State prosecutors have dropped their case against a Passamaquoddy tribal elder who was arrested and deposed from the tribal council while leading an effort to recall the chief and vice chief of the Pleasant Point reservation.
Mary Creighton, 72, had been charged with aggravated forgery in connection with a petition drive she was leading to recall Vice Chief Vera Francis. She was subsequently removed from office in a recall election held after a hearing presided over by Francis.
Officials at Washington County Superior Court in Machias confirmed that the case had been dismissed but could provide no further details. District Attorney Matthew Foster, whose office was prosecuting the case, was unavailable for comment.
“What I was told briefly was that the state didn’t have witnesses or evidence to make a case,” Creighton said Thursday.
Creighton’s attorney, Steve Smith of Lipman and Katz, said prosecutors dismissed the case because their witnesses were not cooperating. “We are pleased that the Washington County prosecutors have seen the justice in dropping what is purely a political case against Ms. Creighton,” Smith said. “It’s safe to say there is no enthusiasm for this case.”
In December, Creighton launched recall petition efforts against Francis and Pleasant Point Chief Fred Moore, although only the petition against Francis was filed. She said she was motivated by several developments, including the tribe’s hiring of a controversial figure as interim tribal manager and Francis’ opposition to distributing profits from a tribally owned company to tribal members.
In February, shortly after she filed her petition, she was arrested by tribal police, handcuffed and taken to the jail in Machias. She was charged with forging signatures on the petition, which she denied.
In the weeks after her arrest, Creighton was ejected from the tribal council after a recall election in which she was charged with abusing her authority, violating her oath of office and “tribal member elder civil rights” and engaging “in conduct unbecoming of a tribal leader.”
Creighton tried to challenge the proceedings, which she argued were flawed, but discovered that electoral and governance matters fall into a legal vacuum. The Passamaquoddy Tribal Court has long held that it has never been given the power to judge the actions of tribal officials. It likely will not have such powers until the tribe adopts a constitution, a move that for decades has been blocked by one or another tribal chief. Maine courts also ruled that they do not have jurisdiction, and legal experts say Congress has never given federal courts the power to review tribal government actions.
While no longer fearing criminal prosecution, Creighton said she intends to sue Chief Moore and other officials, claiming defamation of character.
“They have destroyed my life and done so many horrible things to me,” she said.
Moore declined to comment.
Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at: