Carol Berry
A plea deal? Not quite yet.

High-Dollar Damages May Threaten Plea Deal in Running Wolf Case

Carol Berry
10/15/13

 

A felony case involving theft from the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce took an unexpected turn in Denver District Court when a major civil lawsuit surfaced at the last minute, angering a prosecuting attorney and possibly thwarting a plea deal.

Josh Running Wolf, Blackfeet, former Chamber director, pleaded guilty to felony check forgery and theft charges in July and was to have been sentenced October 11 after submitting $30,000 in restitution to keep the felony off his record and to avoid prison time.

RELATED: Lies, Betrayal, & Embezzlement: Chamber of Commerce Head Pleads Guilty

But the unexpected civil suit filed by the Chamber seeking $270,000 from Running Wolf would “set Running Wolf up to fail,” said Joe Morales, chief deputy district attorney for economic crimes.

The deputy DA said Running Wolf would be unable to make monthly payments to satisfy a $270,000 debt along with other monthly obligations, including child support, and as a result would end up going to jail, benefitting no creditors.

Runningwolf had brought a check for $30,000 to the court system October 11 as part of the prearranged plea agreement, but it was withdrawn in light of further litigation and a possible jury trial.

The deputy DA said he had been made aware of the civil suit just shortly before Running Wolf’s current court appearance, at which time Running Wolf had expected to be sentenced according to the plea agreement that included the $30,000 restitution.

A conviction on the theft charge could have carried a penalty of 4 to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least $3,000; the forgery charge can carry a sentence of 1 to 3 years and a fine of at least $1,000. Both sentences and fines can be higher or lower, depending on circumstances.

Dee St. Cyr, Winnebago and chair of the Chamber’s board of directors, said the board didn’t understand why the civil lawsuit was a surprise to officials since a staff member of the DA’s office was present at Running Wolf’s arrest in January when a civil suit was discussed.

“We didn’t understand the system,” she said. “An attorney advised us and since the DA’s representative was present at his arrest, the DA should have known.”

Running Wolf’s attorney, W. Harold Flowers, who had also been caught off guard by the civil lawsuit, asked to withdraw as his counsel, a request approved by the court, which gave Running Wolf 60 days to find another lawyer.

RELATED: Former Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce President Under Investigation for Theft and Forgery

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Guest's picture
Guest
Submitted by Guest on
sounds like the board chair was trying to pull a sneaky move, she knew exactly what she was doing and understands the system well. restitution was owed but to go this far shows the greediness and unethical behavior on the board. Trying to get more money that was actually due is a form of theft, no matter how you look at it. Sounds like an evil agenda on the board's part, someone should look into that

Glen's picture
Glen
Submitted by Glen on
Corruption usually begins at the top. There's something fishy going on here? More than meets the eye? Why else would the board ask for more money than was due? Greed & corruption go hand in hand. And it takes a lot to anger the prosecuting attorney, but usually lies and behind-the-back moves like this that was pulled by the board will do it.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I beg to differ. It reads that the defending council was forewarned of the total amount but they failed to take that into account that the organization might want their money back. I would too! Taking the easy way out was not going to be an option, at least, that's what the judge is implying. Unexpected or not, the defending council should have been prepared for a move like this.

Guest20's picture
Guest20
Submitted by Guest20 on
Side Note.... Debbie Emoolah (Indian Chamber Board Member) is Mr. Running Wolf's former mother in-law. The hate she has for Mr. Running Wolf would make it on a more personal level. It would be interesting to know how much of of the amount in question was actually monetary. This case is more then a man taking money....

Barry One Star 's picture
Barry One Star
Submitted by Barry One Star on
It clearly states that the District Attorney was surprised that Ms. St. Cry did this action behind his back. I am sure Mr. Running Wolf and his attorney probaby was surprised that filed a civil law suit... maybe they weren't either, because the chamber looks very hateful and greedy towards this young man. Wow! One of the board members is his ex-mother in-law? That sounds very personal to me...

Reader's picture
Reader
Submitted by Reader on
Actually, Anonymous, it reads that the DA, the prosecutor, was also caught off guard, not just the defending council. If both sides, defending AND prosecuting, were caught off guard, what does that tell you? The article reads that the Chamber had reached an agreement, which means that they were going to get their money back. Then on top of that, they filed a civil suit, without the knowledge of the District Attorney OR the defending council. That is highly questionable move. Sad case all around.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Personal vendetta's aren't an issue in this case. You have to ask yourself, was it right for Mr. Running Wolf to write checks to himself? When is it okay to steal from your employer? I think everyone would agree that NO, It's not okay! Do you think this company would want their money back? Of course! Whatever the money spent on is not that fact of the matter here. The fact is that Mr. Running Wolf STOLE $270,000! May justice be served.

Reader's picture
Reader
Submitted by Reader on
Anonymous, No one is arguing the fact that restitution was owed. the article does read that the defendant was issuing restitution, rightfully so, so the company WAS getting the money back.Though you might want to check on the amount that was actually owed, the fact that you stated isn't correct. It's the amount that the board filed a civil suit for. On top of the amount they filed for in the criminal suit. Which would make that amount insanely high. If the defendant truly did take that amount of money, the combined total of the criminal and civil, he would be in prison. Also, a criminal and civil suit cannot be prosecuted at the same time, that is also what this article is about, it sheds light on how the board went behind the DA to file the civil suit, which caused a major blow to the criminal suit. that is a corrupt move, even the DA knows that. it sounds like justice was served, then the prosecuting side messed it up for themselves.

Former Denver Resident's picture
Former Denver R...
Submitted by Former Denver R... on
The figure original discussed is $270,000.00!! Ex-Mother in-law or not has nothing to do with it. Would any of you settle for $30,000 instead of the original money stolen. He already pleaded guilty to it...that means HE'S GUILTY!!! Sounds like his Attorney was working deal to get over on RMICC. He's an admitted FELON, may justice prevail. Go to JAIL!! GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL!! Don't pass GO, Don't collect $200.00 dollars. He'll have a chance to pay the money back, that's what monitored parole is for. By the way, what's the company name on his jacket? Does that say Beacon Printing??? Sounds like some GOOD advertisement for Beacon Printing.
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