DOJ: Former Md. Judge Violated the Civil Rights of Uncooperative Defendant

By Susan Jones | February 2, 2016 | 7:25 AM EST

Former Maryland Judge Robert C. Nalley (foreground, carrying binder) pleaded guilty Monday to a civil rights violation for ordering a defendant to be electrically shocked in his courtroom. (AP Photo)

( - The Justice Department announced on Monday that a former circuit county judge in Charles County, Md., is guilty of violating the civil rights of a defandant in his courtroom who twice refused the judge's order to stop reading a statement.

Robert C. Nally (who is white) pleaded guilty to one count of "the deprivation of rights under color of law" for ordering a deputy sheriff to administer an electric shock to defendant Delvon King (who is black) during a pretrial hearing in July 2014.

The federal government stepped in after the Charles County Sheriff's department declined to bring charges.

King was representing himself on gun possession charges when Judge Nalley asked him if had any questions for the jury pool.

According to the Justice Departent, "the victim" (King) repeatedly ignored Judge Nalley and instead read from a prepared statement, objecting to Nalley’s authority to preside over the proceedings. (King was arguing that he's a "sovereign citizen" and therefore not subject to U.S. laws.)

King was "standing calmly behind a table in the courtroom" and "did not make any aggressive movements, did not attempt to flee the courtroom and did not pose a threat to himself or to any other person at any point during the proceedings," DOJ said.

Judge Nalley twice ordered the victim to stop reading his statement, but King continued to speak.

Nalley then ordered a deputy sheriff to activate a stun-cuff that King was wearing on his ankle. "The electric shock caused the victim to fall to the ground and scream in pain," the Justice Department said.

What the Justice Department news release does not say is that King, 25, was wearing a stun cuff because at an earlier hearing in the case, he escaped from the courtroom. He was later found at a social services office, The Baltimore Sun reported.

King was later sentenced to 10 years in prison by another Charles County Circuit Court judge.

“Under our constitution, judges serve as the guardians and arbitrators of justice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “When government officials -- including judges -- violate the rights we entrust them to defend and break the laws we expect them to uphold, they undermine the legitimacy of our justice system.”

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland.

Nalley faces a year of probation and a $100,000 fine when he's sentenced in March.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Baltimore Division, the Justice Department said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals removed Nalley from the bench in September. The July stun-cuff incident was not the judge's first brush with the law.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to deflating the tire of a cleaning woman's car that was parked in a restricted zone at the courthouse, the Baltimore Sun reported. He was fined, suspended for five days without pay, and forced to write a letter of apology to the cleaning woman.

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