Contempt trial resumes with government cross-examination
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The contempt trial against Secretary of Interior Gale Norton resumed today in federal court with government attorneys finally getting a chance to question a senior trust official.

Tommy Thompson has been on the stand for more than 10 days to discuss the state of trust reform at the Department of Interior. Called by attorneys representing 300,000 American Indian landowners, he has provided support for court reports that formed the basis for the contempt proceedings.

Norton's attorneys expect to keep Thompson on the stand for the rest of the day, finally giving U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth a peek into their so-far hidden strategy. Lamberth had been wondering what the government would do to defend Norton.

According to the Native American Rights Fund attorney on the case, not much. If Norton's attorneys push Thompson too far, he will will probably reveal more damaging testimony against the government, said Keith Harper.

"Thompson is extraordinarily combative when you challenge him," said Harper.

Once the examination of Thompson is complete, Harper said the plaintiffs plan to call Special Trustee Tom Slonaker to the stand. Slonaker has been the top trust reform official since July 2000, appointed to the post by President Clinton.

Since then, Slonaker has voiced increasing concerns about the progress being reported to the court. His uneasiness culminated with his refusal to verify the Interior's 7th status update.

Lamberth has since ordered Norton to personally certify the 8th report, which is due next week.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Debate continues over trust fund shutdown (1/7)

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

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