Al Rogers recently posted a reference to the police not doing their jobs with reference to casino security. It may be endemic in the public sector. I though you might all enjoy a historic letter I sent to a leading public official some time back concerning the problem. I never received any response.
I have also written to the higher-ups at the police regarding their failure to accept complaints concerning security personnel committing public offenses against casino patrons. The response from Metro was that such incidents were "civil matters," and Metro would not get involved. This is curious considering how many times Metro gets involved in such "civil matters" with reference to casinos' allegations against patrons.
Anyway, I thought this might provide a broader perspective of what is actually going on. The names have been changed and the case numbers excised for the privacy of the individuals. If I have somehow given up such information, please keep it to yourselves, and don't speculate as to who the victims were. Also, thank you all for your support as we go forward on these issues.
April 2, 2004
J. Charles Thompson, Esq.
Office of the District Attorney
200 South Third Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Re: State v. xxx; Laughlin Justice Court 03ML***
State v. xxx; Las Vegas Justice Court 03M0***
Las Vegas v. xxx; Las Vegas Municipal Court C53*** and Clark County District
Las Vegas v. xxx; Las Vegas Municipal Court C053***
Dear Mr. Thompson:
I believe that you, as the person at the top of the criminal division for the Clark County District Attorney, should be aware of what appears to be a pattern and practice of prosecutorial misconduct in Clark County. I have never written a letter such as this before, and undertake this correspondence with no small amount of trepidation. Further, other than a similar letter to Mr. Jerbic at the City, communications that you wish to have with me, and hopefully review of a response to this letter, I have no present intent to escalate this matter and expect to leave it in your hands.
The four cases referenced above involve almost identical facts. In each case a casino patron that has committed no crime is accosted by casino security. Generally, this is for undertaking legal activities such as card counting. Video evidence in xxx, xxx and xxx show these persons being beaten and/or falsely imprisoned by casino security. In each case the defendant (or in the case of xxx, a companion of the defendant) are first physically grabbed by casino security. The actions of the defendants are limited to defense or protest, and none of these defendants actually physically attacked anyone.
Due to the resistance (xxx and xxx charged with battery) or the protest (xxx and xxx charged with disturbing the peace), Metro is called. In xxx’s case, he was the person who actually called Metro after he had left the casino. xxx, xxx, and xxx were then arrested. xxx was cited. In each case there was never any indication that the actions of casino security in grabbing or detaining the defendant were supported by any legal authority, and in each case casino security not only instigated the contact, but was the first to batter or create a disturbance.
The xxx case was dismissed on a pre-trial motion because the case was not supported by probable cause. The remaining cases went to trial. The xxx matter was dismissed in the middle of the State’s case when the video showing that Mr. xxx was a victim, not a perpetrator, entered into evidence. I.e., the case was dismissed because it was not supported by probable cause. The xxx case was dismissed on close of the State’s case due to insufficient evidence. The xxx case was dismissed on appeal because the charge was not supported by probable cause. With the threshold standard of probable cause being as low as it is, when it is patently missing the failure should be evident to the prosecutor handling the matter.
As you are undoubtedly aware, S.C.R. 179.1 directs that prosecutors are to “[r]efrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause.” These are the only four cases of this nature that I have taken in the criminal context, and as someone who has only very rarely handled criminal cases, I am certainly no miracle worker on matters of this sort. Four out of four prosecutions on similar facts where all of the matters are determined in a fashion that does not even require a defense evince a pattern and practice of prosecutors going forward in violation of S.C.R. 179.1. Additionally, four such matters landing in my office is analogous to shaking a haystack and finding a thousand needles. I would gainsay that under this sample dozens of similar prosecutions without probable cause are moving forward and resulting in pleas.
I would also point out that my interaction with the prosecutors has provided some curious discourse. When I attempted to discuss the lack of probable cause with Ms. Stacey Kollins on the xxx matter, her response was “Don’t get all self-righteous with me.” On the xxx matter, I was informed by three different prosecutors that they had no discretion to even discuss an outright dismissal. Mr. xxx had to fly cross country twice to merely have a video shown where he is [EXCERPT REMOVED BECAUSE IT WOULD DISCLOSE IDENTITY OF xxx] by casino security guards and then taken to the ground and beaten (all without throwing a punch). Mr. Oh of the City Attorney’s office took a position similar to Ms. Kollins, and also got angry when Mr. xxx would not roll over on a plea. The videos in xxx are filed with the district court, and the videos on xxx and xxx are filed in their respective justice courts. I’m confident that if you review these you will see that no reasonable person could disagree that these cases were prosecuted without probable cause.
I understand that in an office as busy as yours, matters at this level and of this nature necessarily fall somewhere short of the top of the stack. Further, I recognize that misdemeanors must have a certain level of rote or policy response else your office would be inundated with minutia, and that the foregoing is occurring outside your direct knowledge. Still, three of these people spent time in jail, and all invested substantial time in seeing that justice won out. Each was actually the victim of an attack and crime committed against them by casino security. Thus, I would hope that at a policy level, some directives and reinforcement of the disciplinary rules concerning probable cause would provide a savings to your office, an enhanced view of the rule of law for our citizens, and a level of protection to casino patrons indicating that the illegal actions of security guards will not be blindly validated by prosecutors in Nevada.
I look forward to your response, and trust that you will view this as a legitimate issue raised by a concerned citizen and member of the bar. Thank you for your attention.
Very Truly Yours,
Nersesian & Sankiewicz
Robert A. Nersesian