By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
The pre-trial for the case of Benjamin Cody Long has been continued once again, with what seems like the final pre-trial date being set for July 14.
Judge Monty Beck finalized this decision at a hearing on Wednesday, April 28. The date had been previously set by Judge Jerry Waddell on March 3. This session in July will only be heard if defending attorney Brent Smith has anything to file. If not, the case will move directly to trial, most likely in August.
Long faces seven charges of misuse of Tribal property or money (In violation of Section 14-70.42 (c)(1)). In February, Tribal prosecutors dropped the two felony charges that were posed against Long.
“After investigation and speaking with the experts for the Tribe, the Tribe is in a position that it must take a voluntary dismissal of these two charges at this time after an investigation,” said Cody White of the EBCI Tribal prosecutor’s office on Feb. 17.
Another decision from this hearing was for Long to be granted release on an unsecured bond of $25,000.
The primary topic of discussion for the hearing on April 28 regarding a previous order to return seized property from the defendant. Brent Smith said they have had to make two orders to return property, one with state court through Swain County and the other with Tribal Court. There are reportedly three phones that had been taken for evidence. Two have been returned, but there is still a Google Pixel that is said to be held by Tribal detectives.
Smith said they have ordered a subpoena for Roger Nadeau of the Cherokee Indian Police Department on two occasions, with the lasted being Monday, April 26. Smith says that detective Nadeau has not appeared to court on either order.
Judge Beck asked Tribal prosecutors to engage in conversation with Tribal detectives to get this process moving. If the property is not returned soon, Smith will make another official order for the July 14 hearing.
The July pre-trial date could be the last before the official trial date. Tribal Chief Justice Kirk Saunooke said the Court is working with Tribal IT and their other partners in the state to get their jury selection system back online soon. That system has not been working since the Tribal-wide cyberattack that occurred in December of 2019, which prompted the charges in the Long case.
Saunooke says that they hope to have everything sorted out in the coming months, and that the Court is expecting to resume jury trials in August of this year. The case for Benjamin Cody Long will most likely be one of the first cases among these trials.
Bill Travitz, director of the Tribal Office of Information Technology, said there was good news on that front on Thursday, April 29.
“Officially, as of the time that we’re speaking, that problem has been resolved to my knowledge,” said Bill Travitz,
Travitz said that there have been multiple issues with getting this jury selector system back to being operational.
“I know that Doug Chase had been going back and forth between the Court and the vendor. It’s a really old app. It’s not even an installable app, it’s a .exe file that you load in on a machine, which doesn’t jive with our modern security architecture. It’s one of those things, they hadn’t made a whole lot of noise to us about it. And because where we’ve been the past year with reconstructing the network, if you’re not making noise a lot of the times you don’t get the grease,” said Travitz.
He said that the Court had not pressed IT to make this a priority item, so it was placed in the longer queue of restructuring the entire Tribal network. Given the type of dated software it is, it was deemed a ‘more problematic’ project. It is also a service that is used by a limited number of people at Tribal Court. Travitz said that IT had been addressing the issues by priority, level of difficultly, and the user base it was directly affecting. Because of the reasons listed, the jury system was not made a priority until the last two or three months.