Donald Trump: Who are you to “terminate” the Constitution after seeking its refuge?

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Human Rights Advocate

Founder, Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

When I caught the alarming news, I quickly looked for media slants, liberal embellishments and downright fabrications regarding Donald Trump’s call for “terminating” our Constitution. As a civil rights attorney for nearly three decades and lifelong Democrat, I served as party representative on a city council, Democrat endorsed candidate for New York Senate, and Democrat committeeman. I did not abandon the party but stayed to oppose its transformation into a socialist depository for fringe activism.

But alas, the Trump declaration was no misrepresentation. Our 45th president was actually calling for “termination” of that venerable document, making one question whether he really knew what it stated in the first place. After all, how could anyone in such high position contrive an edict so thoroughly insulting to our military? How could Donald Trump demand a termination of rights under the same Constitution he relies upon to resist criminal prosecutions? Did he sanely believe that an army of human rights attorneys would simply step aside as “the Don” rode his lame horse into battle?

Well, I’ve finally had it with this self-loving Don. I am looking for the likes of Mike Pence or Ron DeSantis to rid the Republican Party of its nemesis who refuses to even stand by the misguided souls he pressed into battle at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. I will continue the crusade to eliminate corruption in the “swamp,” but a true hero remains elusive. Jimmy Carter did his best to resist beltway controls before that swamp drowned him. In Trump’s case, he drowned himself while disappointing countless supporters fed up with his constant rants and childish name-calling.

To comprehend my outrage, the reader must learn from profound history on this subject of dictator ascendency. My father spent five years in a Nazi concentration camp before being liberated by an allied force. Recruitment into the U.S. Army facilitated his ultimate escape from war torn Europe to the freedoms enjoyed here in America. The parallels are foreboding in light of breaking news these days.

On February 27, 1933, a fire was reported in Berlin which had engulfed the Reichstag Building, location of the German Parliament. It was quickly blamed on Communist dissidents who were later tried and acquitted. But the event inflamed German patriots to impose wide-ranging limits on speech, assembly, privacy and voting rights. It led to the absence of targeted political adversaries from the March, 1933 elections, thereby consolidating power in the hands of the Nazis. These rights were never restored.

The raid on our Capitol was executed by a mob that many have labeled domestic terrorists. Condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike, there nevertheless remained profound sympathy for a former president when his home at Mar-a-Lago was also raided in a giant show of hypocrisy. The targeting of political adversaries was palpable regardless of character. Americans were rightfully abhorred by the audacity of an armed swat team descending upon a homestead from helicopters and assault vehicles.

At the same time, it was unseemly for most Americans to relate to the protection of a billion-dollar homestead built on the misfortunes of addicted gamblers, swindled politicians and unmitigated wealth that could not be embraced in a lifetime. These rights were enshrined in our Constitution to protect the vast poor and middle class under the valid premise that the rich possessed sufficient resources to protect themselves. To read Donald Trump citing framer intentions is to believe that Benedict Arnold was a staunch loyalist to the American cause.

About the Author

Leon R. Koziol, J.D. is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which yielded severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be reached at (315) 796-4000 and leonkoziol@gmail.com

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Reparations for slavery: What is “40 acres and a mule” worth today?

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Human Rights Advocate

Founder, Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

Estimates for the present value of “40 acres and a mule” promised to 400,000 freed slaves, range as high as $640 billion, but it is likely much higher than that. Contrary to modern thinking, this promise did not originate with a congressional enactment, constitutional provision or even an executive order. It has its genesis in a military “Field Order #15” issued by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1865.

Its purpose was to give these slaves an economic capacity for self-determination using conquered confederate property as a form of compensation for their labor and reward for their contributions to the Union cause. It was also an effective implementation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. But this Field Order was quickly reversed by President Andrew Johnson who was himself a former slave owner.

For his part, General Sherman, in his newly elevated role as Commander of the U.S. Army, went on to preside over some of the most horrific human rights violations ever committed against Native Americans. Exploiting the successful scorched earth atrocities committed during the Civil War, Sherman extorted land treaties from numerous tribes during the Indian wars of the wild west that followed.

Given this history, the resurrection of that broken field order by African-American activists on Juneteenth Day each year, is proper. But meaningful action will necessitate civil recourse, and that ushers in a portend of litigation outcomes endured by Native-American activists seeking similar reparations. The example of nationally recognized tribal spokesman Ray Halbritter is highly instructive in that regard.

During a 1999 interview on CBS 60 Minutes, Oneida Indian Nation CEO Ray Halbritter was caught off-guard with a question by the late Morley Safer which turned the tables on the CEO’s class action lawsuit demanding the removal of illegal occupants from tribal lands.

After airing Halbritter’s recitation of historical injustices in support of his unprecedented action, Morley Safer asked the simple question of whether land conquests were the true motive here, to which Halbritter replied in substance:

Of course, it’s about the land, because the creator is not making any more of it.

Halbritter’s lawsuit, Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, et. al., 470 US 226 (1985), was based on state violations of a 1794 treaty, 1790 federal law known as the Non-Intercourse Act, and Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. The power to transact land with Indian tribes was reserved to the federal government under these provisions.

But the State of New York disregarded them under the premise that they did not apply to the original 13 states. It therefore continued with illegal purchases between 1795 and 1846 totaling 250,000 acres and impacting 20,000 contemporary landowners. Their deeds were dependent on the original patents held by the state, and title companies rarely searched the records beyond 50 years, thereby effecting novel encumbrances without guiding legal precedent.

Had a federal agent been present at these transactions consistent with trust duties under these same provisions, the Oneida claim might have been extinguished long ago. The passage of time alone would have backed this up under an equitable theory of laches. And that proved to be the successful defense decades later, but not before a plague of federal court decisions that disrupted nation-neighbor relations.

Can casino compacts become the remedy for broken promises to descendants of freed slaves?

While currently a novel proposition, casino compacts for victimized African-Americans take on real promise with the determination championed by Oneida Indian Nation CEO Ray Halbritter. His land claim was not being taken seriously. Indeed, in another ejectment case pending at the same time, the Oneida tribe sought 6 million acres between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders. But that all changed when the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in 1985. By a 5-4 decision, it found the 250,000-acre case to be meritorious. That triggered the 1998 class action when settlement efforts proved futile.

It also emboldened Halbritter to lobby for a gaming compact pursuant to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That newly enacted federal law preempted Article 1, section 9 of the state constitution (since amended) which prohibited gambling generally. Halbritter was able to lobby politicians to permit a fledgling casino that resembled more of a bingo parlor than a Las Vegas style enterprise. He did so with a solemn promise to control addictions and prohibit alcohol, illegal drugs and nefarious activity.

