Las Vegas Sun

November 13, 2019

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Prison guards accused of using ‘unjustified force’ on inmate

A pair of Nevada corrections officers could go to prison if found guilty of allegedly using “unjustified force” on an inmate and falsifying reports regarding the 2016 incident, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office said today.

Paul Valdez, 29, and Jose Navarrete, 38, former officers at the Southern Desert Correctional Center in Indian Springs, face charges of felony oppression under color of office and gross misdemeanor charges of inhumanity to prisoner and false report by a public officer, officials said.

On Thursday, the case was sent to the Clark County District Court for trial, officials said.

Officials allege that on Oct. 9, 2016, Valdez threw the alleged victim, Ricky Norelus, to the ground and that he and Navarette, a senior officer, “used force” against him.

“After using unjustified force against Norelus, the officers submitted falsified reports regarding the incident,” according to a news release from the Attorney General’s Office. Subsequently, both officers “knowingly made false statements about Norelus’s conduct,” officials said.

“Nevada’s peace officers are entrusted by the public to uphold the law,” state Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in the news release. “The charges in this case illustrate what is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system — that the law applies to everyone, and we in law enforcement vigilantly uphold that standard.”

A conviction could land Valdez and Navarette in state prison for up to four years on the felony charge and up to one year for each misdemeanor charge, officials said. The Nevada Inspector General’s Office investigated the case.

The case was filed in November, and both men are expected to be arraigned on July 9, Las Vegas Justice Court and Clark County District Court logs show.

It wasn’t immediately clear if they were in custody.