Judge Orders Chukchansi Casino Remain Shut
The continued struggle between rival factions, for the control of the Chukchansi Casino, is far from over after a California Judge ruled that the casino remain closed amidst fears of renewed violence between the warring factions.
During a Federal court hearing on Wednesday, it was obvious that both factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians had not managed to resolve their differences and are still arguing about the management of the casino and has ordered the casino remain closed after an armed confrontation between the two groups resulted in the closure of the casino.
Judge Lawrence J. O’Neil commented during the court hearings that since the rival factions remain divided, the possibility of more violence poses a threat to public safety, “ David Leibowitz, attorney and spokesperson for the Tex McDonald Faction, agreed there was no end to the conflict in sight. “It’s hard to fathom the possibility where people who are this far apart are suddenly going to agree and this close back together.”
The Lewis-Ayala faction, led by Reggie Lewis, agreed that the conflict between the two groups. “A bad case scenario, it could go on for months, and the good case that everybody is hoping for is weeks, a couple of weeks, two or three weeks.”
During the hearings, Judge O’Neil ordered the Lewis-Ayala faction remain in charge of the casino and ordered them to issue monthly stipends to the members of the tribe even though they faction has been accused of mismanagement and embezzlement.
“So it’s hard to imagine, from the McDonald faction, why people who lost $50 million should be put back in charge of the casino,” said Leibowitz.
Reggie Lewis, incensed by the remarks made by Tex McDonald’s lawyer, replied “You’ve got to remember, my side was not at the casino for the past year and a half. So if there had been findings of $49 million missing, you know I’m going to say I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Lewis replied blaming at McDonald for the loss of the funds.
“This twisted statement of facts… belies any semblance of truth or reasonableness. It is simply and admission that the emotional and explosive keg that existed before the armed and illegal takeover… still exists. It is this faction, the McDonald Faction, that continues to be the threat to public safety.”
Judge O’Neill has placed a restraining order on the casino which has made sure it remains closed due to public safety concerns. However, another order, this time placed on the casino by the National Indian Gaming Commission, has ordered the casino remain closed because the tribe has failed to provide financial audits of their operation.
According to the casinos current management, those audits have now been submitted, but it’s not clear how long it will take the National Indian Gaming Commission to review the paperwork.
Judge O’Neill has said the he would lift his restraining order only after the gaming commission lifts theirs and only if he can be convinced that the dispute between the factions had been resolved and would not lead to any more violence.
As well as those rulings, Madera County District Attorney is considering instigating criminal charges against the members of McDonald’s faction that took part in the violent takeover where guns were used and casino staff were handcuffed and assaulted. All of which has been caught on video by casino surveillance.
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