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Judge Dismisses Charge Against Ramapough Lenape Chief Dwain Perry
Perry was charged with criminal mischief in connection with vandalism at the Ramapo Hunt and Polo Club.
By Daniel Hubbard, Patch Staff | Jul 23, 2018 1:27 pm ET | Updated Jul 23, 2018 5:11 pm ET
https://patch.com/new-jersey/mahwah/jud … wain-perry
MAHWAH, NJ — Charges related to a vandalism case have been dismissed against Raampo Lenape Chief Dwain Perry.
Bergen County Superior Court Judge Bonnie J. Mizdol Friday dismissed the criminal mischief charge that was filed against Perry in 2017. The charge related to damage at the Ramapo Hunt and Polo Club.
Valeria A. Gheorghiu, Perry's attorney, confirmed in a video released Friday that the charge was dismissed.
"Justice was served," Gheorghiu said.
Perry agreed, saying the charge was "trumped up." (See related: Ramapo Lenape Chief Charged In Connection With Club Vandalism)
"I am remiss, An embittered group of Mahwah residents would feel entitled to subvert the law for their own machinations. To that end I am grateful for Judges Mizdol's legal accumen and ethical standards in the application of law," Perry said. "I also thank all of our allies and tribal members for standing true in the face in their belief in justice.
"In order of our children to survive, for your children to survived, we must now come together in unity, spiritually, physically, and mentally, and stand together not just with each other as tribal people, but with each other and stand forward because indeed we have not been in charge of our country for the last 500 years, because now is the time for brave hearts to come to the front."
Perry was accused of being the getaway driver in connection with an act of vandalism against the Ramapo Hunt and Polo Club in May 2017.
Perry allegedly drove Steven D. Smith, a.k.a. Owl, of Branchburg, Virginia, near a surveillance camera near the polo club. Smith changed the angle the camera was facing, police previously said. Smith was found guilty of disorderly conduct, court personnel said.
Police identified Smith as the man who turned the lens May 9 after reviewing hours of surveillance footage from cameras on a bridge near the club, authorities previously said; $5,000 worth of damage was done to the club May 12.
Smith said in the video that authorities "concocted this whole made-up fairy tale" against Perry.
"It's really political," Smith said. "The real reason they are doing this is they want to take our land."
The Ramapough Lenape people have been locked in a legal battle with the township regarding structures and permitted activities at their 95 Halifax Road property, which is near the polo club regarding structures and permitted activities at their 95 Halifax Road property.
The township first issued summonses against the Ramapoughs Dec. 13, 2016 for not getting the permits and permissions before constructing the structures, which also include three 15-foot tall tepees, several tents, several totem poles and a cooking pavilion.
The structures were erected on what the Ramapoughs call the Sweet Water Prayer site in protest of the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey and the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Other buildings soon followed and the nation invited people to camp on the land overnight. The tribe has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the town for what officials said are violations of municipal land use law.
Superior Court Judge Roy F. McGeady ruled in November that the Ramapoughs violated local zoning laws and must pay $13,000 in fines, but that they can continue to use the property for religious purposes and have tents there.
The club filed an injunction against the Ramapoughs last year to try and prevent them from holding prayer services on the land, which the tribe has used for generations. A Superior Court judge denied an injunction.
The Ramapoughs have been fighting to be recognized by the federal government as a officially recognized Native American tribe. They filed a federal lawsuit against the town in May. They claim their Constitutional rights were violated. They want the fines levied against them dismissed and $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages.