Indian tribe’s chief convicted of charge from cigarette raid

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a case that pits Rhode Island against its only federally recognized Indian tribe, the chief of the Narragansett and two other members were convicted Friday of misdemeanor charges related to a 2003 raid on a tribal smoke shop.

Four other tribal members were cleared after a monthlong trial.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas was convicted of simple assault, Randy Noka was convicted of disorderly conduct and Hiawatha Brown was convicted of disorderly conduct and simple assault.

Gasps sounded in the packed courtroom as the jury forewoman announced the guilty findings, but the defendants stood silently. Thomas, Brown and Noka all were acquitted of resisting arrest, and Thomas was acquitted of disorderly conduct.

The assault charge carries a maximum one-year prison sentence, while the other charges have shorter maximum penalties. Lawyers say it is highly unlikely any of the men will face jail time.

The 2,400-member tribe was not collecting state taxes on cigarettes at the shop on its land in Charlestown. It opened the shop in July 2003 as a challenge to state authority over tribal land after lawmakers ignored the economically depressed tribe’s proposal to build a casino.

A 1978 treaty subjects tribal land to state law, including tax provisions and a ban on casinos.

On July 14, 2003, two days after the shop opened, state troopers arrived with a warrant to shut the shop down. State police assembled about 50 officers for the raid and violence broke out as state officers ran into the shop’s parking lot. Police ignored demands from tribal police and Narragansett leaders to stop and show their search warrant.

The state alleged that tribal members attacked police, while tribal members said police used excessive force.

Immediately after the confrontation, Gov. Don Carcieri blamed state police for not following his orders to withdraw if they met resistance. The former state police superintendent testified before the trial that he never received those orders.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Rival gang members charged with killing Everett boy, 15, at bus stop

The two suspects are accused of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Witnesses contradict gunman’s account of killing Monroe prison officer

Dylan Picard, 22, was driving on South Machias Road when Dan Spaeth approached his car to slow it down to avoid hitting a deer.

Most Read