Federal lawsuit adds to allegations of excessive force by family court marshals
By Martha Neil
Oct 24, 2013, 11:40 am CST
A federal lawsuit alleging that Nevada family court marshals threw a man headfirst onto the concrete floor of the Las Vegas courthouse for no good reason is the latest development in an ongoing saga of allegations of excessive force and improper conduct at the court.
A poor-quality video of the February 2012 incident appears to offer some support for the claims made in the suit by plaintiff Peter Peterson, 42, who said he had been put in restraints prior to being thrown to the floor, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Marshals said in an incident report that Peterson was confrontational and tried to incite bystanders, but a witness complained in a 911 call that the marshals harassed Peterson and slammed him into the floor, the newspaper recounts.
The suit comes in the midst of a federal grand jury investigation of allegations of excessive force and improper conduct by family court marshals, and the FBI has sought records of internal investigations at the court, which is a division of Clark County District Court, the article says. The newspaper relies on unidentified sources for information about the ongoing probe.
Peterson contends in the suit that he was attacked after he complained about security procedures and alleges that a long-standing policy of ignoring and minimizing excessive force incidents have resulted in marshals feeling "empowered to harm citizens, knowing that there will be no punishment after the fact."
A subsequent Las Vegas Review-Journal article says the FBI is interviewing both current and former court employees about both allegations of excessive force by the marshals and claims of a cover-up when complaints were made.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has also editorialized about the allegations, saying that changes are needed now to ensure citizen safety in the courts.
Spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said court officials are cooperating with the FBI. “Court administration had advised the FBI of investigative files that upon subpoena would be provided,” she told the newspaper.
Another federal lawsuit was filed earlier this year over alleged groping by a family court marshal, and a judge at the family court is facing a legal ethics case over claimed conduct unrelated to the excessive force allegations.
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