Judge upholds citizen’s right to file criminal charges
March 23, 2002
A judge upheld a citizen’s right to file a criminal complaint in Carson City, but reiterated the right of a prosecutor to use his discretion on how to pursue it.
Judge Mike Griffin said Friday that despite a justice court decision denying Ron Weddell’s right to file a criminal complaint in the justice court, a previous ruling by District Judge William Maddox upholding that right should remain.
“My concern is this: Judge Maddox has addressed the issue,” he told District Attorney Noel Waters, Justice of the Peace Robey Willis and attorney Ed Basl, who represents five sheriff’s deputies. “I’m not saying the argument is right or wrong, I’m just saying you’re asking me to (overrule a district judge with equal standing), something I’m not going to do in Carson City.”
Waters, Willis, Carson City Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Bill Callahan, and deputies Steve Johnson, Ken Sandage, Fred Schoenfeldt and Rod King, have long been targets of Weddell, who has alleged mistreatment by local law enforcement after he was arrested on firearms and assault charges following an incident in which he fired a gun at a man while attempting a citizen’s arrest.
Weddell said the arrest was made in response to an attempt by a man and his brother to run down an employee of Weddell’s at his Arrowhead Drive construction yard.
After Weddell’s arrest, then-district judge Michael Fondi dismissed the case, saying that Nevada law allows use of force in attempting a citizen’s arrest.
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Justice of the Peace Steven McMorris said in November the criminal complaint could not be filed by a citizen.
In Griffin’s decision Friday, he reiterated that filing paperwork is simply a clerical action and not a legal action.
Waters and Basl indicated they might appeal Griffin’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, where a successful ruling would create precedent restricting citizen’s abilities to to file a criminal complaint.
“We will talk it over and see,” Waters said.
Day Williams, who has represented Weddell throughout the legal ordeal, said he considered Friday’s ruling a victory.
“The question here is whether a citizen has the right to file a criminal complaint,” he said. “We think a citizen has that right.”
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