Huston signs plea agreement
August 18, 2014
One day after a hearing in which Shad Huston withdrew his offer to change his plea in a Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation embezzlement case, he signed a plea agreement offering to plead guilty to theft from an Indian tribal organization.
Thursday morning, before two others were sentenced in related plea agreements, Huston’s attorney, Michael Sherwood of Missoula, said his client had been unable to come to an agreement with the government and was not going to change his plea.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris set Huston’s trial for Sept. 29.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad told Morris he would be filing a request to disqualify Sherwood because he represented a star witness — Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee member John “Chance” Houle — in a case last year, in which charges against Houle later were dismissed.
The government indicted Houle in three new cases June 19.
In the plea agreement filed Friday, Huston agrees to plead guilty to accepting payments from the Chippewa Cree Tribe for work on insurance claims to replace the flood-destroyed Rocky Boy clinic and in return paying bribes to Tony Belcourt, CEO and chief contracting officer of Chippewa Cree Construction Corp., and his wife, Hailey Belcourt.
Thursday afternoon, Morris sentenced Tony Belcourt — who pleaded guilty April 2 to one charge in each of four cases — to 7½ years in prison followed by three years probation and ordered to pay $667,000 in restitution. He sentenced Hailey Belcourt — who pleaded guilty to one charge in each of three cases April 3 — to two months in prison followed by three years of probation and ordered her to pay $156,000 in restitution.
The next round of sentencings in the related embezzlement cases — all of which involved payments from Chippewa Cree Construction authorized by Tony Belcourt — are set for Sept. 25.
The Havre Daily News misreported last week that James Howard Eastlick Sr. of Laurel was set for sentencing Friday. His sentencing, along with the sentencings of his son and daughter, Havre psychologist James Howard Eastlick Jr. and Tammy Leischner of Laurel, is set for Sept. 25.
In the plea agreement with Huston, the government agrees to dismiss the other charges in the 2013 case and the new charges filed this year, although it reserves the right to pursue allegations of related actions damaging a local trucking company and bank.
In the new indictments, Houle, tribal council member Wade Colliflower and Tammy Leischner’s former husband, Mark Leischner of Laurel, are set to go on trial Dec. 8.
Houle and Colliflower are scheduled for trial in another case Jan. 20, and Houle is set for trial in yet another case Feb. 2.
Former tribal council Chair Bruce Sunchild is scheduled for trial in a separate case, in which charges against Huston would be dismissed as part of the plea agreement, Aug. 27, although Sunchild has filed an unopposed motion to change the trial date.