Grand Jury petition back in district court

A grand jury petition, circulated this year by resident Ron Weddell and filed in late August, is back on Judge Bill Maddox's desk.

The petition was returned to the district court - with 4,435 verified signatures - by Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover after a legal recommendation was handed down Thursday by the state Attorney General's Office. Glover had been waiting for answers on how to proceed with signature counting.

Instead of answering those questions, Deputy Attorney General Thom Gover wrote that the clerk's duty is to simply verify the legality of the signatures and pass the petition on to the presiding judge. The petition has been in limbo for more than a month while the attorney general has been gathering information.

Questions about legal procedure, the attorney advised, fall solely under the judge's duties. Nevada law that addresses procedure for a circulated grand jury petition is riddled with areas of ambiguity, but Gover said it should be treated with procedures similar to other types of petitions.

Glover justified the wait.

"Since there is no statutory authority, I didn't know where to go. Because of a conflict (District Attorney Noel Waters is named in the petition), the opinion had to come from the AG's office."

Because the number of signatures counted by Glover exceeds 25 percent of the number of Carson City residents who voted in the last election, the petition is considered legal. Judge Maddox, however, has final determination on whether a grand jury will be called.

"In the exercise of its inherent and discretionary authority, however, the court can impose such procedures as are reasonably necessary to determine the statutory validity and sufficiency of a petition for the summoning of a grand jury," Gover wrote.

The petition was filed with 5,422 signatures, according to Weddell. Of those, 4,205 signatures had to be verified by the clerk's office. Glover said workers went through the petition and marked the legible, legal signatures, before coming up with the total of 4,435.

In the petition, Weddell has charged several local officials and two brothers with criminal acts:

-- Waters is accused of removing a criminal complaint from a courtroom;

-- Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer is accused of coaching witnesses;

-- Justice of the Peace Robey Willis is accused of removing the complaint from the courtroom;

-- Deputy sheriffs Steve Johnson, Ken Sandage, Bill Callahan, Fred Schoenfeldt and Rod King are accused of obstructing prosecution of the case.

Brothers James and John Bustamonte are also named in allegations of drug trafficking, kidnapping and assault.

The petition stems from an October 1997 incident in which Weddell, attempting a citizen's arrest, fired four shots at a fleeing James Bustamonte. He claims the arrest attempt was made in response to an attempt by Bustamonte and his brother to run down an employee of Weddell's at an Arrowhead Drive construction yard.

Weddell reportedly spent $34,000 on the petition effort.


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