The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community owns and operates the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Photo: Mystic Lake Casino Hote
Litigation | Public Relations

Ex-employee of Shakopee Tribe loses case over assault at casino

A former employee who was assaulted at the casino owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has lost an appeal in a rather notable case.

Annette Nawls was working as a server at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in August 2013 when a patron repeatedly groped her during a concert at the facility. After the show ended, he cornered her in a VIP suite and forcibly kissed her, according to a police report that was submitted as part of the case.

"I want to press charges against him because I don't want this to happen to somebody else," Nawls stated to the police officer who responded to the casino.

Timothy Scott McCaffrey was arrested and charged and eventually pleaded guilty to assault and disorderly conduct in Minnesota state court. But while Nawls was seeking employment compensation as a result of the incident, the casino let her go.

Nawls "was deemed to have resigned her position because, as a part-time employee, she failed to schedule a shift for over two years," the tribe stated in a court brief.

Her husband, Adrian, also lost his job because he repeatedly failed to show up for work throughout the course of the ordeal, according to the tribe's brief.

But neither Nawls nor her husband filed lawsuits in tribal court to address their situation. They instead proceeded to federal court, where they claimed they were mistreated in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion.

The lawsuit, however, failed on some basic grounds. "Title VII does not apply to Indian tribes, nor their gaming operations," Judge Ann D. Montgomery wrote in a February decision that was posted by Turtle Talk. The law specifically excludes tribes from its jurisdiction.

Montgomery also noted that the tribe's sovereign immunity extends to its gaming enterprise. That might not have been an issue had the Nawls gone to tribal court because the tribe has waived its immunity to address claims like the ones raised by the couple.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't any kinder to the couple, who filed their briefs without the help of an attorney. Barely three days after the case was considered submitted, it was rejected in a two-page order on Friday, just as the nation was gripped by a report in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted about forcibly kissing and assaulting women.

The court's unpublished order said it found "no reversible error" in Montgomery's decision.

According to Minnesota state court records, McCaffrey was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation for assaulting Nawls at the casino. The assault in the 5th degree charge was considered a "gross" misdemeanor. The disorderly conduct charge appears to stem from his behavior on the night in question.

McCaffrey had "attempted to leave the office and became combative" so he had to be restrained by security staff, the police report stated. The responding officer also noticed a "strong order" of alcohol on McCaffrey.

According to state records, McCaffrey has faced assault, disorderly conduct, drunken driving and other charges in several different cases. He was convicted or found guilty of some charges while others were dismissed.

But in at least one of his prior cases, he was ordered to stay away from bars or clubs and was ordered not to consume alcohol or controlled substances, according to the records. One order came in a 2012 case when he pleaded guilty to domestic assault, a gross misdemeanor. A more serious felony charge of making "terroristic threats" was dismissed.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the 8th Circuit case, Nawls v. Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Enterprise – Mystic Lake Casino.

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Order:
Nawls v. Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Enterprise - Mystic Lake Casino (October 7, 2016)