Protester claims her free-speech rights violated. | NevadaAppeal.com

Protester claims her free-speech rights violated.

JIM SCRIPPS

Karen Perdue is a woman of conviction.

For two years she has pursued Carson City law enforcement with a vengeance, demanding a second look at a mysterious death in July 1997.

Armed with a sign that reads “Justice for Natasha,” Perdue has picketed city government and the Carson City Courthouse, reminding people of the death of Natasha Jennings, a 16-year-old girl found at her aunt’s Lassen Drive apartment.

Now, more than 2 1/2 years after Jenning’s death, Perdue believes another injustice has been done. She says that her First Amendment right to free speech was violated when she was told to leave the steps of the Carson City Courthouse while picketing in mid-December.

Unswerving in her activism, Perdue said she filed a complaint with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department later that month against security officers who told her to leave, but the complaint has not been answered.

On Tuesday, she said, she was told that the complaint she filed cannot be found.

“I want to get some some confirmation that bailiffs know that they shouldn’t harass me,” she said. “I have a feeling that they are going to brush this off and use their broad discretion to say this wasn’t a crime.”

Perdue says that once she feels secure about her right to picket on public property, she will take to the streets again.

Carson City Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Burau said Tuesday that the form that Perdue filled out was an information report and that his office had reviewed it.

The report was sent to the District Attorney’s Office for further review on Tuesday. The district attorney and sheriff decide whether to pursue criminal charges, he said.

Perdue’s Carson City lawyer, Day Williams, said they intend to take the case to U.S. District Court in Reno. He said Perdue will be seeking damages and a permanent injunction guaranteeing people the right to picket on the courthouse steps.

“At best what they did was misleading and at worst it was a complete criminal conspiracy,” Perdue said.

Williams hopes to have the first hearing within a month.

Perdue said she has no bones to pick with the security guards who asked her to leave, but says her cause needs the attention of concerned citizens. She is pursuing a criminal charge misdemeanor coercion against the guard.

“I don’t really want the bailiff to get in trouble, but it’s just the way it has to be.”

The District Attorney’s Office was not available for comment on the story.

After an investigation by the sheriff’s department and a subsequent coroner autopsy, the cause of Jenning’s death could not be determined, but investigators said there was no evidence of foul play.

Perdue, interested by the suspicious circumstance and motivated to lend a hand in expediting justice, joined Jennings’ family in pressing investigators to take a second look at the case.

Jennings’ mother, Tammy Stelton, petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court for a grand jury investigation and was rejected in October.

“Our investigation into the death was exhaustive,” Burau said, referring to Perdue’s allegations of unanswered questions. “In some cases we are left with a cause of death that is undetermined.

“If we had uncovered any information that led us to believe that there was foul play, this wouldn’t be an undetermined death, it would be a homicide investigation.”

Jennings’ father lives in Mound House while while her mother lives in Manteca, Calif.