The embattled former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe says he’s been set up. Cedric Cromwell has filed a motion to dismiss charges of bribery leveled against him, claiming he was set up by the Trump administration.
Cromwell filed his motion to dismiss on January 19, asking to be freed from accusations made on November 13, 2020. He faces 10 charges in federal court, including two charges of accepting or paying bribes, another for conspiracy to commit bribery, and a couple of charges revolving around extortion.
“The charges allege that Mr. Cromwell violated the trust he owed to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe by committing extortion, accepting bribes and otherwise abusing his position,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in a press release on Nov. 13, 2020.
If you ask Cromwell, the Trump administration put him up to it. “This legal action is definitely a Trump set up,” Cromwell told Native News Online.
Cromwell’s tribe gained federal recognition under the Bush Administration, and received 300 acres of land from the Obama administration. That was all reversed by Trump, setting the tribe and their prospective casino back $1 billion. Cromwell served as chairman of the tribe from 2009 until his arrest on November 13, 2020. Trump called the bill that would have helped the Mashpee tribe a “special interest casino bill,” encouraging the House to drop the matter.
The specific crimes the Department of Justice allege include receiving payments of $60,000 in exchange for $5 million in contracts. With the courts failing to side with the Trump administration since at least November, it’ll be interesting to see if a judge agrees with Cromwell’s allegation that this is a set-up, or if there are merits to the charges worthy of a trial.
Biden Reaffirms Tribal Sovereignty
Giving some hope to Cromwell’s outlook, and that of the Mashpee tribe in general, is a positive statement from President Joe Biden. “Today, I’m directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with Indian tribes. Respect the tribal sovereignty — respect for tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone of our engaging with Native American communities,” Biden said on January 27.
“In his first week in office, President Biden has demonstrated that the needs of tribal nations are an urgent priority for his administration. I am both excited and encouraged that the Biden Administration is taking so many meaningful and significant steps towards Tribal Nations’ priority issues — respect for sovereignty, racial equity, urgent action on climate change, protection of sacred sites and ancestral ecosystems, and the commitment to meaningful Tribal consultation,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said.
Mohegan Tribal Gaming gets an upgrade
Moody’s likes what they’ve seen from Mohegan Tribal Gaming as of late. The bond credit rating company has improved the casino operator’s credit rating from Caa1-PD from Caa2-PD, indicating it has a stable outlook.
“The elimination of significant near-term loan amortization requirements and term loan debt maturity allowed MTGA to circumvent a potential default later this year”, stated Keith Foley, a Senior Vice President at Moody’s.