In 2014, Maryland Judge Robert Nalley ordered bailiffs to use a stun gun on a man in his courtroom via a device strapped to his ankle.
The man, Delvon King, had spoken out of turn ― an affront Nalley deemed worthy of 50,000 volts of electricity that left King screaming in agony on the ground, writhing in pain.
On Monday, nearly a year after the former Maryland Circuit Court judge pled guilty to a misdemeanor civil rights charge and was sentenced to one year of probation for his conduct, King filed suit against Nalley, who is now retired.
Under his earlier plea deal, Nalley agreed to acknowledge “that the use of the stun cuff was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.” He never apologized to King, who was seated close by during the sentencing, or referenced his name, The Washington Post noted at the time.
The court fined Nalley $5,000 in March 2016 ― a far cry short of the $5 million King is seeking in his suit ― and ordered he take anger management classes.
“A judge can only take this type of measure if the litigant is a danger to those in the court room.”
“A judge can only take this type of measure if the litigant is a danger to those in the court room,” one of King’s lawyers, Steve Silverman, told The Huffington Post in an email Thursday. “Judges are not allowed to arbitrarily electrocute litigants. That is why the judge was convicted of a federal civil rights crime.”
A video of the original encounter opens with King, who was representing himself in court, reading a prewritten argument before the judge. Nalley, apparently agitated by the argument, asks him to stop twice in quick succession.
Seconds later, he addresses the bailiff instead: “Mr. Sheriff, do it,” he says, referring to the “stun-cuff” device strapped to King’s ankle. “Use it.”
The sheriff pulls back a chair that King would have fallen into, then activates the stun gun via remote control.
A rapid clicking emanates from device as King’s body stiffens and he falls to the floor in fetal position, yelling in pain. As the screams continue, the judge announces he’ll take a five-minute break.
Had the sheriff refused to use the stun gun on the defendant “he would have been subject to contempt of court or fired,” Silverman told HuffPost.
There’s little doubt the pain is real, says HuffPost reporter Andy Campbell, who volunteered to have a stun gun used on him as part of an assignment for a different publication.
“The pain is excruciating, and I can imagine that getting a shock like that, relatively unexpectedly, would hurt a hell of a lot more,” he said. “The pain of that shock being executed by someone who doesn’t have authority to do so would be lifelong.”
Campbell noted, in his experience, the sheriff and sheriff’s deputies all had to be personally shocked by a stun gun before they themselves were authorized to use one.
“If this judge has an ounce of dignity, he’ll subject himself to a good ol’ fashioned illegal courtroom tasing himself,” he said.