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VIDEO: Las Vegas judge attacked at sentencing

Updated January 3, 2024 - 9:57 pm

A Clark County judge was attacked on the bench Wednesday while sentencing a defendant in an attempted battery case.

Video of the attack shows a defendant leaping over the bench and landing on top of District Judge Mary Kay Holthus, a former Clark County prosecutor.

The 30-year-old defendant, Deobra Redden, screamed obscenities and attacked the judge just after she began to impose his sentence. It’s not the first time Redden has been accused of attacking an official — he was convicted of a misdemeanor battery charge for kicking an officer while he was being arrested in 2016, court records show.

Earlier in Wednesday’s hearing, Redden had spoken calmly and asked to be placed on probation, claiming that his criminal history was the result of mental health problems.

District Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said Holthus “experienced some injuries” and is “being monitored.” A marshal also was injured in the attack and was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, Price said.

The Metropolitan Police Department said officers were called to a report of a battery in the area of the courthouse at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, and that two people were hospitalized with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Defense attorney Caesar Almase had asked the judge to grant probation for Redden, saying that his client had undergone mental health treatment and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Redden, who was out of custody and standing next to his attorney, told the judge that he had recently been hired by the Teamsters union. Redden said he “should be given a shot” on probation and told the judge he was not a “rebellious person.”

“I’m a person that never stops trying to do the right thing even if it’s hard, and I did the best I could,” Redden said. “I have mental health problems.”

During Redden’s statement, the judge asked if he had reviewed his criminal history. She later told his defense attorney that Redden had “two shots” at completing a mental health court program in the past.

Court records show that Redden received a mental health evaluation and was determined competent to stand trial in October. Almase asked the judge to suspend the prosecutor’s proposed sentence of 19 to 48 months in prison. He said Redden had two honorable discharges from probation and could meet the requirements.

“He’s worth this risk,” Almase said at the end of his statements.

‘It’s time that he get a taste of something else’

The judge wasn’t swayed.

“I appreciate that, but I think it’s time that he get a taste of something else because I just can’t with that history,” Holthus said, moments before the video showed Redden loudly swearing and attacking her.

Almase did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Redden had been released on his own recognizance in November, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted battery with substantial bodily harm, court records show. A bench warrant had been issued for him last month after he failed to appear in court, and Wednesday’s hearing was both to sentence Redden and address the bench warrant, according to court records.

A marshal could be seen in the video standing near Redden in the aisle of the courtroom as he gave his statement to the judge. Defendants who are not in custody are typically not handcuffed until after the judge hands down a sentence.

As Redden launched himself at the judge, attorneys, uniformed officers and the judge’s clerk were seen surrounding the bench and restraining the defendant. Redden was seen throwing punches at a marshal during the struggle.

As more people crowded the bench, an alarm sounded and marshals called for police and medical attention, the video showed. After the attack, a man called out that someone was injured.

An officer helped Holthus to her feet and escorted her out of the room about four minutes after Redden launched himself at her.

Arrest history goes back years

Redden has an arrest history in Las Vegas dating back to 2011, court records show. He has pleaded guilty and been convicted in three felony cases — attempted theft in 2015, battery with substantial bodily harm in 2018 and battery constituting domestic violence in 2021. He also has been convicted of a misdemeanor charge of battery in 2016 and a misdemeanor charge of destruction of property in 2023, court records show.

He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday, facing new charges of battery, battery on a protected person resulting in substantial bodily harm and two counts of battery on a protected person, court records show.

The last time Redden was accused of attacking an officer was in February 2016. The officer wrote in an arrest report that he was investigating a reported burglary at a Walmart when he stopped a car with Redden in the back seat.

Redden did not listen to the officer’s commands to keep his hands visible, according to the report, and would not put out a lit cigarette when he got out of the car. The officer believed Redden was being “passively resistant,” and used an “arm-bar takedown” to restrain Redden and arrest him, the report said.

Redden kicked the officer as he restrained him, causing a “large abrasion” to the officer’s knee, he wrote in the report.

He was also accused of continuing to struggle with corrections officers at the county jail, the report said.

‘Everybody’s a little shaken up’

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Holthus was not seriously injured in the attack Wednesday.

“I want to applaud the heroic efforts of her law clerk and marshal who came to her aid,” Wolfson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This defendant’s behavior is amazing and unbelievable, and I’m sure he will be facing consequences for his actions.”

Wolfson also praised Chief Deputy District Attorney Jory Scarborough, who was seen in the video helping to subdue Redden behind the judge’s bench, as the scuffle toppled over a large American flag.

“Everybody’s a little shaken up, but physically he’s fine,” Wolfson said.

Price also commended the actions of those who restrained Redden during the hearing.

“We are reviewing all our protocols and will do whatever is necessary to protect the judiciary, the public and our employees,” Price said in the statement.

Holthus was elected to the bench in 2018, after working for the district attorney’s office for more than 27 years, according to the District Court’s website. She worked as a prosecutor with the special victims unit for 16 years. She currently handles civil and criminal court cases.

Wolfson said that when he was a private defense attorney, he handled numerous cases where Holthus served as the prosecutor. He said she was a strong opponent and had a reputation of being “tough but fair.”

He said Holthus was the “ultimate professional” when she worked for him at the district attorney’s office, and that she spent years in the special victims unit because of her care for the child victims in her cases.

“She was one of our top prosecutors for many years,” Wolfson said.

‘Heroic’ actions

U.S. Marshal Gary Schofield, head of operations for the U.S. Marshals Service in Nevada, which is tasked with protecting federal judges, said the attack was “horrific,” but that the actions of officers and others in the courtroom were “heroic.”

“It’s a reminder for everyone of the nature of these proceedings,” Schofield said. “No one should ever underestimate what’s occurring in these courtrooms.”

He said the marshal who was hurt in the attack is going to have “a lot of stitches,” and that he was thankful Holthus walked out of the courtroom.

Schofield said there have been attacks against judges in Nevada in the past, but he can’t remember one that was “this extreme or violent.”

Threats against federal judges have increased in recent years. According to a report by Bloomberg Law, substantiated threats against judges jumped from 178 in 2019 to 311 in 2022. In early 2023, there were over 280 threats.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0394. Review-Journal staff writer Taylor Avery contributed to this report.

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