Former Judge sentenced in federal court
Pled guilty to deprivation of rights in February
Former Judge Robert C. Nalley of the Charles County Circuit Court was sentenced in federal court on Thursday for violating a criminal defendant’s constitutional right of due process in a 2014 episode in which he ordered a courthouse security officer to administer an electric-shock to the man, who represented himself as his own attorney. The defendant screamed and fell to the ground as the shock was delivered by the deputy upon the push of a button.
Nalley, 72, of La Plata, was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connelly to one year of probation and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine at a rate of $500 per month, having entered a plea for deprivation of rights under color of law in February, according to court records. He was also ordered to complete
an anger management program as directed.
The charge, a misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The basis for the charge was that Nalley could have
invoked alternative methods to remove the unruly defendant from the courtroom.
On July 23, 2014, the defendant, Delvon L. King, who had been charged with
unlawful gun possession, was not following proper judicial decorum.
“Disruptive defendants may be excluded from the courtroom and prosecuted for obstruction of justice and contempt of court, but force may not be used in the absence of danger,” stated U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
Nalley was represented by defense attorney Robert C. Bonsib, who provided a statement on the sentencing to the Maryland Independent.
“Judge Nalley has acknowledged that he erred in the manner in which he attempted to have Mr. King act appropriately in the courtroom. Judge Nalley’s action should be viewed in the context of his having had knowledge that Mr. King was on trial for illegal possession of a gun and was also on probation for a similar offense and that Judge Nalley had been told that earlier that same day King had misbehaved before another judge,” Bonsib wrote in his statement.
“King was in custody because at a prior hearing in this gun case he had fled from the courtroom and had had to be apprehended by deputies. Mr. King was quoted by a deputy who escorted King out of Judge Nalley’s courtroom after the stun-cuff was activated as bragging that ‘you know that’s just a show. This is going to be all day long, so you better be ready.’”
During the initial court proceedings, King would not respond when Nalley asked him if he had any questions for potential jurors during jury selection. Instead, King proceeded to read from a prepared statement which objected to Nalley’s authority to preside over the hearing, as he calmly stood behind the defense table, according to a press release.
King did not act aggressively or attempt to flee the courtroom during the proceedings. Rather, he was ignoring Nalley when he twice ordered that he stop reading from his prepared statement.
He continued to read aloud.
The proceeding was going nowhere because of King’s antics, but rather than holding him in contempt, the judge decided force was necessary.
Nalley, frustrated with King’s behavior, ordered the security officer, Charles P. Deehan, to activate the electro-shock device fastened around King’s ankle, known as a “Stun-Cuff,” effectively sending 50,000 volts coursing through his Achille’s tendon for five seconds upon the push of a remote button, the Washington Post reported.
King was later sentenced to serve two years in jail with the recommendation that he immediately receive a mental health eval- uation and treatment with the Department of Corrections, court records show.
Nalley was later removed as a judge by the Maryland Court of Appeals in September 2014, despite a use-of-force report conducted by the Charles County Sheriff’s Office that con-cluded that the actions taken by Nalley and Deehan were not improper, according to a report.
Though, it wasn’t the first time the judge had been reprimanded.
In August 2009, Nalley — upset that someone had taken his parking spot — deflated the tire of a court-house custodial worker. He admitted to the offense and was suspended from presiding over judicial matters for five days without pay.
A couple months later in October, Nalley pled guilty and was fined $500 for willful motor vehicle tamper-ing without owner’s consent, records indicate.
“Under our constitution, judges serve as the guard-ians and arbitrators of jus-tice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a press release. “When govern-ment officials — including judges — violate the rights we entrust them to defend and break the laws we ex-pect them to uphold, they undermine the legitimacy of our justice system.”