Civil rights attorneys say they hope to exonerate the Crow Indian Tribe's former chairman of a bribery conviction by obtaining unreleased emails from a federal judge reprimanded for sending racist correspondence.

Former Montana U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced Clifford Birdinground to three years in prison in 2003.

The 79-year-old Crow leader had pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from a car dealership. When Birdinground sought to retract his plea and go to trial, Cebull rejected the request, a decision upheld on appeal.

Cebull resigned last year after an investigation into a racist email he sent involving President Barack Obama. A judicial committee determined he sent hundreds more inappropriate emails. Those have not been released.

Birdinground recently joined a legal petition to preserve Cebull's emails as potential evidence for future lawsuits.

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