Ex-chair of tribe that welcomed Pilgrims goes on trial

BOSTON (AP) — A former chairperson of the Massachusetts tribe whose ancestors aided the Pilgrims goes on trial Tuesday for bribery, extortion and other federal charges related to the tribe’s planned casino project.

Cedric Cromwell’s criminal trial opens in U.S. District Court in Boston after being delayed for months by the coronavirus pandemic. He’ll be on trial with co-defendant David DeQuattro, the owner of an architecture firm in Providence, Rhode Island.

Federal prosecutors say Cromwell used his position as chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to extort tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaged in a conspiracy to commit bribery with DeQuattro.

They say DeQuattro provided Cromwell with payments and other benefits valued at nearly $60,000 in exchange for nearly $5 million in contracts. Prosecutors allege Cromwell then spent the payments on personal expenses.

Cromwell’s lawyer, Tim Flaherty, has said his client denies the charges and looks forward to his trial, adding that Cromwell was a “transformational leader” who helped improve the future of the tribe, which traces its ancestry to the Indigenous people whom the Pilgrims encountered four centuries ago.

DeQuattro’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, also has denied the charges, saying his client simply donated to Cromwell’s political campaign.

The Cape Cod-based tribe’s casino plan has faced years of legal setbacks, but it got a boost in December when President Joe Biden’s administration affirmed the tribe’s sovereign reservation.

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