Final Agruments in Navajo Bribery Trial
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) _ A prosecutor in the bribery trial of suspended Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald said Monday that ″pervasive and cynical corruption″ marked his fourth term leading the nation’s biggest Indian reservation.
MacDonald is accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks from businesses operating on the 26,100 square-mile Navajo reservation. If convicted in tribal District Court on all 42 counts of bribery, conspiracy and ethics violations, he could be jailed for up to 23 years.
Also on trial is his son, Peter ″Rocky″ MacDonald Jr., an unemployed lawyer who faces 23 counts of bribery, theft by extortion, conspiracy and other violations.
″You’ve heard how Peter MacDonald delivered the goods for those who paid the price,″ prosecutor Richard Hughes said in closing arguments Monday. ″It reveals a pervasive and cynical corruption that marked the fourth administration of Peter MacDonald, Sr.″
Defense attorney Val Jolley argued that MacDonald made no threats or promises when he accepted loans and gifts from businessmen, and said the prosecution had put forward only shaky, circumstantial evidence.
″Each stone must fit to build the arch,″ Jolley told the jury. ″If you find there’s gaps in the arch, the arch collapses.″
MacDonald later told supporters outside court that the case was brought to keep him from running for the new office of tribal president, which replaces the office of chairman.
″I’m confident I did no wrong,″ MacDonald said. ″The proseuction didn’t prove one thing of what they were alleging.″
The trial, being heard by a jury panel of six Navajos, one Pueblo Indian and five non-Indians, began Oct. 1. It had been expected to last several weeks, but the prosecution called its last witness on Thursday and the defense decided against calling any witnesses.
Hughes said MacDonald received payments of more than $400,000 from people doing business with the tribe between November 1986, when he was elected to a fourth, four-year term, and Feb. 17, 1989, when he was placed on administrative leave by the Tribal Council.
Businessmen making loans to MacDonald were never paid back, Hughes said.
″Each one of them paid just after they were on the hook,″ he said of the businessmen who either had contracts or hoped to have contracts with the tribe.
MacDonald and former Chairman Peterson Zah are on the Nov. 6 ballot for the newly created post of tribal president.
MacDonald’s second trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 23. That trial involves conspiracy charges stemming from the tribe’s purchase of a ranch for $33.4 million from a company which paid $26.2 million for the property only five minutes earlier. His son is a co-defendant in that trial.
A third trial, in which MacDonald faces 93 fraud counts stemming from the tribe’s 1986 primary and general elections, is scheduled to begin Dec. 4. Suspended Vice Chairman Johnny R. Thompson is a co-defendant.