Judge delays ruling on Indian tax case

A state Supreme Court decision on whether or not Cayuga and Seneca county law enforcement agencies legally raided two Cayuga Nation-owned businesses last week will not be released until next week.
Given the complexity and the volume of the information provided by representatives for the Cayuga and Seneca county district attorneys' and sheriffs' offices and the tribe's lawyers, Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Fisher said on Wednesday that he would go over all of the information before making a decision.

The hearing focused on whether or not the Lake Side Trading stores in Union Springs and Seneca Falls are on recognized reservations, and if the counties have a right to impose state cigarette excise tax laws on the businesses.

Both businesses were simultaneously raided by deputies on Nov. 25 after Fisher signed a warrant authorizing the search and seizure of any untaxed cigarettes and any related evidence. Nearly 3.5 million untaxed cigarettes were collected between the two stores.

Lawyers for the Cayuga Nation argued the search was illegal because there are no applicable tax laws to collect the money from the nation because it is on a reservation.

Representatives for the district attorneys' and sheriffs' offices argued that the stores were not on a recognized reservation and that there have always been laws requiring the collection of excise tax on purchases made between American Indians and state residents.

According to state laws, only sales between American Indians are tax exempt.

Both Seneca County District Attorney Richard Swinehart and Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann agreed not to file felony tax evasion charges against the nation until after Fisher issues a decision.

B.J. Radford, the chief operating officer for the store in Cayuga County, said that the businesses have not restocked their cigarettes.

By: Nate Robson / The Citizen

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 2:38 PM EST