Shelly and running mate among delegates facing charges

(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)

Delegate Hope MacDonald-LoneTree, second from right, (Coalmine Canyon/ Toh Nanees Dizi) is served with a complaint filed against her by the special prosecutor on Thursday at the Window Rock District Court.

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 22, 2010

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(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)

Vice President Ben Shelly, right, on Thursday reads the complaint listing charges filed against him by the special prosecutor at Window Rock District Court. Michelle Dobson, attorney for the president's office, looks on. In the background are, left to right, delegates Tim Goodluck (Houck/Lupton/Nahata Dziil), Ervin M Keeswood Sr. (Tse Daa Kaan) and Hope MacDonald-LoneTree (Coalmine Canyon/ Toh Nanees Dizi).




The running mate of Navajo Nation president candidate Ben Shelly, as well as the vice president himself, is among several council delegates who were served with subpoenas by Navajo Nation police Thursday. More subpoenas will be served next week.

Karen Francis, public information officer for the judicial branch, said this morning that police did not serve Council Delegate Rex Lee Jim (Rock Point) with his subpoena yesterday.

Contacted at the Council Chamber this morning, Jim said, "No comment."

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Police served numerous delegates with subpoenas Sept. 21, which ordered them to appear at tribal court to face criminal charges of conspiracy, theft, fraud and forgery.

The charges stem from their use of discretionary funds, which are annual appropriations given to the speaker, delegates and president's office to give to people in need.

Alan Balaran, the special prosecutor, and Chief Prosecutor Bernadine Martin filed the subpoenas and complaints with the Window Rock District Court against the delegates and Shelly this week.

Shelley was waiting outside the courtroom when the Navajo Times arrived to report on the 11 a.m. arraignments yesterday.

He said president's office attorney Michelle Dotson asked him to meet her there. Dotson arrived with his subpoena and, a few minutes later, police served Shelly with a complaint involving three criminal charges - conspiracy, theft and fraud.

Shelly pleaded not guilty and was ordered to appear for a pre-trial hearing on Jan. 18, 2011.

Shelly declined to comment and whether it would impact his presidential bid. The Navajo Nation general election is Nov. 2.

Balaran's investigation involved the discretionary funds of the council, Speaker Lawrence Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale), President Joe Shirley Jr. and Shelly.

Discretionary funds are earmarked as emergency assistance, for example single mothers who need clothes for their children, students who need financial help, and families who need help with funeral expenses.

Balaran and Martin stated in the criminal complaint against Delegate David Rico ((Pueblo Pintado/Torreon/Whitehorse Lake) that the minimum annual income of a delegate is about $65,000, which includes their $25,000 annual salary and stipends for council, agency, chapter and caucus meetings.

The Council was preparing to convene the fourth day of its fall session when delegates were called individually by name to come to the south conference room. When the delegates entered the conference room, police officers served them with subpoenas.

Fourteen delegates were ordered to immediately appear for arraignment Thursday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The fourteen delegates that went before Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry Thursday were: Rico, Tim Goodluck (Houck/Lupton/Nahata Dziil), Hope MacDonald-LoneTree (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi), Harry Claw (Chinle), Peterson Yazzie (Naschitti/Tohatchi), David L. Tom (Beclabito/Gadiiahi), Leonard Teller (Lukachukai/Tsaile/Wheatfields), Ervin Keeswood Sr. (Tse Daa Kaan), Cecil Frank Eriacho (Ramah), Harry H. Clark (Chinle), Raymond Berchman (Oak Springs/St. Michaels), Amos Johnson (Forest Lake), and Nelson Gorman (Chinle).




Rico was the first to be arraigned on conspiracy, theft and forgery charges involving $19,725 in discretionary funds, which he allegedly gave to himself, his wife, niece, niece-in-law, and grandchildren.

He pleaded not guilty and his pre-trial hearing was set for Jan. 18, 2011.

After Rico's arraignment, Perry noted that the arraignments would probably be as time consuming as Rico's, which took more than an hour, because the complaints were six to seven pages. So she said she would reschedule most of the arraignments.

She also remarked that processing the initial hearings could take as long as five months.

Delegate Peterson Yazzie asked to be arraigned on his charges of theft, forgery and fraud and he pleaded not guilty. His pre-trial is Jan. 18, 2011.

MacDonald-LoneTree and Goodluck were scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m., but they are among the 12 delegates who had their hearings rescheduled.

MacDonald-LoneTree and Goodluck are scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 25, Goodluck at 11 a.m. and MacDonald-Lonetree at 4:15 p.m.

Nelson Gorman, a former speaker and former presidential candidate, will be arraigned on Nov. 15 at 1 p.m.

The Navajo Times was unable to obtain the rescheduled arraignments of the remaining eight delegates.

The Navajo Times made a written request to the court for a complete list of all the individuals facing criminal charges filed by Balaran and Martin.

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