A federal judge Tuesday blocked Las Vegas Sands Corp. from transferring five security officers assigned to an elite team that protects the family of Chairman Sheldon Adelson to routine uniformed duties.
After a half-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro granted a temporary restraining order instructing Las Vegas Sands officials to keep the five highly trained officers in sensitive plainclothes duties, as long as the officers don't work directly for the Adelson family.
The five officers -- James Jackson, Christopher LaCascia, James Martin, Jonathan Molnar and DeJuan Robinson -- were temporarily assigned to uniformed positions at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in the wake of a lawsuit they filed two months ago seeking owed overtime from the company.
Several of the officers, all with impressive military or law enforcement backgrounds, were in court Tuesday to listen to the arguments.
The officers filed a joint affidavit last week explaining that they primarily have been protecting Adelson's two teenage boys and his wife, Miriam. They would not provide details about their services but said "our professional relationship with these children is exceptionally close."
In all, nine members of Las Vegas Sands' Executive Protection Team, which keeps watch over the Adelson family 24 hours a day, are suing the company and its lead Strip resort, The Venetian, to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime.
Four of the team members have either been fired or left on their own.
Sands attorney Rick Roskelley would not tell Pro on Tuesday exactly how many officers are assigned to the protection team, but he said there are fewer than 20.
Don Campbell, who represents the officers, argued that the reassignments, which took effect this week, violated federal labor laws and amounted to retaliatory demotions.
"The Las Vegas Sands is not above the law, and my clients are not beneath the law," Campbell said.
Roskelley countered that family members no longer trusted the officers to protect them and that the convention center, where the officers would essentially check employee identification badges all day, was the only place where they could work without a conflict.
"You're being asked to put them back in positions where at this time they are not wanted by the family," Roskelley said. "There is no dishonor in being a security guard."
Pro ended up siding with the security officers, saying he found it hard to understand that Adelson and the company no longer trusted them simply because they filed a lawsuit seeking overtime pay.
The judge ordered both sides to work out suitable plainclothes assignments for the officers. If both sides can't come together, he said, he would have a hearing on whether to grant a more defined preliminary junction to preserve the exclusive security status of the officers.
Afterward, Campbell said, "We're very pleased with the decision of Judge Pro."
Roskelley declined comment.
In court papers last week, Campbell presented a sworn affidavit from Dave Shepherd, a former security director at The Venetian, backing up his demotion argument.
Shepherd, a former FBI agent, described the outdoor security post at the Expo and Convention Center as the "single worst assignment" for officers at The Venetian.
He said he viewed that job as a "wasteful expenditure of resort security personnel" and frequently filled the positions with low-wage, private "rent-a-guards."
The skill sets of the protection team members, Shepherd wrote, are far above the qualifications for those duties.
The officers are proficient in "close quarter combat," with continuous martial arts training, and adept with firearms. They know how to use deadly force and have skills in vehicle protection and evasive maneuvers.
They also are experts in surveillance and counter-surveillance.
Contact reporter Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.