MALONE — About 70 Akwesasne Mohawks filled the Franklin County Courtroom Friday for the arraignment of a Hogansburg man accused of taking land from its deeded owner.
And the case could be the catalyst for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to have its land-claims case heard before the United States Supreme Court.
William Roger Jock (Kanaratiio), 50, was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree grand larceny for allegedly depriving deeded owner, Horst Wuersching, of a 240-acre parcel on Route 11 near the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.
Jock pleaded not guilty before Judge Robert G. Main Jr. through his attorneys, Brian Barrett of Lake Placid and Lorraine White of Akwesasne, a former chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council.
The grand-larceny charge refers to the theft of land with a value above $50,000.
According to the County Treasurer's Office, the parcel is assessed at $16,800. But there has not been a land revaluation in the Town of Bombay for more than 50 years, leaving the equalization rate there at 3.12 percent.
The true market value of the land at 100 percent equalization is $538,462.
If convicted, the maximum, indeterminate sentence for grand larceny is five to 15 years in state prison.
Jock was released under the supervision of the Probation Department, and an order of protection was issued forbidding him from going back to the disputed land.
The spectators, many of whom were dressed in traditional clothing and elaborate feather headdresses, broke into loud applause when Jock, a member of the traditional Mohawk group known as the Men's Council, was escorted into the courtroom, flanked by three armed officers.
Seven more security personnel were scattered about the room, including Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill.
Jock, who was handcuffed and shackled about the waist, smiled and waved the best he could to people in the gallery, who also included former members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council.