Former Navajo Nation police officers accused in man’s beating

Tuba City, Arizona (AP) August 2010

Two former Navajo Nation police officers have been indicted on charges of civil rights violations stemming from the beating of a man last year, federal prosecutors said during August.

The indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix named former officer Christine Thinn and former Sgt. Phillip Bedonie Jr., who worked in the Navajo community of Tuba City, in the assault of Newton Charlie in January 2009.

It said Thinn kicked, stomped on, struck and sprayed Charlie with pepper spray. It also said that Thinn assaulted Charlie with a dangerous weapon.

Bedonie is accused of willfully permitting the beating while Charlie was in police custody.

Thinn faces up to 20 years in prison, while Bedonie faces up to 10 years, if they are convicted. They are scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 25 in Phoenix.

Allegations of civil rights violations on the Navajo Nation generally are referred to the FBI for investigation.

Samson Cowboy, director of public safety for the Navajo Nation, said the tribal administration “doesn’t condone any violation of that nature.”

Nathan Gray, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix office, said that public trust in those sworn to uphold the laws of the country is eroded when a law enforcement officer violate someone’s civil rights.

“They are held to a higher standard that includes respecting the rights of those in their custody and protecting them from harm,” federal prosecutors said.