But much like the broken treaties, that promise was torched as the casino morphed into a multi-billion-dollar operation with questionable oversight of a semi-sovereign nation. It now features a full range of alcohol services, expanded gaming tables, sports betting parlor, evident prostitution and drug abuses, gambling debts of home foreclosure variety, suicides, crime, bankruptcies, and a flood of addictions. And the lust for easy profits continues to prevail over its vast collateral harm.

To detract from the obvious, the three-decade CEO of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises routinely countered this harm by citing the thousands of jobs and high-end amenities created by Turning Stone. It now features shows to rival any Las Vegas casino, three PGA level golf courses, an entertainment mecca known as Exit 33, diverse eating establishments, and a hotel tower rising 20 floors and 250 feet above the surrounding farm fields. Halbritter rightfully boasts a world class conference center.

The pandemic proved to be little more than a dent on all this progress. On September 6, 2022, Halbritter, held a high-profile news conference to announce “the largest expansion” of his resort that “will nearly double the existing convention center” with a second skyscraper hotel. This week, he unveiled its most elaborate holiday display ever with 160 decorated trees, over 2 million LED lights, giant figurines, gaudy entrance road and Gingerbread Village.

Tale of two tribes

Not exactly the report one would expect from a discriminated people languishing in poverty. And no excess was spared. But that’s where a long festering division among Indian tribes resurrected the reparations debate. Traditional leaders like those of the adjacent Onondaga Indian Nation in Syracuse had long refused to seek any gaming compacts due to their inevitable erasure of genuine tribal cultures.

Even Halbritter sparred with his tribe’s aboriginal faction for this reason. Dissident members complained that he had assumed the mantra of a “petty tyrant” denying them federal trust funds in violation of their free speech rights. Many were residing on the original reservation, a 32-acre trailer park, while their federally recognized CEO was pursuing his action without their consent against their neighbors.

Both Oneida and Onondaga tribes are among the five founding members of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy whose conquests prior to arrival of the white man reached as far as the Mississippi River with conquered tribes pressed into slavery. The Mohawks and Seneca were reputed to have cannibalism among their rituals. Today, the Mohawks operate a modest facility at the Canadian border while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region remain divorced of any Class III gaming.

Joining the Oneidas on a markedly different path, the Seneca tribe owns three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls with the latter boasting a hotel tower higher than the one at Turning Stone. These contrasts are further complicated by the kind of reparations being sought. Extremists are demanding full sovereignty of “Indian Country” as it is called, a patchwork of certified reservations, reacquired lands and tracts that were consistently occupied. On the opposite end, there are fully assimilated descendants oblivious to all this and those victims who stand by the original treaties.

Local taxing authorities enter the fray

This chaotic landscape took another fateful turn when a nearby municipality entered the fray with a test case of its own seeking to foreclose on Nation properties for nonpayment of taxes. In 2005, a newly constituted Supreme Court referenced the remedy left open in 1985 (“Oneida II”) in City of Sherill v Oneida Indian Nation, 544 US 197 (2005). There it ruled collaterally that reacquisition of lands located within the 250,000-acre tract did not work a union of fee and aboriginal titles and was therefore taxable.

The case may have proved counter-intuitive, however, because the Oneidas were freely donating revenues at the time to local school districts and municipalities known as chain covenant grants. This was a practice to maintain government-to-government cooperation. And for those duped by the notion that mandatory tribal assessments were a welcome substitute for property taxation, their governments rarely eased tax liabilities especially in the “Vampire State.” New York remains hopelessly addicted to all revenue sources to feed an insatiable appetite of free spending.

The Oneidas quickly fired back with a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take their purchased lands into federal trust, thereby returning them to tax-free status Despite the growing feuds, the overriding remedy for treaty and human rights violations was effectively reserved for the Supreme Court’s still pending Oneida Nation litigation. That finally resulted in a federal appeals court decision in 2010 which rejected both possessory and compensatory demands. The Supreme Court then refused to hear the case and that served to extinguish countless claims across the country, making rational people question what this litigation fiasco was all about in the first place.

Litigation aftermath

For Ray Halbritter the myriad of lawsuits was worth every casino penny. The successful interim Supreme Court ruling in 1985 proved that Oneida ambitions were not fringe but a growing juggernaut. Nation leaders influenced state and local officials to shift positions by supporting their proposal for a modest gambling facility which then became the engine for unbridled land development. By the time of the 2010 ruling, Ray Halbritter had become a national figure. He was a prime mover of the decision to rename the Washington Redskins and even sponsored an elaborate float in the Macy’s Day Parade.

In 2013, exasperated players negotiated a global settlement that featured a ratification of the gaming compact, over 15,000 acres of lands for arms-length purchase to be added to trust lands, economic benefits for neighbors, and 25% of slot machine revenues for local municipalities. This forever extinguished longstanding claims, making the litigation journey a success. After all, only twenty years earlier, the tribe resided in a trailer park on its nearby 32-acre reservation.

For the ones offended by this outcome, it threatened to aggravate the growing envies, civil disobedience, and assaults of law enforcement that occurred during the interstate highway blockades in Syracuse and western New York. Even Ray Halbritter remarked in response to complaints of tax-free status that if he had a valid claim as the Supreme Court once ruled, his neighbors should be paying taxes to his Nation. Such inflammatory remarks only ignited further divisions.

Yellowstone caliber saga

This remains a real-life odyssey that Kevin Costner could remake into a Yellowstone type series. Yet nowhere was it mentioned in a pair of front-page articles last week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling. Such practices have found their way into Turning Stone operations.

Not surprisingly, Portnoy lambasted this reporter the next day while ignoring the Elephant in the Courtroom he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the next day article which stressed a lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their combined expenditure of a mere $94 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

Such inequities beg the question: Is this corrupted culture a promising environment for achieving Native American reparations or are we simply repeating a shameful history of Native-American genocide? After all, more indigenous peoples were exterminated by alcohol and disease introduced by European conquerors than the muskets and cannon balls were able to slaughter. The futility of government oversight is palpable in light of the daily corruption unfolding in Washington.

