A former Mille Lacs Band police chief was sentenced Friday to more than 28 years in prison for sexually assaulting a child for about six years beginning in 2009.
Russell J. Bankey of Garrison, Minn., was charged in January 2022 with one felony count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after a woman told investigators she was sexually assaulted by Bankey, now 75, for years beginning when she was 6 or 7.
According to court documents, the woman recorded a phone call with Bankey in August 2021 in which he admitted to the abuse and apologized. When she asked Bankey why he assaulted her, he said, "I guess I was lonesome," documents state.
In June, a jury found Bankey guilty of the first-degree felony count and agreed there was an aggravating factor in his forms of abuse that could establish the basis for a longer sentence.
ST. CLOUD TODAY
Sign up for the St. Cloud Today newsletter
Bankey served as a deputy with Mille Lacs County from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s when he was appointed police chief for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Bankey started as a part-time court security officer with the Mille Lacs Sheriff's Office in 2016. He resigned from that job in August 2021 when the allegations came to light, according to Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton.
The Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Office handed the case to Benton County to investigate to avoid a conflict of interest. Three judicial officers also recused themselves from the case because Bankey worked closely with the courts. The case was assigned to Judge Antoinette Wetzel of Morrison County.
The presumptive sentence for the conviction was 144 months but the state pushed for an upward departure from sentencing guidelines due to the aggravating factor.
Bankey's attorney, Christopher Sailors, requested he be sentenced only to probation, stating Bankey has the support of his family — who say he experienced "horrific abuse" as a child including domestic and sexual assault — and that Bankey has shown remorse and is willing to complete sex offender treatment.
Wetzel sentenced Bankey to 344 months in prison with credit for 86 days served.
In a separate ongoing case, Bankey is accused of assaulting a child on more than one occasion in 1991. In that case, he is facing one felony count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under 13.