Judge weighs request to toss Chasing Horse's sex abuse case

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former “Dances With Wolves” actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous women and girls in the U.S. and Canada for two decades has asked a judge in Nevada to toss out a sweeping indictment against him in state court.

Nathan Chasing Horse, 46, claims the sexual encounters with two women identified as victims in the Nevada case were consensual. One of them was younger than 16 — the age of consent in Nevada — when she says the sexual abuse began.

Clark County District Court Judge Carli Kierny said Wednesday that she would issue her decision before the end of the week. She could deny Chasing Horse's request or dismiss some or all of the charges, although she didn't offer any indication as to how she might rule during her questioning of state prosecutors and Chasing Horse's public defender.

A Clark County jury indicted Chasing Horse, 46, in February on charges of sexual assault of a minor, kidnapping, child abuse, lewdness and drug trafficking. He has been in custody 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.

He also faces sexual abuse charges in Canada and the U.S. District Court in Nevada, as well as on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.

Prosecutors and police say Chasing Horse, who is known for his portrayal of Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning film, marketed himself to tribes nationwide as a self-proclaimed medicine man who possessed healing powers and could communicate with higher beings. They accuse of him 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, according to court documents, date to the early 2000s and occurred in Canada and multiple U.S. states, including Nevada, Montana and South Dakota.

Clark County prosecutor Stacey Kollins told the judge Wednesday that Chasing Horse's claims were offensive, pointing to the age that one of the victims says the abuse began.

“She’s taken at 14 because her mom is ill, 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 said. “And to gloss over that by calling it transactional and saying there’s no proof of non-consent, that’s taking a lot of license to meet with the facts.”

As Kollins spoke, the mother of one of the victims cried in the courtroom gallery, which was packed with Chasing Horse's supporters.

Public defender Kristy Holston argued the 19-count indictment was an overreach by the Clark County district attorney's office and that some evidence presented to the grand jury — including a definition of grooming — had tainted the state's case.

“It's not the same as a lack of consent,” she said, adding that “a sex worker, for instance, doesn’t desire sex with the client. But their motive for doing it is for something other than desire.”

Outside the courtroom, Holston declined to further comment, while Kollins did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking additional comment.

Chasing Horse is currently scheduled to stand trial May 1 in the state case. He has pleaded not guilty and invoked his right to a trial within 60 days of his indictment.

He is due back in state court Monday morning for a hearing on another motion asking the judge to grant him three trials. Chasing Horse and his attorneys have argued that the sexual assault allegations and the drug trafficking charge contained in the state's indictment are unrelated.