NDN NEWS: Plastic Shaman Indicted
Friday, June 24, 2005
By The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY -- A grand jury has indicted a self-proclaimed "medicine man" for lying about being an American Indian tribe member and illegally consuming and distributing peyote in religious ceremonies.
The indictment came a year after the Utah Supreme Court unanimously ruled James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, 61, could not be prosecuted under state laws for including non-American Indians in ceremonies.
Mooney's wife Linda, 51 and Nicholas Stark, 54, of Ogden, a fellow member of their Oklevueha Earth Walks Church, were also named in the federal indictment.
Mooney claims to be a member of the Oklevueha Band of Yamassee Seminole Indians and formed a church under that membership in 1997.
He openly uses and distributes the hallucinogen in religious ceremonies, which is allowed under federal law by members of recognized tribes.
However, federal prosecutors say the tribal membership Mooney claims was fraudulently obtained. Court documents say the tribe revoked it and asked him to stop using their name in connection with his religious activities.
The Oklevueha Band is not a federally recognized tribe and does not use peyote in its religious ceremonies, according to court documents.
James and Linda Mooney were arrested Thursday morning near their Spanish Fork home by Drug Enforcement Agency agents, while a summons was issued for Stark Thursday.
Linda Mooney was booked at Davis County Jail, and James Mooney at Weber County Jail on Thursday evening to be held until the arraignment.
The Mooneys face 13 counts of conspiracy to possess peyote with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute peyote, distribution of peyote and possession of peyote with intent to distribute. James Mooney was additionally charged with one count of attempted possession of peyote with intent to distribute. Stark was charged with one count each of possession of peyote with intent to distribute and possession of coca leaves.
The Mooneys are scheduled to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Alba today.
The maximum penalty for each count is up to 20 years in federal prison, except for the possession of coca leaves, which is a misdemeanor. The penalty for that charge is up to one year.
U.S. Attorney Paul Warner said in a written statement the government protects peyote use as a religious sacrament, but will prosecute "drug dealers engaged in the distribution of a controlled substance."
Kathryn Collard, a Salt Lake attorney who represented the Mooneys and Oklevueha EarthWalks in Utah courts, blasted the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Office for what she described as a witch hunt against her former clients.
"I think it's the drug war run amok," she said. "I think they do it because they can. They have the power, they have the money, they have hundreds of attorneys and all kinds of people to do their bidding."
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