Two Native Americans filed a lawsuit against the state in San Diego Superior Court alleging the bodies of deceased relatives were exhumed during excavation of a site for a $360 million Indian casino in Jamul, a lawyer said Tuesday, adding to the legal questions surrounding the project.
Walter Rosales and Karen Toggery claim in their lawsuit, which was filed last week, that the bodies of Rosales’ mother, brother and son were exhumed, as were Toggery’s mother and son. Each had been buried along with various sacred and cultural artifacts, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed against employees of Caltrans because the state agency allowed the bodies to be dumped on land it owns in Otay Mesa, along with other material from the excavation, according to attorney Patrick Webb, who represents Rosales and Toggery.
A Caltrans official said the agency could not comment on the pending litigation.
The plaintiffs witnessed the bodies as they were disinterred from land that has long been a cemetery, the lawsuit contends.
“The law still respects that people are interred and won’t willy-nilly allow them to be dug up and moved,” Webb said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The land is being graded to make way for the $360 million Hollywood Casino at the Jamul Indian Village, about 20 miles east of downtown San Diego along state Route 94.
The three-story gaming and entertainment facility, which is slated to open next year, will be around 200,000 square feet, with more than 1,700 slot machines; 50 live table games including poker; multiple restaurants, bars and lounges; and an enclosed below-grade parking structure with more than 1,900 spaces.
The development was fought by nearby residents for several years, led by county Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
The county of San Diego sued to stop construction, but a hearing is not scheduled until Aug. 22, according to county lawyer Tom Bunton.
The county lawsuit was filed in San Diego but was transferred to Sacramento and merged with litigation filed by residents of the area, he said.
– City News Service
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