Investigation reveals arrests never happened, raising questions about Cayuga Nation police, court system

“They were never charged. They never received any citation whatsoever.

Travis John, a member of the Seneca Nation, is just one of three men who had been allegedly arrested by the Cayuga Nation Police Department almost a year ago after a press conference spurred a brutal brawl on Sat., Feb. 29. 

John had been reportedly charged for a single count of criminal trespass and assaulting a Cayuga Nation police officer. 

Hajenhne Brown of the Onondaga Nation, had also been charged with the same crimes while Austin Glass, an Oneida Nation member, had been charged with damaging a Cayuga Nation police vehicle. 

But John’s aunt, Wanda John, a Cayuga Nation member who lives in Seneca Falls at one of the 14 properties that are subject to the pending $600,000 lawsuit, revealed to FingerLakes1.com that those arrests never actually happened. 

“They were never charged. They never received any citation whatsoever,” John told FingerLakes1.com on today’s FL1 Daily podcast.

She recalled reading her nephew’s name in the local newspapers on Sun., March 1 — just less than 24-hours after the skirmish in Seneca Falls ended.

Bruised and battered, after a press conference concluded, an all-out brawl ensued after a handful of Cayuga Nation walked onto the demolished site in Seneca Falls, which had been taped-off by the Cayuga Nation Police Department on Sat., Feb. 29. Greg Cotterill.

“That was a total surprise to him, because we didn’t even know that he was ‘so called arrested’ until we read it in the paper. And we said, Oh, my goodness, look honey, read the paper, you were arrested. He was never arrested. He was never detained. None of that,” she explained. 

Now looking back, John believes that Alcott falsely claimed the arrests on behalf of Clint Halftown because “he was trying to discredit us” at a trifling time when members from the Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk and Tuscarora nations of the Haudenosaunee united to support their Cayuga allies.

“If you see another Nation in trouble, yes, you’re going to go and help that Nation out,” she added. 

Like her nephew, she too, was standing there in front of the ruined remains of the Cayuga Nation’s longhouse, a number of residential properties, an old ice cream shop and day care center on that fateful frigid day in February as she witnessed the violence finally boil over. 

Last year’s destruction of Cayuga Nation-owned properties crushed an entire community, leaving behind a traumatic scar that could only heal with time. Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.

Barclay Damon’s Lee Alcott, the legal counsel for Clint Halftown, the Cayuga Nation’s Bureau of Indian Affairs federal  representative, verified John’s remarks in a recent media request from earlier this week.

Hajenhne Brown was briefly detained but released without charge. No arrests have been made of Austin Glass or Travis John. The Cayuga Nation Police Department does not comment on pending investigations,” Alcott wrote in an email to FingerLakes1.com.

Previously, FingerLakes1.com pressed upon Alcott in early-March of last year, asking about the current status surrounding the published arrests. At that time, Alcott answered back stating that a pending investigation prevented him from disclosing any further information.

Ever since Alcott’s initial statement he provided on March 5, 2020, that same investigation is still pending, based on his latest response.

The Auburn Citizen reported that Brown, John and Glass were going to be taken to a Pennsylvania jail, a place to hold defendants through a contractual agreement between the jail and Cayuga Nation Council. However, that statement had been purely fabricated, according to John. 

As for Fayette’s Charles Bowman, a non-Indigenous resident of Seneca County, who had been reportedly detained and arrested by the Nation’s police department in an initial press statement, Alcott eventually retracted that original statement in an exclusive interview with him from last spring.

Even now, almost a year later, Bowman still vividly remembers saving John on that day of bloodshed in Seneca Falls.

He recalls seeing a Cayuga Nation Police officer choking him from behind while two other officers were on top of John and punching him. Bowman burst in and broke the hand grip of that officer who applied a chokehold by pulling him off with his own hood. 

“That was pretty much the only contact I had with him that day,” Bowman told FingerLakes1.com.

After FingerLakes1.com uncovered this massive revelation regarding the alleged arrests, Bowman admitted that he’s known this reality for the entire time, but no one ever listened to him.

Bowman insists that “something should happen” to punish anyone who’s involved with the fabrication of that particular press release, which misled the public and harmed the reputations of not only himself, but fellow three Indigenous peers. 

“I think anybody that was part of that press release, as in Alcott, the lawyers, Clint Halftown and the Cayuga Police Department should all be charged with something whether it’s slandering everybody’s name and having to pay a fine, they should be charged or something should happen,” he demanded. 

While being temporarily detained by the Cayuga Nation Police, Bowman briefly interacted with Brown, who also sat on that same bus with him before being carted off to the Geneva General Hospital after an ambulance picked him up while still from suffering several injuries including a concussion, bruised ribs and a broken nose.

