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COURT

Split verdict returned in trial of man accused in 2020 Cayuga Nation brawl

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2020 Photos Of The Year 97.JPG

Charles Bowman, supporter of the Cayuga Nation Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, is taken into custody Feb. 29, 2020, by Cayuga Nation police after fighting breaks out between opposing nation factions follwing a Haudenosaunee press conference protesting a land dispute. The nation police turned the matter over to local law enforcement, citing Bowman's status as a non-citizen of the Cayuga Nation.

A town court jury has delivered its verdict in the trial of a Seneca County man charged with two crimes connected with the 2020 fight that broke out on Cayuga Nation land.

A Seneca Falls Town Court trial resulted in the acquittal of Charles Bowman, of Fayette, on a third-degree assault charge but a conviction on a third-degree criminal trespass charge, court officials said Tuesday.

Seneca Falls Town Justice Laverne C. Lafler Jr. presided over the trial, which started June 14. Bowman is due back in court for sentencing on Sept. 28.

The trespass charge is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to three months of incarceration and a fine of $500, or a year of probation.

Bowman, who is not a Cayuga Nation citizen, was involved in the fighting that broke out between the nation's traditional members and Cayuga Nation police and security personnel took place Feb. 29, 2020 on nation property in Seneca Falls.

A brawl erupted following a press conference held by the Cayuga Nation Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at a site the traditional faction had occupied for several years. The Cayuga Nation Police Department was formed by federal representative Clint Halftown, whose leadership the traditional Cayugas oppose. A week prior to the clash, Halftown's forces raided the site and destroyed buildings, claiming the property was being occupied illegally. Citing the nation's sovereign status, local law enforcement did not intervene in that property dispute.

In May 2021, the Seneca County District Attorney's Office filed the two criminal charges against Bowman after convening a grand jury to review the incident.

Since those charges were filed, Halftown and the Cayuga Nation police chief filed a defamation lawsuit against Bowman, who filed his own counter-suit in response. Bowman previously had sued the Cayuga Nation Police Department leader and the private security hired to assist the nation police, alleging he was assaulted.

In a statement issued through its Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm, Levick, the Cayuga Nation lauded the trespassing conviction against Bowman without address the acquittal on the assault charge.

"Mr. Bowman trespassed onto Nation property and quickly engaged in a series of violent confrontations, despite repeated warnings from Nation police officers," the statement said. "The Seneca Falls Police Department did the lawful thing in investigating Mr. Bowman’s conduct and referring it for prosecution. Those who violate the law should be held accountable, and the Cayuga Nation appreciates the jury’s careful consideration of the evidence resulting in the just conviction Mr. Bowman for his unlawful trespassing on Cayuga Nation property."

Bowman told The Citizen that he was pleased with assault charge acquittal, and that while he respects the jury verdict on the trespassing count based on the information they received, he will likely appeal that conviction.

Bowman said he hopes Seneca Falls law enforcement now will file charges against members of the Cayuga Nation Police Department and the security firm that was present that day.

"The men who assaulted me should now be arrested," Bowman said. "The excuses to protect these men need to end."

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