Former California Tribal Chairman Sentenced, Released

Tex McDonald, former chairman of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians in Northern California, was sentenced and released for time served after pleading guilty last week to a number of charges associated with a raid that he led at the tribe’s Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino last October.

Former Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians Chairman Tex McDonald has pleaded guilty to false imprisonment charges connected with an armed incursion he led last October into the casino run by the Northern California tribe he once led. He was sentenced and released with credit for time served.

McDonald, 65, is the leader of one of several factions that have been contending for control of the tribe and Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coursegold. On October 9 he led 15 armed men, including tribal police from other reservations, into the casino to seize financial records that he said they needed to turn over to the National Indian Gaming Commission, which it said it needed to avoid ordering the casino closed. They claimed the records were being kept illegally by a rival faction.

Some violence and threats resulted, and some security personnel at the casino were shackled and held prisoner for a time.

Largely because of the raid the state and federal government moved to shut down the casino. It remains closed.

Since that time the factions supported unification tribal council that has been recognized by the federal government while the tribe puts together a new election.

Because of two previous felony convictions, the most recent one in 1994, McDonald could have been sentenced to life imprisonment under California’s Three Strikes Law, however prior community service was taken into account by the judge. He served a total of 242 days in jail.

The judge declared, “Mr. McDonald has served the Native American community for many years as a certified substance abuse counselor,” and added, “In sum, it appears to the court that the Three Strikes Law was not intended to enhance sentencing to individuals who turned their focus from criminality to serving the community and serving persons with controlled substance addictions.”

McDonald claimed that as tribal chairman he had a legal right to conduct the armed incursion that led to his arrest.

Most of those involved in the takeover have either pleaded guilty or had the charges against them dismissed. Charges remain active against four others. They will appear before the judge on November 16.