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Las Vegas courtroom attack highlights issue of violence against judges: experts

Violence against U.S. judges is becoming a more pressing issue, according to experts who reacted to news of a defendant brutally attacking a Nevada judge who denied him probation Wednesday.

Video footage of the attack obtained by FOX 5 Las Vegas, which has gone viral on social media, shows the defendant, Deobra Redden, launching himself at Clark County District Court Judge Mary Kay Holthus and a marshal after she denied him probation.

“There seems to be a trend toward lawlessness … that has swept across various parts of the country. People see these types of behaviors occurring regularly, and there seems to be, and in fact is, a lack of accountability for those who act out with violence against other persons or property,” Kevin Ellmann, former senior deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District of Colorado, told Fox News Digital. 

“These actions are fueled by bond reform and lack of prosecution policies being imposed in various jurisdictions.”

SHOCKING ATTACK ON NEVADA JUDGE SHOWS NEED FOR GREATER PROTECTIONS, SAYS JUDGE WHOSE SON WAS KILLED

Ellmann, now president of Ellmann & Ellmann P.C., added that, without accountability, perpetrators are “unconstrained and unafraid to act out themselves,” especially if mental illness is a factor.

“Attacks like this against a judge are rare, but consistent with recent threats and protests outside of judges’ private residences when people are displeased with a decision,” Ellmann added. 

“A recent break-in by an armed assailant at the Colorado Supreme Court building is just another example. Unless perpetrators are held publicly accountable for unacceptable attacks on the justice system (judges, prosecutors, attorneys, witnesses), these types of attacks are bound to increase in frequency and violence.”

The attack against Judge Holthus is one of several high-profile assaults carried out against judges in recent years. In a similar case from February 2021, a defendant in a domestic violence case attempted to attack Pike County Judge Aubrey Rimes in a Mississippi courtroom. Rimes pinned the defendant to a table.

VIDEO SHOWS NEVADA MAN LEAP AND ATTACK CLARK COUNTY JUDGE AFTER BEING DENIED PROBATION

Retired Lt. Randy Sutton, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who served in Las Vegas and New Jersey, told Fox News Digital assaults against judges “in the courtroom are relatively rare” because of the prevalence of security personnel in most courts.

But “there have been several attacks on judges when they are not actually in the courtroom, including at their own homes and, of course, we have seen threats and protests at the homes of the Supreme Court Justices.”

“The lack of prosecutions for the threats and protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices is an example of that,” Sutton said. “When a particularly threatening or violent defendant is being tried or making appearances, often additional security personnel are put in place to deal with the potential threats. That is usually accomplished by court, security personnel or county sheriffs whose jurisdiction includes the courts.”

Despite the rarity of physical attacks, the U.S. Marshals Service recorded approximately 4,500 threats made against U.S. judges in 2022, Reuters reported, citing U.S. Marshals Service Director Ronald Davis. Occasionally, perpetrators plot to kill judges — and some succeed. 

In October, Maryland man Pedro Argote was named as a suspect in the murder of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, who was found dead in his driveway outside his Hagerstown home just hours after he presided over a judgment hearing in the suspect’s divorce case. Wilkinson had awarded full custody of the suspect’s children to his estranged wife. 

MARYLAND JUDGE KILLER PEDRO ARGOTE FOUND DEAD, POLICE SAY

Argote was found dead Oct. 26, about a week after he allegedly shot Wilkinson. 

In June 2022, a Wisconsin man shot and killed retired Juneau County Judge John Roemer, 15 years after Roemer sentenced him to prison.

JUDGE WHOSE SON WAS KILLED WARNS AGAINST PROTESTS AT SCOTUS JUSTICES’ HOMES: ‘NO ROOM IN AMERICA FOR THIS’

In 2020, New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas lost her son after Roy Den Hollander fatally shot the 20-year-old man in a racially motivated attack targeting Salas. The gunman, who was disguised as a delivery driver, killed Daniel Anderl and seriously injured Salas’ husband, Mark Anderl.

Salas told Fox News Thursday the viral video of the attack against Judge Holthus is “an opportunity for America to see what judges face on a daily basis.”

Salas believes more laws should be put in place to protect some 30,000 judges in the United States.

“There are so many states that don’t have laws protecting judges, and I’m really speaking about our personally identifiable information,” she said. “But this is an example of maybe looking at hardening courthouses and protocols to protect judges in and out of the courtroom.”

In December, President Biden signed into law the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which aims to protect judges’ safety by protecting their personal information. But Salas says more needs to be done to keep judges from falling victim to targeted crimes.

 

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