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Court to hear Cayuga tax evasion case today
By Associated Press
4/3/2009 7:21:09 AM
An appeal of a lower court decision allowing the Cayuga County District Attorney's Office to file criminal tax evasion charges against the Cayuga Nation of New York for selling untaxed cigarettes will be heard in the state's Appellate Court in Rochester today.
Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said attorneys both the tribe and the county will present their oral arguments to a panel of five judges who will issue a written decision a couple of weeks after the hearing.
“Each side has 20 minutes for arguments, but I don't know if we will need that much time,” Budelmann said. “Each side's arguments are rather straight forward now.”
Friday's hearing is the culmination of four months of appeals surrounding Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Fisher's decision that sheriff's deputies in Cayuga and Seneca counties legally raided the Cayuga Nation-owned Lake Side Trading convenience stores in Union Springs and Seneca Falls on Nov. 25. Fisher was also the judge who signed the warrant authorizing those raids.
The nation has maintained that the raids were illegal because the stores are located on a sovereign reservation established by the Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794 and that the law allowing the government to collect taxes on purchases made between tribe and non-tribe members has an injunction placed on it. That injunction was issued by a different appellate court in Western New York because a coupon system has not been set up to exempt American Indians from paying taxes on their own purchases.
The county believes the raids were legal because the stores are not located on a reservation according to the state's tax laws and because the felony tax evasion charges are filed under a different section of the tax law, which does not have an injunction on it.
Sealed grand jury indictments containing felony charges against the tribe have been filed with Budelmann's office, but the appellate court has issued an injunction preventing those charges from being filed pending the outcome of today's hearing.
The appellate court has also barred the tribe from selling untaxed cigarettes until after a decision is made.