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Judge dismisses grand larceny indictment against longhouse leader

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AKWESASNE - A grand jury indictment charging the leader of a Mohawk longhouse for taking over a parcel of land in Bombay three years ago has been dismissed by theFRanklin County Court judge..

A December indictment had charged Roger Jock, 51, who goes by the traditional Mohawk name Kaneretiio, with second-degree grand larceny alleging he took over a 144-acre property in Bombay was dismissed by Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. last month, according to court officials.

Although the indictment is dismissed, the grand larceny charge remains pending. Mr. Jock is free on bail.

Franklin County Court Clerk Bruce Cox said Judge Main signed the order sometime around Aug, 15 and gave the prosecution 30 days to re-present the case to a new grand jury for a possible re-indictment. Mr. Cox said the judge sealed all records pertaining to the case.

District Attorney Derek Champagne said the indictment was dismissed because the grand jury minutes did not accurately reflect which jurors were present.

The original indictment alleged Jock took property in Bombay on March 2, 2009 titled to Horst Wuersching of Mount Vernon. The land sits in the so-called “Bombay triangle,” which is currently the subject of an ongoing federal land claim lawsuit. Jock is a Bear Clan representative for the Men’s Council of the People of the Way of the Longhouse, or Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne. Chaz Kader, volunteer clerk for the Men’s Council, said in December that the group took the land as part of a reclamation of what is rightfully theirs.

The Men’s Council was offering to give parcels away free to Mohawk families, but only one person took them up on the offer. Kakarakeron, 25, a member of the Turtle Clan of the Longhouse, has built a small house on the land and has a truck in the front where he sells cigarettes.

In December, Mr. Champagne said this is a clear-cut case of who rightfully owns the property in the eye of the law versus who doesn’t.

“I think it’s a straightforward issue where there’s a faction that believes they own property and there’s people that have deeds, pay taxes and have been here for decades,” Mr. Champagne said. “This was a decision by a grand jury. The grand jury heard facts and evidence and decided there was enough to proceed.”

If prosecutors are able to secure a second indictment for the original charge, Mr. Jock could face five to 15 years in prison if he is convicted.

Mr. Champagne said there are on-going discussions between prosecutors and defense counsel, but would only say Mr. Jock’s attorneys have voiced interest in sending a letter waiving the 30-day limit to re-present the case. Mr. Jock is represented by attorneys Brian Barrett of Lake Placid and Lorraine White of Akwesasne.

“Any discussion with the DA’s office are in their very early stages. I’m hoping our discussions will lead to a mutually-agreeable outcome,” Ms. White said, adding that she is hoping to avoid a second indictment. She would not comment further.

Mr. Barrett says he was not aware that Ms. White and Mr. Champagne had talked about waiving the 30-day limit.

“They’re talking about a meeting I wasn’t at; I just don’t know,” Mr. Barrett said. “I’ve never had a chance to talk to [Champagne] about it.”

Around the time of the original December indictment, Mr. Jock and his attorneys said their assertion that the land in question is Indian land is backed up by the Indian Non-Intercourse Act of 1792, which states that no entity can buy or sell Indian land except Congress, and the Jay Treaty of 1796, which set the boundaries of the St. Regis Reservation.

The boundaries were changed over time, as land was bought and sold by various state and private entities without congressional authority.

The land is also the subject of a civil lawsuit between the town of Bombay and Wuersching. The town is suing him for back taxes, which he stopped paying on the property after the Men’s Council allegedly took it over in 2009. The land is appraised at $16,000, but town officials say that is a fraction of the $500,000 it is actually worth.

Champagne said he is unsure if the people will be ready to re-present in time for the next grand jury meeting on Sept. 13.

agardner@mtelegram.com

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