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Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cowlitz tribe sues Clark County Sheriff’s Office

The Freeway sign for the Ilani Casino in Ridgefield Wa., Sunday August 6, 2017. (Greg Wahl-Stephens / Columbian)
The Freeway sign for the Ilani Casino in Ridgefield Wa., Sunday August 6, 2017. (Greg Wahl-Stephens / Columbian)
By Jerzy Shedlock Columbian

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe is suing the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to prevent it from releasing video surveillance of an alleged assault in October at ilani casino.

The tribe’s gaming authority filed the lawsuit Oct. 29, requesting that a Clark County Superior Court judge permanently bar the sheriff’s office from handing over the videos to Richard Christie, the co-defendant in the case.

Quinn H. Posner, a Camas-based attorney, said Christie was attacked by a group of people at the casino Oct. 6, after a viewing of an Ultimate Fighting Championship event. Poser said his client does not know the people who assaulted him.

The Cowlitz tribe does not describe the events of that night in its court filings. The lawsuit simply says that Christie was a patron of ilani and was involved in an “altercation.” Snippets of whatever occurred were recorded on the casino’s security system.

The sheriff’s office opened an investigation into the altercation and requested the videos, which were promptly provided. Christie, in turn, filed a public records request to obtain the videos for himself.

However, the Cowlitz tribe argues that releasing the videos to Christie would compromise ilani’s security and “expose it to potential criminal activity.” Additionally, if it were to release the videos to a member of the public, not only would it breach casino security, it would put employees and customers at “increased risk.” The Cowlitz tribe also argues that it’s a sovereign nation and not subject to Washington’s public records act.

The sheriff’s office was set to release the videos to Christie on Oct. 30, but then the Cowlitz tribe filed its lawsuit, which prevented the videos from being handed over immediately. The Cowlitz tribe is asking the court to prevent the release from ever happening.

“Unless (the Clark County Sheriff’s Office) is first temporarily and then permanently enjoined from producing the confidential videos, (Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority) will be irreparably harmed. . Once released, the information will no longer be private and cannot be made private again,” the lawsuit says.

Posner said the legal battle prompted by the Cowlitz tribe seems like an effort to hide the truth of what happened. Christie was “beaten senseless,” he said, and his client’s intention in obtaining the videos was to find out more about the assault, as he was quickly knocked unconscious.

Christie did not expect such resistance from the casino, according to his attorney.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Brent Waddell said the altercation is an open, ongoing investigation, and the sheriff’s office can’t talk about it.

Calls to the Cowlitz tribe for comment about the lawsuit or the alleged assault were not returned.

On Friday, a judge will decide if the videos will be released.

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