LAS VEGAS — The lawyer for Nathan Chasing Horse has asked the Nevada Supreme Court to drop all charges against the "Dances With Wolves" actor and self-described medicine man.
Chasing Horse has been jailed in Las Vegas since his January arrest in southern Nevada, where he is charged with 18 felonies, including sexual assault of a minor, child abuse and kidnapping.
He has been accused of using his status as a spiritual leader to run a cult-like organization and take advantage of young Indigenous women for sex.
Chasing Horse is also facing criminal charges in Montana, British Columbia and Alberta.
His lawyer, Kristy Holston, argued in the Nevada court that prosecutors presented no evidence the sex was non-consensual and that they provided improper instructions to a grand jury about grooming.
"Nathan's spiritual authority over his followers does not invalidate their consent to sex," she said in court Wednesday.
"That's why his spiritual authority alone and the unequal power dynamics cannot create the basis of a sex assault."
Court documents said Chasing Horse was the leader of a group called The Circle. Documents allege he used his position to gain the trust of Indigenous families and their children, and take underage wives.
The actor, who played young Sioux character Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar-winning film, was indicted by a grand jury in February. Grand jury proceedings are done in secret and are a special proceeding conducted at the beginning of a case to decide whether there's enough evidence to prosecute.
Holston said prosecutors withheld information during the grand jury, including a statement from a complainant to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a post on Facebook about her allegations against Chasing Horse. She said the information shows the sex was consensual. She argued it perjured the proceedings so the charges should be dropped.
"The facts in this case do not support probable cause for these charges," Holston said.
Prosecutor William Rowles said the grand jury heard from two women who both testified they thought they loved Chasing Horse, but realized it was spiritual manipulation and assault.
He said one of the women sought Chasing Horse's help as a teenager because her mother had cancer.
"She fully believed that giving her virginity to that man saved her mother’s life," he said.
He argued that information was not withheld and the question of consent should go to trial.
"Both (women) testified that they met Mr. Chasing Horse at a very young age, that he used his position within their community, within their culture, to gain access to them, to make them pipe carriers, to make them pure," Rowles told court.
"He told them how they could dress. He told them how to wear their hair. He told them not to wear makeup. He told them what to do.”
The Supreme Court has reserved its decision.
The U.S. arrest report alleges a British Columbia woman reported Chasing Horse to RCMP, who contacted Las Vegas police, prompting the investigation that led to his arrest.
The woman alleged she was 13 years old when she met the actor while he was performing ceremonies in Canada. She alleges he began to have sex with her when she was 17.
Chasing Horse is facing a charge of sexual assault in that province.
The Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service in Alberta issued warrants for nine charges, including sexual exploitation and sexual assault, in June.
U.S. arrest documents detailed how the Alberta police service received a complaint from a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted as a 15-year-old and taken to the United States as one of Chasing Horse’s multiple wives.
The woman said she also met Chasing Horse when he came to her community to do ceremonies. Documents say Chasing Horse allegedly had sex with the teenager multiple times while she was still in Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2023.
— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatoon
The Canadian Press