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CAYUGA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK, Respondent,
CAYUGA COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID S. GOULD, ET AL., Appellants.
Court of Appeals of New York.
Decided May 11, 2010.
Court record and decision at: http://www.leagle.com/unsecure/page.htm … 0100511276
yes, it is a lot of "garble", but the ruling was in favor of the Cayuga Smoke Shop.
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/ … _disp.html
Auburn, NY -- Buoyed by today’s favorable ruling from New York’s top court, the Cayuga Indian Nation now intends to sue Cayuga and Seneca counties for some $500,000 for seizing the tribe’s cigarettes in a 2008 tax raid, a nation lawyer said.
The counties kept the cigarettes as evidence in their now-dismissed tax-evasion criminal case against the Cayugas, but the smokes are spoiled, Syracuse attorney Daniel French said.
“They’re done, they’re past the spoilage date….Of course, all of this was completely avoidable,’’ French added.
Last July, the Cayugas offered to drop their impending lawsuit and would have paid both counties’ legal expenses incurred in the cigarette tax dispute if the counties returned the cigarettes to the nation.
However, both counties rejected the offer and instead appealed a lower state court ruling that allowed the Cayugas to continue selling tax-free cigarettes at their LakeSide Trading stores in Union Springs and Seneca Falls.
Today, the state Court of Appeals – in a 4-3 decision upheld the lower state court decision. The top court said the Cayugas do not have to pay state sales tax on the cigarettes because its two stores are on qualified reservation land under state taxation law, French said.
The appeals court also affirmed the lower state court ruling, which barred the two counties from seeking criminal tax-evasion charges against the nation and its leaders because the state does not have a tax-collecting mechanism in place, according to French. Sealed indictments were handed up in each county but never opened.
“The Cayuga Nation is extraordinarily pleased with the decision and had great confidence that the court would reject these ill-conceived prosecutions,’’ French said.
Clint Halftown, the nation’s federally recognized representative, welcomed the ruling. “It’s a great day to be a Cayuga Indian,’’ he said.
However, leaders in both counties said they were disappointed in the decision because they said it reinforces an unfair competitive advantage for Indian businesses that don’t have to pay taxes.
“Another bad one, we can’t win,’’ Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Peter Tortorici, R-Auburn, said of the ruling.
Added Seneca County Manager Suzanne Sinclair, “We feel that while the decision is technically correct there is an inequity in the New York state tax law.’’
Rochester lawyer Philip Spellane, who represents both counties, said he had yet to meet with his clients and was uncertain as to whether they would want to try to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.
“Clearly the prosecution can’t go forward,’’ Spellane said.
On Nov. 25, 2008, the counties seized some 17,600 cartons of cigarettes during their tax raid on the two Cayuga stores, which lie in the nation’s original 64,015-acre homeland that arches around the north end of Cayuga Lake. The counties said the Cayugas owed some $480,000 in sales tax on the smokes.
Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said he holds no regrets in trying to bring charges against the Cayugas. He said the top court ruling defied logic and lacked common sense but added, “It is what it is.’’
Budelmann said he found it ironic on the day that the state announced state workers will have to start taking furlough days without pay, “the state’s highest court says we can’t collect taxes on Indian cigarettes.’’