In this March 10, 2011 file photo, State Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn enters FBI headquarters to surrender to federal authorities, in New York. Kruger was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday, April 26, 2012, after pleading guilty to accepting nearly a half-million dollars in bribes from a variety of business people.

Senator Who Sought Indian Tobacco-Tax Gets 7 Years on Corruption Charges

Gale Courey Toensing

A former state senator who relentlessly attacked the Seneca Nation of Indians and other indigenous communities for selling tax-free cigarettes on Indian reservations has been sentenced to seven years in prisons on corruption charges.

Carl Kruger, an influential state senator from Brooklyn, was sentenced by a federal court judge in New York on April 26, the New York Times reported. Kruger resigned his office in disgrace after pleading guilty last December to corruption charges, including bribery schemes in which he accepted nearly half a million dollars in exchange for taking official action as a senator.

The former state senator reached notoriety in Indian country in New York in 2010 for inserting himself into the judicial process over the state’s controversial plan to force American Indian businesses to collect state taxes on cigarettes they sell on sovereign Indian land to non-Indian customers. The Seneca Nation had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in August 2010, challenging the legality of amendments to the state’s tax law and companion emergency regulations that would force Indian tobacco businesses to collect cigarette taxes for the state by requiring all cigarettes sold to reservations to have an affixed cigarette stamp. The Seneca Nation ultimately lost the lawsuit, but it was still wending its way through the legal process when Kruger wrote to the federal court judge, telling him to back off.

“As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I submit that there is no issue of law to decide in the (lawsuit). Issues regarding this matter was (sic) already adjudicated and decided favorable (sic) for New York State by the lower courts, by the Court of Appeals Second Circuit and by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kruger wrote in a September 2, 2010 letter to the Hon. Richard J. Arcara.

The letter also said that Indians should pay their “fair share” of taxes. “Taxes are part of life and must be equally applied without preferential treatment. It is imperative that New York State be allowed to obtain its funds to which it is legally entitled,” he wrote. A Seneca citizen at the time said Kruger was “ignorant of history” and the Nation’s treaties with the United States. The 1842 Treaty of Buffalo, for example, says in part that the U.S. “will protect such lands of the Seneca Indians, within the State of New York, as may from time to time remain in their possession from all taxes, and assessments for roads, highways, or any other purpose.”

The Seneca citizen also accused Kruger of hypocrisy. “It also smacks of hypocrisy for Kruger to say the Senecas should not get what he calls ‘preferential treatment,’ and then to see that he is under investigation for allegedly trading favors,” the Seneca citizen said.

None of the media reports on Kruger’s sentencing mention whether the former senator will be required to pay taxes on the roughly half-a-million dollars in bribes that he accepted.

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