Faction of Chukchansi Tribe defends actions in casino dispute

Tex McDonald, a rival leader of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. Photo from Facebook

A faction of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians is defending its actions in a dispute that led to the closure of the California tribe's gaming facility.

A letter posted to Facebook this morning accuses local law enforcement, the media and others of spreading "lies and false ideas" about the October 9 dispute at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. Tex McDonald and Vernon King were not armed on the night of the incident, the faction said.

"Chairman McDonald kidnapped no one. He didn’t have a gun or a Taser. He imprisoned no one," the faction said.

Vernon King, a rival leader of the >Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. Photo from Facebook

"Treasurer King, a diabetic, kidnapped no one and touched no one," the letter continued. "He had no gun, no Taser, no weapon at all."

McDonald, 64, has been charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing serious injury and assault with a stun gun. His bail was set at $2.4 million, the highest of the 15 people who have been indicted.

King, 59, faces similar charges. His bail was set at $1.75 million, the second highest amount.

The Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold, California. Photo © Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians

"Chairman McDonald and Treasurer King turned themselves in willingly. Both men are now sitting in jail to defend the Chukchansi Tribe," the faction said.

The statement stands in contrast to the observations of Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, who ordered the casino to remain closed at the request of the state. He expressed frustration with rival leaders of the tribe but singled out the McDonald faction for the attempted takeover.

"This twisted statement of facts, coupled with the statement of position, belies any semblance of truth or reasonableness," O’Neill wrote in a decision last month, referring to filings made by McDonald's group. "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."

The McDonald faction has remained at odds with a group led by Reggie Lewis Nancy Ayala. The pair were rivals but they have joined forces in hopes of resolving the tribe's longstanding dispute.

But another group, this one led by Morris Reid, is proposing a plan to end the fight by appointing a temporary caretaker government. Reid, a former chairman, however, said the other leaders have not accepted his idea.

Get the Story:
Plan floated to bring Chukchansi tribal factions together (The Fresno Bee 11/7)

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