Several Chukchansi tribal police officers are expected to plead guilty Friday in Madera County Superior Court to a trespassing charge, but some may decide to have their cases go to a preliminary hearing.
One of those men, John Cayanne, said the officers who had 29 felony counts filed against them in October would not have their arrest records expunged if they take a plea agreement. Their arrest record will show those counts even if they are converted into one misdemeanor trespassing stemming from the Oct. 9 Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino office raid.
“Some of us have spent $75,000 in bail and legal fees, were taken away from our families and are losing our homes,” he said. “That should be enough when all they are going to get us on is a trespassing charge that is going away and doesn’t have a fine at all.”
Cayanne, a police officer for the Tex McDonald faction, said he and his fellow tribal police officers rely on their reputations and security clearances to get work.
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“That arrest will be on our record even if we are found not guilty,” he said.
One other defendant, former McDonald tribal council treasurer Vernon King, also wants a preliminary hearing. He isn’t scheduled to return to court until May 29, when a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.
The casino office raid took three minutes, Cayanne said. Several security guards for the Reggie Lewis-Nancy Ayala faction opposed them and were detained in handcuffs.
The Lewis-Ayala faction took control of the casino at the end of August. The McDonald officers went into the gaming office to retrieve audit information for two years of financial reports that were overdue to the federal government.
Two weeks ago, four men pleaded guilty to trespassing and a fifth man had charges dismissed. McDonald pleaded guilty to one count of false imprisonment. He is expected to be released after he is sentenced in July.
Mark Coleman, lawyer for the eight tribal police officers, said he had received most of the signed plea agreements by Thursday, but he suggested that some of the men could still change their minds.
Madera County District Attorney David Linn said he was hopeful that all the men, including King, would seriously consider his offer. Linn said King’s plea deal involved a false imprisonment count, similar to one McDonald pleaded guilty to two weeks ago. But, Linn said, his office may be willing to reduce the count to trespassing.
Linn said he heard Thursday that three tribal police officers, plus King, were going to fight the charges.
He said expunging arrest records is not within the district attorney’s jurisdiction.
“I feel confident they will see the light and do the proper thing before we have to go to preliminary hearing,” he said. “My goal is to get rid of this whole thing.”