- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A former Nevada state prison guard trainee accused of killing of an inmate with shotgun blasts is talking with the state attorney general’s office about resolving the criminal involuntary manslaughter and reckless disregard charges against him, his defense attorney said Tuesday.

A Las Vegas justice of the peace set a new court date Aug. 30, after Raynaldo John Ruiz Ramos’ lawyer, Joshua Tomsheck, sought time to work out a plea deal.

Judge Cynthia Cruz also scheduled a preliminary hearing Oct. 6, in case the effort falls through. Ramos remained free without bail.

Tomsheck, Ramos and prosecutor Jason Gunnell, from the Nevada attorney general’s office, declined to comment outside court.

The case is one of several stemming from Nevada’s use of shotguns in prisons - a policy that was changed this year following the charges against Ramos in the November 2014 death of Carlos Perez Jr., 28, at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs.

Tuesday’s development came five days after a new federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Nevada state prison inmate who says he was blinded by shotgun pellets fired by a guard in April 2015 at Ely State Prison.

Stacey Richards, now 25 and living in the Los Angeles area, seeks unspecified damages for the loss of his sight.

Richards was known as Rashaad Tyerell Williams when he was struck in the face by birdshot pellets fired by a guard during a fight between other inmates, attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in the court filing. Williams changed his name after he was paroled.

The lawsuit says Richards complied with commands to get on the prison floor before a guard “skipped” shotgun pellets off the hard surface, striking Richards in the face. The lawsuit says the inmates who were fighting weren’t wounded.

Spokeswomen for the Nevada Department of Corrections and the state attorney general’s office said they couldn’t comment on litigation.

However, new prisons chief James Dzurenda noted in a statement that in May he ended the use of birdshot in all 18 Nevada prison facilities, which house some 13,500 people.

Dzurenda took over as state prisons director in April. He said he’s close to turning over to Gov. Brian Sandoval his assessment of recommendations from a panel researching less-lethal alternative uses of force.

Richards’ lawsuit traces the “inherently reckless … irrational and inhumane” shooting policy to 1984, when it said guards were equipped with 12-gauge shotguns and told they could use birdshot to control inmates.

Records made public last year showed that 215 shots were fired in one five-year span inside High Desert State Prison, including 60 in 2011. By comparison, guards fired 124 shots during the same five years at the state’s 17 other prison facilities, combined.

In the fatal November 2014 shooting, another inmate, Andrew Arevalo, was wounded while he and Perez brawled in a shower hallway.

A lawyer for Perez’s family, Cal Potter, alleges that Ramos and other guards staged a “gladiator-like scenario” to let the two inmates fight before they were shot.

Ramos isn’t charged with injuring Arevalo, now 25 and being held at the maximum security state prison in Ely. Arevalo is serving the remainder of a two-to-six-year prison sentence for a 2013 burglary conviction.

His attorney, Alexis Plunkett, said Tuesday she believes the change in shooting policy points to state liability for inmate injuries.

“This seems to be an admission that the policy was wrong,” Plunkett said. “They need to start righting these wrongs.”

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