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After Las Vegas judge attack, officials look to enhance courthouse security

Since the start of the year, there have been three separate incidents in which someone was attacked at the Regional Justice Center.

The first was captured in a viral video that made national headlines, when 31-year-old Deobra Redden dramatically launched himself across a courtroom and attacked a judge in the middle of a hearing.

Later in January, a man was punched in a Justice Court hallway.

In early February, a defendant punched another inmate during a District Court hearing.

“The fact that there have been three incidents in the last couple of months, I think, is unusual. We don’t have that many incidents on a regular basis,” District Court Chief Judge Jerry Wiese said in a recent phone interview. “Would we consider that an uptick? Maybe. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Maybe it was Deobra Redden that made people think that they can act up in court.”

In an effort to increase security at the courthouse, the District Court and Clark County are looking to hire more marshals, who are responsible for the protection of judges and safety in courtrooms. Wiese said the goal is to have two marshals for every “high-risk” courtroom, meaning courtrooms for criminal cases or Family Court matters.

Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said the court currently has a budget for 111 marshals, but it would “ideally” add 25 more positions.

Wiese said court officials are in talks with county commissioners to fund additional positions, but the funding may not be seen until at least July.

“The county’s budget process will soon begin, and additional funding requests will be considered as part of this process,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Cooper said in response to questions about funding for the marshal positions.

In the meantime, judges have been able to request additional help through private security officers contracted through the security company Allied Universal, Wiese said. The private security officers do not go through academy training provided to marshals, he said.

“Until we have the funding and people to get everybody two actual marshals, that’s the best we can do, is provide a court security officer to supplement the marshal,” Wiese said.

The court has hired three of the contracted private security officers since Redden launched himself at a judge in January, Price said Friday. Four additional officers were also in the process of being hired.

Ideally, the court would have 15 of the security officers, Price said.

Price said that as of Friday, there were 12 vacancies among the marshals, but three new hires would start work soon, and five approved new marshals were undergoing a 22-week training academy.

Wiese said that even though the public and court officials want to see more marshals hired, it’s sometimes difficult to find recruits.

“Just like any county position or any government position, there are challenges with recruitment and retention, based on the pay and benefits we can offer,” he said.

Marshals start with a base pay of $56,763, Price said, which is nearly $10,000 below what the U.S. Census Bureau estimated as the median annual household income for the Las Vegas Valley in 2022.

The court has taken additional security measures by asking Clark County’s real property management office to review courtroom designs for security risks, Wiese said. The county has also allocated $1.7 million to help upgrade security software and hardware at the courthouse.

The upgrades will replace equipment to improve the quality of security footage, records show.

Videos of attacks

On Jan. 3, courtroom video captured Redden jumping over a defense table and launching himself over a bench and attacking District Judge Mary Kay Holthus.

Footage showed that right before Redden ran across the courtroom, a marshal moved behind Redden to take him into custody.

Holthus had announced that she was inclined to sentence Redden to prison instead of probation for an attempted battery charge. The marshal ran after Redden when he leaped over the defense table and tackled the judge, but the marshal tripped into the judge’s bench, suffering a large cut on his head and a dislocated shoulder.

Redden now faces multiple charges, including attempted murder and battery. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Feb. 29

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In the aftermath of Redden’s arrest, Wiese said the court planned to re-evaluate safety measures across the Regional Justice Center, including hiring more marshals.

On Jan. 23, video surveillance captured a man punching another man outside of a court hearing in a Regional Justice Center hallway. The footage showed a uniformed officer sitting outside the courtroom jump up to break the two men apart.

The man, identified in an arrest report as Glenn Cromwell, punched Yousuf Azami, who was at the courthouse that day for a preliminary hearing, court records show. Azami was a defendant charged with sexual assault of a minor under 16, lewdness with a child and first-degree kidnapping of a minor.

Azami was hospitalized after he was punched, and his preliminary hearing has since been rescheduled for July, according to court records.

Cromwell has since been charged with a misdemeanor battery count. His single-page arrest report released by the justice court did not indicate why Cromwell attacked Azami.

A little over two weeks later, 18-year-old Dustin Langham was captured on video punching another inmate in the head while they were both sitting in court during District Judge Bita Yeager’s calendar on Feb. 1. Court records show that Langham was in court that day to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery on an officer, after he bit the hand of an officer in December.

Wiese said that emotions in the courthouse are always going to run high, even if there have been an unusual number of confrontations in recent months. He said adding more marshals could act as a deterrent to further violent incidents.

“We don’t want incidents like this to continue to happen, but when they do happen, we want to make sure we’re prepared,” Wiese said.

There have been talks in the past to address courthouse security by changing how marshals are assigned to courtrooms. Judges have the final say in courtroom security, and can appoint their own marshals to accompany their calendar and be posted in their chambers. Switching to administrative marshals, who would be assigned by leadership, could standardize security practices across courtrooms.

Wiese said the system functions because of a statute that allows judges to appoint a marshal, so it would require changing the law to standardize security measures. Some judges are also uncomfortable with the idea of being unable to keep a marshal in their chambers for added protection, he said.

“It’s something that continuously is talked about, but it’s not anything that is immediately going to change,” Wiese said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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