Weddell joins call for grand jury investigation of city law officials

A national firm has been hired to collect signatures for a grand jury investigation into Carson City sheriff's and district attorney's offices.

Ron Weddell has hired the signature-gathering firm in connection with an effort by Karen Perdue and Tammy Stelton to investigate the July 1997 death of Stelton's16-year-old daughter.

Weddell also wants an investigation of why two brothers accused of dealing drugs, kidnapping Weddell's daughter and striking one of his employees with a vehicle have not been prosecuted, while he was prosecuted for firing a handgun while attempting to make a citizen's arrest.

Weddell has hired National Voter Outreach to gather the 4,209 signatures, 25 percent of Carson City's registered voters, required on a grand jury petition. Petitions require signatures from 10 percent of a county's voters, or 1,684 in Carson City.

"This is a very unusual petition drive," National Voter Outreach chief executive officer Rick Arnold said Wednesday. "As far as we can tell, there hasn't been one in Nevada where someone's gotten a grand jury called. We haven't even been able to find anything in the records where anyone has tried before."

National Voter Outreach is a petition management firm that has been gathering signatures on political issues for 20 years, Arnold said. He said the company moved to Nevada in 1993. Its office is in Jacks Valley, but it works to put candidates and issues on ballots throughout the country.

He said the beginning date for the petition drive isn't set yet, as he waits for Williams and Weddell to decide the language for the petition.

Weddell has previously filed court actions ranging from criminal complaints against the brothers, John and James Bustamonte, to removal attempts against District Attorney Noel Waters and Sheriff Rod Banister and several of their deputies, as well as several appeals when the courts ruled against him.

When Weddell succeeded last summer in having his assault with a deadly weapon charge dismissed on the grounds that Nevadans may use deadly force in making a citizen's arrest, Waters appealed the dismissal.

Carson City lawyer Day Williams is representing Perdue and Weddell in separate federal lawsuits against several city officials stemming from failed attempts to get action locally. He also is helping prepare the language for the grand jury petition.

"Every time we try to get something done, the district attorney keeps falling back on the premise that he has broad discretion in whether to prosecute or investigate," Williams said Tuesday. "And he does have discretion.

"But any time we ask for something, we get shut down. Noel Waters says he'll do something, then doesn't. We can't draw any other conclusion but that there's some sort of coverup going on."

Stelton's petitions on her daughter Natasha Jennings' death was denied jointly by First Judicial District judges Michael Griffin and Michael Fondi in September 1999. The judges ruled that Stelton, who lives in Manteca, Calif., did not have standing to file the request here and also cited the high costs associated with empanelling a grand jury.

But the denial order said the judges would call such a jury for that or any other matters, if a valid petition was received from Carson City citizens.


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