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‘Boom and he was on me’: Judge describes courtroom attack

Updated February 19, 2024 - 5:17 pm

A judge who was attacked by a criminal defendant last month testified that he charged into her just after she signaled to her courtroom marshal who pulled out his handcuffs to place him in custody.

“If you’ve heard handcuffs, it’s pretty distinct,” District Court Judge Mary Kaye Holthus told a Clark County grand jury on Feb. 7, describing how Deobra Redden then shouted obscenities “and the next thing I know he literally jumped that defense table and flew before I could even, and just slammed me into the wall.”

“He literally trampolines like Superman over my bench, he clears the monitors and he bunny-hopped the defendant’s table like it was nothing,” she testified, according to grand jury transcripts released Thursday. “I mean, it was boom and he was on me.”

‘Just fetal positioned and waited for it to be over’

After Redden assaulted her and court personnel got involved in helping free her, “I rolled under my bench and just fetal positioned and waited for it to be over,” she recalled.

The judge’s daughter later drove her home and at her family’s urging she went to get a CAT scan of her head because the experience “was literally like getting hit by a car when you’re not sitting in a car.”

“My tailbone for two weeks was killing me,” she said. “I lost clumps of my hair. … because he had pulled some out. Even after the shower I was still pulling, combing out chunks of hair.”

Holthus was among seven witnesses who gave testimony to the grand jury before the panel that next day indicted Redden on multiple charges related to the Jan. 3 attack, a video of which went viral on social media.

The indictments charge Redden with attempted murder on a victim aged 60 years or older, battery on a protected person resulting in substantial bodily harm, extortion by threat, intimidating a public officer, battery on an officer, performance of act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety of persons or property resulting in substantial bodily harm or death, battery on a protected person, battery on a prisoner and unlawful act related to human excrement or bodily fluid.

‘Super calm’ before the attack

Holthus testified that prior to the attack, Redden was “super calm and like I said normal” and they engaged in a discussion about his impending sentence for attempted battery with substantial bodily harm, for which prosecutors had just argued in favor of the maximum permitted time in prison.

“He was telling me all the great things that he’s been doing and how he’s doing better and he’s going to get a job and he’s a changed person and we just kind of went back and forth,” she said, according to grand jury transcripts.

The judge related how she knew his criminal history of “multiple domestic violences and arrests for robbery and I knew he had mental health issues,” she said. “And we were just kind of back and forth and he was telling me why he did it.”

“I said I understand that but here’s the problem, every time you get better for a minute then you get back out, somebody gets hurt or you do something scary,” she said.

The defendant’s attorney tried to convince her to refer Redden’s case to Mental Health Court, but “I explained that I understand but you’ve been through Mental Health Court twice and you graduated and you still come back to the same place,” she said.

“I kind of explained to him basically letting him know that he was going to prison because that’s what his record warranted,” she said. “And he kind of was fine, he was like, well, you know, I don’t think I should but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do., whatever you think is right. I said okay.”

The judge said at that point, her marshal, Shane Brandon, who places sentenced defendants into custody, “knows me well to know when somebody is going to be remanded because he (Redden) was out of custody at the time, and so I kind of give him the look and he knows it’s going to be time.”

She said gave the marshal subtle eye contact, and he, while standing behind the defendant, took out his cuffs, which made a noise and that was when Redden reacted by swearing and attacking her.

After Redden flew over her bench, “I don’t know what hit me where,” the judge said. “I mean, it was so incredibly fast I can’t even — I sure didn’t expect it because, you know, I didn’t. I slammed against the wall. We have a marble wall behind the bench. My glasses flew, my head slammed against the wall.”

“I don’t know if he dove through me with his fist, if it was his shoulder or his head,” she said, adding that she still had bruises and a lump from it.

After crashing into the wall she was on the ground “and then he had me by my hair and threw me down backwards. He hit me in the head but I don’t know what it was. I don’t know if it was a punch, again, shoulder, head, force of his body. He was so incredibly strong. And I literally just curled. And then my law clerk Michael Lasso struggled for a while and finally got him off me.”

Holthus said she was “absolutely terrified” and before Lasso could intervene she was “struggling and struggling” with Redden and had it been only her “I wouldn’t have survived multiple blows to the head which is clearly where we were going with it.”

She said that her left arm was still inflamed, preventing her from sleeping on it and “probably what hurt the most was my neck.”

Jurors were shown photo exhibits of injuries to her arm, shoulder and lower back.

Michael Lasso, Holthus’ court clerk who was near the judge at the time of the attack, told the grand jury he at first thought Redden was headed for a door leading out of the courtroom.

“Then when I realized that he was going toward the judge; I honestly was in shock,” he said. “It was the last thing I was thinking, to be honest. I was never anticipating someone to go after the judge or, you know, especially make contact.”

He remembers the handcuffs jingling as Brandon, the marshal, reached for them and “that’s when he (Redden) hopped over the desk.”

Brandon then smacked and seriously injured his head against the judge’s bench while chasing after Redden, Lasso said.

“I remember seeing him (Brandon) and his whole head was split open like an onion peel,” Lasso testified. “I mean, I’ve never seen, ever, I’ve never seen anything like it,” adding that “there was blood everywhere.”

Lasso said that Redden was “really aggressively pulling her (the judge’s) hair” with one hand and holding her between her collarbone and neck with the other.

‘Just starts (whaling) on him’

Redden then moved from the judge to attacking a corrections officer and “just starts (whaling) on him,” Lasso said. “I mean he really took some blows” before prosecutor Michael Jory Scarborough came up to help restrain the defendant.

Scarborough took the stand and told how he hopped over a desk “put my right arm around his (Redden’s) neck putting his neck like in the middle of my elbow trying to get him into a headlock.”

Not being able to complete a headlock, Scarborough said “I kind of bear hugged him and tried to pull him off repeatedly while he was bucking off.”

He said he witnessed Redden tackle the judge into the back wall “and with his right hand then rip her down by her hair.”

Brandon, the marshal, testified that “as I went to grab” Redden to put on the handcuffs “he immediately jumped over the table,” and he and Redden’s lawyer, Cesar Almase, chased him and Brandon tried to grasp onto Redden.

“The next thing I remember I was stood up and I remember blood was leaking from my head,” he said. “I didn’t know why.”

“Everybody was screaming, oh, my God, you need to go sit down and get some help” when they noticed his wounded forehead, Brandon said.

Brandon said later, at a hospital, he learned he had also dislocated and broke his left shoulder and suffered a serious injury to his neck.

Redden is set for an initial arraignment hearing before Judicial Officer Susan Johnson in District Court on Feb. 29.


Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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