Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rodney Morrison Conviction Upheld

via: Newsday

A federal judge has upheld the conviction of a man who prosecutors say made millions of dollars bootlegging contraband cigarettes from the Poospatuck Indian reservation in Mastic.

Rodney Morrison, 42, of the reservation, was convicted last year in Central Islip of running the cigarette scheme as a racketeering enterprise out of the Peace Pipe Smoke Shop on the reservation. Morrison also was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun.

Federal prosecutors successfully argued that Morrison was selling massive quantities of untaxed cigarettes to nonresidents of the reservation, depriving the state of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Morrison, however, was acquitted after a four-month trial of charges of murder of a rival, arson and extortion. The crimes of violence were used to enforce Morrison's control of the cigarette trade, prosecutors said.

In appealing racketeering and gun convictions to U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley, Morrison's attorneys argued that it was unfair to convict their client because New York State has not enforced the collection of taxes on sales of cigarettes on Indian reservations.

The state's practice began in 1997 when several upstate tribes blocked roads when the state tried to collect taxes on trucks shipping quantities of cigarettes from reservations.

Morrison's attorneys also said there was never any proof that he had actually touched or had possession of a gun that was found in his office.

In denying Morrison's appeal, Hurley wrote last week that Morrison's "argument boils down to the claim that because Native Americans such as Morrison have successfully thwarted enforcement ... the statute is inoperative until the [state] can figure out a way to compel compliance."

As to the gun charge, Hurley said the evidence at the trial clearly showed that Morrison had purchased the gun and had it in his office.

Morrison's lead attorney, William Murphy of Baltimore, called the denial of the appeal "disheartening." But the convictions can be appealed to a higher court, eventually.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment.

Morrison now faces up to 20 years in prison on the racketeering charge and 10 years on the gun charge, but is likely to receive less under suggested federal sentencing guidelines.


Anonymous said...

the government never inforced the law there are still many reservations still selling tabacoo whats teh big deal. only if the govermnet gets a peice there happy.we pay taxes and the streets still look like crap. gas, living, and healthcare are all up but they never talk about why is it that canada has free health insurance. leave that man alone