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Former Navajo Council Speaker Naize admits he is a criminal “beyond a reasonble doubt.”
September 30, 2014 Professional Journal

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Council Speaker Johnny Naize at Shelly's signing ceremony for Navajo Generating Station lease renewal at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz., on July 30, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Council Speaker Johnny Naize at Shelly’s signing ceremony for Navajo Generating Station lease renewal at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz., on July 30, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Former Navajo Nation Council Speaker and Council Delegate Johnny Naize pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery with Council Delegate David Tom, former Speaker Lawrence Morgan and former Council Delegates George Arthur, Leonard Teller, Raymond Joe, and Orlanda Smith-Hodge.

That’s according to a press release from the Navajo Nation Special Prosecutor that was issued after Naize appeared before Navajo Nation Window Rock, Ariz., District Court Judge Geraldine Benally at 9 a.m. today and accepted a plea agreement with the Special Prosecutor, which included a guilty plea.

“After months of claiming his innocence of all wrongdoing, today, Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Johnny Naize, entered his plea of guilty to the offense of conspiracy to commit bribery before the Window Rock District Court,” the Special Prosecutor stated.

The Special Prosecutor added that as part of the plea agreement, Naize’s agreed to help the Special Prosecutor prosecute the remaining “corruption cases” and to testify, which would enable the Navajo Nation to prove how the “criminal conspiracy was carried out to hide the payment of large amounts of money to the immediate families of Council delegates.”

The Special Prosecutor also stated that he hopes that the remaining defendants would do the right and honorable thing, which Naize did, and concede what they did, which would allow the Navajo Nation to fairly resolve the charges pending against the remaining defendents.

Naize admitted in legal documents, “I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty of the offense to which I am pleading guilty. I recognize and accept responsibility for my criminal conduct. Moreover, in pleading guilty, I acknowledge that if I choose to go to trial instead of entering this plea, the Navajo Nation could prove facts sufficient to establish my guild of the offense to which I am pleading guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Special Prosecutor explained that Naize’s guilty plea included his confirmation that “he authorized $12,500 in financial assistance for Council Delegate George Arthur’s family; $11,400 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Raymond Joe’s family; $2,800 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Orlanda Smith-Hodge’s family; $2,400 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate David Tom’s family and $1,300 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Leonard Teller’s family. In each case, Johnny Naize authorized the payments with the understanding that those other delegates would, in return, authorize the same amounts to Speaker Naize’s family members.”

The Special Prosecutor also filed criminal charges against Arthur, Joe, Smith-Hodge, Teller, and Tom and the Window Rock court has scheduled a joint trial for Arthur, Joe, Smith-Hodge, Teller, and Tom to begin on Oct. 13, 2014.

Former Speaker Lawrence Morgan, who also accepted a plea agreement with the Special Prosecutor on Sept. 10, 2014, will also be cooperating with the Special Prosecutor and testifying against other former and current tribal elected officials charged with bribery and conspiracy.

Morgan, in his guilty plea, admitted that “From 2006 to 2009, I entered into agreements with other Navajo Nation officials, specifically Young Jeff Tom, Sr., Ernest D. Yazzie, Jr., Hoskie Kee, and Johnny Naize, whereby we exchanged benefits to each other in order to influence and control our exercise of discretion in causing the disbursements of Financial Assistance Funds to our families.”

And as part of his guilty plea, Morgan also confirmed that he authorized $6,150 in financial assistance for Council Delegate Young Jeff Tom, Sr.’s family; $5,600 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Ernest D. Yazzie, Jr.’s family; $5,100 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Hoskie Kee’s family; and $1,000 in financial assistance funds for Council Delegate Johnny Naize’s family.

The Special Prosecutor noted that in each case, the payments were authorized with the understanding that those other delegates would, in return, authorize the same amounts to Morgan’s family members.

The Special Prosecutor is the Tempe, Ariz., law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom & Schoenburg, LLP.

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