members were told to avoid talking about case
By Colleen Slevin
Associated Press Writer
DENVER Lawyers for the Ute Mountain Ute chairwoman
accused of embezzling money from the tribe believe tribal employees might be too
scared to testify in her defense.
During a hearing in federal court Friday, defense attorney
John Shannon said the tribes lawyer wrote a letter to tribal employees, most
of them tribe members, telling them not to talk to anyone about Chairwoman Judy
Shannon said the letter was issued the day after his
investigators interviewed their first two witnesses. No other interviews have
been done since.
After reading the letter, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger
said she could not act because there is no proof that it has prevented people
from talking so far.
However, she said if the letter becomes a problem she
promised to hold a hearing on short notice to discuss it.
The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case also said he
may raise objections if he thinks the governments witnesses are being
In April, Knight-Frank, 58, was indicted on 11 counts by a
federal grand jury, including embezzling more than $4,000.
She has pleaded innocent.
She is accused of failing to disclose between $176,000 and
$316,000 in payroll advances she owed to the tribe when she applied for loans
from two Cortez banks and falsifying her 1997, 1998 and 1999 income tax returns
by not reporting the advances.
Knight-Franks lawyers have asked for some of the charges
to be dropped accusing the government of not clearly laying out what she stole.
According to the indictment, the items could be money, goods,
assets or other property. Defense lawyers said they have received thousands of
pages of documents from the government outlining horses, cows, cars and a
trailer that are missing from the tribe.
Krieger said she would rule on that motion later.