Trooper Who Caused Fatal Accident Gets Sweetheart Deal Despite Exceeding State Limit for POT

Nevada’s NRS 484C.430 is A Crappy Law…

…If You’re a Stripper…

…If You’re a Cop, Well, Not So Much.

The former Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant who caused a fatal three-vehicle accident in 2008 entered into a negotiated plea agreement that will limit his potential prison term to no more than 6 years. Edward Lattin, a 22-year NHP veteran who, as a sergeant supervised a team that investigates fatal crashes, recently entered a guilty plea to a single count of felony reckless driving causing death.

NHPtrooperEdward Lattin

Former NHP Trooper Edward Lattin

The 51-year-old Lattin, who police say had more marijuana in his system than state law permits while driving, was originally indicted under the same controversial Nevada law under which Jessica Williams was convicted following her 2000 accident that left six teenagers dead. The law’s controversy stemmed, in large part, due to the legal issues that allowed the jury to acquit Williams of driving under the influence of a controlled substance while still convicting her of driving with that same prohibited substance in her blood. Although the jurors determined Williams was not impaired, they also found that Williams had more than 2 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter in her blood. Williams’s appeal was upheld by the state Supreme Court which ruled the law did not require the driver to be impaired.

That is what makes Lattin’s plea all the more troubling. Lattin was indicted under NRS 484C.430 based on the testimony by authorities that blood drawn from the off-duty trooper immediately after the fatal crash tested positive for marijuana at a level of 5.6 nanograms per millilitre. Lattin faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Section 2 of NRS 484C.430 contains a unique provision.

“A prosecuting attorney shall not dismiss a charge of violating the provisions of subsection 1 in exchange for a plea of guilty…to a lesser charge or for any other reason unless the attorney knows or it is obvious that the charge is not supported by probable cause or cannot be proved at the time of trial. ”

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Assistant District Attorney Bruce Nelson

After announcing the plea agreement in open court, prosecutor Bruce Nelson said the Clark County District Attorney’s office negotiated the case with Lattin because the blood test alone could not prove the former Trooper was impaired at the time of the crash, which seemed a rather odd assertion. Considering Nelson was the prosecutor who had previously convicted Williams under the same statute without proving she was impaired, this can’t be dismissed as simply gaff by prosecutors. It’s seems an obvious case of special treatment.

This plea agreement, which the statute clearly does not allow, will most likely allow Lattin to spend a mere fraction of the time Williams received for each one of her counts despite the facts of the cases being nearly identical. This comes as no surprise considering how Lattin’s case was dealt with in an entirely different manner than Williams from the very beginning.

ying vehicle

Scene from the 2008 Crash caused by Lattin

Williams was placed in custody immediately following her accident and remained at the CCDC through her trial, unable to raise a bond of nearly $1,000,000 per victim. Lattin, on the other hand, was not arrested for nearly a month after his accident, and spent only a few days in jail after a judge set his bond at only $50,000 or about 20 times less than bond was set for the similar counts against Williams after his attorneys argued he deserved consideration because of his job with the NHP. This allowed Lattin’s defense team to request continuance after continuance while the former trooper remained free,, and perhaps that frustration lead Nelson to ignore the law and offer Lattin what essentially is a slap on the wrist.

Lattin, could be sentenced to probation or face one to six years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for June 3 before District Judge Kathleen Delaney.

Update: Lattin was sentenced to a 14 to  48 month prison sentence.

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LVMPD Releases Department Findings on Two Cases of Deadly Force

With No Inquest In Sight

And The DA’s Office Rulings Already  a Month Old

Gillespie Aims for “Unprecedented Level of Accountability.”

The reports don’t contain any earth shattering information. They are basically just a rehash of the findings the Clark County District Attorney quietly released last month, but Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie says the release of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s (LVMPD) internal findings regarding fatal officer encounters is major step towards the transparency he promised the community since he was caught misinforming the public around the circumstance surrounding the 2009 death of office James Manor.

Benjamin Bowman was shot by LVMPD officer during robbery attempt.

