Norton ordered to testify next week
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Over the objections of government lawyers, a federal judge on Thursday ordered Secretary of Interior Gale Norton to testify in her own contempt trial.

Attorneys representing 300,000 American Indian beneficiaries had earlier said they wanted to call Norton to the stand. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had also expressed interest and after questioning her whereabouts, he told her legal team to bring her to court next Wednesday at 10 a.m.

But whether Norton will answer the questions that have been on the minds of many is a different issue. On Wednesday, she avoided responding to pointed questions during a Congressional hearing.

Norton's appearance, however, will signal the end of the contempt trial. The Department of Justice rested her defense this week after calling Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles to the stand.

The move cuts short witnesses the government was expecting to call, including Bert T. Edwards, the official in charge of providing an historical accounting to Indian account holders. More noticeably, no witnesses will testify to defend Norton on the information technology contempt charge.

Attorneys for the beneficiaries indicated they might call other rebuttal witnesses in addition to Norton.

Earlier in the week, an employee from DataComm Sciences, the contractor handling the data cleanup subproject of trust reform, and Dom Nessi, a former Bureau of Indian Affairs official, testified on the government's behalf.

While the action in court was occurring, Norton was in Salt Lake City, Utah, touring the Navajo Nation's Olympic pavilion. Aides repeatedly informed Indianz.Com of the trip and sent pictures via the Internet -- but not from an Interior e-mail account -- to prove she and her husband were actually there.

Once Norton's testimony is complete, both sides will make their closing arguments.

Today, the parties will meet in court at 2 p.m. to discuss evidentiary issues, said plaintiffs' attorney Dennis Gingold.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Audit finds more security holes (2/8)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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