Modern day genocide

The insidious effects of alcohol were well known and exploited by early settlers. With the addition of gambling and illegal drugs in the addiction mix today, Native-Americans are more vulnerable than ever. A portend of this is found in a book by Richard Berleth entitled, Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War & American Revolution on New York’s Frontier (2009). On page 25, an excerpt features Sir Willam Johnson, a British loyalist who was highly trusted by the Iroquois. Together with various missionaries, he was determined to arrest the growing atrocities of alcohol abuse among the tribes:

From the beginning of settlement, the politics of alcohol and Indians troubled European consciences. Barclay was following in the footsteps of New France’s Jesuits by attempting to restrict the epidemic of intoxication of native peoples. Yet, where Indian policy was concerned, clerical qualms gave way to market pressures. As Johnson put it, “rum (was) the only thing they mostly traded for. … 

Johnson was never unmindful of the damage alcohol did to the tribes, but he was in no position to dictate what the tribes should want. The missionary impulse grew stronger as the century grew older, and Johnson wrestled with the moral imperatives of Puritan Yankees, Quakers, and his own Anglicans on occasions. But the basic reality of the frontier – recognized by the Dutch in Albany – was that the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, planted solidly in the middle of New York province, had the capability of destroying not only Albany, but white settlements everywhere west of the Hudson.

Johnson’s genius lay in learning to listen to what the Indians wanted.

About the Author

Leon Koziol is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which yielded severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be reached at (315) 796-4000 and leonkoziol@gmail.com

With Indian land claims extinguished, have casinos become the option for reparations or betrayal?

ABOVE: The state of affairs during the most volatile period of New York Indian land claims. Here it is featured on the front page of the New York Times.

Landowner organizations are represented by attorney Leon R. Koziol who is quoted in the article

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Human Rights Advocate

Founder, Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

During a 1999 interview on CBS 60 Minutes, Oneida Indian Nation CEO Ray Halbritter was caught off-guard with a question by the late Morley Safer which turned the tables on the CEO’s class action lawsuit demanding the removal of illegal occupants from tribal lands.

After airing Halbritter’s recitation of historical injustices in support of his unprecedented action, Morley Safer asked the simple question of whether land conquests were the true motive here, to which Halbritter replied in substance:

Of course, it’s about the land, because the creator is not making any more of it.

Halbritter’s lawsuit, Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, et. al., 470 US 226 (1985), was based on state violations of a 1794 treaty, 1790 federal law known as the Non-Intercourse Act, and Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. The power to transact land with Indian tribes was reserved to the federal government under these provisions.

But the State of New York disregarded them under the premise that they did not apply to the original 13 states. It therefore continued with illegal purchases between 1795 and 1846 totaling 250,000 acres and impacting 20,000 contemporary landowners. Their deeds were dependent on the original patents held by the state, and title companies rarely searched the records beyond 50 years, thereby effecting novel encumbrances without guiding legal precedent.

Had a federal agent been present at these transactions consistent with trust duties under these same provisions, the Oneida claim might have been extinguished long ago. The passage of time alone would have backed this up under an equitable theory of laches. And that proved to be the successful defense decades later, but not before a plague of federal court decisions that disrupted nation-neighbor relations.

Birth of a world class casino

The Oneida Nation land claim was not being taken seriously, and that only prolonged the outcome. Indeed, in another federal ejectment case pending at the same time, the Oneida tribe sought 6 million acres between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders. But that all changed when the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in 1985. By a 5-4 decision, it found the 250,000-acre case to be meritorious. That triggered the 1998 class action when settlement efforts proved futile.

It also emboldened Halbritter to lobby for a gaming compact pursuant to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That newly enacted federal law preempted Article 1, section 9 of the state constitution (since amended) which prohibited gambling generally. Halbritter was able to lobby politicians to permit a fledgling casino that resembled more of a bingo parlor than a Las Vegas style enterprise. He did so with a solemn promise to control addictions and prohibit alcohol, illegal drugs and nefarious activity.

But much like the broken treaties, that promise was torched as the casino morphed into a multi-billion-dollar operation with questionable oversight of a semi-sovereign nation. It now features a full range of alcohol services, expanded gaming tables, sports betting parlor, evident prostitution and drug abuses, gambling debts of home foreclosure variety, suicides, crime, bankruptcies, and a flood of addictions. And the lust for easy profits continues to prevail over its vast collateral harm.

To detract from the obvious, the three-decade CEO of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises routinely countered this harm by citing the thousands of jobs and high-end amenities created by Turning Stone. It now features shows to rival any Las Vegas casino, three PGA level golf courses, an entertainment mecca known as Exit 33, diverse eating establishments, and a hotel tower rising 20 floors and 250 feet above the surrounding farm fields. Halbritter rightfully boasts a world class conference center.

The pandemic proved to be little more than a dent on all this progress. On September 6, 2022, Halbritter, held a high-profile news conference to announce “the largest expansion” of his resort that “will nearly double the existing convention center” with a second skyscraper hotel. This week, he unveiled its most elaborate holiday display ever with 160 decorated trees, over 2 million LED lights, giant figurines, gaudy entrance road and Gingerbread Village.

Tale of two tribes

Not exactly the report one would expect from a discriminated people languishing in poverty. And no excess was spared. But that’s where a long festering division among Indian tribes resurrected the reparations debate. Traditional leaders like those of the adjacent Onondaga Indian Nation in Syracuse had long refused to seek any gaming compacts due to their inevitable erasure of genuine tribal cultures.

Even Halbritter sparred with his tribe’s aboriginal faction for this reason. Dissident members complained that he had assumed the mantra of a “petty tyrant” denying them federal trust funds in violation of their free speech rights. Many were residing on the original reservation, a 32-acre trailer park, while their federally recognized CEO was pursuing his action without their consent against their neighbors.

Both Oneida and Onondaga tribes are among the five founding members of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy whose conquests prior to arrival of the white man reached as far as the Mississippi River with conquered tribes pressed into slavery. The Mohawks and Seneca were reputed to have cannibalism among their rituals. Today, the Mohawks operate a modest facility at the Canadian border while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region remain divorced of any Class III gaming.

Joining the Oneidas on a markedly different path, the Seneca tribe owns three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls with the latter boasting a hotel tower higher than the one at Turning Stone. These contrasts are further complicated by the kind of reparations being sought. Extremists are demanding full sovereignty of “Indian Country” as it is called, a patchwork of certified reservations, reacquired lands and tracts that were consistently occupied. On the opposite end, there are fully assimilated descendants oblivious to all this and those victims who stand by the original treaties.

Local taxing authorities enter the fray

This chaotic landscape took another fateful turn when a nearby municipality entered the fray with a test case of its own seeking to foreclose on Nation properties for nonpayment of taxes. In 2005, a newly constituted Supreme Court referenced the remedy left open in 1985 (“Oneida II”) in City of Sherill v Oneida Indian Nation, 544 US 197 (2005). There it ruled collaterally that reacquisition of lands located within the 250,000-acre tract did not work a union of fee and aboriginal titles and was therefore taxable.

