Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The former chairman of a Massachusetts tribe is seeking to dismiss some of the federal bribery and extortion charges he’s facing over the tribe’s long-planned casino project.

Cedric Cromwell served as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag from 2009 until his November arrest. He filed a motion last week to dismiss three bribery counts. Cromwell also said in the filing he reserves the right to file a separate motion to dismiss a number of extortion charges he faces.

Cromwell’s attorney, Timothy Flaherty, noted he is optimistic the arguments presented in the motion will be successful but said he couldn’t comment further because the case is ongoing.

“The issues presented in our Motion To Dismiss the Indictment are cutting edge in the First circuit, and we look forward to presenting very persuasive arguments in support of Chairman Cromwell,” Flaherty said in an email to Indian Country Today. “He is a man of faith and a transformational leader who has dedicated himself to the success of the Mashpee Wampanoags.”

David DeQuattro, the owner of an architecture firm in Providence, Rhode Island, indicted with Cromwell, also filed a motion to dismiss his bribery charges.

Federal prosecutors say Cromwell used his position as chairman to extort tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaged in a conspiracy with DeQuattro to commit bribery.

(Previous story: Mashpee Wampanoag chairman charged with bribery in casino development)

They allege DeQuattro provided Cromwell with payments and other benefits valued at nearly $60,000 in exchange for nearly $5 million in contracts with the tribe. Prosecutors say Cromwell then spent the payments on personal expenses.

Cromwell and DeQuattro deny the charges.

However, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling wrote in a court filing that their arguments to dismiss have no merit.

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According to the filing, the defendants argue the indictment failed to allege a quid pro quo, failed to meet a “heightened quid pro quo standard articulated in McCormick v. United States,” and does not allege DeQuattro paid Cromwell with intent to influence an “official act.”

But Lelling argues the “quid” was the stream of payments and in-kind benefits provided by DeQuattro, and the “quo” was Cromwell’s agreement to use his influence as tribal chairman and president of the Gaming Authority’s board to ensure the board upheld the contract.

Also, “voting to terminate or not terminate the Contract was an official act,” the prosecutor says.

The “heightened quid pro quo” referenced in McCormick v. United States refers to a case where a state legislator accepted campaign contributions from a group of doctors and then passed legislation that was beneficial to them.

The result of the case made it so the standard of proof of a bribe is higher when it comes to campaign contributions.

However, the government argues the McCormick ruling doesn’t apply.

“On the contrary, it alleges that DeQuattro’s payments were not campaign contributions and he knew it,” the court document reads.

Cromwell and DeQuattro have until Feb. 4 to respond to the brief.

The Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gained federal recognition in 2007 and had more than 300 acres placed into federal trust and declared its reservation in 2016 under the Obama administration.

The tribe swiftly broke ground on its planned, $1 billion First Light casino. But the project was halted amid a series of legal and political setbacks, including efforts by the Trump administration to undo the tribe’s Obama-era land designations.

Last year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs said it would move to rescind the tribe’s 300-acre reservation designation and remove the land from trust.

A federal judge in June halted the move and ordered the Interior Department to review the matter and issue new findings. The agency has appealed.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A'aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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