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Lawsuit over Chinatown restaurant shooter’s bail dismissed

Updated June 19, 2023 - 6:42 pm

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a nonprofit group for posting the bail of a felon who — days after his release in 2021 — shot a Las Vegas man at a Chinatown restaurant multiple times.

The Bail Project, a nonprofit seeking to reduce incarceration rates by helping to bail out low-income people, “did not owe a duty to the Plaintiff” and “did not create a situation where it could have been reasonably foreseeable” that the assailant, Rashawn Gaston-Anderson, “would commit a violent crime,” District Court Judge Veronica Barisich ruled Wednesday.

Furthermore, The Bail Project is not a bail agent or bail enforcement agent under Nevada law “because their services are offered gratuitously” and so plaintiffs cannot cite state statutes on bail agents to serve as a basis for arguing negligence by the group, Barisich wrote.

The suit was filed in September by Chengyan Wang, a waiter, against The Bail Project and other defendants after Wang was shot 11 times and critically wounded by Gaston-Anderson during a holdup of the ShangHai Taste restaurant at 4666 Spring Mountain Road on Dec. 20, 2021.

Gaston-Anderson, 24, who remains a defendant in Wang’s suit, was convicted in the shooting and sentenced in December to seven to 18 years in state prison.

“We are heartened that the judge has dismissed the case,” Jeremy Cherson, The Bail Project’s director of communications, wrote in an email.

“The attack on Mr. Wang was a tragedy,” Cherson stated. “But this lawsuit was misguided. The fact is that bail is set for one reason: to ensure a person returns to court for future hearings. When bail is set beyond a person’s means, which violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on excessive bail, it effectively upends the presumption of innocence and creates a two-tier system of justice. That’s the problem The Bail Project seeks to solve.”

Wang’s lawyer, Kory Kaplan, said in an emailed statement that they respected the court’s ruling but obviously disagreed with it.

“It’s unfortunate that other licensed bail companies are required to adhere to strict standards but The Bail Project can act as a bail company without doing the same,” Kaplan wrote.

‘Under no duty to prevent’

On Dec. 14, 2021, six days prior to the shooting, The Bail Project provided $3,000 that Gaston-Anderson needed for his release from county jail for separate arrests in Las Vegas for burglary and larceny over a 48-hour period.

Wang claimed in his suit that the group was negligent in failing to consider the potential danger Gaston-Anderson posed to the community, given his status as a convicted felon.

Gaston-Anderson was convicted in Las Vegas of felony grand larceny in 2018, felony burglary in New York state in 2019 and felony auto theft in Illinois in 2021, according to the District Attorney’s office.

In granting The Bail Project’s motion to dismiss, Barisich stated that Gaston-Anderson’s commission of a violent crime was legally a “superseding cause,” meaning that a negligent party could be found liable only if they knew at the time they were creating a situation and the third party (in this case, Gaston-Anderson) might use the opportunity to commit a crime.

The judge cited the standard in the 2009 Nevada Supreme Court decision, Bower v. Harrah’s Laughlin, Inc., in which two people sued Harrah’s Laughlin hotel for negligence after claiming to have been mistreated by the Metropolitan Police Department after a brawl between rival biker gangs.

The court ruled that actions by police were “a superseding intervening cause” of the harm to the plaintiffs “and therefore, Harrah’s is not liable,” according to the state high court decision filed on Oct. 12, 2009.

“Gaston-Anderson’s commission of a violent crime was a superseding cause pursuant to the Bower decision, and thus the Bail Project was under no duty to prevent the same,” Barisich stated.

The civil case is proceeding against other defendants, including the ShangHai Taste restaurant’s landlord, the U.S. Hui De Real Estate Investment Corp., which Kaplan alleges is liable for not providing adequate security when Wang was shot.

The matter is proceeding rather slowly in District Court, as Barisich has set a pre-trial conference for July 30, 2024, and a jury trial to commence Sept. 3, 2024, according to court records.

The Bail Project has stopped operating its Las Vegas chapter, not because of the Wang case but “as part of a restructuring to reduce costs,” Cherson said, adding that it “remains active in nearly two dozen jurisdictions.”

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

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