During a press conference held yesterday Gillespie told the community “Addressing the use of force with the public is one of Metro’s top priorities,” and that by releasing the findings of both The Force Investigative Team  the Office of Internal Oversight. The OIO is was formed in February if this year in response to the public outcry following the controversial shooting deaths of Trevon Cole, Erik Scott and Stanley Gibson, as well as the publication of the Las Vegas Review Journal’s investigationinto the past 20 years of police shootings in Clark County.

LVMPD Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s recent decision to no longer wait for legal challenges to the Coroner’s Inquest to be resolved, and released his office’s findings in seven of the 19 fatal use of force incidents that await the Nevada Supreme Court Ruling on the whether or not the Inquest violates officer’s Constitutional rights. Gillespie did acknowledge that the privacy rights were  concern while he contemplated releasing internal documents that have for decades remained secret.

“I believe the release of these documents will place this process and its outcome in the full light of day without jeopardizing the right to privacy of our officers involved,” Gillespie stated.

Sight of the 2010 Shooting death of Anthony Brenes

The reports released by Metro covered the department’s findings in the Dec 11th, 2010 Taser death of Anthony Jones. Officers Mark Hatten, Timothy English, Richard Fonbuena, and Steven Skenandore were  cleared by the Da’s office in May. Hatten had pulled Jones over for a routine traffic infraction. The stop culminated in Hatten using his x-26 Electronic Control device (Taser) 19 times on the Jones who died on the scene. All officers involved were found to have acted within department guidelines, however Jones’ death was the catalyst to Metro’s change in its Taser Policy. The other two reports also found no violations of department policies by the officer’s involved in the shooting deaths of 22-year-old Benjamin Bowman and  32-year-old Anthony Brenes. Both men were killed on November 15th, 2010. Bowman was killed during the robbery of a PT’s Pub and Brenes, armed with a sticks and stones, was shot after a police responded to a domestic disturbance at an East Las Vegas Speedee Mart.

The Sheriff says the OIO and Fit reports will be made public 30 days following the DA’s release of its findings.

Wolfson Clears Seven More Cops involved in Three 2011 Shootings

With complete disregard of the Inquest process

District Attorney Steve Wolfson

Continues to Clear Killer Cops.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson

The District Attorney’s office under Steve Wolfson continues to dig the grave of the county’s controversial Coroner’s Inquest process by releasing his office’s findings regarding the death of three more suspects at the hands of police. Not surprisingly, none of the three incidents warrant criminal charges.

As he has done in the past, through letters posted on the  DA’s website, Wolfson cleared the officers involved in the shooting deaths of Jamie Padilla, Mauricio Hernandez and Tory Manvilla.

Four SWAT officers, Dave Reid,  Anton Gorup,  Leaareon Fincher,  and William Marx exchanged gunfire with Padilla in February, 2011 after an hour-long standoff. Police were responding to reports of a man with a gun trying to break into residences at the Broadstone Montecito Apartments. Padilla reportedly fired on officers several times before officers delivered the fatal shots.

Police investigate the Hernandez shooting at The Bar

The Bar Surveillance Footage

Hernandez was shot and killed less than two weeks later at The Bar, on Nellis Ave., by Metro Sgt. David Toney. Hernandez was in the bar after his involvement in a shooting earlier that day on Stockbridge St.  Although Toney had no information about Hernandez’s earlier activities, surveillance video shows the suspect drew his weapon five seconds after Toney entered the establishment to have a cup of coffer with a friend and pointed it at the officer. Toney was able to draw his service weapon and fire six shots at the suspect, who stumbled into the restroom and died.

Manvilla’s death was the first fatal officer involved shooting of 2011 by Metro officers. Prior to the shooting Manvilla had been acting erratically, and had tried to gain access to at least two residences in area of Mountain Vista Street and Tropicana Avenue. Claiming that someone was after him, most residents told reporters they didn’t find the man threatening, but rather “scared to death.”

