Widow sues over suicide in Utah artifacts case

Salt Lake City, Utah (AP) June 2011

The widow of a Blanding doctor who killed himself after his arrest in a Utah ancient artifacts theft case has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against two federal agencies.

The lawsuit, which Jeanne Redd filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, claims the Bureau of Land Management and the FBI pushed her husband, James Redd, to suicide through “excessive, overreaching and abusive treatment” of him, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.

Armed federal agents arrested the Redds along with 22 others on June 10, 2009, after a two-year undercover operation in the Four Corners area of southern Utah. James Redd was charged with one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property, specifically an effigy bird pendant worth $1,000.

Redd, 60, asphyxiated himself by connecting a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car the day after his arrest. Another defendant, Steven Shrader, also committed suicide in 2009. An undercover informant for the government, Ted Gardiner, later took his own life.

The FBI declined to comment on the lawsuit. Calls to the BLM were not returned.

Jeanne Redd’s lawsuit claims that agents “manhandled” her husband and interrogated him for hours at their home, and that their “physical and psychological assault” focused on his family, religion, profession and community.

“His final words connected his death to the defendants’ egregious actions,” the complaint contends.

Redd, a father of five, was described in the complaint as a religious man and a linchpin in Blanding. He was well-liked in the Mormon and American Indian communities, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint, which also brands the federal undercover operation as overkill, seeks an unspecified amount for emotional and punitive damages.

Of the 24 people arrested in the raid, 18 have been placed on probation after reaching plea agreements.

A federal judge last month terminated the remaining 18 months of probation for Jeanne Redd and the remaining six months of probation for her daughter, Jerica Redd. Both have paid fines in full and complied with all conditions of their probation, according to court records.

Shortly after the arrests, U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett accused agents of going overboard in their show of force in the raid.

Utah’s top two federal law enforcement officials at the time said agents acted professionally in executing search warrants and handling defendants.