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Court denies ex-tribal council speaker's petition

The Daily Times staff
Former Navajo Nation Council Speakers Lawrence T. Morgan, left, and Johnny Naize wait on March 11, 2014, outside the judicial district office for their arraignment hearings in Window Rock, Ariz.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Supreme Court has determined a lower tribal court can proceed in sentencing former Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan for misusing a financial assistance program, according to the order issued by the high court.

The Supreme Court issued its decision after hearing oral arguments today in Window Rock, Ariz.

Morgan filed a petition to the high court seeking to nullify a Window Rock District Court order that revoked a plea agreement made in 2014 and determined a new sentencing hearing.

District Court Judge Carol Perry ordered the new sentencing hearing after Morgan told the court in September that he was unable to pay $17,800 in restitution to the tribe, which was part of the plea agreement, according to court records.

The former speaker entered into the plea deal with the tribe after he was charged in 2013 with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and six counts of bribery in connection to abusing a financial assistance program that was operated by the Navajo Nation Council.

The financial assistance program was set up to provide financial help to tribal members facing financial hardship or in need of emergency assistance.