Justice of the peace race attracts three

Two candidates - one who has spent time in prison, the other a veteran cop - have emerged to challenge incumbent Robey Willis for the seat as Department 1 justice of the peace for Carson City.

Ron Weddell, who spent time in a federal prison for tax evasion and has two murder arrests on his record, and William Kreider, a retired police officer, both hope to unseat Willis, who has served on the juvenile and lower court benches for nearly 20 years.

"Friends contacted me at the very last minute," Kreider, 72, said of his candidacy. "It's something else to do in life that's a challenge."

He comes to the table with 22 years as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

"I've spent more time in court than most lawyers," he said.

Kreider moved to Carson City 15 years ago to retire and has spent most of the time since running the train he installed at Mill's Park. The train, a scale version of a full-size locomotive, was sold to the city in 1998.

Weddell said his contact with Willis as a defendant in his courtroom motivated him to seek the open position. But he is quick to add that his isn't a protest candidacy.

"It's not a protest candidacy as much as I didn't want the position to go unchallenged," he said. "It's far too important to go unchallenged."

Last year, Weddell stood before Willis facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon and discharging firearm in a public place.

Weddell asserted that it was in his rights to attempt to arrest two men whom he has accused of crimes against his daughter. When one of the men fled, he admits, he shot at him four times, missing all four times.

Though the charges against Weddell were later dropped in District Court, Willis believed that evidence of a crime was sufficient to send the case to district court.

Willis said he doesn't know Kreider and that the judicial code of ethics prohibits him from commenting on cases in which he has dealt with Weddell.

"I'll run on my qualifications," he said. "I'll rely on the fact that I'm even handed and use judicial temperament."

The Nevada Supreme Court is considering an appeal of Fondi's decision in the Weddell case.

Willis has received many accolades during his time on the bench. He was voted judge of the year in 1991; received the distinguished jurist award from the Supreme Court. He has been a member of the Rose Commission reviewing Nevada law since 1994 where he represents all of rural Nevada and is entering his second term as chairman of the sentencing review commission.

Previous to his appointment to juvenile court, Willis taught civics at the Stewart Indian School, which closed in 1980.

"I would have preferred to go unchallenged but now I get to be part of democracy in action," he said. Justice of the Peace John Tatro, also up for election, is unchallenged.

Kreider said the tension between Weddell and Willis is a factor in his decision to run.

"I feel like I should give voters a third choice to avoid the conflict," he said. "This is kind of a service call."

Weddell said despite his disagreements with Willis, he intends to take his judgeship seriously, even getting out of his contracting business of R.P. Weddell and Sons. The business employs more than 300 people.

Weddell added that building his business and having been through the criminal justice system will allow him to exercise fairness in the courtroom.

"Who better than somebody who has been in the system?" he asked.

Perhaps more interesting than Weddell's success, is the number of run-ins he has had with the law.

Weddell admits he spent six months in federal prison for misdemeanor tax evasion. He has also been arrested twice on murder charges, once in Los Angeles and once in Fallon.

Shortly after his arrest in Los Angeles, he was released, he says, because he took a police-administered polygraph test that exonerated him. In Fallon, the case was sent to district court for trial, but that justice court decision was overruled by the Nevada Supreme Court in 1983.

"The average person cannot afford to have this happen to them, I know," he said, referring to his own cases. "Any justice of the peace should deal with the district attorney and defense lawyers at arm's length."

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