September 8, 2013 in Idaho

Nez Perce leaders likely to face charges

Executive council members arrested at megaload protest
Dylan Brown Lewiston Tribune
File photo

Construction worker D.J. Skelton, of Lewiston, checks out a megaload carrying an evaporator for a Canadian oil rig sitting idle on U.S. Highway 12 outside of Lewiston on Aug. 6. Police arrested 20 people in protests over the shipment.
(Full-size photo)

LAPWAI, Idaho – Charges are expected to be filed Monday against eight Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members arrested in early August during protests of an Omega Morgan megaload shipment.

Documentation of charges was not available Friday at Nez Perce Tribal Court for executive committee Chairman Silas Whitman and members Brooklyn Baptiste, Leotis McCormack, Daniel Kane, Joel Moffett, Anthony Johnson, Albert Barros and Samuel Penney.

Nez Perce Tribal Prosecutor Bill Richardson declined to comment on the cases, referring all questions to acting tribal spokesman Darren Williams with the tribe’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Williams said the tribal court will attempt to have documentation available to the public on Monday.

The executive committee members were among 20 people arrested by Nez Perce Tribal Police on charges of disorderly conduct after allegedly refusing to break a human blockade obstructing the path of the Omega Morgan shipment along U.S. Highway 12 in front of the Clearwater River Casino. Among the nine-member executive committee, only member McCoy Oatman was not arrested.

Kane said Friday that he hasn’t heard anything about the charges but is expecting notification via mail in the coming weeks.

“I’ve never been in tribal court before,” Kane said. “I don’t know anything about (the case) outside. I’m just waiting to hear on our charges.”

Kane said executive committee members remain unaware of the details of the case because of the Nez Perce Tribal Code’s explicit separation of powers, isolating the tribal court from executive committee control.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to establish for years: Separate the tribal government from the justice system,” he said. “We don’t have much power over it at all.”

Depending on the tribal court’s ruling in the case, committee members convicted could be forced to resign from their posts.

If removed from office, individuals would not be eligible to serve on the committee for three years following their ouster, according to the tribe’s constitution.

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