person in possession of a firearm charges. Court documents indicate Meeks may have also crossed state lines with the gun in his possession.
"I was indicted and was ordered to court for his charges,'' said the Crow Cody Meeks, born in 1990, a descendant of the Chief Child family and a candidate for the Crow Tribe Legislative Branch Center Lodge District.
"About a year and a half ago and when I got to court, I stood up before the judge and said ‘I have no idea what’s going on here this isn’t me,’ and the judge pulled up the mug shot of this other individual and instantly goes, 'Yeah this is not you we completely apologize, we’re going to get this cleaned up, you’re good to go'."
"I have had Montana State, Big Horn County and Yellowstone County all mistaking me for the other Cody James and it makes me think that the state has mistaken many other Natives for crimes committed by non-Natives in these mistaken identity situations.”
Now, the Crow Meeks makes sure to hyphenate his name to "Chief Child-Meeks" in all of his campaigning.
He also hired a private investigator who was able to use this license to access court records across state lines and clear up any court issues connecting him to the non-Crow Meeks, which was also reflected online.
“I have no idea who he is, I have never met the guy, never seen the guy and nobody I know has ever heard of them before until this,” Chief Child-Meeks said. "According to my research, he's from California and I was born in Oregon, there is no connection between us.”
The simple case of mistaken identity has not only led to inconvenient court appearances, it has led to some dirty politics, Chief Child-Meeks said.
“More than anything, it was just a little confusing with the court stuff. I had to skip a day at work and go handle that, but that was a while ago,” Chief Child-Meeks said. “Now it’s getting brought back up again, I've had family and friends asking if I’m okay, people have stopped me to say they thought I was in jail or asking me ‘What are you doing? Why are you getting in trouble?’ The rumor (that I was in jail) started coming back once I started to run for Center Lodge legislator."
He said even other political candidates have propagated the rumor, going so far as to obtain court documents from the non-Crow Meeks' case, but neglecting to show a mug shot that would prove who was actually in jail at the Yellowstone County Detention Center.
“I think it’s completely unethical to use these charges to play dirty politics. Besides having the same name as me, this individual and I have nothing in common, Chief Child-Meeks said. “To find someone’s criminal charges on the Internet and to claim they belong to somebody else is pretty low in my eyes.”
“It makes me think the people who are using this false information to discredit me will do the same thing to other members of the community when they want to or when they need to and that’s just not right. It’s misleading information about me. It’s defamation about my name and my character.”
The Crow Tribe does have a criminal defamation statute in the Crow Law and Order Code Chapter 8 Section 207 Criminal defamation, “(1) Defamatory material is anything which exposes a person or group, class or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace in society, or injury to the persons or its business or occupation,” and section (2), “Whoever with knowledge of its defamatory character, orally, in writing or by any other means, communicates any defamatory material to a third person without the consent of the person defamed commits the offense of criminal defamation.”
The statue makes an exception for teasing relations, and requires two or more witnesses to the defamatory speech.
The crime is punishable by six months in tribal jail and a fine of $500.
“I think the biggest thing is for people to know it’s not me,” Chief Child-Meeks said. “His actions, his charges, everything that this guy has done, that does not speak to who I am as a person and I just need everyone to know that that is not me and I have not done those things and I wouldn’t do those things.”
Chief Child-Meeks said he thinks people will slowly figure out that other candidates may be using court documents belonging to the non-Crow Meeks and spreading rumors and defamation are only out for themselves.
“These people are lying to (the public) giving them false information,” he said. “That's lying to the community. That’s not okay. That’s tearing down another person. They’re trying to attack me and tear me down for their own gain and if they are willing to do that to me, I believe they’re going to be willing to do that to other members of the tribe, and probably to the tribe itself, once they’re in office.”