U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward says prosecutors "absolutely" are reviewing possible perjury charges against witnesses they believe lied in the Navajo tribal officers murder trial.
Jurors found Vinton Bedoni and Thomas Cly guilty Tuesday of two counts each of first-degree murder in the killings of Officers Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay, plus two counts apiece of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene set sentencing for 8 a.m. Oct. 3. Cly and Bedoni face life in prison on the murder charges - which generally means a minimum of 15 years - and five years on each weapons charge.
The seven-woman, five-man jury could not agree on the fate of Ben Atene Jr., so Greene declared a mistrial in his case, five days after the case was sent to the jury. Prosecutors haven't yet decided what to do but say they probably won't dismiss charges. If he is tried again, it must occur within 70 days. Meanwhile, he remains in the Salt Lake City-County Jail.
"It's very possible that one or more of the witnesses who were most obvious in their deceptive testimony could be charged with perjury in the future," Ward told the Deseret News.
The officers were shot, then burned to death, in remote locations on the Utah side of the Navajo Reservation the night of Dec. 4-5, 1987.
"This is one of the most important cases in the history of our office, as far as I'm concerned," Ward said. "There was more at stake than just what was going to happen to these defendants, as important as that is. What I'm referring to is respect for law and order on the reservation."
He charged that some who testified lied to the court, betting that they could frustrate and defeat what they called "white man's justice."
Reaction among the Navajos present was deeply split.
Defendants' relatives accused the government's witnesses of lying and insisted that the defendants are innocent. Relatives of the victims were saddened by the whole affair, yet somewhat relieved.
"The prosecutor told a bunch of (expletive) and everything," charged Shirley Cly, wife of Thomas Cly.
"Those who told the lies will come forth and be truthful sometime - they won't be able to live with themselves."
"It's a double tragedy because they (the defendants) are relatives," said Garry Holiday, Stanley's brother-in-law. "It doesn't make me feel good - there is no satisfaction."
Patricia Cly, Thomas Cly's mother, said the family is "leaving all of this up to the Lord. . . . We've got a great God who's smarter than all the lawyers and the judge. The real killer's out there relaxing and these witnesses get paid . . . just to lie."
She said she hopes these witnesses will ask the Lord for forgiveness, and that she has forgiven them for their lies. Her faith tells her Cly and Bedoni will be released back to their families, she said.
Marie Holiday, Stanley's sister, said she felt no satisfaction with the verdict because "I don't have my brother back . . . I can only think of my brother."
She said many Indian people wept with the family when Stanley and Begay were killed. "But when these suspects were caught, they turned the other way." Only one good friend and a few relatives have stood with her family through the trial, she said.
Lillie Atene, mother of Ben Atene Jr. and Vinton Bedoni, spoke with the Deseret News through an interpreter who quoted her as insisting her sons are innocent. "There's no witness, and Boyd is lying," she said.
Boyd Atene was one of the main witnesses for the prosecution. Lillie Atene claimed that relatives of Boyd Atene could testify that he was lying. She also attacked the character of other witnesses, bringing up things she said happened in the past.
Bill Stanley, another brother of the murdered officer, said he felt relieved that this much of the ordeal was over. "I hope the children there (on the reservation) will look at the Navajo police officers with respect, because they are only trying to do the best they can for the community.
Yvonne Tsinigine, Thomas Cly's sister, said simply, "Where the family prays, the circle shall not be broken."
She cried as she spoke before a TV camera: "We love you, Thomas; we will do everything we can to get you out of here."
Daniel Stanley, another brother of Stanley, said, "We're relieved a little, but not totally. I guess we'll never be relieved totally."
Although Bedoni and Cly will go to prison, they will be able to meet with their loved ones. But his family will always miss Stanley, he said.
According to James Adakai, Cly's cousin, the defendants couldn't get a fair trial. "We're Indians, we are a different culture, and we can't practice our culture in this environment," he said. "The whole thing is unfair trial; there were no Indians on the jury. Jury should understand truth."
One member of the jury was an Hispanic, while the others were white.
Prosecutors Stewart Walz and David Schwendiman, both assistant U.S. attorneys, were pleased with the verdicts.
While there was a hung jury in Atene's case, Walz said, "Apparently some members of the jury felt the evidence was sufficient."
"Every case is different," Schwendiman said. "This is about as different as you can get."
Bedoni's lawyer, Robert Van-Sciver, said, "It's a hard case, a tough case to decide. The jury worked hard and deliberated.
"Some of them don't appear very happy even now," shortly after the first two verdicts. "There are some that are crying."
Bedoni will probably want to appeal, he said.
Ed Brass, representing Cly, said his client was "very upset, and he would rather not see his family right now."
"His wife is in tears, she is very upset. A conviction such as this could bring a mandatory life sentence."