By Rio Yamat
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAS VEGAS (AP)- A Nevada judge has thrown out a drug trafficking charge against a former “Dances With Wolves” actor but upheld a Las Vegas grand jury’s sweeping indictment on 18 sexual abuse-related felony crimes.
In an order issued late Friday afternoon, Clark County District Court Judge Carli Kierny said state prosecutors presented enough evidence for “a reasonable grand juror to conclude that the sexual assaults occurred” but found that there was no substantive testimony connecting Nathan Chasing Horse to the psilocybin mushrooms investigators found while searching his home.
Chasing Horse, 46, had asked Kierny to toss the entire indictment, saying his accusers wanted to have sex with him. One of the women was younger than 16, the age of consent in Nevada, when she says Chasing Horse began abusing her.
Public defender Kristy Holston said she had no comment on the judge’s ruling.
Chasing Horse was indicted in February on charges of sexual assault of a minor, kidnapping, child abuse, lewdness and drug trafficking. He has been held on $300,000 bail at a county jail since Jan. 31, when he was arrested by SWAT officers near the home he shared with his five wives in North Las Vegas.
His arrest sent shockwaves throughout Indian Country and led to more criminal charges in at least three other jurisdictions, including in Canada and the U.S. District Court in Nevada, as well as on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation, and is widely known for his portrayal of Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 film.
Police and prosecutors have said that in the decades since appearing in the Oscar-winning movie, Chasing Horse had marketed himself to tribes nationwide as a medicine man with healing powers who could communicate with higher beings. They accuse him of using his position to lead a cult known as The Circle, gain access to vulnerable girls and women, and take underage wives.
The alleged crimes date to the early 2000s and cross multiple U.S. states, including Nevada, Montana and South Dakota, according to his indictment in state court.
One of the victims was 14, authorities have said, when Chasing Horse told her that the spirits of their ancestors had instructed him to have sex with her.
“Her mom is ill,” Clark County prosecutor Stacy Kollins said in court Wednesday, “and she’s told that her virginity is the only pure part of her left and she has to sacrifice this to maintain her mom’s health.”
Kollins also declined to comment Friday on the judge’s decision.
A trial in the state case is scheduled to begin on May 1. Chasing Horse has pleaded not guilty and invoked his right to a trial within
60 days of his indictment.
He is due back in court next week for a hearing on another motion asking the judge to grant him separate trials. Chasing Horse and his attorneys argued in the motion that his accusers’ allegations are unrelated.