Notoweega News

Ohio AG Raids Hocking Co. Casino, Owner Claims Sovereignty

LOGAN, Ohio - An alleged illegal casino was closed in Hocking County Friday.
By: Denise Yost, Multimedia Content Manager - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Agents with the Ohio Attorney General's Office served a search warrant at the Red Door Casino at 44 E. Main St. in Logan Friday afternoon.

Agents removed gaming machines from the business. 

"The people that do go in there and gamble it's nothing major maybe $5 here, $10 dollars there," said Logan Resident Jacob Keister looking on. 

The search warrant was served as part of an ongoing investigation regarding allegations of illegal gambling at the location. 

The owner claims the raid isn't your typical raid on a suspected illegal gambling joint.

"This is in retaliation for operating as a tribal people," said Marshall Lucas who goes by the name Dancing Elk.  He tells NBC4's Denise Alex that he is a member of the Notweega nation. 

That's where the raid, where computers, televisions, gaming machines and cash that were seized, gets more interesting.

Ohio BCI agents and member of the Ohio Investigative Unit spent about 4 hours seizing items from the Red Door on East Main Street in downtown Logan. The business owner says he is being unfairly targeted because he's a member of the sovereign nation.

"They have no right to enter our property.  This is sovereign property.  We are non-reservation Indians. We are operating a sovereign business," added Dancing Elk.

 He says the Notweega nation is a Native American tribe that governs itself.

 Ohio BCI agents say the Logan native is breaking the law.

"There's several different variables that actually makes it illegal but some of the cash pay outs and some of the things they were doing, allegedly going on are suspected at this establishment," said Special Agent Supervisor Scott Fitch. 

Tribal members say they are misunderstood.

"Insult to injury would be the best to describe the scenario right now," said Karmelita Plains Bull.

"They are stealing our property, the are destroying our property. We've been dealing with this for over 5 years now," said Dancing Elk.

 Dancing Elk took NBC4's Denise Alex inside the Red Door after police cleared the scene.

 Newspaper articles taped to the wall tell the Red Door's battle to stay open for business.

Dancing Elk claims to be harassed for years by many Logan city leaders and has $20 million dollar lawsuit against them pending in federal court.

 No arrests were made in Friday's raid, but officials said charitable law prosecutors with the Ohio Attorney General's Office will decide on charges.

will decide on charges.


Board of Building Appeals upholds adjudication order against Nihiser

By DEBRA TOBIN Logan Daily News Reporter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

REYNOLDSBURG – After months of attempting to conduct building inspections at 54 E. Main St., Logan, and numerous complaints filed with the Ohio Department of Commerce, a hearing was held Tuesday in Reynoldsburg before the Ohio Board of Building Appeals.

The Board of Building Appeals is made up of four panelists: Robert A. Kerst, engineer; James Mulligan, fire service, chairman; Neil J. Giering, pipefitter; and Paul Beegan, architect. Attorney Alan Showalter represented the State of Ohio during the proceedings, with Geoff Eaton, Mike Taylor and Phillip Teal attending and giving testimony for the Department of Commerce, and Brian Robertson, Logan Fire Chief also giving testimony.

The panel deliberated for a few moments and voted 3-1 to uphold the adjudication order in which Nihiser must comply with the Department of Commerce and make application for plan approval with the department and allow access to the building for an inspection.

Also, no business can occupy or use the building until a certificate of occupancy has been issued. During opening statements, Showalter stated the State feels the building at 54 E. Main St., Logan, poses imminent danger because inspectors have not been able to gain access for an inspection. According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, building owners Michael Nihiser and his wife Vicki
Devol have been very reluctant in allowing inspectors into the building and have never filed an application for occupancy use change.

However, Nihiser stated he called Eaton on numerous occasions, but never received a return call. “I was trying to coordinate a time to meet, but it’s hard for me to get around,” Nihiser stated. “There were no return phone calls at all from Mr. Eaton or his office. I felt harassed. We have lived in the community all our lives.”

