SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge on Friday dismissed an excessive force lawsuit brought by the family of a Utah doctor who killed himself a day after his 2009 arrest in a multistate artifact looting investigation.
James Redd's family did not prove that Bureau of Land Management agents violated the doctor's constitutional rights, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled.
His widow, Jeanne Redd, filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in 2011, arguing that paramilitary agents overwhelmed her husband at gunpoint and subjected him to "inhumane and unjust acts."
But the judge disagreed, clearing BLM Agent Dan Love of any wrongdoing. Love oversaw the execution of search warrants at the Redd house in the small community of Blanding, Utah, on June 10, 2009, capping a two-year undercover operation in the Four Corners area of southern Utah.
James Redd, who maintained his innocence, was charged with one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property, specifically an effigy bird pendant worth $1,000. He and his wife were arrested along with 22 others.
Jeanne Redd pleaded guilty to seven charges related to the theft and sale of artifacts and was sentenced to three years of probation.
The judge acknowledged that there was no evidence James Redd posed a threat or was violent but said BLM agents did nothing unreasonable.
"The agents' mere presence and proximity to Dr. Redd did not create an excessive show of force, even if the agents wore SWAT-like gear and carried — but did not point — machine guns," Shelby wrote.
U.S. Justice Department attorneys have said authorities sent dozens of agents partly because there were 120 boxes of evidence that needed to be collected, including 800 artifacts to catalog and identify.
The Redds' attorney, Shandor Badaruddin, said he was disappointed in the ruling and the family was considering whether to appeal.
The decision came a year after the judge dismissed four of five claims in the lawsuit. But he held a hearing in October to determine if there were sufficient facts to move forward with the accusation that Redd's Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
Neither the BLM nor the Justice Department immediately had comment.