Carson City DA: No charges in Douglas County commissioner scuffle
STATELINE, Nev. — There will be no local prosecution in an altercation between two county commissioners during a heated discussion.
Commissioners John Engels and Barry Penzel were involved in the May 16 conflict that occurred in a room behind where commissioners meet at the Tahoe Transportation Center. The two men were alone.
Engels suffered a gash to his arm from the altercation, which resulted in Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies being called to the meeting room.
Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury was asked to review the investigation by Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson because two of his staff members were at the meeting.
Woodbury’s office conducted additional investigation and sought statements from Penzel and Engels.
On Wednesday, Woodbury concluded that there is “no reasonable probability that either would be convicted if we prosecuted this case, so my office will not be filing charges.”
Woodbury said his office looked everywhere they could for independent corroboration of what happened.
“Sometimes nonpercipient witnesses or circumstantial evidence help us get to the bottom of an incident,” he said. “My investigator interviewed several witnesses who were in the area, just outside the closed room where this occurred. We also reviewed video of the commission’s meeting and the body camera footage of the responding sheriff’s deputies.”
Woodbury said both men claimed the other was the aggressor.
“There is no dispute that there was an altercation between the two,” he said. “However, there is a dispute about who initiated the physical contact. Each claims the other was the primary aggressor and initiated physical violence.”
Woodbury’s decision does not preclude a civil action.
Penzel, who serves as chairman of the commission, interrupted Engels as he was reading from a five-page statement opposing Redevelopment Area No. 2 in Stateline. Some of the tax revenue generated by the redevelopment area is planned for a proposed events center near MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa.
Engels was protesting being interrupted when Planning Commissioner DeVere Henderson stood up and said Penzel shouldn’t discipline Engels in public.
Engels and Penzel then went into the back room, and a few minutes later medics and deputies were called.
He said Engels came to less than an inch from him waving his hands and made contact with him pushing him back. Penzel said he used his index finger to push Engels away and that Engels fell down.
Engels disputes that account of the incident.
He said Penzel punched him in the chest using both hands.
“Since the essence of this criminal conspiracy is an attempt to muzzle my rights to freedom of speech and is a separate, federal offense, the matter has been referred to the FBI for investigation and possible prosecution,” Engels said.
Penzel said he felt both Carson and Douglas prosecutors did their job well.
“I withdrew my request for a temporary protective order in hope of returning some dignity to the office of commissioner,” he said. “Now more than ever we commissioners owe it to the county to act in a dignified way. It is time to set aside personal differences and start tending to serious board issues. I intend to do just that.”
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