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Ex-Navajo Leader Guilty of Conspiracy, Burglary

From Associated Press

A jury on Friday convicted former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald of conspiracy and burglary in a 1989 riot that left two people dead.

The U.S. District jury, after deliberating for 16 days, also convicted nine co-defendants of at least two counts each, including six of conspiracy. Judge Robert Broomfield declared a mistrial on 23 counts on which the jury deadlocked.

The charges stemmed from a July 20, 1989, march by MacDonald supporters on the headquarters of the nation’s most populous Indian tribe. Two MacDonald supporters were killed and three were wounded. Three tribal police officers also were wounded.

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The clash culminated an unsuccessful five-month struggle by MacDonald to reverse a 1989 decision by the Tribal Council to suspend him after he was accused during U.S. Senate hearings of corruption.

Prosecutors argued that MacDonald was a leader of the alleged conspiracy and thought he was above the law. “They were going to go back in and take the government by force,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Pam Gullet said of the defendants.

MacDonald’s attorney, Bruce Griffen, argued that the government ignored MacDonald’s absence from the riot scene and his pre-riot speech urging his followers not to march on the headquarters.

Conspiracy is punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. However, Gullett said sentencing guidelines could result in lower sentences. Broomfield set sentencing for Feb. 16.

MacDonald, who served as chairman in 1971-83 and 1987-89, already is serving a six-year sentence for convictions in tribal court on bribery, conspiracy and ethics violations.

He still faces sentencing in federal court on earlier convictions of fraud, racketeering, extortion, conspiracy and racketeering. That case centered on the tribe’s dealings with a computer company operating on the reservation.


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