Attorney for Peyote-using Shaman Plans Lawsuit

Attorney for Peyote-using Shaman Plans Lawsuit

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SOUTH OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- An attorney for James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney plans to sue Utah County officials who unsuccessfully prosecuted the Native American Church shaman for using peyote in religious ceremonies.

Attorney Randall Marshall said he and Mooney will be in front of Salt Lake City's Federal Building , Wednesday morning to discuss the federal court lawsuit.

"Our constitutional rights are eroding quickly enough," Marshall said. "I would think, of all places, Utah would understand freedom of religion."

Marshall, a former Weber County public defender now in private practice in South Ogden, said "People like (Utah County Attorney Kay) Bryson and his staff shouldn't be allowed to trample somebody's rights just because they don't like someone. We're a nation of laws. We can't have vigilante prosecutors."

A spokesman in Bryson's office Monday said he was out of town and a deputy prosecutor, Dave Wayment, who assisted in Mooney's prosecution was unavailable for comment.

Charges of drug distribution hung over Mooney's head for more than four years before the Utah Supreme court ruled last June that the congressional-approved exemption in the law allowing use of peyote sacraments in Native American Indian rites was not restricted to Indians.

A protÄegÄe of Mooney's, Nick Stark of Ogden, also was charged but his trial was delayed pending the outcome of Mooney's case.

Prosecutors in the Weber and Utah county attorney's offices dismissed the charges against Mooney and Stark last fall, but did not return to the men the thousands of peyote buttons, cash and other items seized by police.

Instead, they turned the seized material over to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake.

Charges have yet to be filed in federal court, Melody Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Monday. "The cases are still under investigation," she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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