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Testimony Begins In Case Against Navajo Nation Lawmaker

Noel Lyn Smith/The Daily Times


 An attorney for a Navajo Nation lawmaker charged with misusing tribal funds told jurors Wednesday that the lawmaker's actions weren't criminal.

Jeff Rasmussen made the comment as part of his opening arguments in the trial against Mel Begay.

Prosecutors say Begay funneled nearly $34,000 to his six children. He's charged criminally with conspiracy to commit fraud and submitting or permitting false tribal vouchers.

Prosecutor Marc Lowry says the rules regarding a discretionary fund for lawmakers changed over the years. But he says the constant was that lawmakers had to attest to upholding the tribe's laws.

Begay faces the loss of his legislative seat, jail time and fines if convicted.

Eight jurors are hearing the case in tribal court in Window Rock. It's scheduled to end March 25.

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