Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Big Mountain case circles around definitions

March 25, 2002 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Jim Maniaci
Diné Bureau
MARCH 25, 2002

POLACCA – In the opening day of testimony, the Hopi tribal prosecution painted a picture for the jury of a ring of police vehicles and signs around the core of Camp Anna Mae.

And a defense lawyer from California hammered hard at the seven witnesses to show defendent Arrick Crettenden was not properly warned that he would be considered a criminal trespasser, with no one able to confirm the young photographer actually saw the warnings.

All the witnesses who encountered him replied to hard-charging defense lawyer Lawrence Hildes of Berkeley, Calif., that Crettenden did not threaten or yell at the workers or officers, nor interefer with their work.

Deputy tribal prosecutor Geoff Tager showed from his witnesses testimony that Crettenden rode up to a tribal checkpoint on the main access lane to the camp from BIA Route 62 and jumped from the pickup truck as it slowed then ran into some nearby trees.

Judge Gary LaRance fined Hildes $50 for contempt of court when he badgered a ranger on the stand by pointedly reminding him he was under oath and strongly suggesting the officer should change his testimony about his eyesight.

Crettenden had just turned 18 a few days before the Aug. 17, 2001, Hopi dawn raid to tear down the oldest Sun Dance camp in the region, using a backhoe and several chainsaws. Officers from two Hopi agencies and Navajo County Sheriff’s Office deputies escorted the work detail.

Prosecution witnesses Friday were Clayton Honeyumptewa, Hopi Land Office director; Priscilla Pavatea, a Land Office range technician who posted some of the notice signs; and the Hopi Range Enforcement Service Rangers Derrick James, Emerson Ami, Carl Calnimptewa, Eddie Nodman and Bennett Chatter.

Honeyumptewa introduced an aerial photo of the area, and gave some history along with which Navajos had near-by three-acre home site leases under the 75-year accomodation agreements.

Then defense lawyer Joe Washington had him try to define the camp’s unmarked boundary.

This was the same point the Flagstaff and Camp Verde attorney used a month ago to convince the same judge that Tager did not prove the elements of trespass against Crettenden’s mother, Louise Benally, and four other Navajo women.

Wildes took over cross-examination starting with Pavatea. She said she posted four closure notices, which were letter-size taped to boards and erected on stakes about three or four feet above the ground around the arbor-ramada.

He started with how light or dark it was, and she testified she could read the notice from 10 or more feet away. But, Wildes said, she knew what the notice said. She testified supervisors told her about a week before the raid to be at the office around 4 a.m. that day. About 30 to 35 people were in the Hopi entourage, she said.

Wildes challenged the notice’s statement that the destruction was for natural resource development purposes. She said the area had not been reseeded yet, but the tribe was getting the seed now.

He asked her if the defendent was within a dangerous distance of the chain saws. After a long pause, she replied, “He could have been if he’d come any closer to the guy cutting (the arbor-ramada posts).”

There was no enclosure of any type, she said, except the notices. The first lawman on the stand was Sgt. James. As with each officer, Tager brought out they were in uniform, with marked vehicles.

James and Calnimptewa were at the checkpoint. All the officers testified they were there to provide security and to keep outsiders from entering.

Wildes hammered the sergeant for about 90 minutes on the stand. He asked James why he didn’t pursue Crettenden. James replied he stayed at his assigned post so that he wouldn’t abandon it, but did radio the officers in the camp’s core to be on the lookout for the interloper.

His assignment was “to make sure no unauthorized persons entered the area closed by the chairman (Wayne Taylor Jr., who signed the undated notice).” Officers also posted one of the notices at the checkpoint.

When the truck came up, the officers would not let Crettenden’s uncle, John Benally, advance further to turn around. James said the man told officers the old truck would not go into reverse, and he would leave it.

They had it towed.

Benally walked into the camp core, coming out later on foot.

Wildes got different witnesses to testify about what time sunrise occurred and how light it was. While they didn’t agree, all testified it was light enough to identify Crettenden and/or Benally.

James also testified under cross-examination that Crettenden had a camera, turned after leaving, and photographed the officers.

Wildes then went after the Hopi witnesses on the grounds they testified they were there to provide for the safety of everyone involved. He had them admit there was no mention of safety in the notices.

After lunch, the judge instructed the jury it could consider that the prosecution failed to turn over to the defense all the police statements, as it was supposed to – something Wildes uncovered with James on the stand.

Repeatedly the defense lawyer had prosecution witnesses admit that going beyond the checkpoint was considered trespassing, that anyone who did was supposed to be arrested, and that only the photographer was jailed.

Pressured by the lawyer, James replied that he was worried the truck could be used as a weapon to run down workers and officers at the camp core, so he stayed with the vehicle rather than going after Cretteneden.

Next on the stand was Ami, also assigned to the checkpoint.

When Wildes asked how someone in a moving truck could read the letter-size sign, the ranger replied, “Someone would have seen something was going on, stopped and asked ‘What is that’?”

Ami also said residents would have been arrested if they went beyond the signs after Wildes asked him if he could think of any reason for someone going beyond the signs and was told no. The ranger said there were not enough signs to go around.

Calnimptewa was next and Wildes tried to trip him up about how he got to the passenger’s side and to the rear of the truck while it was moving without violating safety practices.

Before he got to that point, the judge fined the attorney for contempt, as he began the cross-examination with questions about seeing in the early morning light.

The ranger also told Wildes about taking an Anglo woman in his unit to Keams Canyon. Later it was brought out that Alice Hamilton is persona non grata and has been banned (excluded) from the reservation. Tribal police legally could not arrest and jail her on criminal charges since she is non-Indian.

Prosecution witness number six was Ranger Nodman.

He was at the camp core and apparently the first to make contact with Crettenden. “I informed him not to enter the area and if he did he would be arrested,” the ranger testified for Tager.

The photographer came forward a few steps, then retreated into some trees to the north, the ranger said. He also saw him on the other side of the circle with some other officers.

Nodman added that Benally stayed out of the way, “well beyond the perimter,” and therefore he didn’t arrest him.

With Hamilton, the ranger testified under Washington’s cross-examination that civil charges could be levied against the woman and be heard by the tribal council.

Washington was told the four signs and about eight police vehicles formed a circular-like perimeter. The lawyer then had the ranger estimate the distances between the vehicles and signs, and was told about 20 feet. (This would make the perimeter about 550 feet in all.)

Nodman estimated Crettenden came with 10 yards of the ramada and that he didn’t have any problem with the young man taking his picture.

BIA Law Enforcement Sgt. Bennett Chatter was on the stand when the judge recessed until this morning.

Crettenden’s case is the last of 10 alleged trespassing arrests. The “Big Mountain 5” were acquitted, and four others were non-Indians and couldn’t be tried in tribal court.

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