Fight Over Future Of Broken Arrow Casino Continues In Federal Court

Thursday, May 17th 2012, 8:33 am
By: News On 6

Both sides have rested their cases in a hearing in Tulsa federal court over the future of the Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is asking U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frizzell to grant an injunction to stop construction of the casino near 129th East Avenue and the Creek Turnpike.

The Kialegee Tribal Town, which is building the Red Clay Casino, is fighting back.

The state rested its case Thursday morning.  The attorneys representing Kialegees rested their case Thursday afternoon.  Closing arguments are set to begin Friday at 9 a.m.

The Kialegees are the defendants in this hearing.  The defense called Luis Figueredo to the stand Thursday afternoon.  He's an attorney based in Miami, Florida who was invited to help the two sisters who own the Broken Arrow land develop it into a casino. 

Figueredo is a city attorney who also works with Indian tribes.  He testified that the developers' first meeting with the city of Broken Arrow, which he says included the mayor, took place in February of 2011.  That would mean the city was aware of the project much earlier than the city has claimed.

Figueredo testified that the negotiations with the city were never a secret, but that the tribe never publicly announced its project, either.  He said the city was supportive of the project until just a few months ago.

Figueredo says the Kialegees turned the property into a satellite office by converting a house on it into a meeting place.  He believes that may have happened as early as July of 2010. 

He testified the tribe sent a letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission in early 2011 detailing its plan to build a casino, and that the NIGC did not find any problems with the plan during its customary 120-day waiting period.  Figueredo said that period ended on August 15, 2011. 

The tribe's last witness was Tom Foley, an attorney from St. Paul, Minnesota and former member of the NIGC.  He testified that not hearing from the NIGC during the 120-day waiting period means the commission found no problems with the plan.  He admitted under cross examination that not hearing from the NIGC during the waiting period does not mean approval has been granted.  

Earlier in the day the tribe tried to call its first witness, AG Scott Pruitt.  The state objected, which led to arguments from each side.  The Kialegee team argued that the AG should be called to answer questions about what it calls selective prosecution of the tribe.  It says there are unauthorized casinos operating in Oklahoma right now but the AG has not pursued them.

The judge sustained the objection and then called a recess for lunch. 

The state called OU history professor Dr. Gary Anderson to the stand on Wednesday.  He testified that the federal government views tribes and bands differently and that the Kialegees are a band.  He told the court that bands do not have the same rights that full tribes have.  He testified that the Kialegees are a subgroup of the Muscogee Creek Nation and don't have jurisdiction over the land where the casino is being built.

5/16/2012 Related Story: Fight Over Broken Arrow's Red Clay Casino Is Now In Federal Court was granted permission to tweet [see below] from the courtroom during the hearing.