Navajo judge maintains innocence in bribery scandal

Posted at: 11/07/2013 12:24 PM
Updated at: 11/07/2013 12:30 PM
By: Ashley McElroy, KOB Eyewitness News 4

SHIPROCK, N.M. -- A Navajo Nation judge accused in a bribery scandal tells KOB he's not guilty.

A Shiprock prosecutor claims District Judge Roy Tso tried to bribe her into dropping criminal charges against two members of his family. But Tso tells KOB he called the prosecutor for help because he wasn't getting answers from the Navajo police and detention center.

"To ask her to help me find out what the charges are, what release conditions they have, if there's a bond," he said.

The investigation centers on two statements provided by the prosecutor. In one statement, Ruby Benally says Tso called her late one night to get his sister and niece out of jail after they'd been arrested for theft and burglary.

The second statement says a third party asked for a "business meeting" in a park, where the prosecutor was told Tso would pay $750 to have the charges against his family dropped.

But Tso claims it was Prosecutor Benally who turned the conversation in a troublesome direction.

"Her specific words, she said, 'I'm not too fond of your sister.' She paused and said, 'This is going to cost you some money,' and I wasn't too sure what she was talking about," he said. "I didn't know if she was joking or serious."

The prosecutor has also supplied a text message from Tso asking if his family might be released in the morning.

Tso has been on administrative leave without pay since early October.

When KOB called Benally to get her side of the story, her office said "no comment" and referred us to the chief prosecutor, Bernadine Martin. Her office told us she's out all week traveling.

Tso states that after that night, his sister and niece were never formally charged with any crimes, but KOB was unable to obtain a police report to confirm his claim.