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Defendants in Chukchansi casino raid file civil rights claims

•  Ex-district attorney and former Madera County sheriff named in claims.



•  Claims were filed by 14 of 15 participants in the office raid.



•  Each defendant seeks more than $1 million from Madera County.



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Fourteen members of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino tribal police force and security team have filed legal claims against Madera County saying they were falsely arrested and jailed for trying to take back a casino gaming office from an opposing faction.

Among those named in the claims are former District Attorney Micheal Keitz, retired Sheriff John Anderson and prosecutor Nicholas Fogg. The claims suggest that county officials are also involved in malicious prosecution and civil rights violations.

The claims say that each man is seeking in excess of $1 million. The members of the security force claim monetary losses from being unable to work, emotional distress and loss of reputation. Many of the men had to pay bail amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with some in excess of $1 million.

The Madera County Board of Supervisors will review the claims Tuesday during the closed session of its weekly meeting.

“Because they have the potential to be litigation, we will make the board aware of them,” said Regina Garza, Madera County counsel.

If, or when, supervisors reject the claims, it will allow the men to file civil lawsuits against the county.

Claims were required to be filed by last week, which marked six months since the gaming office raid at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino.

Overall, 15 were charged in the case. Only security officer Miguel Ramos did not file a claim. There are provisions in the law that allow him to file a late claim.

On Friday, Madera County Superior Court Judge Dale Blea would not dismiss criminal charges against the 15 men. Blea said the county acted properly in making the arrests and that none of the defendants had immunity in the casino office raid either as police officers or members of the tribe.

Ten of the men were hired as tribal police officers and were being paid by the Tex McDonald faction of the tribe when they raided the casino office on Oct. 9. The takeover took about five minutes. During the raid, the men handcuffed and detained security forces paid by the Reggie Lewis-Nancy Ayala faction, which had control of the casino and hotel. The men were charged with kidnapping, assault with deadly weapons and a variety of other crimes.

McDonald tribal police chief John Oliveira said the office raid only took a few minutes and his forces never stepped foot on the casino floor. His group’s video shows much of the hotel operations continuing normally as his men detained the other security team. It was not until 90 minutes later when the fire alarm was pulled in the hotel basement by those associated with the Lewis-Ayala security team that the casino and hotel was evacuated.

Mark Coleman, who represents nine of the men involved in the raid, said the men hired by Oliveira were all in law enforcement or retired from law enforcement or had military backgrounds. Some even train military and law enforcement officers.

“What’s happened to these guys is terrible,” he said. “They are all honorable men who thought they were doing legitimate work.”

The men hired as tribal police officers came from California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Virginia and South Carolina.

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