The case may have proved counter-intuitive, however, because the Oneidas were freely donating revenues at the time to local school districts and municipalities known as chain covenant grants. This was a practice to maintain government-to-government cooperation. And for those duped by the notion that mandatory tribal assessments were a welcome substitute for property taxation, their governments rarely eased tax liabilities especially in the “Vampire State.” New York remains hopelessly addicted to all revenue sources to feed an insatiable appetite of free spending.

The Oneidas quickly fired back with a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take their purchased lands into federal trust, thereby returning them to tax-free status Despite the growing feuds, the overriding remedy for treaty and human rights violations was effectively reserved for the Supreme Court’s still pending Oneida Nation litigation. That finally resulted in a federal appeals court decision in 2010 which rejected both possessory and compensatory demands. The Supreme Court then refused to hear the case and that served to extinguish countless claims across the country, making rational people question what this litigation fiasco was all about in the first place.

Litigation aftermath

For Ray Halbritter the myriad of lawsuits was worth every casino penny. The successful interim Supreme Court ruling in 1985 proved that Oneida ambitions were not fringe but a growing juggernaut. Nation leaders influenced state and local officials to shift positions by supporting their proposal for a modest gambling facility which then became the engine for unbridled land development. By the time of the 2010 ruling, Ray Halbritter had become a national figure. He was a prime mover of the decision to rename the Washington Redskins and even sponsored an elaborate float in the Macy’s Day Parade.

In 2013, exasperated players negotiated a global settlement that featured a ratification of the gaming compact, over 15,000 acres of lands for arms-length purchase to be added to trust lands, economic benefits for neighbors, and 25% of slot machine revenues for local municipalities. This forever extinguished longstanding claims, making the litigation journey a success. After all, only twenty years earlier, the tribe resided in a trailer park on its nearby 32-acre reservation.

For the ones offended by this outcome, it threatened to aggravate the growing envies, civil disobedience, and assaults of law enforcement that occurred during the interstate highway blockades in Syracuse and western New York. Even Ray Halbritter remarked in response to complaints of tax-free status that if he had a valid claim as the Supreme Court once ruled, his neighbors should be paying taxes to his Nation. Such inflammatory remarks only ignited further divisions.

Yellowstone caliber saga

This remains a real-life odyssey that Kevin Costner could remake into a Yellowstone type series. Yet nowhere was it mentioned in a pair of front-page articles last week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling. Such practices have found their way into Turning Stone operations.

Not surprisingly, Portnoy lambasted this reporter the next day while ignoring the Elephant in the Courtroom he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the next day article which stressed a lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their combined expenditure of a mere $94 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

Such inequities beg the question: Is this corrupted culture a promising environment for achieving Native American reparations or are we simply repeating a shameful history of Native-American genocide? After all, more indigenous peoples were exterminated by alcohol and disease introduced by European conquerors than the muskets and cannon balls were able to slaughter. The futility of government oversight is palpable in light of the daily corruption unfolding in Washington.

Modern day genocide

The insidious effects of alcohol were well known and exploited by early settlers. With the addition of gambling and illegal drugs in the addiction mix today, Native-Americans are more vulnerable than ever. A portend of this is found in a book by Richard Berleth entitled, Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War & American Revolution on New York’s Frontier (2009). On page 25, an excerpt features Sir Willam Johnson, a British loyalist who was highly trusted by the Iroquois. Together with various missionaries, he was determined to arrest the growing atrocities of alcohol abuse among the tribes:

From the beginning of settlement, the politics of alcohol and Indians troubled European consciences. Barclay was following in the footsteps of New France’s Jesuits by attempting to restrict the epidemic of intoxication of native peoples. Yet, where Indian policy was concerned, clerical qualms gave way to market pressures. As Johnson put it, “rum (was) the only thing they mostly traded for. …

Johnson was never unmindful of the damage alcohol did to the tribes, but he was in no position to dictate what the tribes should want. The missionary impulse grew stronger as the century grew older, and Johnson wrestled with the moral imperatives of Puritan Yankees, Quakers, and his own Anglicans on occasions. But the basic reality of the frontier – recognized by the Dutch in Albany – was that the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, planted solidly in the middle of New York province, had the capability of destroying not only Albany, but white settlements everywhere west of the Hudson.

Johnson’s genius lay in learning to listen to what the Indians wanted.

About the Author

Leon Koziol is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which yielded severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be reached at (315) 796-4000 and leonkoziol@gmail.com

Tribal CEO Ray Halbritter on 60 Minutes: It’s all about the land because the creator is not making any more of it.

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Human Rights Advocate

Founder, Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

During a 1999 interview on CBS 60 Minutes, Oneida Indian Nation CEO Ray Halbritter was caught off-guard with a question by the late Morley Safer which turned the tables on the CEO’s class action lawsuit demanding the removal of illegal occupants from tribal lands.

After airing Halbritter’s recitation of historical injustices in support of his unprecedented action, Morley Safer asked the simple question of whether land conquests were the true motive here, to which Halbritter replied in substance:

Of course, it’s about the land, because the creator is not making any more of it.

Halbritter’s lawsuit, Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, et. al., 470 US 226 (1985), was based on state violations of a 1794 treaty, 1790 federal law known as the Non-Intercourse Act, and Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. The power to transact land with Indian tribes was reserved to the federal government under these provisions.

But the State of New York disregarded them under the premise that they did not apply to the original 13 states. It therefore continued with illegal purchases between 1795 and 1846 totaling 250,000 acres and impacting 20,000 contemporary landowners. Their deeds were dependent on the original patents held by the state, and title companies rarely searched the records beyond 50 years, thereby effecting novel encumbrances without guiding legal precedent.

Had a federal agent been present at these transactions consistent with trust duties under these same provisions, the Oneida claim might have been extinguished long ago. The passage of time alone would have backed this up under an equitable theory of laches. And that proved to be the successful defense decades later, but not before a plague of federal court decisions that disrupted nation-neighbor relations.

Birth of a world class casino

The Oneida Nation land claim was not being taken seriously, and that only prolonged the outcome. Indeed, in another federal ejectment case pending at the same time, the Oneida tribe sought 6 million acres between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders. But that all changed when the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in 1985. By a 5-4 decision, it found the 250,000-acre case to be meritorious. That triggered the 1998 class action when settlement efforts proved futile.

It also emboldened Halbritter to lobby for a gaming compact pursuant to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That newly enacted federal law preempted Article 1, section 9 of the state constitution (since amended) which prohibited gambling generally. Halbritter was able to lobby politicians to permit a fledgling casino that resembled more of a bingo parlor than a Las Vegas style enterprise. He did so with a solemn promise to control addictions and prohibit alcohol, illegal drugs and nefarious activity.

