Former Md. judge pleads guilty to civil rights violation

WASHINGTON — A former Charles County Circuit judge will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to violating a defendant’s rights by ordering a deputy sheriff to inflict a painful electrical shock to make the man stop talking.

The disruptive defendant was fitted with stun cuffs, wireless control devices, when, acting as his own lawyer, he appeared in Judge Robert Nalley’s courtroom nearly two years ago.

Repeatedly ignoring the judge’s orders, the man continued to read a statement when the judge told a deputy sheriff to activate the cuffs, which deliver a painful, but non-lethal jolt of electricity.

“The defendant wasn’t posing any threat to the judge. The decision to use force against him, to administer this electric shock was a violation of his constitutional rights,” says Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. 

Nalley, who served as judge on the Charles County Circuit Court from 1988 to 2014, faces a maximum of one year in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000, when he’s sentenced March 31.

“The parties have agreed to make a joint recommendation for one year probation,” Rosenstein says, taking into consideration, among other things, that the judge accepts responsibility and the defendant was not permanently injured.

The use of stun cuffs by law enforcement is growing. The aim is to effectively control dangerous individuals in custody, including in courtrooms and during transport.

While the device, which can instantly disable an individual, was abused by the judge, Rosenstein believes stun cuffs have a place in the courtroom.

“It’s far more effective than an officer having to run across the courtroom and tackle a defendant; far more safe than an officer having to pull a gun and fire a shot,” Rosenstein says.

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