Former Mille Lacs Band Police Chief sentenced to over 28 years in prison for sexual assault of child

The former police chief of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has been sentenced to over 28 years in prison for sexually assaulting a girl when she was as young as six.

75-year-old Russell James Bankey, of Garrison, was sentenced to over 28 years (344 months) in prison for one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in which the victim was under 16 and the conduct was recurring. Court records say conditional release has been set for 10 years, meaning he could get out earlier and serve the remainder of his time on supervised release.

The sentence is an upward departure from the suggested sentence for that conviction due to the aggravating factors in the case, like the repetition of the assaults, according to court documents.

Bankey received credit for 86 days previously served in jail.

According to a criminal complaint, on Aug. 12, 2021, a woman informed officials at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office that she had been assaulted by Bankey as far back as she could remember.

The victim said the assaults happened when she was six or seven years old in approximately 2009 and stopped when she was 10 or 11 years old in approximately 2015.

The complaint states that on Aug. 21, 2021, the victim recorded a conversation with Bankey in which he apologized for assaulting her, saying, “If it ever gets out, I’ll be in a lot of trouble.” The victim then asked Bankey when the assaults started, to which Bankey replied, “Probably when she was 10 or 11 maybe 12, I don’t know… I try not to remember that.”

When asked why he assaulted the victim, Bankey said, “I guess I was lonesome.”

Bankey and the victim have a significant relationship as defined by Minnesota Statute 609.341 subdivision 15.