But much like the broken treaties, that promise was torched as the casino morphed into a multi-billion-dollar operation with questionable oversight of a semi-sovereign nation. It now features a full range of alcohol services, expanded gaming tables, sports betting parlor, evident prostitution and drug abuses, gambling debts of home foreclosure variety, suicides, crime, bankruptcies, and a flood of addictions. And the lust for easy profits continues to prevail over its vast collateral harm.

To detract from the obvious, the three-decade CEO of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises routinely countered this harm by citing the thousands of jobs and high-end amenities created by Turning Stone. It now features shows to rival any Las Vegas casino, three PGA level golf courses, an entertainment mecca known as Exit 33, diverse eating establishments, and a hotel tower rising 20 floors and 250 feet above the surrounding farm fields. Halbritter rightfully boasts a world class conference center.

The pandemic proved to be little more than a dent on all this progress. On September 6, 2022, Halbritter, held a high-profile news conference to announce “the largest expansion” of his resort that “will nearly double the existing convention center” with a second skyscraper hotel. This week, he unveiled its most elaborate holiday display ever with 160 decorated trees, over 2 million LED lights, giant figurines, gaudy entrance road and Gingerbread Village.

Tale of two tribes

Not exactly the report one would expect from a discriminated people languishing in poverty. And no excess was spared. But that’s where a long festering division among Indian tribes resurrected the reparations debate. Traditional leaders like those of the adjacent Onondaga Indian Nation in Syracuse had long refused to seek any gaming compacts due to their inevitable erasure of genuine tribal cultures.

Even Halbritter sparred with his tribe’s aboriginal faction for this reason. Dissident members complained that he had assumed the mantra of a “petty tyrant” denying them federal trust funds in violation of their free speech rights. Many were residing on the original reservation, a 32-acre trailer park, while their federally recognized CEO was pursuing his action without their consent against their neighbors.

Both Oneida and Onondaga tribes are among the five founding members of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy whose conquests prior to arrival of the white man reached as far as the Mississippi River with conquered tribes pressed into slavery. The Mohawks and Seneca were reputed to have cannibalism among their rituals. Today, the Mohawks operate a modest facility at the Canadian border while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region remain divorced of any Class III gaming.

Joining the Oneidas on a markedly different path, the Seneca tribe owns three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls with the latter boasting a hotel tower higher than the one at Turning Stone. These contrasts are further complicated by the kind of reparations being sought. Extremists are demanding full sovereignty of “Indian Country” as it is called, a patchwork of certified reservations, reacquired lands and tracts that were consistently occupied. On the opposite end, there are fully assimilated descendants oblivious to all this and those victims who stand by the original treaties.

Local taxing authorities enter the fray

This chaotic landscape took another fateful turn when a nearby municipality entered the fray with a test case of its own seeking to foreclose on Nation properties for nonpayment of taxes. In 2005, a newly constituted Supreme Court referenced the remedy left open in 1985 (“Oneida II”) in City of Sherill v Oneida Indian Nation, 544 US 197 (2005). There it ruled collaterally that reacquisition of lands located within the 250,000-acre tract did not work a union of fee and aboriginal titles and was therefore taxable.

The case may have proved counter-intuitive, however, because the Oneidas were freely donating revenues at the time to local school districts and municipalities known as chain covenant grants. This was a practice to maintain government-to-government cooperation. And for those duped by the notion that mandatory tribal assessments were a welcome substitute for property taxation, their governments rarely eased tax liabilities especially in the “Vampire State.” New York remains hopelessly addicted to all revenue sources to feed an insatiable appetite of free spending.

The Oneidas quickly fired back with a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take their purchased lands into federal trust, thereby returning them to tax-free status Despite the growing feuds, the overriding remedy for treaty and human rights violations was effectively reserved for the Supreme Court’s still pending Oneida Nation litigation. That finally resulted in a federal appeals court decision in 2010 which rejected both possessory and compensatory demands. The Supreme Court then refused to hear the case and that served to extinguish countless claims across the country, making rational people question what this litigation fiasco was all about in the first place.

Litigation aftermath

For Ray Halbritter the myriad of lawsuits was worth every casino penny. The successful interim Supreme Court ruling in 1985 proved that Oneida ambitions were not fringe but a growing juggernaut. Nation leaders influenced state and local officials to shift positions by supporting their proposal for a modest gambling facility which then became the engine for unbridled land development. By the time of the 2010 ruling, Ray Halbritter had become a national figure. He was a prime mover of the decision to rename the Washington Redskins and even sponsored an elaborate float in the Macy’s Day Parade.

In 2013, exasperated players negotiated a global settlement that featured a ratification of the gaming compact, over 15,000 acres of lands for arms-length purchase to be added to trust lands, economic benefits for neighbors, and 25% of slot machine revenues for local municipalities. This forever extinguished longstanding claims, making the litigation journey a success. After all, only twenty years earlier, the tribe resided in a trailer park on its nearby 32-acre reservation.

For the ones offended by this outcome, it threatened to aggravate the growing envies, civil disobedience, and assaults of law enforcement that occurred during the interstate highway blockades in Syracuse and western New York. Even Ray Halbritter remarked in response to complaints of tax-free status that if he had a valid claim as the Supreme Court once ruled, his neighbors should be paying taxes to his Nation. Such inflammatory remarks only ignited further divisions.

Yellowstone caliber saga

This remains a real-life odyssey that Kevin Costner could remake into a Yellowstone type series. Yet nowhere was it mentioned in a pair of front-page articles last week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling. Such practices have found their way into Turning Stone operations.

Not surprisingly, Portnoy lambasted this reporter the next day while ignoring the Elephant in the Courtroom he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the next day article which stressed a lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their combined expenditure of a mere $94 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

Such inequities beg the question: Is this corrupted culture a promising environment for achieving Native American reparations or are we simply repeating a shameful history of Native-American genocide? After all, more indigenous peoples were exterminated by alcohol and disease introduced by European conquerors than the muskets and cannon balls were able to slaughter. The futility of government oversight is palpable in light of the daily corruption unfolding in Washington.

Modern day genocide

The insidious effects of alcohol were well known and exploited by early settlers. With the addition of gambling and illegal drugs in the addiction mix today, Native-Americans are more vulnerable than ever. A portend of this is found in a book by Richard Berleth entitled, Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War & American Revolution on New York’s Frontier (2009). On page 25, an excerpt features Sir Willam Johnson, a British loyalist who was highly trusted by the Iroquois. Together with various missionaries, he was determined to arrest the growing atrocities of alcohol abuse among the tribes:

From the beginning of settlement, the politics of alcohol and Indians troubled European consciences. Barclay was following in the footsteps of New France’s Jesuits by attempting to restrict the epidemic of intoxication of native peoples. Yet, where Indian policy was concerned, clerical qualms gave way to market pressures. As Johnson put it, “rum (was) the only thing they mostly traded for. …

Johnson was never unmindful of the damage alcohol did to the tribes, but he was in no position to dictate what the tribes should want. The missionary impulse grew stronger as the century grew older, and Johnson wrestled with the moral imperatives of Puritan Yankees, Quakers, and his own Anglicans on occasions. But the basic reality of the frontier – recognized by the Dutch in Albany – was that the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, planted solidly in the middle of New York province, had the capability of destroying not only Albany, but white settlements everywhere west of the Hudson.

