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Kickapoo cleared in cable dealings

HORTON, Kan. - A letter from the U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger, confirmed there has been no criminal activity in the Kickapoo Tribe's dealings with the failed Willie Nelson/Cowboys and Indians cable deal.

In a brief Oct. 30 letter from Metzger to Jim Merz, Kickapoo general counsel, Metzger stated, "This is to confirm that the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Kansas has declined prosecution of the above matter. After a careful and thorough investigation by the FBI, it was determined that there was no criminal activity."

The letter puts an end to accusations made by ousted Kickapoo leaders Jimmy Cisneros, Thelma Simon and Steve Cadue, who maintained the present tribal council was guilty of criminal wrongdoing in the failed business venture.

An avalanche of court documents has been exchanged between the two parties for over the last 10 months in charges and counter charges.

Earlier this year a BIA investigation, requested by the ousted leaders, regarding alleged criminal activities also failed to find any wrongdoing on the part of the tribe and council members.

Metzger's announcement came two weeks after former tribal treasurer Jimmy Cisneros dropped a lawsuit he had filed. The Kickapoo Tribal council has been under fire for the past year with allegations of wrong doing, from the former council members, Cadue, Simon and Cisneros who were ousted by the council.

Kickapoo Chairwoman Nancy Bear said the past year has been similar to peeling an onion, as one allegation after another made by the Cadue, Simon and Cisneros were peeled away and proved unwarranted.

"We've been involved in all these cases all along," Bear said, "and had to say 'no comment'. We knew all along this guy (Cisneros) wasn't going to win. It was just a matter of having to go through the procedure to get to where we are at now. He dropped the case ... because he couldn't win, and he was not right."

Bear went on to say there were untrue allegations made against her and other tribal council members that accused them of walking into the vault at the tribe's Golden Eagle Casino and walking out with suitcases of money.

"I would like to see some proof on that, I have never been in the vault," she said, "I can't go in the vault."

Bear said she is hopeful that the court battles and legal wrangling will soon come to a rest.

"I hope this is the last, I really do," Bear said. "There have been a lot of allegations about the present tribal council members and previous members that had stolen money from CNI and that have mismanaged the money. The allegations were taken to the U.S. attorney for him to look into. The FBI, from my understanding has done a thorough investigation of CNI, and this is the result."

Bear said the tribe still hasn't recovered the $2 million from the failed business venture, but that the matter is under negotiation and she remains hopeful the tribe will see some of that money returned. She blames the inaction of ousted tribal Chairman Cadue for the loss of the $2 million.

"It would not have even happened had Steve Cadue opted to keep CNI on the air," Bear said. "After we had invested a couple of million dollars, we were at the point where we were running short of cash. We needed to put some additional cash into the venture. We had an option to sell our interest in it. We have documentation of the offer. We had an offer of $2.4 million on the table, we could have actually sold out and gotten all of our money plus, back.

"All they had to do was pay the transponder fee for one month and keep the channel on the air while they negotiated the sale. Cadue absolutely refused. That's what took CNI down. Otherwise we could have sold it. When it went off the air, they couldn't sell it. It was a dead business venture. That's what actually happened and it can be verified."

Bear said she was relieved to finally be able to speak out regarding the failed cable television venture between Willie Nelson and the Kickapoo tribe. "There has been no merit to the allegations that were made. We had to wait while the U.S. attorney looked into it. We had to wait while the FBI investigated it."

She said the present council feels like it has protected the tribe's council by going through the courts.

"Exoneration sounds a lot like victory, and I don't know whether there is any victory to it at all. Something like this isn't a victory. It has taken too much time away from much more important issues the tribe is facing.

"I just feel like the allegations have been proven wrong and now they just need to go away and allow the tribal council to move forward and take care of the business at hand."