After spending nine months behind bars, former tribal chairman Tex McDonald has pleaded guilty to a charge of false imprisonment and was released Friday with credit for time served.
McDonald was head of a rival faction of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians and claimed to be the tribe’s leader, which at least one other faction disputes. He and more than a dozen others, including tribal police hired by him from other reservations, were arrested performing an armed raid on the tribe’s Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coursegold, California.
Armed McDonald faction police and tribal members entered the casino on October 9, 2014 reportedly in search of documents to complete a late audit to comply with a letter from National Indian Gaming Commission who said they would close the casino by October 27th if not supplied.
Guns were drawn as casino security and the raiding force squared off. Some reports state that private security officers were punched and tasered and surveillance footage shows them being handcuffed and detained by McDonald’s men. Madera County Sheriff’s deputies evacuated the casino and arrested McDonald and others.
The next day the California Attorney General’s office issued an injunction to temporarily close the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. A federal judge issued an order to close the casino for violation of the tribal/state compact noting endangering public health or safety. The casino remains closed.
Factions are working together to get the tribes main source of income re-established by having the casino opened again.
McDonald could have received life in prison for his part in the action under California’s “three-strikes” law, as he has two previous felonies. The judge took into consideration over twelve years of community service that included work as an addiction counselor in approving a plea agreement and issuing credit for time served.
Misdemeanor plea bargains were worked out for most members of the raiding force and some charges were dropped. McDonald Treasurer, Vernon King did not accept a plea agreement. He was released from jail earlier and is expected to appear in court in November.