Judge rules state can prosecute Apache tribal workers

Wednesday, July 31st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled that the state can prosecute five employees of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma who were arrested in a bingo hall raid.

U.S. District Judge David Russell overruled tribal objections to the prosecution on Monday and ruled that Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane can pursue his case against the five workers.

Police raided the Apache Oak Cliff Indian Center in southeast Oklahoma City on May 3 after an investigation by seven federal, state and local agencies.

Officers arrested five employees _ Isabell Powell, Edward Lau, Han Van Nguyen, Thong Thi Thai and Ray Clarence Powell.

They were charged on May 17 with one count each of felony commercial gambling.

Police shut down the center and confiscated tables, chips, paperwork and financial records.

The tribe and the Humanitarian & Economic Development Program, a political subdivision of the tribe, later filed for an injunction in federal court.

They requested a delay in the employees' prosecution, protection from other future prosecution and return of their property from the hall.

Attorneys for the tribe argued tribal members were suffering irreparable harm and losing unrecoverable profits.

Tribal attorneys believe the prosecutions should be stayed because gambling was conducted on land owned by the tribe.

Charles Shadid and two related companies sold the land to the Apache tribe in January for $1.

The tribe leased it to First American, a company owned by Shadid, who then sublet the property to the Humanitarian and Economic Development Program, a political subdivision of the tribe.

Tribal attorney Andrew Murphy argued that the tribe's immunity and sovereignty should extend to any land owned by the tribe.

But Russell ruled that the bingo hall is not in Indian country and therefore federal jurisdiction over tribal lands does not apply.