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Dispute leads to charges against North Carolina tribal leader

Facing white collar crime charges can be incredibly damaging to a person's personal and professional reputation -- even if he or she isn't convicted. This is why it's important to take these charges seriously and ensure that criminal proceedings are conducted fairly.

One public figure in North Carolina is breathing after larceny charges filed against her were dropped by prosecutors. The woman, who serves as the speaker of the Lumbee Tribal Council, was accused of stealing financial documents from another official's office. Leaders of the tribe have been engaged in a dispute over their budget for some time, which spiraled into criminal and civil legal challenges. These efforts to discredit and punish the speaker were unsuccessful.

According to reports, the tribal council was set to receive a budget report from the tribe's finance director in order to prioritize spending. The document hadn't shown up on time, so the woman and a colleague went to the finance director's office and saw the report on his desk. Because the woman took the report, she was charged with larceny.

Fortunately, however, prosecutors dropped the white collar crime case citing a lack of evidence. The woman's attorney noted that a person cannot be accused of stealing something she has a right to possess.

Moreover, this case involves a number of questions about whether or not legal action was appropriate from the start. First and foremost, Native American law is incredibly complex. It can be very difficult to determine jurisdictional issues while dealing with tribes, since they are considered sovereign entities.

Beyond jurisdictional issues, it's important to ask whether or not criminal charges are valid when they are filed by law enforcement. In this case, it seems as though an internal dispute between tribal leaders spilled into criminal court. The hope is that the North Carolina tribal officials will be able to resolve their issues and continue to serve their community.

Source: Fayetteville Observer, "Larceny charges dropped against Lumbee Tribal speaker Pearlean Revels," Ali Rockett, Sept. 7, 2013

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