District court judge agrees to dismiss charges without prejudice

By Bill Donovan
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 16, 2012

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D istrict Court Judge Carol Perry agreed Wednesday with the tribe's special prosecutors and dismissed charges against four of the 85 tribal officials for being sued for misconduct.

Special Prosecutor Eric Dahlstrom had announced in filing last month that his office was in the process of settling as many of the cases as possible against those accused of wrongdoing in the investigation surrounding misuse of tribal discretionary funds.

The first four cases he wanted to be dismiss, he told Perry, were for the tribe's former attorney general, Louis Denetsosie, the tribe's current attorney general Harrison Tsosie, and two current members of the Navajo Nation Council - LoRenzo Bates, who is chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee, and Leonard Tsosie, who is chair on the council's subcommittee on government reform.

All four were charged by the former special prosecutor, Alan Balaran, for not acting in the best interests of the Navajo tribe in not stepping forward to take action to make sure that the tribe's discretionary charges were handled properly.

Balaran had alleged that almost all of the members of the previous tribal council misused discretionary funds by giving grants illegally to members of their family. In some cases, according to the cases he filed, one council delegate would give a grant to a family member of another council delegate to get around restrictions in the program.

According to the suits, more than $3 million in discretionary funds were misused in this fashion.

Dahlstrom had asked that the charges be dismissed with prejudice, meaning that they could not be refiled.

But Perry, in her decision, said they would be dismissed without prejudice because her dismissal in these cases may have an affect on the other cases against others named in the suit.

"Because so many of the cases under this docket number remain outstanding at this time, the court is unclear as to how or whether the rights of other parties or persons will be affected by the possible res judicata effect of dismissal with prejudice of these civil cases on other filed or unfilled criminal cases alluded to in the statements submitted," Perry said in her decision.

By dismissing without prejudice, this could allow the tribe or the special prosecutors the right to refile them in some form at a later date if they so desired.

Perry also pointed out in her decision that she gave time to the other parties in the case to weigh in on the motion filed by the special prosecutor to dismiss the four cases.

With so many defendants and with many of them representing themselves, the process to get responses from all of the parties involved in the matter is cumbersome and is one of the reasons why the legal process in the case takes so long.

She said the court "allowed for some time to pass (actually, about a month) and no party or other Navajo citizen has responded.

Therefore it appeared that there was good cause to enter the dismissal of the case."

Dahlstrom is still indicating that more settlements in the cases are on the horizon.

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