A recent Fresno Bee story stated that six lawsuits had been filed against Madera County officials over the past month by former Chukchansi tribal police officers who were prosecuted following the Oct. 9, 2014, raid of a casino office that led to the 14-month closure of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino.
Of the 10 officers who were jailed, nine have filed civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Fresno naming former District Attorney Michael Keitz, retired Sheriff John Anderson, current District Attorney David Linn, his prosecutor, Nick Fogg, and other members of the sheriff’s office.
The suits claim malicious prosecution, arrests without probable cause, false arrests, economic losses, emotional distress and excessive bail, and seek damages, lost wages, bail, attorney and court costs.
Chukchansi Tribal Chairwoman Claudia Gonzales calls these nine individuals rogue, adding that they do not represent the tribe.
“In 2014, an unauthorized group of individuals raided the Chukchansi Gold Casino and Resort resulting in the National Indian Gaming Commission and the State of California shutting us down. Those individuals were not authorized by the governing body of the tribe to conduct any raid,” Gonzales explained. “Now, two press outlets have erroneously reported that ‘members of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians are suing the County of Madera.’ That is inaccurate. The plaintiffs in these suits are not members of the tribe and have no standing to sue the county on our behalf. I have directed our tribal attorneys to assist the county in dismissing their lawsuit immediately.”
The nine claim their arrests, just before a contested election for district attorney, were politically motivated, and also say the sheriff’s office improperly carried out the tenets of Public Law 280, which gives tribes the power of criminal-offense jurisdiction within the Coarsegold Rancheria’s borders. Public Law 280 allows arrests of non-Indians and detention until local or state law enforcement arrives.
“Chukchansi has a longstanding partnership with the county and has helped bring jobs and economic vitality to the region,” Gonzales continued. “Since the election of new tribal councils we have made great progress and in just the past year we have successfully re-opened the Picayune Rancheria Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, re-established our economic base and created nearly 1,000 jobs.
“In addition, we have reinstated many of our membership programs including elder assistance programs that are so important to our tribe, and on Dec. 4, announced nearly $1.5 million in community grant monies going to 33 organizations throughout Madera County. The lawsuit recently filed in federal court is the work of nine rogue individuals who do not represent nor reflect the hard work and appreciation the Chukchansi tribe has for Madera County.”