Special prosecutor requests joint trials in Navajo Nation discretionary fund cases
Farmington — The special prosecutor for the Navajo Nation has filed a request with the Window Rock District Court to hold group trials for five former and current members of the Navajo Nation Council involved in the discretionary fund cases.
The special prosecutor is asking the court to try Speaker Johnny Naize, current delegate David Tom and former delegates George Arthur, Leonard Teller and Ernest Yazzie in a single trial.
All five face bribery charges for allegedly misusing the council's discretionary fund, which was created to allow delegates to provide financial assistance to tribal members facing emergency situations or financial hardship.
"Due to the interconnected factual underpinnings of the charges, and in order to conserve the resources of the Navajo Nation and its judicial system, the Navajo Nation urges the court to join the trials," according to the motion attorney Marc Lowry filed Wednesday in Window Rock District Court in Window Rock, Ariz. Lowry represents the special prosecutor.
According to the court documents, the special prosecutor is seeking joint trials for the exchanges made between Tom and Yazzie, Naize and Arthur, Naize and Teller, and Naize and Tom. The grouping is comprised of defendants who allegedly were involved in the same conspiracies, face the same charges or share common witnesses.
Court documents also describe how each of the five made arrangements with one or more of the others to exchange thousands of dollars in financial assistance to benefit their relatives and friends.
"The suggested grouping of these individuals allows the Navajo Nation to efficiently and effectively try these defendants together, rather than presenting the same evidence, through the same witnesses, at five separate trials," according to the motion.
The motion also states a number of former and current delegates have assisted the special prosecutor's investigation by testifying about exchanges made with one or more members of the group.
"The Navajo Nation seeks a joinder of these defendants so that the witnesses need not testify repeatedly at separate trials for each defendant with whom they engaged in such activities," the motion states.
Previous court documents filed by the special prosecutor explain some delegates developed arrangements to circumvent tribal ethics and laws.
One such arrangement explained that Delegate A authorized money to a family member of Delegate B, with the understanding that Delegate B would, in return, authorize an equivalent sum of money to Delegate A's family member.