Man convicted this week of battering a corrections officer at jail is ordered to stand trial for allegedly punching deputy in courtroom

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

John Price is pictured at a preliminary hearing on May 23, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

A man who was convicted on Monday of spitting in the mouth of a corrections officer was ordered on Thursday to stand trial for allegedly punching a deputy in the face during a trial in 2022.

The man, John Timothy Price, 36, is charged in Douglas County District Court with one felony count of battering a corrections officer. The charge relates to an incident on Dec. 14, 2022. That week Price went to trial twice. During those trials Price caused regular disruptions and ultimately had to be fitted with a “stun cuff,” which delivers an electric shock when a court security officer determines it is necessary for compliance. In one of Price’s outbursts he is alleged to have punched a deputy acting as his court security detail in the face.

Price was convicted in those trials by a Douglas County jury of two felony counts of aggravated assault for throwing brick pavers at cars as they passed him on the roadway, multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of criminal damage and multiple misdemeanor counts of battery on a law enforcement officer in connection with two incidents in September of 2021. He was sentenced to over five years in those cases.

While in custody at the Douglas County Jail in September 2022, Price was being transferred from one part of the jail to another when he spat in the mouth of a corrections officer. On Monday, Price was found guilty of one felony count of battery on a corrections officer in connection with that incident.

On Thursday, he was ordered to stand trial again after a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, Carson Rhodes, testified at a preliminary hearing about the circumstances that led to Price allegedly punching him twice in the face during the jury trial.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Carson Rhodes testifies on May 23, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Rhodes said that, in general, his interactions with Price were typical compared with other inmates. Rhodes said he had been assigned to Price as a plain-clothes security officer for the trial. He said the goal of having a plain-clothes officer was to avoid prejudicing the jury by having a uniformed deputy sit so close to Price that it was clear he was in custody.

He said Price had regularly disrupted the trial by calling different witnesses liars or disagreeing with testimony. He said Price had been at odds with his attorney, KiAnn Caprice, whom Price had earlier during the trials struck and spit on after asking for a moment alone to talk. No charges were filed in connection with those incidents, but Rhodes said they did have to restrain Price and put him in the courthouse brig to calm down.

In another incident where Price had to be removed, Rhodes said that Price had been brought into the courtroom and before being seated he tried to kick the deputy immediately behind him. He said that incident resulted in Price being carried aloft out of the courtroom by several deputies. Rhodes said that Price accidentally headbutted him as he was flailing around.

“He hit my head with his head,” Rhodes said.

He said most other disruptions were only verbal but during one witness’s testimony Price called the witness a liar before getting up and striking Rhodes, who was sitting between Caprice and Price.

He said Price punched him with a closed fist in the face twice, which left a red mark, but he did not need medical attention. He said he then took Price to the ground and restrained him before taking him to the brig again.

Rhodes testified that throughout his interactions with Price he never felt animosity directed toward himself but that when Price punched him in the face it was “very deliberate.”

After Price was ordered to stand trial, his latest attorney, Razmi Tahirkheli, asked the court to delay Price’s arraignment so he could get another mental health evaluation for Price. In March, Price had been deemed competent by the court after he refused to participate in two attempts at a mental health evaluation, as the Journal-World reported.

Though neither psychologist who tried to conduct an evaluation was successful, both determined he was competent. The mental health team at the jail reported that if Price acted out at the jail his actions seemed performative and that he liked to have an audience.

Judge Amy Hanley said at his competency hearing that in her dealings with Price, she saw “an individual who understands very clearly what is going on in front of him.”

Price’s demeanor in Hanley’s courtroom during that competency hearing was at odds with his demeanor in another court only days later when he was ejected from a pretrial conference. All of Price’s trials have been conducted in Judge Stacey Donovan’s court. In that hearing he was removed from the courtroom after repeatedly insulting Donovan.

Price is next scheduled to appear in court on June 12. He is currently serving his sentence in connection with his previous convictions at the Douglas County Jail.


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