Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse police raided an allotment in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on August 16, 2017. Photo: Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Muscogee (Creek) Nation moves foward with charges in criminal case

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation will press felony charges against a former citizen who is accused of violating tribal gaming laws.

Bim Stephen “Steve” Bruner was planning to open a restaurant and entertainment facility on his allotment when it was raided by tribal police in August 2017. He was subsequently charged with one count of possession of unlicensed gambling devices and one count of permitting an unlicensed gambling premise.

A trial was delayed as Bruner sought clarification of the nature of the charges. The tribe's highest court last month concluded that he will be facing felonies, Mvskoke Media and The Tulsa World reported.

“At this time, the parties are preparing for trial,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Attorney General Kevin Dellinger said in a statement to The World.

Bruner was indeed interested in offering gaming at the Embers Grille under the authority of the Kialegee Tribal Town. But the National Indian Gaming Commission warned him against doing so, two months prior to the raid of his land.

According to the NIGC, the tribe lacks jurisdiction over the Bruner allotment, meaning gaming can't occur there under Kialegee authority.

The tribe subsequently sued the federal government in hopes of clearing up the jurisdiction issue. A federal judge dismissed the case, known as Kialegee Tribal Town v. Zinke, last month for "failure to state a claim."

Amid the drama, Bruner's wife sued Muscogee (Creek) Nation Attorney General Kevin Dellinger and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Judge Gregory H. Bigler in federal court. Kalyn Free, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, claimed the two officials were attempting to assert jurisdiction over her in connection with her spouse's property.

The case, known as Free v. Dellinger, was dismissed in July, with the judge ruling that Free has failed to exhaust her remedies in tribal court. She is named as a defendant in a civil complaint, separate from her husband's civil case, in Muscogee (Creek) Nation court.

Bruner's allotment is located within the limits of the city of Broken Arrow. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has not approved gaming there because doing so would apparently violate an agreement with a bank.

The agreement bars the tribe from opening another gaming facility within a 50-mile radius of the River Spirit Casino in the nearby city of Tulsa. Bruner's allotment is only about 11 miles away.

Bruner was previously enrolled with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. He switched to the Kialegee Tribal Town at some point, Mvskoke Media and The Tulsa World reported.

The Kialegee Tribal Town previously attempted to open another casino on a different Indian allotment near Tulsa and also faced questions about lack of jurisdiction. The state of Oklahoma sued to stop the development and was able to halt construction but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that Kialegee officials couldn't be sued due to sovereign immunity.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, gaming can only occur on "Indian lands" over which a tribe exercises jurisdiction. According to the NIGC, the Kialegee Tribal Town does not exercise jurisdiction over these particular allotments.

Read More on the Story
Fallout continues from raid on would-be casino in Broken Arrow (The Tulsa World September 30, 2018)
Kialegee suit dismissed from U.S. District Court (Mvskoke Media September 13, 2018)
Bruner case remanded back to MCN District Court (Mvskoke Media September 11, 2018)

National Indian Gaming Commission Indian Land Opinions
July 8, 2013 | June 8, 2012 | May 24, 2012

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
Oklahoma v. Hobia (December 22, 2014)

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