Legal teams prepare for Chukchansi casino court hearing

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Legal teams for fighting tribal factions are preparing to make their case for who is in charge of the now closed Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino.

ABC 30's legal analyst, Tony Capozzi, says it's looking like the 1,100 resort employees could be without work for months as the legal process plays out.

Wednesday will be the first chance both factions have to argue to get the casino and resort back open. But Capozzi says it could a tough sell since the meat of the issue is no longer only about financial audits, instead they have to prove Chukchansi is safe.

The inside of Chukchansi casino sits mostly empty, as it has since the state and federal government ordered the place shut down last Friday.

"It's not an easy issue, it's very complicated," Capozzi said. It is complicated for the more than 1,000 employees now without work as the tribal factions continue the power struggle.

Capozzi says the process to reopen Madera County's fifth largest employer could take weeks, if not months.

"The judge is going to ask for legal briefs from both sides," he said. "Give me legal arguments for why it should stay the way it is, and arguments for why it should open it up. That'll take lawyers at least a couple of weeks to do that, if not more."

Security footage shows last week's violent attempt at a takeover. Both sides say tribal members were assaulted and even tazed. This action prompted a federal judge to close the casino, citing a risk to public safety.

"The main concern from the state and federal government is a plan to protect, provide safety for the public," Capozzi said. "What we saw on the video tape and on channel 30 just a few days ago was very dangerous."

In February 2012 the tribe made headlines as another attempted take-over, this one across the street from the casino, turned violent. Three people were injured.

A tribal attorney from Seattle says that's when the government should have stepped in to protect the tribe and the public. "The public has been at risk for 2-3 years," said Gabe Galanda. "There's been an acute potential for violence for that entire period of time, there was violence a few years ago, there's violence again and there's always been the potential for violence."

Once the tribe settles the matter of safety with the California Attorney General's office it still has to deal with missing audits through the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.