A defense attorney for Peter MacDonald says the former Navajo tribal chairman will not survive lengthy jail sentences imposed by a tribal judge.
District Judge Robert Yazzie has sentenced MacDonald to 450 days in jail for his profiteering in the tribe's $33.4 million purchase of a ranch. The sentence is to be served consecutively to a term of nearly six years imposed from a previous trial.MacDonald defense attorney Shannon Robinson said his client lost 15 pounds while in jail for 20 days before being released to prepare for the second trial.
"My client will not survive this sentence," Robinson said. He argued that the tribal jail was not built to handle long-term incarcerations.
Special prosecutor Robert Rothstein, who said he was satisfied with MacDonald's sentence, said tribal officials were negotiating with federal and state officials about the possibility of having MacDonald complete his jail sentence in a minimum-security facility somewhere near the Navajo Reservation.
Yazzie also fined MacDonald $1,750 and ordered him to perform six months of community service.
Peter "Rocky" MacDonald Jr., the former tribal leader's son and co-defendant, was fined $500 and sentenced to 180 days in jail for his conviction in the ranch case on one count of conspiracy.
Both were to remain free until Feb. 15, when they are to resume serving sentences imposed on their first trial.
The elder MacDonald's third and final trial in tribal court, this one on election-fraud charges, is set to begin March 21.
The first trial ended Oct. 17, with the elder MacDonald convicted of 41 counts of bribery and fraud involving kickbacks from contractors. He was sentenced to a term of nearly six years, fined and ordered to perform community service.
Rocky MacDonald, convicted in that case of 23 counts, was sentenced to 11/2 years and other penalties.
Attorneys for both MacDonalds have said their clients probably would appeal their convictions.
After learning of MacDonald's excesses, the council last year set up a three-branch government, taking control of the legislative branch away from the chief executive by creating a speaker-of-the-council position.
It also renamed itself the Navajo Nation Council and renamed the chairmanship as the tribal presidency.
The council suspended MacDonald on Feb. 17, 1989, following U.S. Senate hearing testimony regarding the ranch purchase and other allegations. His term expired in January.