DA planning vigorous defense to Weddell federal suit

Counterclaims of libel and abuse of the legal process may be filed against plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit seeking damages from and removal of Carson City elected officials and employees.

"It may be expected that we will respond affirmatively in this instance rather than by just responding to their motions," District Attorney Noel Waters said Thursday. "Possible counterclaims we will be examining are abuse of process, libel, a few things like that."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District court in Reno last week targeted Waters, Sheriff Rod Banister, Justice of the Peace Robey Willis, Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer and six sheriff's deputies, as well as brothers John and James Bustamonte.

Carson City businessman Rolland Weddell accuses the Bustamontes of involving his daughter, Kellie Weddell, in drug sales then kidnapping her to collect the proceeds in October 1997. John Cole, an employee of Weddell's construction company, allegedly was injured that evening when the Bustamontes drove to the company construction yard looking for the daughter. Cole has testified he was struck by the Blazer occupied by the brothers.

The next morning, Weddell attempted to place James Bustamonte under citizen's arrest. He fired four rounds from a Glock handgun as Bustamonte fled, was later arrested and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm in an occupied area.

Weddell battled those charges on the grounds Nevada law permitted him to use potentially deadly force in making a citizen's arrest. In June, First Judicial District Judge Michael Fondi agreed and dismissed the charges a month before Weddell's felony trial was to begin. Waters' office has since appealed the dismissal to the Nevada Supreme Court. Waters said Thursday he does not expect a ruling anytime soon.

Between the October 1997 events and now, Weddell has filed motions to have Waters, Banister, Langer and the deputies removed from their jobs for malfeasance and related offenses, to have the district attorney's office disqualified from defending the targets of the removal effort because of conflict of interest and to have Waters and Banister removed from office because of the manner in which city money was spent to defend them from his removal effort. None of those actions have been successful, though some appeals are pending.

"Most of the claims made by Mr. Weddell, his daughter, and Mr. Cole, in this particular lawsuit are restatements of claims made in state court jurisdictions that were decided against him," Waters said. "We're going to respond one by one to those allegations in federal court and we expect the same result."

Waters said portions of the federal suit are outrageous, such as requesting an order requiring the resignation from public office of the officials named as defendants.

"It's news to me that judges have the power to demand the resignation of an elected official," Waters said. "Our reaction, in part, is that this is unnecessarily vexatious."

The suit claims in part Willis refused to allow Weddell to file a criminal complaint against the Bustamontes in justice court and that Waters later came and removed the complaint from the courthouse. The federal suit is the first Weddell action to target the justice of the peace.

The Bustamontes have been imprisoned, James in Nevada and John in California, on unrelated charges.


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