RENO — A federal lawsuit accuses White Pine County District Attorney Kelly Brown of defaming and violating the civil rights of one of his ex-assistant prosecutors, who says he forced her from her job in retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged mismanagement of a county fund.
Former Assistant DA Kirsty Pickering accuses her old boss of bringing trumped-up charges against her husband, which later were dismissed, denying her right to free speech and intentionally creating an “intolerable workplace” before she quit in May.
Her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno alleges Brown engaged in “selective prosecution based upon his biases toward individuals and favoritism of friends and political supporters.”
Brown denied the allegations in court papers filed on Friday by a lawyer for White Pine County, Rebecca Bruch of Reno. She said in an email Tuesday that neither she nor Brown has any comment at this time on the lawsuit seeking unspecified damages.
The case was reassigned on Monday to U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert McQuaid because the previously assigned judge recused himself, noting he was once a partner in the law firm where Bruch works. Both sides have until March 24 to submit a discovery plan for a pending trial.
The dispute dates to July 2011 when Pickering learned of a “breach of security” in the White Pine County Bad Check Account maintained by Brown, according to the lawsuit filed in November.
Acting as a citizen, Pickering said she approached two sitting district judges, who urged her to persuade Brown to report the apparent theft from the account. She did so, and he reported it to the Sheriff’s Office, but soon attempted to have the deputies close the investigation, the lawsuit said.
The Nevada Division of Investigation took over the probe which “remains pending,” the suit said.
Gail Powell, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Safety overseeing NDI, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
An audit conducted in January 2013 resulted in the account being transferred to the county treasurer’s office.
Pickering, who had been working in the office since 2007, said Brown became angry with her and exhibited a “lack of support and interaction as a supervisor.”
She alleges Brown’s malicious and “evil intent” became more evident in the months after the audit when her husband, Walter Rosevear, was knocked down by a sheriff’s deputy outside a local bar and arrested on charges including resisting arrest.
Rosevear was leaving the bar when Deputy Alan Pederson followed him, grabbed him and “leg-swept him to the ground and began to battle” him, the suit said.
Pederson said he ordered Rosevear to halt for the purpose of a legal stop. But the suit says neither the bar’s proprietors nor others had requested the arrest and that when the owners specifically were asked, they indicated they didn’t want to press charges.
Rosevear spent 15 hours in jail before he was released on a $10,000 cash bond posted by his wife.
Citing the potential for a conflict of interest, Brown obtained the County Commission’s permission to shift the prosecution to the state attorney general’s office. The charges later were dismissed without opposition from the deputy attorney general, the suit said.
“Brown’s hostility and abuse in the workplace included a continued prosecution of Rosevear without probable cause knowing he had a conflict of interest with (Pickering) employed in his office,” the suit said.