He also indicated he had made a public records request for several buildings in the downtown area of Logan, but never received anything in return. Mulligan reminded him those buildings had no relevance to the hearing.

Nihiser’s problems began when he leased the building to David Weber, who resides in the apartment located in the back of the building.

Weber’s intention was to open a teen center, Twilight Entertainment. However, because so many police reports were filed, and complaints filed with the Department of Commerce, the business was short-lived. Twilight Entertainment was a hangout for teenagers and many parents raised concerns of illegal activities and contacted local authorities. Once Twilight Entertainment closed, Weber, in turn, sub-leased the building to Dancing Elk, who relocated Red Door Internet Café to the site in September. However, that also was short-lived due to the many complaints and stop work orders placed on the building.

Throughout the hearing, Nihiser repeatedly stated Twilight Entertainment never opened for business, but there are Logan police reports indicating otherwise. When questioned about the Twilight Entertainment sign in the window, Nihiser referred to it as “signage.” He also stated numerous times that Red Door Internet Café never opened for business, although The Logan Daily News wrote several articles on the café and its opening.

When questioned about the two businesses being open, he kept asking inspectors, “How do you know  they were open? Did you see any customers? Did you see any money exchange hands?” “My lease is with Mr. Weber,” Nihiser stated. “If he sublet to Dancing Elk, he had no permission to do so. He had no permission to open a business without talking to the state or anyone. “If he (referring to Dancing Elk) opened a business, he did so without my knowledge or written permission, said Nihiser, who then specified that Weber could not sublet to anyone unless he had written permission from him or his wife.

Nihiser indicated he had no idea that the Internet café was opening or planning to open in his building. When asked how often he drives by his building, Nihiser replied, “Just about every day.” Beegan spoke up and asked, “Mr. Nihiser, you say you drive by your building daily or just about every day – didn’t you notice the Red Door Internet Café sign in the window along with the open sign?”
“It’s signage,” replied Nihiser. “Just because there’s a sign in the window, doesn’t mean it’s a business or that it’s open.”

As the testimonies proceeded, one of the biggest concerns raised by the Department of Commerce was the construction that was done while Dancing Elk was preparing to move his business into the building.

Concerns were raised of the new office structure built within the building as well as electrical issues. Nihiser indicated to the panel that Dancing Elk moved the office structure from his previous location and there was no electric installed on the office area.

However, when looking at state’s evidence photos, one photo clearly shows lighting along the top portion of the office structure and other areas as well. “Maybe it’s from an extension cord,” Nihiser stated. “Maybe he has an extension cord running from an existing outlet in that area.” Mulligan explained if that was the fact, it also is a code violation.

While Showalter questioned Teal and Taylor, Nihiser also had an opportunity to ask questions of the two inspectors. However, Nihiser kept alluding to other subjects not relevant to the hearing. Mulligan spoke up and reminded Nihiser several times, “Mr. Nihiser, you need to stick strictly to the testimony being presented and nothing more.”

Nihiser addressed the panel and stated he and his wife were out of the country during one of the visits from the inspectors, but felt he has done nothing wrong and was being harassed. The hearing continued for over three hours with testimony from both sides, but in the end, Nihiser stated, “This is a blue-collar Appalachian town struggling for business and if the business owner has to work with an architect to open his business, he can’t afford that.”

Nihiser spoke with Eaton after the hearing to discuss the procedure and his next step to assure the building is in compliance.

In the meantime, Red Door Internet Café remains closed to the public until further notice. The Logan Daily News attempted to reach Dancing Elk and Nihiser for a statement, but received no response.


Lucas files more paperwork in lawsuit against city officials


Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 7:30 am



LOGAN — A lawsuit between city of Logan officials and local resident Marshall Lucas, also known as Great Elk Dancer for his Elk Nation, is moving forward with another motion filed, this time by a representative for the Notoweega Nation.

