Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Judge Presiding Over Chukchansi Casino Raid Case DISQUALIFIED by Peremptory Challenge: Casino Remains Closed

A Madera County Superior Court judge presiding over the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino raid case was disqualified Wednesday morning following a defendant's challenge, reports Marc Benjamin of the Fresno Bee.

A defendant is allowed to use a "peremptory challenge" to disqualify a judge. Defendant Eric Suniga made the challenge through his attorney, Mark Coleman.

The judge, Mitchell Rigby, permitted the challenge and moved the case to another courtroom. Rigby made no other comment.

The case is now being heard in Judge Dale Blea's courtroom.

There are 15 defendants being prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Oct. 9 raid of the casino office by representatives of one of the competing leadership groups of the tribe that runs the Coarsegold casino and hotel. Both were closed the next day by the state and federal government and have not been reopened.

Cases for all 15 defendants are in various stages and all were scheduled to be heard Wednesday.

In another defendant’s case, a security guard who had been in Madera County Jail more than two months for his involvement in the Chukchansi gaining office raid was released on his own recognizance.

Miguel Ramos, 23, previously had his bail set at $500,000. His lawyer, Craig Collins, said Ramos was a military veteran who had no involvement in violent acts during the takeover. Judge Dale Blea ordered him not to have any weapons, and Ramos agreed to the requirement.

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