FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A last-minute, behind-the-scenes plea deal between the Havasupai Tribal Court and a man accused of animal abuse included a light sentencing and a possibility that he will get to keep the horse he severely abused.
Cecil Watahomigie's plea deal says he only has to serve six months probation and may even be able to get the horse he severely abused back from the US Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Watahomigie, a Havasupai tribal member, was charged in both tribal and U.S. courts for animal abuse involving his emaciated pack horse, and intoxication on a reservation, both charges are illegal on the reservation.
According to court documents 12 News obtained Saturday, hours before the U.S. Attorney was going to finish presenting his case to the judge showing photos of horse abuse, the tribal court jumped in offering Watahomigie a deal. This prevented the U.S. from having jurisdiction over the case, according to Asst. U.S. Attorney Paul Stearns.
Brian Webb and Muriel Scott are the tribal attorneys who offered him the deal Friday. Judge Pro Tem Heather Mitchell approved the deal.
According to posts on the SAVE Havasupai Horses Facebook page, commenters are livid with the tribal court. Many people are posting comments to have Watahomigie put in jail, and asking that tribal court stop him from being allowed to continue his pack animal business.
The tribal public relations person, Abbie Fink sent a statement from the chairman of the tribe Friday, insisting the tribe does not support animal abuse.