Philip W. Gerth, of The Gerth Law Office in Gahanna, submitted a motion for “leave of court to file an amicus curiae brief” on July 21 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

Lucas’ $20 million lawsuit is against Logan Mayor Martin Irvine, Fire Chief Brian Robertson, Police Ptlm. Josh Mowery and Logan City Service Director Steve Shaw.

The lawsuit has been steeped in paperwork since it was initially filed in the district court in June 2013, on a total of 19 complaints stemming from Lucas’ business, Red Door Internet Cafe.

The motion filed in the District Court in Columbus, claims that the court may be “confused by the terminology” used in the case and suggests that the court would benefit from its amicus brief.

The brief was filed in hopes of bringing a sense of better understanding of Lucas’ terminology and claims and in doing so, bring a greater understanding of tribal law to the court.

An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case, who offers information that bears on the case, but who has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist the court. This may take the form of a legal opinion or testimony (the amicus brief) and is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case. The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the discretion of the court.

However, in response, the city’s attorneys, Todd M. Raskin and Cara M. Wright, filed a brief in opposition to the Notoweega Nation’s motion and asked that the court deny the motion for the amicus curiae brief.

According to the amicus curiae brief, there are four issues that need to be clarified in order to better understand Lucas’ lawsuit.

Issue one: What makes a tribe? A tribe is an artificial construct, such as a corporation or a nation-state. A tribe can have a beginning and a legally-recognized status.

Issue two: What is Ohio’s tribal history? When European settlers entered America, most of the Ohio Valley was claimed by tribal groups. Despite the struggles by the tribes, Ohio sit still 0.3 percent Native American according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau numbers.

Issue three: Do tribes only live on reservations? While many assume that Ohio has no tribes, this is not accurate, according to the paperwork filed on July 21. Ohio lost the tribes that chose to live on reservations; a tribe is not defined by living on a reservation. The Notoweega Nation, chose to keep their culture, but live among other Ohioans.

Issue four: How has a tribe historically been recognized as sovereign by the government? A sovereign is generally defined as a person, or group, with either absolute power or absolute authority. A tribe may be recognized as sovereign, and yet act in an unsovereign manner. The brief further described the American history of tribes and sovereignty.

The ways that a tribe is recognized as sovereign are Congress recognizes the tribe’s sovereignty; Congress delegates to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to recognize the tribe’s sovereignty; or a federal court recognizes the sovereignty of the tribe.

In conclusion, a tribe does not need to live on a reservation to be considered a tribe. A tribe does not need the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognition to be considered sovereign. The 78 tribes that rejected the proposal under the Indian Reorganization Act are just as sovereign as those that accepted the proposal. Those tribes that rejected the proposal are just a little harder to keep track of on paper.

According to the motion, there are still tribes in Ohio and Lucas “Dancing Elk” leads one of those tribes. Lucas is claiming that his sovereign rights have been ignored by the City of Logan and others.

The city’s response claims that the “brief (amicus curiae) fails to provide any information that is relevant to the claims pending before the Court and the information contained within the brief is rarely verified with a citation to any authoritative source.”

The city’s response further states that the “Notoweega Nation does not have any special interest in the litigation” and the Notoweega Nation has characterized Lucas’ complaint as “alleging violations of his tribal sovereign rights. However, the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity is wholly inapplicable in this case as no Indian tribe has been sued in this matter.”

Lucas is asking the court for “injunctive relief and declaratory judgment as well as compensatory damages for the value of the business opportunity or expectancy that was lost as a result of the city’s tortuous and improper interference of his business.”

Lucas believes he has been harassed since he first opened his business in Logan, the Mingo Trading Company. He describes Red Door Internet Cafe as well as the Mingo Trading Company as “tribal” businesses.

In March, agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation raided the Red Door Internet Cafe and seized gaming machines as well as personal computers, laptops, monitors and other equipment. Lucas has since opened an online casino.

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