NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A former “Dances With Wolves” actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous women and girls for decades was charged with federal crimes Wednesday, adding to the growing list of criminal cases against Nathan Chasing Horse since his arrest last week in Nevada.
Chasing Horse, 46, now faces two counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon in Nevada U.S. District Court. Authorities have said Chasing Horse filmed sexual assaults.
The federal charges came hours after a state judge on Wednesday granted $300,000 bail to Chasing Horse, who has been in Las Vegas police custody since his Jan. 31 arrest near the home he shared with his five wives.
Earlier Wednesday, about two dozen of Chasing Horse's relatives and friends had filed into a North Las Vegas courtroom in a show of support, hoping he would be released on bail. They cheered and celebrated the judge's decision as they left the courthouse, waving signs that translate to “Justice for Chasing Horse.” Now, if he posts bail, he is likely to be taken into federal custody.
In state court, Chasing Horse is charged with eight felonies, including sexual assault, sex trafficking and child abuse. He has not entered a plea.
Canadian police in British Columbia confirmed this week they also are pursuing a criminal case against the former actor, who is known for his portrayal of Smiles A Lot in Kevin Costner's 1990 Oscar-winning film. He is accused in a 2018 sexual assault in the British Columbia village of Keremeos near the Washington state border.
Authorities in Nevada have said his crimes date to the early 2000s and stretch across the United States and into Canada.
It wasn't immediately clear how, if at all, the federal charges will affect Chasing Horse's case in Clark County. His public defender, Kristy Holston, did not immediately respond Wednesday evening to a request for comment.
At his bail hearing Wednesday morning, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney William Rowles told the judge that Chasing Horse should remain in custody because he was “grooming” girls to replace his older wives at the time of his arrest.
“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.
At its peak, Rowles said, The Circle had about 300 members.
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 Holston, who asked the judge to set bail at $50,000.
After the hearing, Holston told The Associated Press she also was happy with the judge's decision and said she is looking forward to his next court date in North Las Vegas, currently 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.
Police have said they have identified at 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.