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Trial continues in theft linked to Choctaw Nation casino work


Filed Under: Openings and Closings
More on: choctaw, corruption, crime, gary batton, greg pyle, kalyn free, oklahoma
   

A view of the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Photo from Facebook

A former official for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma remains on trial on charges connected to the tribe's growing gaming enterprise.

Jason Brett Merida, the former executive director of construction administration for the tribe, oversaw expansion projects at the tribe's casinos. He's accused of accepting lavish gifts in exchange for steering contracts to certain companies.

Lauri Parsons -- who pleaded guilty for her role in the scheme -- testified that her former construction company spent $30,000 on Louis Vuitton luxury items for Merida and his wife. She also said the couple accepted a new car, airfare for three hunting trips in two states, a golf weekend in California, a $7,300 shopping spree at a sporting goods store and other gifts.

“Those were just things that were expected when you did business with the Choctaw Nation,” Parsons said on the stand, The Native American Times reported.

Parsons also said the company made campaign donations and hosted events for former Chief Greg Pyle. He retired in April -- a month after Merida was indicted.

Chief Gary Batton, Pyle's successor, was also implicated by Parsons, The Times reported. Both have been subpoenaed to testify but have yet to appear on the stand, the paper said.

The trial, which is taking place in the federal courthouse in Muskogee, began on October 29. It's expected to last at least one to two more weeks.

Kayln Free, a prominent tribal member, has been attending the trial and has been posting details on Facebook. Her accounts paint a damning portrait of what appears to be widespread corruption within the tribal government.

"I've prosecuted child molesters, rapists, murderers, drug dealers and Fortune 500 corporations. None of that prepared me for the disgust I felt today," Free said on Facebook yesterday. She was a former district attorney in Oklahoma.

Get the Story:
Testimony: Lavish gifts given to land casino contracts (The Native American Times 11/7)
Trial underway for ex-official at Choctaw Nation (AP 11/7)

Related Stories:
Trial opens in case connected to Choctaw Nation casino work (10/31)

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