News and Press Releases

Former ho-Chunk nation legislator pleads guilty to bribery

April 10, 2012

Madison, Wis. - John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Clarence Pettibone, 53, Black River Falls, Wis., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Madison to accepting a bribe in violation of federal law.

U.S. District Chief Judge William M. Conley scheduled sentencing for July 11, 2012. Pettibone faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

Pettibone was charged in a bribery conspiracy, along with co-defendants Timothy Whiteagle and Deborah Atherton. The trial of Whiteagle and Atherton is scheduled to start on July 23, 2012.

At the hearing, Pettibone acknowledged the following facts:

The Ho-Chunk Nation is an Indian tribal government. Tribal members of the Ho-Chunk Nation live and work in Western District Wisconsin.

From 2002 to 2009, Clarence Pettibone was a Ho-Chunk government official – an elected Ho-Chunk legislator. At various times from 2002 to 2009, Pettibone served as vice president, as chairman of the legislature's Finance Committee, and as a member of the legislature's Development Committee.

In 2006 and 2007, Pettibone knew that co-defendants Timothy Whiteagle and Deborah Atherton represented a company known as Trinity Financial Group ("Trinity"). During that time, Pettibone officially supported Trinity in the Ho-Chunk Nation legislature, and Trinity received $250,000 from the Nation for a preliminary housing study. In 2007, Whiteagle and Atherton gave Pettibone a 1989 Pontiac Firebird worth $8,000, and Pettibone accepted the car knowing it was intended to influence and to reward him for his support of Trinity.

The charges against Pettibone were the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen P. Sinnott and Laura Przybylinski Finn.

You are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that co-defendants Timothy Whiteagle and Deborah Atherton are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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