More guilty pleas in Navajo Nation discretionary fund case

Lawrence T. Morgan and Ernest D. Yazzie plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery charges

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Two more Navajo legislators pled guilty on conspiracy to commit bribery charges. Special prosecutors have charged some Nation lawmakers with using the Nation's discretionary fund to make payments to their and other council delegates' families.

The remaining defendants are Johnny Naize, David Tom, George Arthur and Leonard Teller. A joint criminal trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 14 and continue through Dec. 19, 2014.

Former Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Lawrence T. Morgan, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery Sept. 10 before the Window Rock District Court.

Morgan admitted in his guilty plea that he authorized $6,150 in financial assistance for Council Delegate Young Jeff Tom Sr.'s family, $5,600 for Ernest D. Yazzie's family, $5,100 for Council Delegate's Hoskie Kee's family and $1,000 to Naize's family.

"In each case, the payments were authorized with the understanding that those other delegates would, in return, authorize the same amounts to Former Speaker Morgan's family members," the special prosecutors said.

As part of his plea agreement, Morgan agreed to provide assistance to the Navajo Nation in its efforts to resolve the remaining cases against other current and former delegates.

Former Council Delegate Ernest D. Yazzie pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery Sept. 17 before the Window Rock District Court.

Yazzie agreed to a 60-day suspended sentence, a period of probation to be determined by the court and community service.

Yazzie admitted in his guilty plea that he authorized over $95,000 in financial assistance to Tom's family, in return for the same amounts to Yazzie's family. Yazzie also admitted he assisted Kee in unlawfully obtaining financial assistance funds.

The special prosecutor's office said that Yazzie's agreement showed that the factual foundation outlined in the conspiracy to commit bribery charge is true.

"[This] now makes it absolutely clear that the criminal conspiracy was carried out to hide the payment of large amounts of money directly to the immediate family of council delegates," the special prosecutor's statement read.

Yazzie also agreed to provide assistance to the Navajo Nation in its effort to resolve the remaining cases against Navajo Nation officials.

"[We] are optimistic that the remaining defendants will consider doing the right and honorable thing...and concede what they did in order to allow the Navajo Nation to resolve the charges pending against the remaining defendants," the special prosecutors said.

The trial, which begins Oct. 14, will proceed with Yazzie testifying as a witness instead of standing trial as a defendant.

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