Las Vegas constable disputes arrest on DUI charge


It was all a setup, Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura said.

In a recorded interview as he was leaving the Clark County jail Wednesday afternoon, Bonaventura disputed the police account of his drunken driving arrest Tuesday night and said county administrators desperate to remove him from elected office were responsible.

Bonaventura said he was suspicious that the arrest happened hours after county officials posted a proposal to abolish his troubled office at the end of his elected term.

"That's why I feel it's some kind of setup with county administrators," he said, specifically naming Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells and Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who has led the effort to eliminate his office. Wells is listed as the petitioner on the agenda item.

Giunchigliani is out of the country this week and couldn't be reached for comment. Wells had a simple response: "That's ridiculous."

Bonaventura, who was driving his official agency vehicle, said he was followed by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper from his downtown office onto southbound U.S. Highway 95.

The trooper continued to follow, he said, as he left the highway and eventually pulled him over in a Wal-mart parking lot at Tropicana Avenue and McLeod Drive.

"I was watching this other Highway Patrol person follow me for 15 minutes on the freeway. So they basically ... my opinion of it is that I was set up. It was a setup," he said.

Bonaventura's story differs from the Highway Patrol account. Trooper Loy Hixson said a motorist reported an erratic driver heading south on U.S. 95 near Boulder Highway.

The responding trooper located Bonaventura's vehicle farther south on the highway, near Flamingo Road or Tropicana Avenue.

Hixson said he hadn't seen the arrest report and wasn't sure exactly where Bonaventura was stopped.

But the trooper didn't tail Bonaventura across the valley, Hixson said.

"I don't have any knowledge of that," he said. "Looking back at the call notes, there's nothing like that."

Hixson said Bonaventura failed a field sobriety test and a blood alcohol breath test. He was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of driving under the influence and speeding.

Bonaventura denied that he was over the legal alcohol limit of 0.08 blood-alcohol content and that he failed the field sobriety test. He acknowledged taking a breath test at the scene but said the trooper would not tell him the results.

At the jail, he said, another breath test showed he was "way under the legal limit."

"I don't know why they arrest people that are under the limit. It's not right," he said.

His constable's vehicle was picked up by an employee of his office.

When asked Wednesday where he was driving, Bonaventura said, "I was coming from my office to my house."

Asked whether he had been drinking at his office, Bonaventura bristled.

"No, I was not drinking at my office," he said.

Bonaventura walked away and appeared to end the interview, but he returned moments later to clarify.

He said he had had "one or two" drinks at the Stratosphere hotel-casino during an AFL-CIO union function about 4:30 p.m., then returned to his office.

Bonaventura said "his officers" were investigating his arrest. He didn't know many details of their probe but said that "they also feel that there's some kind of foul play involved in it."

"We're going to get more details of it, I'm sure," he said. "Basically that's it. We suspect foul play within the county."

Giunchigliani has talked for weeks about abolishing the constable's office, but her colleagues won't vote on the proposed ordinance change at Tuesday's meeting.

A public hearing is scheduled for the board's March 19 meeting. If commissioners choose to make the change, the constable's office would be abolished at the end of Bonaventura's term, at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2015.

Since Bonaventura took office in 2011, he has been involved in a heavily criticized foray into reality television, hit with allegations of sexual harassment, been mired in jurisdictional disputes and criticized for using clever accounting to circumvent county oversight.

He also has hired deputies with questionable histories that include run-ins with the law.

Las Vegas police are investigating Deputy Luis Rendon for shooting a dog last month. In 2000, Rendon was arrested for burglary and grand theft in Miami but was never charged, and he has had his license suspended four times.

Rendon also is facing accusations of stalking and harassing the woman who owns the dog.

After the interview, Bonaventura - who did not have anyone immediately pick him up from jail - crossed the street, made a phone call and waited.

Staff writers Brian Haynes and Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

 

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