The leader of a newly recognized Massachusetts tribe apologized on Friday for distorting his military record amid revelations into his criminal past.
Glenn Marshall relinquished his duties as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe following news reports and Internet blog postings that debunked his claims about his wartime service. Although the 59-year-old leader fought in Vietnam, he was not awarded five Purple Hearts or the Silver Star, nor did he take part in a major siege.
"I am sorry to have distorted my record and to allow it to stand uncorrected," Marshall said in a statement.
The apology came just hours after a local newspaper confirmed that Marshall was convicted of rape in 1981. Quoting its archives, The Cape Cod Times said the defense attorney cited Marshall's "harrowing experiences" in Vietnam during his sentencing, for which he served three months on a five-year term.
"Like a lot of veterans from that era, I realize I have my own demons that I need to deal with," Marshall said in the statement.
The move came nearly three months to the day since the tribe's federal recognition became final. Marshall has been widely credited for ensuring the tribe's success, which came after he hired the now convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff to push the cause in Washington, D.C.
The lobbying effort included a notable appearance before the House Natural Resources Committee on March 31, 2004. Marshall told receptive lawmakers -- including former Rep.
Richard Pombo (R-California), who received at least $32,000 in Mashpee donations -- that he was a "survivor" of the siege of Khe Sanh and of "many incursions" in Vietnam.
"Mr. Chairman," Marshall said, addressing Pombo, "hundreds of the Mashpees have given their country their fullest measure of devotion in battle and we have shared our land and blood and served our nation with distinction and pride." [PDF: Testimony
But Marshall was still in high school when the Khe Sanh siege took place in early 1968. His military service didn't begin until the fall of 1969 and he served just one tour that lasted four months -- in contrast to his claims that he was in Vietnam for at least three tours of duty.
The lofty claims -- which surfaced in a Connecticut newspaper earlier this month -- drew skepticism from the bloggers at CapeCodToday.Com
Questioning whether Marshall could have been awarded five Purple Hearts and one Silver Star, their research turned up no record of the Silver Star honor and cast doubt on the multiple Purple Hearts.
The New London Day, which had published a favorable profile of Marshall on August 18, later said it found several inconsistencies and misrepresentations in his work history.
Despite the distortions, vice chairman Shawn Hendricks, who will be handling the duties of
chairman, said Marshall's work would "continue." This week, the tribe plans to submit its first land-into-trust applications in hopes of creating a new reservation and a
billion-dollar casino resort.
"It has been through Glenn's leadership the tribe has realized federal recognition and all that comes with it," Hendricks said. "That work will continue."
Marshall has come under fire within the tribe for his leadership style. Elders like Amelia Bingham and Paula Peters, who helped launch the tribe's recognition petition 30 years ago, criticized Marshall for hiring Abramoff's lobbying firm and for making campaign contributions
to politicians like Pombo, who lost his bid for re-election last November.
The dispute garnered a mention in the Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision to recognize the tribe.
Agency researchers said it was evidence of the tribe's continuous tribal existence and of its internal political processes.
Bingham filed a lawsuit in state court in hopes of finding out how Marshall has spent tribal funds. A backer poured more than $8 million into the tribe and is now financing the casino bid, which requires federal and state approval.
Bingham, her son and the other plaintiffs were subsequently "shunned" by the tribal council.
They were arrested for attending the tribe's recent powwow against orders but the charges of trespassing were dropped this month.
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