Judge releases grand jury reports, transcripts | NevadaAppeal.com

Judge releases grand jury reports, transcripts

Amanda Hammon, Appeal Staff Writer

In a tense hearing Friday, a Las Vegas judge officially released a Carson City grand jury report he had previously sealed.

Judge Mark Gibbons ordered a revised grand jury report and transcripts officially released to the public because the information already had been published by the Nevada Appeal.

The judge also freed grand jurors, public officials and others involved in the process to speak publicly about the case.

District Attorney Noel Waters, Sheriff Rod Banister and justices of the peace Robey Willis and John Tatro requested Gibbons make a public statement on why he had sealed the report from the grand jury.

Waters said the group of elected officials “isn’t whiny,” but said a statement from Gibbons as to the inadequacy of the proceedings would pull more weight in the public eye than their comments.

Gibbons, saying he would still consider making a formal statement, added that he considered editing the report to delete personal references to public officials but opted to seal the report instead. He said officials were doing the “best job they can” and many of the statements in the report in relation to the officials were “political sour grapes.”

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“We can all improve our offices,” he said.

In dialogue that often turned contentious, Waters argued the grand jury proceedings “were not grounded in procedures” and there were “serious, substantive errors made in these hearings.”

Waters called special prosecutor Terri Roeser “overzealous” and said she provided jurors only a “one-sided presentation of evidence” against those under grand jury scrutiny.

Banister dubbed the grand jury’s proceedings “one of the most hostile environments I’ve been in.” Tatro and Willis took exception to a line from the jury’s report that judges need more training. While Tatro was not involved in the case that prompted the grand jury’s investigation, he argued he and Willis were unfairly painted as untrained.

“When the Nevada Appeal took that illegally acquired report and put it on the front page of the paper, the damage was done to me and my colleagues,” Tatro said. “(Jurors) don’t know about my training. They never asked me. What does that say for the rest of the report?”

With her arms folded and lips pursed, Roeser disputed criticism that she failed to follow Nevada law in conducting the grand jury. “I don’t feel like I need to apologize to this court, the grand jurors, or this community,” she said.

Waters and Roeser spent much of the hearing throwing allegations of misconduct and misunderstanding back and forth from table to table.

Grand jury foreman Monte Fast said he was pleased that the jury’s report was officially released. He said the hearing allowed the city’s elected officials to “have their day in court.”

“They didn’t get to say those things to us as a grand jury,” Fast said. The report release “adds a new, and I hope it’s a final, dimension to this.”

The grand jury was empaneled March 13, 2001, after businessman Ron Weddell filed a petition claiming collusion between the Carson City Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office following his arrest in 1997 for an attempted citizen’s arrest.

A version of the report released Friday was published earlier this month by the Nevada Appeal, which received it from an anonymous source.

Gibbons asked each of the attorneys and justices if they were the source of the leak to the newspaper, and all denied they had released the report.

“I can only surmise who did it,” Willis said.

At that point, attorney Day Williams stood and complained to the judge, “Robey looked over here when he said that.”

The Appeal last year published transcripts, which were unsealed Friday as well, of grand jury testimony.

On June 21, 2001, three indictments came out of the three-month grand jury investigation, which cost taxpayers $70,000.

All charges stemming from those indictments were dismissed initially, although one was recently reinstated by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Gibbons, chief justice of the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County who said he recently purchased a house in Carson City, was appointed by the Nevada Supreme Court to handle the grand jury proceedings after Carson City judges Michael Griffin and Bill Maddox recused themselves from the case.