A top law enforcement official on Thursday denied giving preferential treatment to a Nevada congressman and gubernatorial candidate who was accused of assaulting a casino cocktail waitress in a parking garage.
"There was no preferential treatment given to any person for any reason at any time in this investigation, period," Clark County Sheriff Bill Young said at a news conference called to respond to allegations that Young and his department mishandled an investigation into the alleged assault by Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons.
Chrissy Mazzeo, 32, claims Gibbons, 61, pushed her up against a wall and made a sexual advance while the two were walking to her truck after a night of dining and drinking at a Las Vegas restaurant on Oct. 13. Gibbons denies her account, saying he was helping Mazzeo find her truck when she tripped. He caught her and then walked away, he says.
Mazzeo dropped the complaint the next day, but now says she was
pressured to do so by a friend who claimed to have ties to the Gibbons campaign.
The case was closed when Mazzeo withdrew the complaint. But Young and Clark County District Attorney David Roger said it would
be reopened and aggressively pursued if Mazzeo chooses to cooperate.
"Bring it on. Come forward, sign the crime report," Young said to reporters. "You want an investigation? You ain't seen nothing yet."
Mazzeo's lawyer, Richard Wright, had raised the concerns about preferential treatment on Wednesday. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment about Young's remarks.
Mazzeo, accompanied by Wright, went before reporters Wednesday
to say she was pressured and threatened by her friend, Pennie Puhek, to drop the complaint. She said Puhek, who claimed to be in touch with "the Gibbons party," said she'd get money in exchange for signing a statement changing her story.
Mazzeo said she did not take the money. She has not filed a lawsuit in the matter.
Gibbons described Mazzeo comments as "defamatory." His lawyer,
Don Campbell, called Mazzeo an "exceedingly troubled young woman." Puhek has denied pressuring Mazzeo or being affiliated with the Gibbons campaign.
Mazzeo told reporters she wanted the truth to come out, but Wright said that he had "lost confidence" in the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. He said he hoped the Clark County district attorney's office would investigate.
Roger said Thursday the district attorney's office would not independently investigate the matter, but would assist Young's department.
The sheriff defended a call to Gibbons to arrange an interview with detectives the day after the incident. Young, a Republican who has endorsed Gibbons in his race against Democrat Dina Titus, said he felt it was his responsibility to personally call a high-profile suspect.
"This is not an uncommon practice in law enforcement," Young said. "No information was given on the status of the investigation."
Gibbons lawyer Don Campbell also has defended the sheriff's call, calling it "a heads up." When asked by a reporter if an average person would get such a warning, Campbell said, "No, but then again, you aren't running for governor. You aren't a congressman."
Young said he would not second-guess his investigators' decision not to interview the five-term congressman from Reno the night of the incident, although Mazzeo had told police the name of the hotel where Gibbons was staying.
Officers believed Mazzeo to be drunk and wanted to give her a chance to give another statement the next day, Young said. Mazzeo was not interviewed again before Gibbons was reached by police.
Young also said he was within the law to release Mazzeo's name
to the media. He said the crime alleged did not appear to be a sexual assault, as asserted by Mazzeo's lawyer, but a misdemeanor battery which doesn't allow for the same victim privacy protections.