Attorney seeks to head off grand jury criticism
An attorney for five Carson City sheriff’s employees, who may be named in a grand jury report, has filed a district court motion asking to clarify what can be said in the report.
“An ounce of prevention is the way to go,” Reno attorney Edwin T. Basl said Monday. Basl represents Undersheriff Bill Callahan, Sgt. Ken Sandage, Sgt. Rod King, Deputy Fred Schoenfeldt and Deputy Steve Johnson.
The grand jury empaneled in March issued indictments June 21 against Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer, Jaime Bustamante and Johnny Bustamante.
In all, 12 people were named as targets of the grand jury investigation into collusion between the Carson City District Attorney’s Office and the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.
A grand jury report is expected to be released in the upcoming weeks, and Basl wants to make sure it doesn’t contain improper statements.
Basl referred to a portion of the grand jury transcripts released June 22 in which a grand juror asked Special Prosecutor Terri Roeser if Sheriff Rod Banister could be indicted.
Basl said a statement made by Roeser to grand jurors about what can be presented in a grand jury report was erroneous.
According to the transcripts, Roeser said:
“I discussed (the question) with Judge (Bill) Maddox and he was of the same opinion as I. You are limited to what is in the petition, the targets that have already been named … However, that does not preclude you from making any reference or any comments, criticisms of any other witness or any other individual and a report should you choose to do so.”
In the motion filed Friday afternoon, Basl said of Roeser’s statement: “That expansive and unlimited explanation of the legal standard for grand jury reports is contrary to Nevada law.
“Commenting in a general sense that the grand jury can make any reference that they might want to and very well may do that to anyone else prompted me to protect the interest of my clients,” Basl said.
According to Nevada Revised Statutes, a grand jury report may address a matter into which the jury lawfully inquired, but the report must not include references that ridicule, abuse or otherwise subject a person to disgrace or embarrassment.
If recommendations to public officers or agencies are included in the report and the individuals were not indicted by the grand jury, the report must include a positive statement that no indictable criminal activity was found.
Basl cited instances of two Washoe County grand juries whose reports were released with damning information and then challenged in court.
“This type of erroneous release can do immense damage to good reputations without sufficient recourse to clear and establish a person’s good name,” Basl wrote.
The grand jury was formed by a petition circulated by Carson City contractor Ron Weddell. Weddell charged officials in the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department ignored an attempted murder charge in 1997 against the Bustamantes.
When Weddell fire four shots in an attempt to place Jaime Bustamante under citizen’s arrest, Weddell was arrested on charges of attempted murder. Those charges were later dropped by then-District Judge Michael Fondi. Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court reinstated the charges against Weddell.
According to Nevada law, a district court judge has 60 days upon receipt of the grand jury report to review and file it with the District Court Clerks Office.