UP — We are glad to see that Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry approved a Navajo Nation special prosecutor's request to allow Speaker Johnny Naize, current Navajo Nation Council Delegate David L. Tom and former delegates George Arthur, Leonard Teller and Ernest D. Yazzie Jr. to face bribery charges in a single trial. It appears the Nation's judicial system is moving capably toward a trial that will hold these elected leaders accountable for what appears to be a serious ethical and legal breach. They are charged with participating in a scheme to distribute for the delegates' personal use discretionary fund money meant to help tribal members facing financial hardship. The scheme allegedly involved approving a total of $268,350 in grants to each other and family members. Among other things, the judge cited the prohibitive cost of separate trials. In a hearing last week, the special prosecutor's representative argued that separate trials also would allow each subsequent defendant to fine tune their legal arguments, and require some witnesses to testify to the same facts in each trial. Attorneys for the defendants pulled out all the stops, even arguing that Navajo philosophy holds that the creator recognizes all life on Earth as individual and calling a local adjunct professor to testify that is would be wrong to try them as a group. Well, if the charges are true, they had no problem working as a group to steal money meant for people in need. We think tribal members have a right to an efficient and transparent legal system, just as the defendants have a right to a fair trial. It appears that's exactly what everyone is getting.
DOWN — It's a story we hear too often. A Shiprock woman pleaded guilty early this week in federal court to child abuse for driving under the influence of alcohol with unrestrained children in the back seat of her vehicle. Police say the woman crashed into a wooden fence and a parked vehicle. They said the children — a one- and nine-year old — did not suffer serious bodily injury. The woman allegedly barricaded herself inside her home before being taken into custody and still had a 0.23 blood-alcohol content. That's well above the legal limit and implies a serious state of drunkenness. Those children are lucky the didn't suffer serious injury or death. The woman faces a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison. Whatever time she gets, we hope she also takes responsibility for her alcohol problem and gets appropriate treatment. In the meantime, we hope those children find a better home with a responsible relative or a good foster family.
UP — It seems that family members with loved ones buried at Memory Gardens are finally getting a response from cemetery management. More than 150 plot owners and family members met at the cemetery earlier this week for the second time. They have asked cemetery management numerous times to take care of bare patches, weeds, gopher holes and other problems that make for an uninviting place to remember family members. Management blamed late water deliveries that the water master said had been available since the irrigation season began. Although the owners did not show up this week to speak directly with family members, some said they saw minor improvements. We hope the owners deliver the product they promised when they took payment on the plots.