Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Removes Indicted Chairman
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council on Friday removed Cedric Cromwell as its chairman, an action that came hours after Cromwell was arrested and indicted on federal bribery and extortion charges.
Cromwell pleaded not guilty Friday to bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges that federal prosecutors said stem from a self-enrichment scheme related to the tribe's years-long quest to build a $1 billion resort casino in Taunton.
During an emergency Tribal Council meeting on Friday afternoon, leaders unanimously approved a motion to remove Cromwell as chairman, Council Vice Chair Jessie "Little Doe" Baird said. "We take the charges brought against Cedric Cromwell very seriously, alleging that he used his position at the Tribe to 'enrich himself by extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.' We will continue to cooperate with the government in this matter," Baird said. "The Tribe's focus remains on ensuring that our land remains in trust and supporting our tribal sovereignty." Cromwell has led the tribal government as chairman since 2009 and was also the head of the tribe's Gaming Authority.
The tribe broke ground on its planned $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton in 2016 after the Obama administration took the land into trust for the tribe and had hoped to welcome gamblers in 2017.
But the Trump administration has worked since 2017 to undo the land-in-trust designation and the dispute threw the brakes on the casino project.
Trump's Department of the Interior ordered the tribe's land be taken out of trust status in March 2020, putting the sovereignty of the tribe's 321 acres of reservation land in Mashpee and Taunton in question. The tribe has been fighting that order through federal courts. - Colin A. Young/SHNS