Chukchansi Splinter Faction Leader Tex McDonald Has Jaw Broken in Jailhouse Fight
Tex McDonald, the leader of the Chukchansi tribal faction which recently raided a California casino, had his jaw broken in a Madera County Jail fight. McDonald is thought to have been an instigator in the Chukchansi Gold Casino takeover attempt last month, which resulted in a hours-long standoff between two factions of the tribe.
Mr. McDonald’s faction of the tribe lost a key vote last summer, which left Reggie Lewis in place as the Chukchansi tribe’s chairman. The splinter faction claims Reggie Lewis and his leadership council have been dodgy about accounting, and have let a couple of federal audit deadlines pass. The October 9 raid on the Chukchansi Gold Casino was meant to gain control of the records, which would have allowed federal authorities fulfill its role as auditor. By federal law, if the tribe did not open its books by the end of October, the Department of the Interior could issue a stiff fine or even close the doors of the casino.
Chukchansi Casino Closed on October 11
Ironically, it was the armed standoff which caused the Chukchansi tribe’s casino–and main source of revenue–to be closed. Tex McDonald and 14 other men carried weapons into the casino and took several members of the casino’s security staff howww. McDonald and his people point out that the men involved were either tribal leaders or reservation law enforcement, so they claim their actions were legal.
Videotape of Casino Released Online
Eventually, videotape emerged showing a physical confrontation between the two groups. Tex McDonald’s men overwhelmed the security personnel, then handcuffed them as if they were being detained or arrested. McDonald’s men took control of offices between the casino and the hotel, hoping to find the records in question. The video showed a scuffle in a hallway. The incident might have had something to do with a California judge’s decision to close the casino’s doors for the sake of public safety, though the armed confrontation later might have had more to do with the decision.
An hour and a half later, Madera County Sheriff’s Department personnel appeared on the scene and freed the detained security guards. One of those men eventually pulled a fire alarm. Customers fled the casino by the hundreds, in many cases leaving behind poker chips and other valuables. When it was learned that two factions were brandishing guns in the casino, a California judge and the National Tribal Gaming Council agreed to close the business, for the safety of employees and customers. That cost 1,600 workers their livelihood, at least for an indefinite period of time.
Oliver Baines Vouches for Vernon King
Lawyers for McDonald and Vernon King released the story that Tex McDonald had his jaw broken. Lawyers for the splinter group also said that Fresno City Council Member Oliver Baines had written a letter of recommendation for King, a tribal leader.
Vernon King worked for the Internal Revenue Service for 30 years. He retired from the IRS last year to become a Chukchansi leader. King volunteered at a children’s center, which is where he met Oliver Baines. According to Baines, he did volunteer work out of the goodness of his heart–often at his own expense–and did not ask for recognition.
Vernon King was forced to turn himself in to police this week. His supporters say King’s arrest in particular is politically motivated, because he had very little to do with the raid. It is said he knew about it beforehand and approved, but did not participate in the raid.
Tex McDonald’s Previous Legal Troubles
Tex McDonald, on the other hand, has a history of trouble with the law. He worked for Sierra Tribal Consortium Inc., but also has two previous jail stays for criminal behavior. Tex McDonald was quoted on a KVPR new clip saying, “They stole money from us; $11 million is missing since they’ve been in power. So we come in and we want to know what happened to it and we want to bring criminal charges against them.”
What people might not understand is the current crisis stems from decades of tensions. Those who knew the situation say the Chukchansi is split into three factions, based around old family feuds. Add in the high stakes of million-dollar casinos and those feuds burn hot. The tribes sometimes have generations-old grudges which make council politics worse.
Victor Rocha, who runs the Native American news site, Pechanga.net, said about California Indina tribes, “One of the things I tell people about Indian country, you know we talk about how we look ahead seven generations. Well we also carry the grudges of seven generations behind us with us. Now you add the equation of money and that always make an interesting stew of calamity.”
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