Transcript reveals grand jury suggestions
The bulk of a grand jury report may never be made public, a judge has ruled, but transcripts of a court hearing on the report reveal some of its content.
Judge Mark Gibbons said in a March 18 hearing his impression of portions of the grand jury’s report were “cheap shots politically taken at people for no reason versus real constructive suggestions.”
Gibbons, chief justice of the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, was appointed by the Nevada Supreme Court to handle the grand jury proceedings after Carson City judges Michael Griffin and Bill Maddox removed themselves from the case.
In the March hearing, attorney Day Williams said statements made in the grand jury’s report were intended to help the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office run better.
For the Sheriff’s Department, jurors suggested performance evaluations, “prudent procedures at the jail” and random drug testing. For the District Attorney’s Office, jurors recommended an independent crime investigator, according to Williams’ statements in the transcript.
District Attorney Noel Waters argued the report should be suppressed based on a number of points, including the exclusion of evidence disputing allegations that led to the grand jury investigation.
“We feel that the grand jurors were misled. They were prevented from exercising independent review of evidence. They were not allowed to hear evidence intended to exculpate or explain away charges,” he said.
“This grand jury process has been flawed from shortly after its inception, I think, by an overzealous and one-sided presentation of facts.”
Gibbons agreed with the motion to quash the report, according to transcripts filed June 19.
Among his reasons, Gibbons said the statute of limitations on the charges had passed and there was no record that 12 of the 17 grand jurors agreed with the findings in the report.
“For (these) reasons, procedurally, I believe the report is defective and has to be expunged,” he said, according to the transcript.
He left those in opposition the opportunity to file a motion appealing the decision.
At this point, the final disposition of the report is unknown because two more hearings were held. Transcripts of those hearings were not available.
Grand jury proceedings are held in secret. Transcripts of the March 18 hearing were on file in District Court, but Gibbons said Monday he could not comment on the grand jury and wasn’t sure why the transcript was in the court file.
“By statute, any proceedings should be sealed involving the grand jury,” he said.
Williams also stated the report said, “The community of Carson City would have much better been served had the Carson City District Attorney’s Office arrested and prosecuted John and James Bustamante with the vigor that was shown in the arrest and prosecution of Roland Weddell.”
The grand jury convened following a petition circulated by businessman Weddell, who believed officials in the Carson City Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office, motivated by a “vendetta” against him, refused to arrest a man he said had kidnapped his daughter and run down an employee in his construction yard.
During what Weddell called a “citizen’s arrest” in October 1997, he fired four shots, missing the suspect, Jaime Bustamante.
Weddell was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Those charges were dismissed, then reinstated by the Supreme Court on April 10 of this year.
In July 2000, Weddell had contracted a company to circulate a petition to convene a grand jury investigation. The jury was seated March 13 and spent about three months interviewing witnesses.
On June 21, 2001, jurors handed their final report to Judge Maddox.
Following the grand jury findings, Chief Deputy Anne Langer was indicted on felony charges of intimidating a witness to influence testimony for allegedly suggesting Jaime Bustamante plead the Fifth Amendment if he were going to perjure himself in the Weddell case.
The Bustamante brothers were also indicted by the grand jury on a total of 11 counts, including: assault with a deadly weapon, battery with a deadly weapon, trafficking, possession and sales of a controlled substance. Additionally, John Bustamante was indicted on a charge of extortion.
Indictments against all three were later dismissed.