Attorneys defending three Navajo men accused of killing two tribal police officers rested their case Wednesday, and the case was expected to go to the jury later in the day.
The last witness for the defense was Ben Atene Jr., one of those charged with killing officers Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay on the night of Dec. 4-5, 1987.Atene, 24, who lives near Oljato, San Juan County, said that the evening of the killings he briefly attended a religious ceremony for his brother, Albert Atene. He then went to bed with the flu and woke up before dawn to take part in a corn-pollen ceremony with other relatives and guests.
During the night of the slayings, "I stayed home and I went to sleep," the defendant testified.
The officers were shot, then burned to death in Copper Canyon, near Lake Powell in a remote part of San Juan County. Federal prosecutors charged Atene, Thomas Cly and Vinton Bedoni in the case, and the three have been on trial for several weeks in U.S. District Court for Utah.
Cly testified Tuesday that on the night the two officers were shot and burned to death, he was drinking heavily with his brother, went off the road, drove around, passed out and woke up the next morning in a box canyon.
He said, during testimony Tuesday, that because he was drunk, his memory has gaps. But he said he never saw an officer shot or trucks burned. He said he'd remember if he had.
Cly, 23, denied that he was ever at the bonfire where witnesses say the officers were shot, or at Copper Canyon that night, where they were burned to death.
He said that in November he had threatened Stanley's life when Stanley arrested him for drinking. Stanley found him in his parked truck with beer.
"As hard as it is to believe at this point, alcohol is illegal on the reservation," noted Cly's lawyer, Ed Brass. The reason it is hard to believe is that the court heard of several separate drinking sprees that same night.
Stanley's brother - Larry Lee Stanley - had testified that during the November incident, Stanley was about to send Cly home. But then Cly threatened him by saying, "Later, Roy," and Stanley arrested him.
Cly admitted that while he was in the back of the truck, driving to the tribal police station in Kayenta, Ariz., he told Stanley, "Your --- is grass" and "Your --- is mine," and that Stanley's badge didn't mean anything to him. Stanley, he said, was going to die.
Asked why he said those things, he said, "I don't know, just said them." He was drunk, he said, and didn't form a plan to get revenge on Stanley.
The evening of the killings, he said, he attended a basketball game with his brother, noticed Stanley parked near Goulding's store and went to Oljato. He and his younger brother, Timothy, drove to a scenic turnout two miles from his home.
The defendant said he'd hidden a liter of Jim Beam whiskey there earlier. Parked a quarter of a mile from the road, he and his brother drank the whiskey along with a can of Pepsi.
"We poured half of it (the Pepsi) out and filled it to the top with . . . Jim Beam," he said.
They hid the bottle and returned home to watch TV, Cly said. Around 10 p.m., he said, they left home and found the Jim Beam again. They stayed there until 11:30 p.m., drinking about half the bottle.
"I don't know about my brother, but I was getting drunk. By that time we ran out of Pepsi."
"So what'd you do?" asked Brass.
"Drink it straight."
Cly said he slowly drove south, staying off the highway, ending up at Marie Haycock's home. He and Haycock seemed to be starting a relationship, he said.
(Haycock said last week the defendants were at the wash; she saw Cly, Bedoni and Atene take Stanley to the panel truck, then heard a gunshot.)
Cly said a relative of Haycock's, Harry Clark, "said she was asleep."
After driving away, he and Timothy Cly argued, he said. He took his hand from the steering wheel and went off the roadway at 50 or 60 mph.
The two spent about an hour there, he said. "I guess the truck wouldn't start," he said. They finished drinking the whiskey, he said.
"Between you and your little brother you finished a liter of whiskey?" Brass asked.
"Yes," Cly said.
"After we swerve off the road, I don't remember what happened then," he said. Eventually, some friends - those he named were not defendants in the case - jump-started his truck and were able to get it going, he said.
Cly denied seeing any of the co-defendants that night. His brother left sometime but he doesn't remember when.
"I woke up in a box canyon where they call Fat Man's Squeeze," he said. "I was parked against the mesa (Oljato Mesa). I saw tire tracks coming down and the stain of transmission oil."
Cly denied he saw any of the crimes against the officers. "If you had drunk the whole liter yourself, would you remember them?" Brass asked. Yes, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Walz grilled him on inconsistencies with earlier statements. But Cly said an FBI special agent or Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator had written it down incorrectly.
He said he had told FBI Special Agent Kay Brooks that he thought he remembered hearing Stanley asking what was going on and thought he remembered seeing the panel trucks burning.
But Cly said he said that only because he was threatened that if he didn't cooperate the judge would throw the book at him.