Johnson’s genius lay in learning to listen to what the Indians wanted.

About the Author

Leon Koziol is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which yielded severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be reached at (315) 796-4000 and leonkoziol@gmail.com

Tale of two towns: the intriguing story of a New York Indian tribe which split on highly divergent paths

Above: These two “towns” face each other on opposite sides of state highway 365 in Verona, New York, illustrating vividly the cavernous difference between casino profiteers and the struggling poor.

Leon Koziol, J.D.

Human Rights Advocate

Founder, Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

It’s not a lesson easily shared, but in this case, it resulted in split tribal factions of the Oneida Indian Nation of upstate New York. One benefited immensely from a lucrative casino compact and other, loyal to tribal customs, was essentially wiped off the map. The moral of this story is that, no matter the race, origin, gender or beliefs, human beings are equally capable of depraved conquest.

This example has its genesis, innocently enough, in a humble bingo parlor that grew overnight into a mega-resort. Its savvy visionary, Ray Halbritter, shocked the world to complete a tribal empire that even he could not have imagined in 1993. That’s when a fledgling gaming compact was transacted between the state and nation pursuant to the newly enacted Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Although gambling was prohibited under New York’s Constitution, Halbritter was able to lobby politicians to support him under a solemn promise to control addictions and prohibit alcohol, illegal drugs and nefarious activity.

But much like the broken treaties, that promise was torched as the casino morphed into a billion-dollar operation with questionable oversight of a semi-sovereign nation. It now features a full range of alcohol services, expanded gaming tables, sports betting parlor, evident prostitution and drug abuses, gambling debts of home foreclosure variety, suicides, crime, bankruptcies, and a flood of addictions. And the lust for easy profits continues to prevail over its vast collateral harm.

To distract from the obvious, the three-decade CEO of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises routinely counters this harm by citing the thousands of jobs and high-end amenities created by Turning Stone. It features shows to rival any Las Vegas casino, three PGA level golf courses, an entertainment mecca known as Exit 33, diverse eating establishments, and a hotel tower rising 20 floors and 250 feet above the surrounding farm fields. Halbritter rightfully boasts a world class conference center.

The pandemic proved to be little more than a dent on all this progress. On September 6, 2022, Halbritter, held a high-profile news conference to announce “the largest expansion” of his resort that “will nearly double the existing convention center” with a second skyscraper hotel. This week, he unveiled its most elaborate holiday display ever with 160 decorated trees, over 2 million LED lights, giant figurines, gaudy entrance road and Gingerbread Village.

Not exactly the report one would expect from a discriminated people languishing in poverty. And no excess was spared. But that’s where a long festering division among Indian tribes resurrected the reparations debate. Traditional leaders like those of the adjacent Onondaga Indian Nation in Syracuse had long refused to seek any gaming compacts due to their inevitable erasure of genuine tribal cultures.

Indeed, even Halbritter sparred with the traditionalist faction of the Oneida tribe. Members have complained that he has assumed the mantra of a “petty tyrant” denying them federal trust funds in violation of their free speech rights. Many were residing on the original reservation, a 32-acre trailer park, while their federally recognized CEO was pursuing a class action lawsuit against neighboring landowners for their ejectment from a 250,000-acre tract. 

Both Oneida and Onondaga tribes are among the five founding members of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy whose conquests prior to arrival of the white man reached as far as the Mississippi River with conquered tribes pressed into slavery. The Mohawks and Seneca were reputed to have cannibalism among their rituals. Today, the Mohawks operate a modest facility at the Canadian border while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region remain divorced of any Class III gaming.

Joining the Oneidas on a markedly different path, the Seneca tribe owns three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls with the latter boasting a hotel tower higher than the one at Turning Stone. These contrasts are further complicated by the kind of reparations being sought. Extremists are demanding full sovereignty of “Indian Country” as it is called, a patchwork of certified reservations, reacquired lands and tracts that were consistently occupied. On the opposite end, there are fully assimilated descendants oblivious to all this and those victims who stand by the original treaties.

But the latter activists were once again betrayed by a Supreme Court that sparked a plague of conflicting decisions over a forty-year period. By way of background, prior to the 1993 gaming compact, the Oneidas filed a test case followed by a plenary one for 250,000 acres in 1970 and 1974 respectively. Among other filings was one seeking 6 million acres between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders. In 1974 the Supreme Court found valid jurisdiction to decide both cases.

Then in 1985, by a 5-4 , ruling, it gave merit to the 1974 plenary claim based on a 1794 treaty violation, leaving open the question of a remedy. This led to the 1998 class action financed by casino profits after years of settlement discussions collapsed. In 2005, a newly constituted Court referenced the remedy left open in 1985 (“Oneida II”) in City of Sherill v Oneida Indian Nation, 544 US 197 (2005). There it ruled collaterally that reacquisition of lands located within the 250,000-acre tract did not work a union of fee and aboriginal titles and was therefore taxable by state and local municipalities.

The case may have proved counter-intuitive because the Oneidas were freely donating substantial revenues at the time to local school districts and municipalities known as chain covenant grants. This was a practice to maintain government-to-government cooperation. And for those duped by the notion that mandatory tribal assessments were a welcome substitute for property taxation, their governments rarely eased tax liabilities especially in the “Vampire State.” New York remains hopelessly addicted to all revenue sources to feed an insatiable appetite of free spending.

The Oneidas quickly fired back with a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take their purchased lands into federal trust, thereby returning them to tax-free status Despite the growing feuds, the overriding issue of a remedy was effectively reserved for the Supreme Court’s still pending Oneida Nation litigation. That finally resulted in a federal appeals court decision in 2010 which rejected both possessory and compensatory demands. The Supreme Court then refused to hear the case and that served essentially to extinguish countless claims across the country.

This decisional fiasco has not only re-opened old wounds for exasperated tribal leaders, but it also ushered in alternate avenues for reparations. For the Oneidas’ part, a 2013 global settlement was achieved which featured a ratification of their gaming compact, over 15,000 acres of lands for arms-length purchase to be added to trust lands, economic benefits for neighbors, and 25% of all slot machine revenues to local entities. This forever extinguished its longstanding claims, making its litigation journey a success. After all, only twenty years earlier, the entire tribe resided in a trailer park on its nearby, federally recognized, 32-acre reservation.

