Friday, April 10, 2015

Chukchansi 15 Back Before Judge, Who Is In Charge?

A Madera County Superior Court judge will hear Friday from lawyers seeking to dismiss criminal charges against 15 defendants involved in the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino office raid on Oct. 9 that sparked the casino’s evacuation and closure.

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Before hearing the criminal case, Judge Dale Blea first has to decide whether the Madera County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office had jurisdiction to make the arrests and file charges. Another issue is whether either of two tribal factions was in control — and had the authority to employ police officers — because the federal government had not recognized a tribal government in October.
Both  prosecution and defense lawyers say that since neither side was the recognized leadership, both lacked authority. The lawyers are using that lack of recognized authority as key parts of their arguments. 
The 15 defendants, including tribal council members Tex McDonald and Vernon King, police officers and members of their security team, were later charged with kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and other crimes. Nobody from the security team employed by the Reggie Lewis-Nancy Ayala tribal faction was charged.
The Oct. 9 raid was planned to recover audit information requested by the National Indian Gaming Commission, which had threatened to close the casino if two years of audits were not filed by Oct. 27. The Lewis-Ayala group had kept the McDonald faction away from the information since late August.
Defense lawyers say the McDonald tribal faction’s force was acting in “good faith” when its members detained and handcuffed members of the opposing security force. About an hour later, those arrested were released to then-Madera County Sheriff John Anderson. Those actions on Oct. 9 are seen in a video that’s part of evidence set to be released at Friday’s hearing.

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