Associated Press Buying tribal land for far less than its value deemed stealing
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court on Wednesday largely upheld the theft conviction of the Crow tribal chairwoman for allegedly using her influence to buy tribal land in southeast Montana for far less than its value.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal prosecutors adequately proved Clara Nomee guilty of stealing from the tribe that she has led since 1990. The dissenter said prosecutors failed to prove Nomee did anything illegal.
However, the court said U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom wrongly denied a request by Nomee's lawyer to inspect records of the jury selection process. The court said the defense lawyer can see the records and then decide whether to ask Shanstrom for a new trial. In the meantime, the conviction stands.
Nomee was sentenced in January 1999 to six months of home detention and fined $3,000 plus $18,000 restitution to the tribe, the difference between what she paid for the land and what Shanstrom decided it was worth. She has remained chairwoman and will serve until her term expires in July.
She was convicted in connection with her 1994 purchase of 80 acres of reservation land on Lodge Grass Creek for $8,000. The sale was approved by the tribe's Land Resources Committee, which includes some members appointed by Nomee and others elected by the tribe.
Prosecutors said the land was worth $38,000. The defense appraised it at $21,000. Shanstrom valued it at $26,000.
Prosecutors contended the sale was coercive because of Nomee's power over committee members. The chairwoman had extensive economic authority over tribal members' lives, including the ability to cancel or transfer leases on land where most members live, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad.
Defense lawyer Penelope Strong did not immediately return a telephone call.