The jury in Peter MacDonald's bribery and kickback trial has heard testimony that the since-suspended Navajo chairman asked for and received thousands of dollars in cash and other favors from contractors doing business with the tribe.
But contractors who testified Thursday said during defense cross-examination that MacDonald made no threats or promises involving their business with the tribe when he asked for cash or loans.And several said they were embarrassed by their dealings with MacDonald and having to testify about them.
The contractors testified as prosecution witnesses in the trial of MacDonald and his son, Peter "Rocky" MacDonald Jr., in Tribal District Court. The trial began Monday and is in recess until Monday.
Pat Chee Miller, a Navajo construction contractor and owner of PC and M Construcion Co. in Gallup, N.M., testified he gave MacDonald $3,000 in cash in 1988 after MacDonald asked for money.
"I didn't know how to refuse him," Miller said. "I thought if I didn't give it to him I wouldn't be able to obtain favoritism from his office for contracts."
Miller was granted use immunity by Judge Robert Yazzie of Tribal District Court.
He also was granted use immunity for similar testimony he gave in Washington in February 1989 before a U.S. Senate committee that investigated fraud and other crimes on Indian reservations.
Use immunity prohibits witness' compelled testimony from being used in criminal prosecution of the witness.
Miller testified that the $3,000 payment was made in July or August of 1988. At the time, Miller had not received his final payment of $40,000 for the subcontract work on renovating the tribal chairman's offices, a $500,000 project that was completed in late 1987.
Miller said MacDonald telephoned him and told him to come to his office. When Miller arrived, MacDonald told him that a mahogany panel in the office needed replacing, Miller said.
"Then we walked into his private office, behind a little door, and he said he needed $4,000. He just said hard times are on him," Miller said.
Miller testified that in order to "get on his favorable side and get my payment a lot faster, and be favored" for future contracts, he said he would attempt to get the money.
"I was already disturbed about having to change the mahogany panel that didn't need it," he said. But Miller said he was anxious to receive his final payment in order to pay his suppliers and employees.
He said he obtained $4,000 from his business partner and gave $3,000 of it to MacDonald about a week later while the two were sitting in Miller's pickup truck at MacDonald's home in St. Michaels.
"I gave it to him in $100 bills in an unmarked envelope," Miller said. "I told him this is all I could get.
"He put it in his little jacket and said `thanks.' We didn't discuss it. It was to the point."