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Prelim scheduled for final Chukchansi defendant

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for the final defendant from a raid last October that closed Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, District Attorney David Linn announced Friday.

Vernon King, a member of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, is the last of 15 defendants from the raid who either accepted plea agremeents, had their case dismissed, or agreed to testify for the District Attorney’s office.

“I am disappointed that we were unable to resolve Mr. King’s case,” Linn stated in a release, “however, we are fully prepared to proceed against him on all charges which were originally alleged.”

Original charges against King included numerous counts of felony kidnapping, among other allegations.

Tex McDonald, a former faction leader from the tribe who led the raid, was released in July after 242 days in jail as part of an agreement to plead guilty to felony false imprisonment charges.

Most other defendants, who acted as hired security forces and not members of the tribe, plead guilty to misdemeanor trespassing or other minor charges with no jail time.

They were barred from entering tribal grounds for a year as part of those agreements.

In past court hearings, King’s attorney said King, a longtime IRS worker with no criminal history, maintained his innocence and wasn’t present when the raid took place.

King’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. in Madera County Superior Court.

Also Friday, Linn announced he will attend the Nov. 19 parole hearing of Frederick Woods, the last of the Chowchilla School Bus Kidnappers that remains in prison.

Linn said he’s hopeful parole will be denied for Woods, who, with Richard and James Schoenfeld in 1976, kidnapped 26 students of Dairyland Elementary School in Chowchilla and buried them in a van underground with food, water, and mattresses.

The bus driver, Frank Edward Ray, with assistance from some of the children, stacked some mattresses, opened a hole to where they were buried, and helped them all escape.

Richard Schoenfeld was released in 2012. James Schoenfeld recieved parole on Aug. 7 this year.

All three men were originally sentenced to life in prison.

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