After pushing his way into a home on Fairfax Avenue and locking himself in the bathroom. The residents of the home said police were in the home less than 10 minutes before shots were fired. None of them told investigators they heard police issue any commands. Officers Juan Guzman and Michael Henry each fired one shot at Manvilla after they say he burst forth from the bathroom and charged them.

Manvilla’s autopsy determined he was under the influence of Methamphetamine and Amphetamine at the time of his death, which according to his friends and relatives, most likely led to his paranoid behavior.

Since taking over the DA’s office this year Wolfson has found reason not to file criminal charges in a total of seven FOIS as well as declining to press charges relating to the videotaped beating of a diabetic motorist by several officers from Henderson Police Department, including Brett Seekatz who can been seen repeatedly kicking the motorist in the head.

What are your thoughts on Wolfson’s decision not to await the public fact-finding process? Is his choice to bypass the Coroner’s Inquest good or bad for Clark County?

Clark County DA Continues to Clear Cops Without Inquests

Wolfson Clears More Killer Cops

Even Those

Who Refused to Cooperate With Investigators

Clark County’s rookie District Attorney has decided once again not to wait for the fact-finding process known as the Coroner’s Inquest and has cleared five more valley officers for their roles in the separate deaths of Benjamin Hunter Bowman, 22, and Anthony Jones, 44.

Bowman was killed during a botched robbery attempt at the PT’s Pub at 2280 Nellis in November, 2010. The shooting was captured on video and witnessed by several patrons and employees of the Pub. All of which showed that officers Michael Franco, Phillip Zaragoza and Peter Kruse shot Bowman in a clear attempt to save the life of a female bartender Bowman was holding at knife point.

However the death of Jones is less cut and dry. Jones was killed, not in an attempt to protect the lives of the officers or the public, but in an attempt to restrain him. Jones was spotted driving without his headlights at 1:00am on December 11, 2010 by Officer Mark Hatten. After pulling over, Jones fled the scene on foot and was eventually taken down by Hatten and fellow officers Timothy English, Richard Fonbuena, and Steven Skenandore. The resulting attempt to take Jones into custody,  where officer Hatten and English Tased the suspect over a dozen times in two minutes, resulted in his death.

Current Metro policy prohibits Tasing subjects more than three times in a given encounter. That, along with recent court rulings that Tasers cannot be used simply as compliance tool make this incident murkier.

GIANCARLO PESCI Chief Deputy District Attorney

In the decision letter released today Wolfson’s  Chief Deputy District Attorney, Giancarlo Pesci writes Nevada law, “clearly states that homicides which are justifiable or excusable are not punishable. (NRS 200.190) …The homicide appearing to be justifiable or excusable, the person indicted shall, upon trial, be fully acquitted and discharged,” which is fine. However, since the only offense Jones had been observed committing was a minor traffic violation, the DA’s assertion that the killing was justified under NRS 200.140, ignores the felony requirement contained in the statute. That leaves us with the what is required to determine the Jones homicide as justified.

Pesci,  goes on to explain that there is no “factual or legal basis upon which to charge Officers Hatten, English, Fonbuena, and Skenandore,” which is not true. The report tells us Jones’ death “has been deemed a homicide by the coroner,” and officers Hatten and English’s excessive use of their Tasers were a contributing factor in that death.

That is all the State has the burden to prove here. In order to be protected un NRS 200.190 the killers are required by NRS 200.170 to provide evidence that their actions were justifiable  “Burden of proving circumstances of mitigation or justifiable or excusable homicide….The burden of proving circumstances of mitigation, or that justify or excuse the homicide, will devolve on the accused. (NRS 200.170)

This is something that the officers have refused to do. According to the statement by the DA’s office, all five officers refused to provide official accounts of their actions. Without statements from the officers, the DA’s office has held them to a lower standard that required by Nevada Law. This is not what Wolfson promised the community he would do when he took over the office after  the former DA, David Roger, left to accept a six figure deal to defend the members of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association.

Let us know what you think. Should Wolfson continue clearing cops before an inquest is held? Did he make  the right call here?