Grand jury report reveals displeasure with handling of Weddell case |

Grand jury report reveals displeasure with handling of Weddell case

F.T. Norton

A report issued by Carson City grand jurors last year is critical of the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office in the handling of the case that set the grand jury into motion.

“The community of Carson City would have been much better served had the Carson City District Attorney’s Office arrested and prosecuted John and James Bustamonte with the vigor that was shown in the arrest and prosecution of Rolland Weddell,” reads the first paragraph in a three-page sealed grand jury report sent anonymously to the Nevada Appeal.

The grand jury was convened in August 2000 after Carson City businessman Weddell gathered an estimated 5,422 signatures on a petition. Weddell charged in the petition the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department had a vendetta against him when they arrested him after he fired shots at the man he accused of running down employee John Cole in Weddell’s construction yard and kidnapping his daughter over a drug deal.

Weddell claimed he was attempting to place James Bustamonte under citizen’s arrest because police never arrived at the location to arrest Bustamonte.

In June, a judge quashed the grand jury report, although no ruling has been made public.

The report goes on to say Justice Court clerks and justices of the peace need training “to update them with the most current case law and court decisions regarding filing and handling of complaints brought to their office for filing and legal action.”

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Additionally, the report takes notice of a “marked lack of competence in the handling of both the Cole and Weddell cases,” by the Carson City Sheriff’s Department, “in particular the ‘detective division.'”

Jurors offer three suggestions for improving the department, including setting minimum standards for becoming a detective, training on how to deal with citizen’s complaints and mandatory “Incident Command Training,” which they say is available through the Nevada Division of Emergency.

The report is critical of the department’s handling of a photo lineup in which Cole was asked to pick out the man he said ran him down in the construction yard.

In that photo line up, Cole claimed there was no current photo of Johnny Bustamonte with facial hair, which made identification difficult.

The grand jurors suggested the department should utilize a “live line-up facility. When available or appropriate and actual suspect presented in person to a witness or a victim by means of live line-up is superior to photograph.”

Also in the report, jurors made suggestions for performance evaluations and random drug testing in the Sheriff’s Department and an independent crime investigator for the District Attorney’s Office.

For the past six years, District Attorney Noel Waters has been denied money by the Board of Supervisors to hire an investigator.

Three indictments out of a possible 24 came out of the three-month-long grand jury investigation, which cost taxpayers $70,000. All charges stemming from those indictments were dismissed, but one against Johnny Bustamonte was recently reinstated by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Officials contacted for comments on the report declined to comment, saying it was sealed and therefore they had no knowledge of its contents. Grand jurors themselves are prohibited by law from discussing the matter.

The report was sealed when Clark County District Judge Mark Gibbons reportedly ruled it had gone beyond the scope of the grand jury’s investigation. According to court transcripts, he said in a March 18 hearing his impression of portions of the grand jury’s report was “cheap shots politically taken at people for no reason versus real constructive suggestions.”

The report sent to the Appeal appears to be a revised version, as it is labeled “Corrected grand jury report.”