Indian Tribe Shields Criminals With Sovereign Immunity
AUGUST 12, 2010
A wealthy and politically-connected Florida Indian tribe notorious for abusing its sovereignty to protect members that commit serious crimes is finally under court-order to cooperate in a criminal investigation that could put its leader in jail.
Known for its many unpunished transgressions, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians has been ordered by a federal judge to turn over credit-card records for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) probe into a multi million-dollar spending spree by its onetime chairman, Billy Cypress. Authorities say
A few years ago when
His financial investigation stems from an ongoing probe into the tribe’s distribution of up to $10 million in cash from its lucrative gambling operations to hundreds of Indians who don’t report the money as taxable income. Authorities say
Several years ago federal officials requested the tribe’s financial records but, as it normally does to dodge legal battles, the tribe confidently invoked its status as a sovereign nation. It means that the tribe is self-governed, completely independent and protected from any sort of government intervention. Its members are therefore immune from U.S. justice, even when they commit serious crimes outside the reservation against non-Indians.
In the last few years Miccosukee Indians have literally gotten away with murder, felony assault and drunken driving outside tribal land. The stories have been widely covered by local media and frustrated county prosecutors have expressed outrage that the tribe is untouchable. That’s why this week’s decision was met with disbelief.
A federal judge in
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