Eight Nez Perce leaders among the accused, may be forced to step down
Twenty-eight Nez Perce tribal members were charged with public nuisance infractions Wednesday in Nez Perce Tribal Court.
The charges came more than a month after arrests were made during the August 6 to 8 protests of an Omega Morgan megaload shipment traveling to the Canadian tar sands via U.S. Highway 12 through the Nez Perce Reservation.
Those arrested included eight members of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee: Chairman Silas Whitman, 71, and members Brooklyn Baptiste, 41, Leotis McCormack, 31, Daniel Kane, 55, Joel Moffett, 34, Anthony Johnson, 43, Albert Barros, 61, and Samuel Penney, 58.
According to tribal court documents, those who were arrested allegedly “entered upon the eastbound lanes of Highway 12 while traffic was attempting to proceed and refused to leave the highway” around midnight August 6 near the Clearwater River Casino. Public nuisance is defined as unlawfully interfering with, obstructing, or rendering dangerous for passage a public street, highway, or road, according to court documents.
The same charges were filed for everyone arrested during the protest. Others arrested included Danita K. Burch, 20, Greg L. Crow, 38, Samuel J. Davis, 38, Mary E. Ellenwood, 46, Salina D. Fivethunders, 20, Ciarra S. Greene, 24, Anthony Higheagle Jr., 45, Delrae Kipp, 44, Cody Moses, Alicia J. Oatman, 36, David F. Penney, Angela R. Picard, 32, Sally R. Rohan, 19, Lucy A. Samuels, 23, Paulette M. Smith, 44, Carla J. Timentwa, 56, Nicole S. Twomoon, 29, Johnae L. Wasson, 25, Letitia H. Whitman, 33, and Christine L. Guzman, 50. An arraignment for all the accused individuals has been set for 9 am on September 20 in Nez Perce Tribal Court.
Special Prosecutor Michael Cherasia was appointed by the Nez Perce Tribe to handle the cases of all those arrested, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and to be sure all of the cases are handled in a consistent manner, tribal law and order executive officer Alice Koskela said.
It was not clear Wednesday whether executive committee members would be forced to resign from their posts if convicted of the charges.
According to Article VII of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Constitution and Bylaws, “any member or officer of the NPTEC shall automatically forfeit his office if convicted by any court of competent jurisdiction of any criminal offense, other than a minor traffic, hunting, or fishing violation.”
If removed from office, individuals would not be eligible to serve on the committee for three years following their ouster, according to the constitution.
(By Kevin Gaboury, The Lewiston Tribune)