Victim of Family Court groping incident files federal lawsuit

The woman who was captured on courtroom videotape complaining she was groped by a Family Court marshal filed a federal lawsuit Friday.

Monica Contreras, 28, alleges in the lawsuit that her civil rights were violated in August 2011, when the marshal, Ron Fox, assaulted her in a witness room and then had her arrested in court, with cameras rolling, after she refused to recant her allegations.

Contreras and her lawyer, Ross Goodman, name as defendants in the lawsuit Fox; a second marshal who took her into custody, James Kenyon; and the hearing master, Patricia Doninger, who seemed to ignore her pleas for help.

Clark County, the state of Nevada and the courts also were named as defendants.

“The wrongful conduct of defendant Fox was intentional and evilly motivated, and the wrongful conduct of defendants Kenyon and Doninger involved reckless, callous and deliberate indifference to plaintiff’s federally protected rights,” the complaint alleges.

Contreras was in Family Court with her 3-year-old daughter on Aug. 8, 2011, for a brief hearing related to her divorce.

She complained to Doninger that Fox had assaulted her in a witness room under the guise of searching for drugs.

The lawsuit alleges Fox “engaged in nonconsensual improper sexual contact” with her body and “made sexually abusive and harassing requests.”

As a result of her mistreatment, Contreras suffered “severe emotional distress,” the lawsuit said.

Contreras filed claims of civil rights violations, battery, false imprisonment, defamation and negligence in the lawsuit.

“Upon information and belief, there were numerous prior incidents of improper conduct by Family Court personnel, including court marshals, and including unreasonable search and seizure, use of excessive force and other violations of citizens’ constitutional rights,” the lawsuit alleges.

On courtroom video from August 2011, Doninger is seen playing with Contreras’ daughter and appearing to ignore the woman’s emotional pleas and description of the encounter with Fox.

Contreras was handcuffed and taken to a holding cell, where she was subjected to urine and field sobriety tests.

Fox contended she was displaying the demeanor of someone on drugs. The tests results were negative.

Marshals cited Contreras on charges of providing false information to a police officer and disturbing the peace, both misdemeanors.

Months later, in May 2012, she pleaded no contest in Las Vegas Justice Court to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge that had been changed from the charge of providing false information. The disturbing-the-peace charge was dismissed.

Contreras filed a complaint against Fox at the Regional Justice Center on Oct. 25, 2011, prompting an internal court investigation.

Fox denied the allegations but was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 1, 2011, and ultimately fired.

Assistant County Manager Ed Finger, who served as a hearing master in post-termination proceedings, issued a scathing 12-page report upholding Fox’s firing.

“Fox, and to some degree Kenyon, simply intimidated and bullied the complainant in a way that is shocking and almost incomprehensible, using the complainant’s own freedom and custody of her three-year-old child as threats,” Finger wrote.

But in December, Fox’s lawyer, Adam Levine, filed a petition in District Court seeking to overturn Fox’s firing.

Levine also asked for a court injunction to stop all disciplinary proceedings against marshals until written procedures for investigating misconduct complaints are in place and available to the public, as state law requires.

Levine argued Fox did not get a fair hearing.

Court officials are not saying whether Kenyon and Doninger were disciplined over the incident .

On Friday, court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said the court could not comment on the lawsuit, which involves protected personnel matters.

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.