Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Injustice in Las Vegas drone protester trials

October 23, 2015
Contact: Cres Vellucci, National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento

Re: Las Vegas Trials of Anti-Drone Defendants
Judge Saragosa Should Have Recused Herself, DA Hasn't Cooperated;
Defendants Put at Risk in Multiple Trials Starting Next Week

LAS VEGAS, NVThe National Lawyers Guild has expressed serious concerns about the civil rights of 14 defendants scheduled for trial next week in Las Vegas, in part because of a lack of response from the District Attorney as well an obvious conflict-of-interest by the judge in the cases.

The people were arrested last March during an anti-drone demonstration at Creech Air Force Base, and are set to begin individual trials in Clark County Justice Court Monday (Oct. 26) through Wednesday. They face up to six months in jail each.

However, defendants report they have not received discovery (evidence) before trial other than the citations they received when arrested back in March. The district attorney  also has not provided a witness list as ordered by the court and required under the law.

As importantly, the NLG is questioning why the judge in the case did not voluntarily recuse herself. She was asked to do so by several defendants earlier this year at a pre-trial conference, and refused.

Judge Melissa Saragosa is a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, serves as a military judge currently and previously prosecuted military personnel on 18 bases.

"No doubt, some of those prosecuted by Judge Saragosa had refused to obey orders, and that is precisely what protestors are asking drone operators at Creech AFB to do – disobey orders and not fly drones," said Cres Vellucci, the coordinator of the National Lawyers Guild in Sacramento, CA, home to one of the defendants, Barry Binks, a veteran.

"This is an absolute conflict-of-interest for Judge Saragosa, who works for the very complainants (Air Force) in this case. She should have recused herself. Most states, including Nevada, have adopted the American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which suggests disqualification for judges who recognize the existence of a conflict of interest, or who encounter allegations of a conflict," said Vellucci.


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