Ty Robben, who is facing charges he libeled and tried to intimidate Justice of the Peace John Tatro, on Monday lost his bid to disqualify the district attorney from prosecuting him.
But he won a partial victory when Senior JP Harold Albright of Reno granted him a stay so he could appeal that ruling to district court.
Robben was charged with felony stalking electronically and intimidating a public official’s family. He also was charged with gross misdemeanors for allegedly trying to intimidate a public official and with libel.
But after hearing some of the threatening-sounding comments Robben has made about Tatro, the district attorney’s office and Carson City’s criminal justice system, Albright refused to lower his bail. It will remain at $50,000, cash-only, and Robben will remain in the Carson City Jail.
Public defender Jarrod Hickman argued that Robben, who lives in South Lake Tahoe, believes he has been treated so unfairly and targeted by DA Neil Rombardo that he has sued in federal court alleging that office has violated his rights. He said the entire office should be disqualified and a special prosecutor should handle the case to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Assistant DA Mark Krueger said that would be a mistake.
“I don’t think we want to start a policy where simply filing a lawsuit disqualifies the entire office,” he said, adding that would lead to myriad suits by every defendant wanting to block prosecutors from going after them.
“The disqualification of one deputy does not implicate the entire office,” Krueger said.
Hickman said Robben’s position is that “this is a retaliatory prosecution.”
Krueger responded that there is no evidence of retaliation.
The judge ruled that the Carson DA’s office can handle the case but directed that Rombardo himself have no direct part in the prosecution.
But, at Hickman’s request, he granted a stay, putting off the preliminary hearing until Hickman can get a district court decision on a writ seeking to overturn the ruling.
Saying that could take some time, Hickman then argued Robben should be released on his own recognizance. He said his client had no criminal record before the events leading to these charges, has family and a job offer from his cousins in the area and has a place to live. He said the fact that he called Tatro names on his website is protected speech and not even a crime, and that the $50,000 cash-only bail should at least be reduced.
Krueger objected, saying the level of anger and language Robben has used both on the website and in recorded phone calls from the jail argue against lowering bail.
“This case has allegations of threats and libel against a public officer,” he said.
He recited quotes by Robben that “we need to blow this place up and start over” and that “I don’t want to say over the phone how bad it’s going to be.” There were also references to the shootout at Waco, Texas, and “Molatoff cocktails and guns.”
“I can’t wait to get out of here and shred their careers and **** up their families,” Krueger quoted him as saying.
Robben started his protests after he was fired as an IT specialist by the state. He ran afoul of the Carson City Sheriff’s Office after he attempted to help another ousted employee, former NDOT pilot Jim Richardson, serve papers on NDOT Director Susan Martinovich. When he charged the vehicle on foot, attempting to pull the door open and serve her with paperwork, she sped away. He was charged with misdemeanors and brought before Tatro, where he argued she should be charged with running over his foot.
Robben was incensed by what he considered unfair treatment by Tatro and began a campaign to get the judge removed from office. That campaign escalated to a website that Tatro has said he finds threatening, especially to his wife and children.
No new date was set for the preliminary hearing in the case.