Feds raid Yakama tobacco company

Yakima, Washington (AP) February 2011

Federal agents have raided a cigarette maker on the Yakama Indian Reservation, one day after the company sued Washington state alleging violations of the tribe’s 1855 treaty.

A lawyer for King Mountain tobacco confirmed the raid but otherwise declined to comment. A copy of the search warrant, signed by federal Magistrate James Hutton, was anonymously faxed to the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper.

Hutton gave agents permission to seize company records and computer equipment, but an affidavit explaining the purpose of the raid was not included. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return calls to the newspaper.

The raid came one day after King Mountain sued Washington state and Attorney General Rob McKenna, alleging violations of the Yakama Nation’s 1855 treaty rights.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, King Mountain claims the state is illegally collecting a penalty stemming from the 46-state tobacco settlements in 1998. The lawsuit says the tribe’s treaty guarantees it can get goods to market “free of any fees, tolls or other impediments.”

A damage figure was not cited; however, the company is seeking court orders declaring King Mountain is not subject to the penalty and directing the state to refund all penalties paid to date.

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, attorney general’s spokesman Dan Sytman claimed King Mountain is reneging on a previous agreement to pay the penalty.

“We do not agree that the treaty grants the exemptions King Mountain claims,” he said.