Bribery case appeal still before Creek Supreme Court
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 8:05 AM
OKMULGEE - An appeal filed by two former tribal employees who were convicted of accepting bribes from a cigarette wholesaler is still pending in the Supreme Court of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation after oral arguments were presented last October.
Former Creek Nation Tax Commissioner Dana M. Johnson and former warehouse manager Gene Antone Lee were convicted in District Court in November 2011 following an FBI investigation of Creek smoke shops and a scheme to defraud the government of $2.5 million in cigarette taxes.
Johnson was sentenced to 120 days in jail and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Lee was sentenced to 90 days and was handed a $15,000 fine.
Appellants' attorney Gregory Meier said that the law requires a decision to be made in 10 days after oral arguments are presented but that the court had asked for more time.
Meier said that there are six justices on the panel and that the law requires four justices to affirm or reverse a conviction.
The appellants argued that the tribal court did not have jurisdiction to try them because it was never established that the offenses happened within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, records show.
They also argued that the trial court should not have allowed Johnson and Lee's "purported confessions" to be entered into evidence.
They maintained that the nation did not prove that Johnson and Lee accepted the money with "corrupt and deceitful intent," records show.
Prosecutor Shelly Harrison said Friday that not all of the elements of the crime had to have taken place on tribal land, and that it was clear that some of the transactions did take place on tribal land.
As for the alleged confessions, Harrison said that Johnson and Lee were not under arrest at the time they spoke to authorities and that both defendants' testimony on the stand was consistent with their prior statements. Harrison said it was proven at trial that the two accepted bribes and not merely a gift.
Several others were convicted or testified for the government in connection with the case.
Michael P. Wisner II, former chief executive officer of the Creek Nation Department of Trade and Commerce Authority, is serving three years probation for accepting bribes after a conviction in U.S. District Court in Muskogee and was ordered to pay a $14,500 fine.
Wisner was accused of taking bribes from Randy Benham, a Tennessee tobacco wholesaler, who was identified as an FBI informant in the case. Benham was sentenced in Mississippi federal court to a year in prison and three years probation in connection with a contraband cigarette conspiracy in Mississippi and South Carolina.
Edmond C. Warrington, former warehouse manager, was indicted in tribal court but the charge was dismissed after he cooperated with the prosecution.
Tobacco agent Marvin Wesley signed a plea agreement with the United States in November that requires that he plead guilty to allegations he failed to report state tobacco tax on for-profit cigarettes. He could receive up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Original Print Headline: Bribery case still before Creek high court
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381