A protest concerning possible corruption in El Dorado County was the result of what the organizer described as a kidnapping and assault by bounty hunters illegally trying to detain him.
Todd “Ty” Robben, a former IT worker for the Nevada Department of Taxation, was arrested after he supposedly harassed a member of the Nevada Department of Transportation. He said, however, that he was simply trying to serve her a subpoena.
“She was complaining she had not been personally served,” he said, so he went in person to do it. As a result, a district attorney in Carson City, Nev. charged him with assault and disturbing the peace.
The roles were seemingly reversed when bounty hunters showed up at Robben’s door, kicking it in, tasing him three times and slashing his tires, he claimed.
“They were ‘bounty hunters’ but they used a warrant and acted as agents of the court,” something they are not allowed to do, he said. He claims they did not follow Penal Code 847.5 — an out-of-state bounty hunter must file an affidavit with a judge of the county and receive permission to collect the bounty.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson agreed wrongdoing had occurred, he said, and one of the bounty hunters, Doug Lewis, had charges brought against him.
“However, Dennis Justin of the Justin Bros. Bail Bonds Co. from Carson City was the main ‘perp’ who conspired and acted directly with Mr. Lewis,” Robben claims. “Mr. Justin used a battering ram with Mr. Lewis and took down my front door, entered my home, tased me three times and chased me into the forest.” He also alleges that Justin admitted to him of slashing Robben’s tires.
But, because Lewis took a plea deal for only two charges, and because Justin, who Robben described as the “ringleader,” was never charged, Robben suspects corruption. In order to gain public attention, he protested outside of the Main Street courthouse and the DA’s Office. With oversized “crime scene” tape and signs, Robben and a few others protested.
“This protest was planned … in response to the DA shutting me down and not taking my phone calls or returning e-mails,” Robben said. “I felt the only thing I could do is talk with my signs and a PA system to express my issues with DA Pierson outside his office and ask the press to get him to answer. This is what we have to do to get our elected officials to do their job and talk to us. It’s sad and I know he could do better. I want to support him, but this is outrageous.” He later said, “People are sick of corruption.”
Pierson, however, said that everything about the case was handled properly.
“I strongly support and would defend Mr. Robben’s exercise of his First Amendment rights,” Pierson said of the protest. “Having said that, I’m aware of the circumstances surrounding the Reno bounty hunters contacting South Lake Tahoe Police Department and ultimately taking him into custody on behalf of Nevada law enforcement. His case was handled properly by our office.”
After Robben’s attorney spoke with the District Attorney’s Office, Robben revealed that the reason they are not prosecuted is that they “can’t prove Dennis Justin was here.” He said that Justin never denied it, however, and again pointed out that Justin allegedly admitted to slashing Robben’s tires. If there is no prosecution, Robben said, he will call for the resignations of Pierson and deputy district attorney Bill Clark, who is handling the case.
Richard Justin, brother of Dennis Justin, said that they would be unable to comment on the matter due to pending lawsuits. But, “the truth will come out,” he said.
The protest, which began around 12:30 p.m., lasted until 6 p.m. Capt. Mike Scott of the Placerville Police Department noted that, at least through 5 p.m., there were no calls of public disturbance related to the protest.
Robben is suing Justin in Sacramento Federal Court; Justin is countersuing for defamation.