Man convicted in Incline Village hit-and-run files civil rights complaint against Washoe County sheriff, others
A man recently convicted of hit-and-run in Incline Village is suing several offices and a public official alleging they violated his civil rights.
Eric Jorell Mathis, 26, filed his complaint in early June against Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen, the public defender’s office and the state of Nevada.
Mathis charges that Allen failed to ensure the county jail provided proper access to legal material. He says the state failed to ensure his right to a preliminary hearing within 15 days, in addition to his right to effective counsel. Mathis also alleges his public defender conspired with the district attorney’s office to prevent a preliminary hearing within 15 days.
Earlier this month the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office announced it had secured a guilty verdict against Mathis related to a hit-and-run in Incline Village in December 2016.
According to the DA’s office, Washoe sheriff deputies were dispatched to a report of drag racing in the area of Southwood Boulevard in Incline Village on Dec. 16, 2016.
The DA’s office says Mathis hit a pedestrian, crashed his Honda Civic into a parked car and then crashed into a ditch. He then exited the car and fled the area.
Deputies located a 24-year-old man in the passenger seat of Mathis’ car. The passenger had sustained significant injuries, including road rash to his arm and a dislocated hip.
Mathis was arrested after deputies found him at a nearby convenience store.
He told paramedics, according to the DA’s office, that the pedestrian jumped out in front of him while he was driving and that he swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
Mathis was intoxicated at the time and arrested for driving under the influence as well as the hit and run, according to the DA’s office, also stated Mathis admitted during the trial that he hit the pedestrian and fled from officers.
In his complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Mathis argues his right to due process was violated because the state failed to bring him before a magistrate for a preliminary hearing within 15 days. He says he never granted a waiver for his preliminary hearing.
He says the state agreed to negotiate with his public defender despite his objections.
Mathis also argues his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment was violated.
In his complaint, he writes that his public defender at the time, Jordan Davis, and the public defender’s office were ineffective because they waived his right a preliminary hearing multiple times without his consent.
He also alleges Davis contacted the victim despite his objections, which effectively tipped off the victim to Mathis’ hearing. Had Davis not taken that action, Mathis argues the victim never would have appeared at his hearing.
Mathis also claims he was not provided new legal counsel, which lead him to represent himself.
Washoe County Public Defender Jeremy Bosler said he could not comment on the specific allegations levied at his office.
“We respect Mr. Mathis’ right to litigate any issue involving due process against this office and we’ll respond in court when we’re served with a suit accordingly,” Bosler told the Tribune.
As of Monday afternoon Bosler said his office had not been served with a lawsuit related to the matter. An inquiry by the Tribune was the first he had heard of Mathis’ complaint.
Mathis also identified Allen, the Washoe County sheriff, in his complaint. He claims the jail, which falls under the purview of the sheriff’s office, does not have a law library and its legal assistance program does not provide legal materials regarding criminal matters.
It’s unclear if those complaints are accurate. An administrative assistant for Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen told the Tribune the sheriff is out of town and unavailable to comment.
Mathis says he was unable to properly file a complaint in the case due to the lack of legal resources.
Mathis’ requests his case be dismissed with prejudice and removed from the record.
Earlier this month he was convicted of one count of duty to stop at scene of a crash involving personal injury, a felony with a potential 20-year sentence, according to the DA’s office.
The DUI charge is being handled in Sparks Justice Court. The status of the charge is unclear.
Mathis’ sentencing in the hit-and-run is scheduled for Aug. 30.