South Dakota tribal chairman indicted; pleads not guilty

Pierre, South Dakota (AP) October 2010

The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota has pleaded not guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges in a case that has already led to convictions of three other tribal officials.

Duane Big Eagle Sr., 61, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery of a tribal official and two counts of bribery involving an agent of an Indian tribal government, according to court documents.

Each conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and each charge of bribery involving an agent of a tribal government carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

KGFX Radio reported that U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange released Big Eagle on his own recognizance last week.

The charges against Big Eagle are related to alleged incidents dating back to an April 2005 fire at a dormitory at the Crow Creek Tribal School.

The conspiracy charges allege that Big Eagle accepted money from business owners in exchange for allowing the businesses to have contracts for construction work after the fire. The bribery charges allege he accepted a bribe in 2005 and aided in bribery transactions involving other tribal and school board officials in 2008.

Three former tribal officials and the former school superintendent have all been convicted on federal charges of bribery or related offenses. A contractor also pleaded guilty to paying bribes to win a construction contract to build homes on the reservation.

Big Eagle was elected chairman of the tribe earlier this year, regaining the position he had lost several years earlier.