FRESNO – District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill has handed down his ruling, and the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino will remain closed until the factions battling for control can decide how to move forward.
After all parties appeared in court this morning in Fresno for any final arguments on the reams of motions filed in the past few weeks, the judge took the case under advisement and issued his ruling early this afternoon.
The ruling states that the Compact with the State of California requires that the Tribe will not conduct Class III gaming in a manner that endangers the public health, safety or welfare, and that the armed conflict on Oct. 9 created a significant danger to public health and safety, in breach of the Compact.
Though all three factions were ordered to participate in a mandatory settlement conference, which took place last Friday, there was apparently no progress made on resolving their differences.
Therefore, the judge ruled that the parties’ inability to resolve their ongoing intra–tribal dispute over Tribal governance “indicates that the under lying impetus for the armed conflict has yet to dissipate,” and lays a large part of the blame squarely at the feet of the McDonald Faction.
“If ever there were irrefutable proof of the need for an injunction to continue, it would be the opposition documents received from the McDonald Faction. The McDonald Faction argues that its armed incursion was a lawful effort to evict ‘trespassers’ from the Casino, namely members of the Lewis/Ayala Faction and their ‘mercenary’ private security service.
“This twisted statement of facts, coupled with the statement of position, belies any semblance of truth or reasonableness. It is simply an admission that the emotional and explosive keg that existed the day before the armed and illegal takeover that occurred on October 9, 2014 still exists. With that understanding and determination, the public safety issue that has injected a Federal Court into business generally delegated by law to the Indian Tribes still exists. As such, the Court finds that the public health and safety danger would continue to exist if the Casino were to be reopened at this time.”
The judge called the attempted armed take over of the Casino an act that was “illegal in the eyes of any lawful body, and constituted the worst sort of street injustice. It was dangerous to everyone present, including participants, other tribal members, customers and patrons, and general members of the public within the vicinity. In spite of the passage of some time, the illegal aggressors continue to claim that their misbehavior was both legal and responsible. It is that faction, the McDonald faction, that continues to be the threat to public safety, and it is with that focus and finding that this Injunction must issue.”
The judge ordered that the Temporary Restraining Order remain in place, and things are to continue as they were on the afternoon of Oct. 8. The gaming commission that was supervising the casino’s operations on that date will receive their mandatory fees.
Nothing can be removed from the property, and anything that has since been taken must be returned.
Per capita payments may be made, but no discretionary payments are allowed.
No tribal police or armed personnel may come within 1,000 yards of the casino or tribal properties, and no weapons will be allowed, including firearms, tasers, knives, clubs, and batons. The only armed personnel allowed within the Tribal Properties are members of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies who are acting within the scope of their official duties.
The ruling also states that the tribe is prohibited from operating the Casino unless and until it is established to the satisfaction of the Court that “the public health and safety of Casino patrons, employees, and tribal members can be adequately protected from the violent confrontations and threats of violent confrontation among the tribal groups disputing leadership of the Tribe and control of the Casino.”
The judge further ruled that the prohibition will be lifted if the National Indian Gaming Commission issues an order lifting its Closure Order. At that time, the State of California will have one–half court day to object to reopening the Casino.