For the ones offended by this outcome, it threatened to aggravate the growing variety of protests, civil disobedience of the kind launched during the 60s, and assaults of law enforcement that occurred during the interstate highway blockades in Syracuse and western New York. Even Ray Halbritter remarked in response to complaints of tax-free status that if he had a valid claim as the Supreme Court once ruled, his neighbors should be paying taxes to his Nation. Such inflammatory remarks only ignited further divisions while derailing settlement efforts.

Nowhere were these ominous developments mentioned in a pair of front-page articles last week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling. Such deceptive practices have found their way into Turning Stone operations.

Not surprisingly, Portnoy lambasted this reporter the next day while ignoring the Elephant in the Courtroom he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the next day article which stressed a lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their combined expenditure of a mere $94 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

Is this corrupted culture a promising environment for achieving Native American reparations?

About the Author

Leon Koziol is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which led to severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be contacted directly at leonkoziol@gmail.com and (315) 796-4000.

In light of Supreme Court decisions rejecting land claims, are Native-Americans entitled to reparations in the form of gaming compacts?

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Former Human Rights Attorney

Founder of nonprofit Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

Each November is National American Indian Heritage Month. And while we have enjoyed a renewed enlightenment to the diverse cultures of Indian tribes, the dark side is often omitted. In the two-century history of human rights violations inflicted upon Native-American tribes, cultural celebrations have been decried as woefully inadequate to correct the injustices.

Indeed, at least twelve states no longer celebrate Columbus Day despite its status as a federal holiday with many jurisdictions replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. Joe Biden became the first president to give this day recognition on October 8, 2021. However, the testy issue of reparations has remained taboo not unlike the forty acres and a mule promised to freed slaves.

Among the reasons is a steady growth of Indian casinos. For perspective, the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Casino began as a modest operation resembling a bingo hall. As part of its pitch for a Class III gaming compact, Nation CEO Ray Halbritter promised neighbors that gambling would be controlled while alcohol and nefarious activity would be prohibited.

But much like the broken treaties, that promise was torched as the casino morphed into a billion-dollar enterprise. It now features a full range of alcohol services, expanded gaming tables, sports betting parlor, evident prostitution and drug abuses, gambling debts, bankruptcies, and a flood of addictions. And the lust for easy profits continues to prevail over its vast collateral harm.

Countering this harm are the thousands of jobs and high-end amenities created by Turning Stone. It features shows to rival any Las Vegas casino, three PGA level golf courses, an entertainment mecca known as Exit 33, diverse eating establishments, and a hotel tower rising 20 floors and 250 feet above the surrounding farm fields. It has become a world class conference center.

The pandemic proved to be little more than a dent on all this progress. On September 6, 2022, the Oneida Nation announced “the largest expansion” of its resort that “will nearly double the existing convention center” with a second skyscraper hotel. This week, it unveiled its most elaborate holiday display ever with 160 decorated trees, over 2 million LED lights and Gingerbread Village.

Not exactly the report one would expect from a discriminated people languishing in poverty. But that’s where a long festering division among Indian tribes resurrects the reparations debate. Traditional leaders like those of the adjacent Onondaga Indian Nation in Syracuse refuse to seek any gaming compacts due to their inevitable erasure of genuine tribal cultures.

Indeed, even Halbritter has sparred with the traditionalist faction of the Oneida tribe. Members have complained that he has assumed the mantra of a “petty tyrant” denying them federal trust funds in violation of their free speech rights. Many were residing on the original reservation, a 32-acre trailer park while their federally recognized CEO was pursuing a class action against neighboring landowners for their ejectment from a 250,000-acre tract. 

Both Oneida and Onondaga tribes are among the five founding members of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy of upstate New York. The Mohawks operate a modest facility at the Canadian border while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region remain divorced of any Class III gaming. In contrast, the Senecas operate three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls with the latter boasting a hotel tower higher than the one at Turning Stone.

This division is further complicated by the kind of reparations being sought. These include a complete restoration of “Indian Country” as it is called, to sovereign status, a patchwork of certified reservations, reacquired lands and tracts that were consistently occupied. On the less extreme end, there are fully assimilated descendants oblivious to all this and those victims who stand by the original treaties.

But the latter activists were once again betrayed by a Supreme Court that sparked a plague of conflicting decisions over a forty-year period. By way of background, prior to the 1993 gaming compact, the Oneidas filed a test case followed by a plenary one for 250,000 acres in 1970 and 1974 respectively. Among other filings was one seeking 6 million acres between the Pennsylvania and Canadian borders. In 1974 the Supreme Court found valid jurisdiction to decide both cases.

Then in 1985, by a 5-4 , ruling, it gave merit to the l974 plenary claim based on a 1794 treaty violation leaving open the question of a remedy. This led to the 1998 class action financed by casino profits after years of settlement discussions collapsed. In 2005, a newly constituted Court addressed the remedy question left open in 1985 (“Oneida II”) in City of Sherill v Oneida Indian Nation, 544 US 197 (2005). There it ruled collaterally that reacquisition of lands located within the 250,000-acre tract did not work a union of fee and aboriginal titles and was therefore taxable by state and local municipalities.

The case may have proved counter-intuitive because the Oneidas were freely donating substantial revenues at the time to local school districts and municipalities known as chain covenant grants. This was a traditional tribal practice to maintain government-to-government cooperation. And for those duped by the notion that tribal income was a welcome substitute for property taxation, their governments rarely ease tax liabilities especially in the “Vampire State.” New York remains hopelessly addicted to all revenue sources to feed an insatiable appetite of free spending.

The Oneidas quickly fired back with a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take their purchased lands into federal trust, thereby returning them to tax-free status Despite the growing feuds, the overriding issue of a remedy was effectively reserved for the Supreme Court’s still pending Oneida Nation litigation. That finally resulted in a federal appeals court decision in 2010 which rejected both possessory and compensatory demands. The high court then refused to hear the case and that served to undermine countless land claims across the country.

This decisional fiasco has not only re-opened old wounds for exasperated tribal leaders, but it also ushered in alternate avenues for reparations. For the Oneidas’ part, a 2013 global settlement was achieved to forever extinguish its longstanding claims, making its litigation journey a success. After all, only twenty years earlier, the entire tribe resided in a trailer park on its nearby 32-acre reservation. For other factions and tribes, the checkered litigation has encouraged a return to violence.

