At the end of a 35-minute hearing Monday in federal court in Great Falls, the judge refused to appoint new counsel for a woman accused of embezzling federal money while head of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation clinic.
Instead, he ordered her to represent herself in the April 11 trial.
Fawn Tadios requested March 7 that the court appoint a new attorney to represent her, which would have been her fifth lawyer in the case, “reluctantly” agreed to by the prosecution.
“Admittedly, Tadios’ conduct has tied the process in knots,” the brief from the prosecution says.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris wrote in his order that the court was prepared to appoint Carl Jensen Jr. if Tadios would agree to not file, without prior approval from the court, any kind of professional complaint against him or try to have him disqualified from the proceedings.
“Defendant refused to accept new counsel on these terms, and informed the court that she wished to represent herself in this matter despite the Court’s repeated warnings that proceeding pro se was dangerous and not in her best interests,” Morris wrote in the order.
He reset the April 7 trial for April 11 in the Missouri River Courthouse in Great Falls.
A federal grand jury indicted Tadios, then chief executive officer of the Chippewa Cree Tribe Health Board and its clinic, June 5 on two counts of theft from an Indian tribal organization receiving federal grants, theft from an Indian tribal organization and theft from a health care facility.
The allegations include that she used money she embezzled, more than $50,000 in the allegations, to visit her husband, former Chippewa Cree Tribe council chair Raymond “Jake” Parker, while he was in a federal prison camp in Yankton, N.D ., for embezzling money from the tribe. Parker pleaded guilty to the charge in May 2011.
A local court proceeding involving Tadios still is pending in state District Court.
Tadios requested a protection order against then-tribal chair Ken Blatt St. Marks last year, saying he subjected her to verbal, emotional and sexual harassment. Hill County Justice of the Peace Audrey Barger issued the order, and St. Marks appealed. An order still is forthcoming on that appeal.
St. Marks, who the council removed from office last March but won the special election to fill his position — but has not been seated by the council — said the request for a protection order stemmed from his investigations into fraud and abuse including into money that was missing from the clinic’s budget.
In the federal case, Tadios’ first attorneys were Anthony R. Gallagher and R. Hank Branum of the Great Falls Federal Defenders of Montana office.
They were removed from the case Sept. 25 at the request of Tados. In a hearing that day, Gallagher told then-presiding U.S. Chief District Judge Dana Christensen that a “communication breakdown” had occurred.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong appointed attorney Daniel Donovan to represent Tadios. He was removed Nov. 11.
The court then appointed attorney Jeremy S. Yellin to represent Tadios. He was terminated March 6, the day before Tadios requested the court appoint a new attorney.
In her motion, Tadios wrote that she could not afford private counsel and could not effectively represent herself in hearings.
“I am intimidated by this court and do not believe that I will receive a fair trial,” she wrote in the motion. “I am at a disadvantage against skilled, experienced U.S. attorneys.”
In his reply brief, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad wrote that the “United States reluctantly joins” Tadios in her request for new counsel.
“Although this defendant has abused the system with her repeated substitutions of counsel and tried the patience of her assigned attorneys, the Court, and the United States, under these circumstances the United States must concur in the motion for appointment of counsel,” the brief says.
In the brief, Rostad requested that court prohibit Tadios from filing professional complaints against counsel or take steps to disqualify counsel.
“As noted, the government asks that Tadios’ motion be granted with great reluctance,” the brief says. “Her obstructive behavior has abused the process and made a mockery of of the constitutional right to counsel.”