Indian Tribe Sues Abramoff, Reed

Local Iraqis view the body of a woman killed in a car bomb attack, Sunday, July 23, 2006, in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. A car bomb detonated at midday near a courthouse in the city market district, killing 20 and wounding more than 150, according to police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir.
A Texas Indian tribe filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and their associates engaged in fraud and racketeering to shut down the tribe's casino.

The Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Livingston, Texas, alleged the defendants defrauded the tribe, the people of Texas and the Legislature to benefit another of Abramoff's clients — the Louisiana Coushatta tribe — and "line their pockets with money."

"Ultimately, the defendants' greed and corruption led to the Alabama-Coushatta tribe permanently shutting its casino. The funding for economic programs evaporated, over 300 jobs were lost in Polk County and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has spent years struggling to recover and revitalize its economy through other means," the tribe said in its lawsuit.

Abramoff had no comment, a spokesman said.

Reed, now seeking the Republican nomination for Georgia lieutenant governor, said through his spokeswoman that the lawsuit is frivolous and "utterly without merit."

The lawsuit also names Abramoff's ex-business partner Michael Scanlon, a former aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land; Neil Volz, a former aide to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio; and Jon Van Horne, Abramoff's former colleague at his law and lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach the other defendants were not immediately successful.

Although the tribe alleges Greenberg Traurig was part of the scheme, it did not name the firm as a defendant. Attorney Fred Petti said the tribe is in settlement discussions with the firm.

The tribe did not specify how much money it is seeking in the lawsuit. Petti said the tribe is asking for the amount of revenue it lost since it was forced to close down its casino. The casino operated for only nine months and shut down in 2002.

"It'll be in the tens if not the hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

Without its casino, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has lost opportunities to improve housing, roads and education programs for its members, said tribal chairwoman Jo Ann Battise.

"What we're looking for through this lawsuit is the right to make our own decisions, the right to run our own gaming operations, the right to have the same opportunity as other tribes across the nation," Battise said in Austin, Texas, where the lawsuit was filed.