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Tribal dispute prompts judge to ban casino guns

Friday - 6/20/2014, 7:20pm  ET

CORNING, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge has banned guns from a Native American casino in Northern California that is at the center of an escalating tribal dispute, citing a potential threat to public safety.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller imposed a temporary restraining order Wednesday on the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians prohibiting disputing factions from deploying armed guards or bringing firearms within 100 yards of the tribe's Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California. The order remains in effect until July 2.

The judge stopped short of closing the $100-million-a-year casino, as one faction had requested, until the battle over who controls the tribe and its resources is resolved. The factions were scheduled to meet for mediation Friday, the Sacramento Bee reported (http://bit.ly/TdGAIw ).

The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris filed for the restraining order Tuesday to prevent any public safety threat after both sides hired armed personnel on the casino grounds. The weapons ban extends to tribal properties around the casino, including nearby hotels and an RV park.

The two rival security groups faced off on casino grounds June 9 as deputies from the Tehama County Sheriff's Department had to intervene, Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said. Deputies spent a week at the casino trying to keep the peace, he said.

Sheriff Dave Hencratt said Friday that his department has removed a command post, as he hopes the factions will be able to reach a conclusion. He said, however, that the department would enforce the restraining order if necessary.

"We all want this to be resolved peacefully," Hencratt said.

Tensions arose in April when the tribe's general council voted to remove more than 70 members from the tribe's rolls. The dispute centers around who qualifies for membership and the $54,000 a year in casino payments, as well as trust funds and scholarships for children.

Those taken off the rolls included three members of tribe's governing body. They were recently reinstated -- even though they have been barred from entering the casino under orders from tribal chairman Andy Freeman.

Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs said June 9 that it recognizes the three ousted council members as part of the tribe's governing body. A fourth tribal council member, who allegedly vacated his seat and joined the ranks of the three removed council members, is also being recognized by the federal agency.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com


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