Judge rejects some Huston motions
Judge: Huston ‘seeks to slay shadows and whispers rather than dragons’
April 29, 2014
A federal judge has started ruling against some of a slurry of motions filed early this month by a defendant in a Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation embezzlement case.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris agreed with the prosecution that many of the motions filed by Shad Huston of Havre were premature and unnecessary.
In one order, Morris, noting that Huston had recently filed more than 30 motions, wrote, “The shotgun nature of the Huston Defendants’ numerous (pretrial motions) severely taxes the court’s time and resources and seeks to slay shadows and whispers rather than dragons.”
Huston is accused of conspiring with Tony and Hailey Belcourt to accept payments of federal funds and insurance proceeds intended to replace the flood-destroyed clinic at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, making payments back to the Belcourts in return.
Under a complex plea agreement involving multiple cases — the Belcourts were indicted in six cases in 2013 and 2014 involving fraud or embezzlement — Tony Belcourt pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Huston, a Havre businessman and former Havre school board chair.
Belcourt pleaded guilty to charges in some of the other five cases, while most of the charges against him will be dismissed. Hailey Belcourt pleaded guilty to some charges in some of the five cases filed against her, and other charges, including all charges in the Huston case, will be dismissed. The Belcourts are scheduled to be sentenced Aug.14.
Several other of the Belcourts co-defendants have pleaded guilty or are scheduled to plead guilty.
In the offer of proof to support Tony Belcourt’s guilty plea, the government wrote it would have proven that Belcourt, CEO and chief contracting officer of the chief contractor in the rebuilding of the clinic, the tribally-owned Chippewa Cree Construction Corp., awarded contracts and authorized payments to various of Huston’s businesses. Some of those businesses were co-owned by clinical psychologist James Howard Eastlick Jr. of Havre, a co-defendant in some of the other cases.
The offer of proof says Belcourt awarded a contract to Huston’s TMP enterprises May 20, 2011, and TMP received a $66,700 payment. Within a few weeks, the company loaned Hailey Belcourt $7,500 in a check she cashed at another business Huston was involved in.
Belcourt approved another payment of $100,110 Sept. 22, 2011, to a business Huston was involved in, and 10 days later Huston wired $10,000 to the Belcourts’ personal bank account, the offer of proof says, adding the Belcourts’ account was $4,547 overdrawn at the time.
Nov. 25, 2011, Chippewa Cree Construction issued a $231,000 check to TMP Services and the same day the company issued a $5,000 check to Hailey Belcourt, the offer of proof says.
By the middle of December, the offer of proof says, the Belcourts had overdrawn their checking account by more than $250,000 after buying cattle in November and December. Dec. 22, 2011, the Chippewa Cree Tribe issued a $300,000 check from the insurance payments for the clinic to Huston’s K & N Consulting for “claims prep,” the offer of proof says.
K & N Consulting issued a check to Tony Belcourt noted as for “consulting services” Dec. 20, 2011, which Belcourt deposited Dec. 23.
The same day as K & N Consulting received the $300,000, Huston obtained a $100,000 cashier‘s check payable to Belcourt, with the two payments covering the overdraft on his bank account, the offer of proof says.
Many of Huston’s motions ask the judge to order the prosecution to abide by rules and regulations of the federal court system, which both the prosecution and the judge noted were inappropriate motions until violations of rules came up at trial.
Morris wrote that if the defense objects to the prosecution’s actions at trial, the court will then determine whether the prosecution’s actions are appropriate.
Huston also argued in one motion, filed last Thursday, that his defense will show in trial that all payments listed in the indictment either were not a receipt of funds from an Indian tribal organization receiving federal funds or were were authorized by the appropriate authorities at the reservation including payments by Huston to the Belcourts.