With the growing tide of mass shootings, civil disobedience of the kind that tribes launched during the 60s is particularly alluring for those seeking complete sovereignty. Even Ray Halbritter remarked in response to complaints of tax-free status that if he had a valid claim as the Supreme Court once ruled, his neighbors should be paying taxes to his Nation. Such inflammatory remarks only ignited further divisions while derailing settlement efforts.

Nowhere were these ominous developments mentioned in a pair of front-page articles last week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling. Such deceptive practices have found their way into Turning Stone operations.

Not surprisingly, Portnoy lambasted this reporter the next day while ignoring the Elephant in the Courtroom he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the next day article which stressed a lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their combined expenditure of a mere $94 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

Is this corrupted culture a promising environment for achieving Native American reparations?

About the Author

Leon Koziol is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Native-American tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the 1993 Turning Stone gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of victimized parents in divorce and family courts. It was part of the author’s bold challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which led to severe retributions upon his law licenses and parent-child relationships. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

Leon Koziol can be contacted directly at leonkoziol@gmail.com and (315) 796-4000.

Highly educational video by NBC crew features parental rights advocate Leon Koziol seeking to sponsor another 3-day event in Washington

Christmas Tree at Half Mast

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Parenting Rights Institute

Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

This year I decided to forego the traditional elaborate decoration of my 70-foot pine tree. Instead, I displayed a scaled down version halfway up which I call my “CHRISTMAS TREE AT HALF MAST.” I did this to signify the deaths of my father-daughter relationships at the hands of a corrupt family court system.

Kristen and Cassandra: if you are reading this, recall the many Christmas seasons we shared together. We were all so happy then. There is still time to reverse some of the damage done to us that would mean so much to your loving dad this holiday season.

As always, please call me.

I am also decorating at “half-mast” to recognize parent-child alienations everywhere. Many of the judges, lawyers and players who pursued it as a custody tactic or whistleblower retribution in my case are literally dead. But wherever they are now, they will hopefully be held to account for their mortal sins on humanity.

These were God’s creations that they abused.

In the end, their fees, egos and possessions could not be taken to any afterlife if you believe in that sort of thing, but for my part, the “CHRISTMAS TREE AT HALF MAST” will also be a memorial to them, not in a good or holy way, but as a reminder of the depravity of separating a loving parent permanently from his or her child.

This would be a good post to share with the world for inspiration

The Parent March on Washington Years Later: Our Predictions Vindicated

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Parenting Rights Institute

How profound were our predictions, how true they have become today! And it’s only gotten worse, even beyond our worst nightmares as 5-year olds are introduced to gender reassignments in our schools, nine-year-olds are educated on oral sex, woke mandates are imposed to force white children to accept guilt over injustices they did not cause , and creationist views of diverse religions are prohibited in all forms.

What happened to core teaching of the skills we taxpayers expect of these schools? Finally, parents have awoken to the ominous trends reflected by the mad rush of Black Friday gluttons and shameless advertisers. They are now energized to new levels with volatile protests at public forums across the country much like we did in 2019.

Yes, save our country, but save our children first. After all, they are the future generation who will act on our moral upbringing or descend further into this growing abyss of evil. Join our cause at http://www.parentingrightsinstitute.com and http://www.leonkoziol.com. You can also call our office at (315) 380-3420 or me directly at (315) 796-4000, e-mail at leonkoziol@gmail.com.

Heading for an Indian casino on Thanksgiving: gambling venues expand despite addictions that are crippling the poor and middle class

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Parenting Rights Institute

Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

In a recent story at Syracuse.com (Post Standard), reporter Elizabeth Doran emphasizes that “Casinos are popping up all over New York state, and their locations are getting closer and closer to Onondaga County.” She goes on to ask, “So why not open a casino in Syracuse or somewhere right in Onondaga County, home of 468,000 people?”

The answer is then revealed in the Native-American traditions of the Onondaga Indian Nation, the central tribe of the once powerful Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy of upstate New York. Its leadership and members continue to adhere to principles that oppose gambling and the vast harm it causes. But elsewhere in the confederacy, tribes such as the Mohawks, Oneidas and Senecas are building or expanding casinos that rival the resorts of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

The most prominent among them is the Oneida Indian Nation Turning Stone Casino which boasts an entertainment mecca of night clubs, restaurants and high-end shows, PGA-level golf courses, and a skyscraper hotel that rises 20 floors or 250 feet above the surrounding cornfields. The Mohawks have a small operation at the Akwesasne (St. Regis) reservation on the northeast corner of the state straddling the border with Canada while the Cayugas of the Finger Lakes region are set to open their first venue limited for the time being to Class II gaming.

In contrast, a fifth tribe of the confederacy, the Seneca in the western part of the state, is poised to overtake the dominance of the Oneidas with its casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls. The latter features a tower slightly taller than the one at Turning Stone. The Oneidas got a jump on their sister nations based largely on the fact that they were the only tribe in the confederacy that sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War.

But it did not used to be like this. When Turning Stone opened in 1993, it was little more than a bingo-sized facility premised on a commitment to prohibit alcohol, smoking, and nefarious activity. Today, it is all that and more with rampant drug use, a full range of alcohol service, an underworld presence and prostitution of various kinds. Most recently it boasted a sports book betting parlor that displaced its Harvest Buffet cafeteria. The scene features a bar, restaurant, a range of sporting events on its many widescreens, and now the capacity to bet on terminals apart from the teller booths.

Nowhere were these ominous developments mentioned in a pair of articles this week in the New York Times. The first, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Emily Steel, focused on David Portnoy, the mega on-line sports betting figure who operates Barstool Sports. After months of research, she detailed how the gambling industry has yielded epic levels of addictions with impotent oversight.

Ms. Steel references the sexual harassment, misogyny, and racism allegations surrounding Portnoy’s sudden rise to billionaire status. She goes on to verify the corrupted industry by documenting highly deceptive practices like those of FanDuel which attracted countless victims through promises of refunds for any betting losses only to condition payment on their application to continued gambling.

Not surprisingly, David Portnoy lambasted the author the next day on the Tucker Carlson show. But his focus was on defending himself while ignoring the “Elephant in the Courtroom” he helped create. Indeed, he had no comments regarding the lack of federal funding for gambling addictions, the undue deference to the states which benefit from the tax revenues, and their collective expenditure of a mere $93 million in a $250 billion betting industry. That came to .03% of amounts spent on substance abuse.

There have been no studies to show how this industry has destroyed entire families, businesses, worker productivity and child support capacities while helping elevate crime to unprecedented levels. It may be that the central firekeeper of the Iroquoi Confederacy known as the Onondaga Indian Nation had it right all along. It has wisely distinguished itself as a people genuinely committed to earthly preservation and superior moral fiber as they journey toward a more welcoming sky world.