Charges Stand In Casino Raid

A California judge refused April 10 to dismiss criminal charges filed against 15 defendants accused of storming the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino office and detaining members of a rival security detail in an October raid on the Coarsegold, Calif., hotel-casino.

Photo: AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Tomas Ovalle
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, shown shortly after its opening in 2003, is closed on orders of a federal judge and the National Indian Gaming Commission after a dispute between tribal factions resulted in an armed showdown inside the casino and hotel complex near Coarsegold, Calif.

Judge Dale Blea ruled Madera County had the right to arrest the 15, who face charges of kidnapping, assault and other crimes, according to the Fresno Bee.

The Oct. 9 fracas was only the latest episode in a long-running tribal dispute between three factions, two of which claim to have tribal authority to operate the casino and hired their own security teams. The defendants reportedly claimed the state and county have no authority to intervene in the matter, an argument the judge rejected. Blea also said that dismissing the criminal cases would have inferred legitimacy upon the tribal faction that hired the security, after calling the case a “hornet’s nest.”

Blea also cited “the potential of escalation of violence absent state intervention” during the hearing.

“Even if some of the defendants were acting as officers of the legitimate tribal government, they cannot use the doctrine of sovereign immunity as a criminal defense against criminal prosecution for the violation of state laws,” Blea was quoted by the Bee, adding he believed the tribe can solve its internal disputes without court intervention. In a related civil case, 13 of the 15 defendants filed claims against Madera County claiming civil rights violations and unlawful arrest, among other charges.