FRONTLINE Premieres Predator on the Reservation

Posted by Fritz Miller on
Children play on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning, Montana
Mike Shum, WSJournal/FRONTLINE

In mid-January, Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison on several counts of sexually abusing Native American boys in his care on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana.

In Predator on the Reservation, airing Tues., Feb. 12, at 9:00 p.m. Central Time, 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time on SDPB-TV, FRONTLINE and The Wall Street Journal collaborate for the first time to investigate the decades-long failure to stop Weber, a government pediatrician, who moved from reservation to reservation despite warnings about his behavior.

The investigation into Weber began two years ago, when Journal reporters Christopher Weaver and Dan Frosch were reporting on the Indian Health Service (IHS), a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees healthcare and runs hospitals on Native American reservations across the country.

Their reporting not only uncovered Weber’s story, but accounts of other problematic doctors in the agency. “We found a bunch of doctors who had troubled track records either before they were hired by the IHS or after they got there,” says Weaver.

Drawing on interviews with hospital administrators and staff, tribal police officers, victims and their families, interrogation recordings and top IHS officials, the film explores how Weber was able to see patients for years despite warnings to IHS officials and hospital staff on the Blackfeet reservation and the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

“This is a deeply troubling story, but also an important piece of accountability journalism—on a subject that virtually no one else has examined,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “We are pleased to be collaborating with the editors and reporters at the The Wall Street Journal who spent years investigating this story.

“This report is the result of exhaustive and enterprising work among our investigative, U.S. news and video teams, who worked closely with FRONTLINE to bring this important investigation into the light,” says Journal Editor in Chief Matt Murray. “We're incredibly proud of their work.”

As Predator on the Reservation reveals, doctors and other people on both reservations who worked with Weber were concerned about his behavior with young boys for years.

Dr. Dan Foster, a hospital psychologist on the Blackfeet reservation, had known some of Weber’s patients and says he tried to warn the IHS when he learned Weber was working at Pine Ridge: “I was clear,” Foster says in the film. “My concerns were — was that this man was sexually using children.”

A pediatrician who worked with Weber at Pine Ridge, Dr. Mark Butterbrodt, says he too had suspicions about Weber and repeatedly brought his concerns to the IHS. “Why would a pediatrician zero in on a population consisting of normal weight boys and teenage boys?,” he says. “It just seemed incomprehensible to me.”

Weber was suspended while the IHS investigated Butterbrodt’s allegations, but was ultimately cleared. “They couldn't find one reason to keep him on suspension,” says Bill Pourier, the former chief executive at Pine Ridge Hospital. “So, they put him back to work.”

Following Weber’s sentencing in January, the IHS acting director, Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, agreed to an interview with FRONTLINE and the Journal. “Since this case came to light we’ve been doing a lot of checking internally to see what people may or may not have known,” Weahkee says. “If there are individuals who were aware that something was going on, then you're, basically, culpable and complicit in those actions.”

To date, federal prosecutors have charged Weber with the abuse of four boys on Pine Ridge and two on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. No one knows how many victims of Weber’s abuse are still out there, or how many other people in the IHS could have stopped it. Weber is expected to stand trial in South Dakota later this year for crimes he allegedly committed at Pine Ridge.

More information is available online at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/predator-on-the-reservation/

FRONTLINE and The Wall Street Journal Collaboration

Journalistic collaborations are one of the ways FRONTLINE seeks to maximize the impact of its investigative reporting. This new partnership between FRONTLINE and The Wall Street Journal includes the PBS broadcast of Predator on the Reservation, along with an accompanying print article in the Journal and streams of the investigation on both websites, pbs.org/frontline and WSJ.com.

 

Credits

Predator on the Reservation is a FRONTLINE Production with Left/Right Docs in partnership with The Wall Street Journal and WSJ Films. The producers, reporters and writers are Dan Frosch, Gabe Johnson and Christopher Weaver. The correspondents are Dan Frosch and Christopher Weaver. The senior producer is Frank Koughan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.

About FRONTLINE FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 91 Emmy Awards and 20 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers.

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