OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The jury in former Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council Representative Travis Scott’s criminal trial delivered a verdict of not guilty at the end of a two day trial on Dec. 12. Scott had been charged with four misdemeanor counts of Conflict of Interest of a Tribal Official.
Arguments in the case revolved around whether purchases made by the MCN Okemah Casino at an ACE Hardware store owned by Scott constituted a conflict of interest. The business was owned by Scott and ShaRee Hill, Scott’s then wife at the time, and daughter of MCN Principal Chief David Hill. The two have since divorced and sold their interest in the business.
Matthew Hall, a prosecutor in the case argued that the purchases were a conflict under title 14 of the MCN Code. Scott’s lawyer, Robert Seacat argued that the charges should be filed under Title 31 of the MCN Code, which references “conflicts of business interest” and contains an exception that allows transactions that are “nominal in nature and the government transacts business in the same nature as does the general public, freely and openly”.
Ultimately the judge in the case, Judge Alexandra Masters ruled that the jury be given instructions to consider whether the amounts associated with the transactions in question were “nominal in nature and the government transacts business in the same nature as does the general public, freely and openly.”
Testimony in the case detailed how various departments of the Nation, that were based out of Okemah had made purchases at the hardware store for decades, before Scott had taken ownership of it or became a MCN National Council Representative. Okemah casino officials testified that the purchases were for promotional items, which fell below the $5,000 threshold that would require a bidding process. Officials also stated that they sometimes received the items at a discount, and costs for the casino had gone up after it ceased doing business with the ACE Hardware store due to these charges. Chairman of Muscogee Nation Gaming Enterprises Chris Ray testified that the gaming board had not received any complaints about the transactions.
Former MCN Principal Chief James Floyd and current MCN Principal Chief David Hill were subpoenaed in the case, but not called as witnesses in court.
Scott took the stand in his own defense, which required him to waive his constitutional fifth amendment privilege against self incrimination. He testified that he had worked at the hardware store since he was 18. According to Scott, when the previous owners of the store decided to retire they approached the Nation to purchase the business, but the Nation was not interested. Scott and Hill, who were married at the time, were able to form an LLC and purchase the business.
The testimony ended that Tuesday afternoon. After 45 minutes of deliberations the jury returned with a not guilty verdict on all counts.