Nevada prosecutors told a judge Wednesday that a former “Dances With Wolves" actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous women and girls for decades should remain in custody because he was “grooming young children” to replace his older wives when he was arrested last week.
The new details in the criminal case against Nathan Chasing Horse, who played young Sioux tribe member Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar-winning film, were revealed in a packed North Las Vegas courtroom before Justice of the Peace Craig Newman. The judge set bail at $300,000 and called the 46-year-old a danger to the community. Under Nevada law, Chasing Horse would have to pay 15% of the bail amount — $45,000 — to secure his release.
Chasing Horse had been held without bail since Jan. 31, when SWAT officers and detectives took him into custody and raided the home he shares with his five wives in North Las Vegas.
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney William Rowles told Newman that investigators found journal entries during the raid that he said detailed “ongoing” grooming.
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“There is evidence that this individual is still in the process of grooming young children to replace the others as they grow up,” Rowles said.
Nevada authorities have described Chasing Horse in more than a hundred pages of court documents as the leader of a cult known as The Circle, whose followers believed Chasing Horse, as a “medicine man,” could communicate with higher beings. Police said he abused that position to physically and sexually assault women and girls and take underage wives starting in the early 2000s across multiple states and Canada.
In Nevada, Chasing Horse is charged with eight felonies, including sex trafficking, sexual assault and child abuse. He has not entered a plea.
Investigators and victims had been expected to speak in court Wednesday, because Nevada law requires prosecutors to show convincing evidence that a defendant should remain jailed as they await trial. But after delays in the proceedings, the judge heard only from Rowles, who requested $2 million bail, and Chasing Horse's public defender, Kristy Holston, who asked the judge to set bail at $50,000.
About two dozen of Chasing Horse's relatives and friends filled the courtroom in a show of support, and after Newman granted him bail, the supporters cheered outside the courthouse, waving signs that translate to “Justice for Chasing Horse.”
Chasing Horse's public defender told The Associated Press she also was happy with the judge's decision.
“We think it’s notable that after taking a look at the case, the judge set bail in a reasonable amount,” Holston said.
She declined to comment on the allegations but said she is looking forward to Chasing Horse’s next court date, scheduled for Feb. 22. At that hearing, a judge is expected to hear evidence in the case and decide whether Chasing Horse will stand trial.
“We’re really looking forward to the preliminary hearing in this case,” she said, “because it’s another public hearing where we will have an opportunity to point out the weaknesses in the state’s case.”
Rulon Pete, a representative of the victims and the executive director of the Las Vegas Indian Center, said they were disappointed with the judge's decision. Some of the victims were in the courtroom Wednesday.
“What happened this morning was like a slap in the face,” Pete told The Associated Press. “Realistically, if he posts bail, that’s the mystery. What’s going to happen?”
If he is released from jail, Newman said, Chasing Horse must live with a relative and would be electronically monitored. The judge also barred any access to drugs, alcohol or firearms and ordered no contact with the victims or minors. Police have said some of the victims had reported that children “are constantly over at Nathan Chasing Horse’s residence.”
Rowles, the prosecutor, argued Chasing Horse is a flight risk and said he has a “vast” network of resources and connections across the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico who could help him flee the country “undetected.” At its peak, Rowles said, The Circle had some 300 members.
Police have said they've identified least six victims, including one who was 13 when she said she was abused, and another who said she was offered to Chasing Horse as a “gift” when she was 15.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation.
In 2015, he was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, following allegations of human trafficking. Authorities in British Columbia, Canada, charged Chasing Horse this week in an alleged 2018 sexual assault.