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High court withholds bodycam video in arrest of Nevada AG’s son

Updated February 20, 2020 - 4:45 pm

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday denied a national Republican political group’s attempt to obtain police body camera footage from an incident involving Nevada’s Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford.

A panel of three justices upheld a lower court’s decision that the body camera footage is considered confidential since it involved juveniles and should not be released to the Republican Attorney Generals Association, a group that ran several political ads against Ford during the 2018 election cycle.

But the justices also sent other aspects of the case back to the lower court for review because they said other records, such as the police report and witness statement, were not reviewed as part of the initial decision and should be further examined.

The lawsuit centers around a November 2017 incident in which Las Vegas police officers “arrested numerous juvenile suspects,” court documents said. Ford, the parent of one of the juveniles, arrived at the scene along with other parents, the documents said.

RAGA had submitted records requests to Las Vegas police seeking documents and videos related to that incident. Metro refused to produce any such records because the incident involved juveniles.

RAGA filed the lawsuit in September 2018, as the race between Ford and his Republican opponent Wes Duncan was heating up in the final two months of the race. At the time, a spokesman for the Republican political group said that members had received a tip alleging that Ford, who was the state Senate majority leader at the time, had used “that position of authority to influence an outcome with law enforcement.”

Ford’s campaign manager said at the time that it was “a minor incident on private property involving … pre-teen children,” and that all of the parents were called by police so that the issue could be handled privately.

In an October 2018 ruling, a lower court judge said she had reviewed the footage and concluded that all portions of it, including the parts involving Ford, were “directly related to the investigation of a juvenile-involved incident” and the records should not be released.

After reviewing the footage themselves, the high court justices agreed with the lower court on the body camera footage.

“The district court correctly found that the bodycam footage, including the portions with Ford, directly relates to the investigation of an incident involving a juvenile alleged to have committed a delinquent act,” Justice Lidia Stiglich wrote in the decision, with which Justices James Hardesty and Abbi Silver concurred.

Stiglich added that the lower court properly noted that all conversations on the footage, including those involving Ford, were directly related to the juveniles and the juvenile justice process, which are considered confidential under Nevada law.

RAGA argued that parts of the bodycam footage could be redacted, but Stiglich noted that redacting the confidential parts of the footage would “leave RAGA with no footage left to view.”

“We are aware that RAGA has not seen the bodycam footage, and we understand that the circumstances of this case require RAGA to trust this court’s determination of confidentiality,” Stiglich wrote.

Kelly Laco, spokeswoman for RAGA, said in a statement that “Ford is not above the rule of law and should work with the Metropolitan Police Department to release this information. The public deserves a higher level of transparency and accountability from their top law enforcement officer.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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