OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. (US Dept. of Justice, Northern District of Oklahoma) — A man who portrayed himself as a Native American spiritual counselor was sentenced Thursday in federal court for sexually abusing a Native American minor and for illegally possessing feathers, talons and heads from seven bald eagles and seven golden eagles, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.
U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III in Muskogee, sentenced sexual predator Carl Gene Ortner, 57, of Quapaw, to life in federal prison and ordered him to pay a $100,000 fine.
“The victim in this case and two others bravely came forward and shined a light on Ortner’s criminal behavior,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “Today’s life sentence sends a strong message that the sexual abuse of children will not be tolerated.”
“The defendant used wildlife items, in this case eagle feathers, to deceive and harm a child,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “As this investigation shows, wildlife crime may be connected to numerous types of criminal activity, and I am proud that we had a role in this predator receiving life in prison. I would also like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their assistance with this case. Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that sexual violence will not be tolerated.”
In May 2021, a jury found Carl Gene Ortner Jr. guilty of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sexual abuse of a child in Indian Country, abusive sexual contact in Indian Country, possession of parts of a bald eagle, and possession of parts of a golden eagle.
During trial, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shannon Cozzoni and Ryan Roberts argued that Ortner fraudulently claimed to be a Native American spiritual counselor. Cozzoni pointed out the defendant portrayed himself as an Indian, yet he had no tribal affiliation. He told several people he was a member of several Tribes, but no Tribe claimed him.
A special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service testified that investigators discovered feathers and various parts of bald and golden eagles, including heads, talons, and entire wings, at Ortner’s residence. Native Americans consider eagles to be sacred and use the parts in cultural and religious practices. Ortner illegally possessed the feathers and parts.
Further evidence was presented showing that the defendant used his position of influence to groom the victim and force her into sexual relations with him, using her cultural beliefs and vulnerability against her. The victim also had been struggling with losing a loved one, and Ortner used the loss to further groom the victim.
In 2016, Ortner began sexually abusing the minor. While some of the abuse allegedly occurred within state jurisdiction, Ortner also abused the victim on Indian land, which falls within federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, Ortner at one point drove the victim to Joplin, Missouri, to engage in criminal sexual activity with the minor victim. Crossing state lines to engage in illegal activity falls within federal jurisdiction.
Witnesses testified that Ortner threatened to embarrass the victim and the tribe unless she said the sexual assault did not happen. Also testifying for the government were two other women who stated that Ortner also groomed them as minors and sexually abused them.
In the Government’s closing, Roberts called Ortner “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” stating that he disguised himself as a caring Native American elder to get close to the victims. Then when the time was right, Ortner took advantage of the victims. (source press release).
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