Navajo leaders enter pleas in criminal case

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) -- Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize and his predecessor have pleaded not guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges.

Naize and Lawrence Morgan entered their pleas Tuesday in Window Rock District Court.

Prosecutors have alleged that Naize, Morgan and other tribal officials engaged in a scheme to divert tribal money to their families. The discretionary fund was set up to aid Navajos facing extreme hardships and prohibited nepotism.

Sixteen people, including former and current lawmakers and a legislative office employee, have been charged criminally in the case. Another 12 face ethics violations.

Some of the defendants have settled their cases while others await trial. Some have pleaded guilty and agreed to aid prosecutors.

Morgan is set to appear in court again April 9. Naize's next court hearing hasn't been set.

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