Judge denies petition by convicted drug dealer

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Blair County judge has quickly dismissed a petition by a convicted drug dealer from the Buffalo, N.Y., area who charged his rights were violated because his initial arrest in 1999 was not cleared by Congress or the Six Nations of Indians Tribe of which he claims to be a member.

Kenneth Monture asked Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva to vacate his lengthy prison sentence and dismiss the charges against him because police allegedly disregarded treaties between the United States and the Six Nations tribe. Those treaties, according to Monture, dated back to the late 1700s.

The petition was filed in December, but Kopriva, in an order filed with the Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts on Tuesday, dismissed the legal claim without a hearing, stating Monture has pursued various challenges to the many drug charges filed against him for the past 15 years and, she concluded, he never raised a jurisdiction question, or a challenge to the charges being filed in Blair County.

Kopriva’s dismissal of the Monture’s latest petition was “without prejudice,” meaning that he could raise the claim again in a more appropriate court.

The federal courts often hear cases in which different jurisdictions are involved.

For instance, it is not unusual for the federal court to hear a case in which damages are being sought for an automobile accident where a local resident may have been injured in a collision with a vehicle registered in another state, or a contract case in which a local company claims it is owed money by an out-of-state business.

Monture entered guilty pleas in 2000 to a series of drug-related offenses in which he was charged with others from the Buffalo area of distributing heroin and crack cocaine, primarily in Altoona.

The 36-year-old Monture was charged as a conspirator with Efrain Hidalgo, 40, of Buffalo who is serving 60 to 150 years behind bars, and Felix Benji Ocasio, 33, Buffalo, sentenced to 39 to 78 years in prison.

Monture received the lightest sentence of the trio at 18 to 36 years.

All three are serving their time at the State Correctional Institution at Albion.

Monture’s sentence in 2010 was reduced to 16 years, three months to 54 years by now Senior Judge Hiram A. Carpenter after he discovered Monture had been sentenced twice for the same offenses.

Monture also complained back in 2010 that prison officials were taking money he received from his family for costs and fines.

Carpenter ruled the state could take the money he earned in prison but not the funds being sent to him by his family.

Hidalgo during his trial brought up his Native American heritage, but the recent petition by Monture was the first time he mentioned that he was enrolled as a member of the Mohawk nation, part of the Iroquois Confederacy that signed treaties with the United States in 1784, 1789 and 1794.

Other nations included the Oneida, Onodaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora.

Under the treaties, Monture claimed, the criminal charges should have had Congressional authorization and served through the ruling body of the Six Nations.