Charles Bowman of Fayette suffered several injuries at the hands of Cayuga Nation Police Department officers after a brawl broke out following a press conference along State Route 89 in Seneca Falls on Sat., Feb. 29. Credit: Cameron Simpson.

“They were never detained and Hajenhne Brown was detained on the bus briefly. He was released without any tickets, or any charges. Clint and his kangaroo court have no jurisdiction and authority,” Bowman reiterated. 

“They are overpaid bodyguards for him.”

Whenever criminal activities have occurred on Cayuga Nation-owned properties like the former Cayuga Lake Trading Store that once stood at the intersection of State Route 89 before it got demolished last February, local town and country law enforcement officers have only responded to those issues.

In 2017, the Seneca Falls Police Department arrested Joanne E. Cestare, 53, who had been accused of shoplifting at the Cayuga Lake Trading Store after a complaint was filed. 

Cestare was charged with a single count of petit larceny, and later released on an appearance ticket. 

More recently, however, a similar incident happened, causing local law enforcement to once again intervene on behalf of the Cayuga Nation.

A few months before the Cayuga Nation properties were demolished during nightfall, the Seneca Falls Police Department charged Dustin Parker, a 32-year-old town resident with criminal trespass and criminal contempt, who was later held at the Seneca County Jail while awaiting for an arrangement.

Debris had been left behind after the Cayuga Nation demolished its own Cayuga Lake Trading Store business at the intersection of State Route 89 on Sat., Feb. 22, 2020. Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.

Officers visited the Cayuga Lake Trading Store, which is where the crime actually occurred on Dec. 5, 2019. 

The day prior, Parker had been arrested by Seneca Falls police and charged with assault after a confrontational incident erupted at the local Cayuga Nation-owned cigarette shop. 

A protective order had been issued against him, banning him from setting foot ever again on that fee land property, but failed to comply with the order after returning to the business’ storefront the following day.  

“That’s why they have been writing no tickets. It’s the same reason the Seneca Falls police respond to fender benders in their parking lot because they have no legal jurisdiction. When somebody is accused of shoplifting at his store, they don’t have the authority to search that person. The police have to come to that and give them a ticket,” Bowman added. 

Living on Nation-owned soil, John sees the marked Cayuga Nation police cruisers passing by her property frequently enough.

A Cayuga Nation Police cruiser is parked outside of the Nation’s main office headquarters on State Route 89. Greg Cotterill.

Often times, they are “just taking pictures” and she’ll occasionally “see them driving around the community, but that’s about it.”

Instead of conducting any detective work or serving the Cayuga Nation community, “they’ll tell you that they’re there to protect Clint Halftown” and “overpaid bodyguards for him,” she admitted. 

The legitimacy of the Cayuga Nation Police Department has been long in question by tribal legal experts like Gabriel Galanda, the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, an Indigenous law firm stationed out of Seattle, Washington, that specializes in regulatory disputes for tribal governments, enterprises and citizens.

The 20-year legal practitioner of tribal law admitted that he’s “never seen anything as astonishing as the photos of the demolished gas station, ice cream stand, long house, day care center, restaurants” on the Inside the FLX podcast.

For years, the Nation anxiously awaited for an answer after applying to transition certain fee lands into trust through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would technically allow them to create and regulate their own police department, but until that request has been approved and signed, local and state law enforcement agencies supersedes tribal jurisdiction. This legal position, which has been backed in several cases that stipulate the argument, has also seen support from Galanda.

Several months later after the conflict actually subsided, the Cayuga Nation’s 15-year land-into-trust application had been denied by the U.S. Department of Interior last August in a decision from Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney. And Bowman said that their police department should’ve been “shut down the next day, period.”

In spite of the mounting evidence, Bowman isn’t sure what else could possibly persuade the public’s mind on this particular subject, especially Seneca County officials, as the first-year anniversary of that tragic event nears.

“It’s hard to say what will wake up people to make them realize that this is domestic terrorism, that he has no legal jurisdiction to do any of this,” Bowman elaborated.

Protesters from all around the Finger Lakes descended upon the town of Seneca Falls and stood along State Route 89 on Sunday, Feb. 23 after Clint Halftown, the Cayuga Nation’s Bureau of Indian Affairs federal representative orchestrated the destruction of several Nation-owned properties while occupants were still living inside. Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.

Once again, he’s continued to call for an intervention at the federal level, specifically from the Department of Interior and Department of Justice to finally step in.

“I think we need to take it right out of the hands of the locals and just say you guys are lost, let us handle it,” he mentioned.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies came to the side of displaced residents just hours after their lands had been taken over by Cayuga Nation Police officers on Sunday, Feb. 23. Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.

With his own current civil legal suit already in the works, Bowman believes that the newest findings further substantiate his underlying assumptions, which had been constantly preached at the Seneca County Board of Supervisors meetings throughout the entire summer.

“It says that they’re a fake police department. They didn’t do it because they can’t do it,” he ended.


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