A woman who alleges she was choked by a Family Court marshal while restrained in a holding cell testified Tuesday before a federal grand jury hearing evidence of excessive force and a possible cover-up.
Crystal Williams, 27, arrived at the federal courthouse about 1:10 p.m. with her lawyer, Ross Goodman, and spent about 40 minutes before the grand jury laying out her version of the 2010 incident for prosecutors.
“I feel good,” Williams said as she left the courthouse with Goodman after her testimony.
She said she was glad to have an opportunity to let “it all out,” and she hopes justice will be served by her testimony.
Her case is part of a wider FBI investigation into allegations of misconduct by Family Court marshals. Several incidents of excessive force have been reported there in recent years during the tenure of the former top supervisor of the marshals, Steve Rushfield.
With the help of FBI agents, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Dickinson and Phillip Smith, Jr. began presenting witnesses in the Williams case to the grand jury last month. Three Family Court marshals who have said they saw Rushfield choking Williams in the holding cell on May 20, 2010, have testified. Two of the marshals now work at the Regional Justice Center.
Williams was at a Family Court hearing in 2010 to support a friend. After a confrontation with marshals outside the courtroom, she was taken to the holding cell and strapped into the restraining chair.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March, a marshal who said he witnessed the choking incident described Williams as combative and screaming. The marshal, who asked not to be identified, said Rushfield grabbed her by the throat with one hand, shoved her head back and said, “You’re in my house, bitch. Shut the f---- up.”
Before an internal investigation into the incident, Rushfield summoned all of the witnesses to the back of the courthouse to “get the story straight,” the marshal said.
Las Vegas police investigated the incident, but in early 2011, detectives with the Criminal Intelligence Section of the Metropolitan Police Department decided it was best left for administrative action by the court.
Two years later, at the time of the Review-Journal story, Steve Grierson, the District Court’s executive, had taken no action against Rushfield, though Bob Bennett, the court’s security director, recommended firing the lieutenant.
Three weeks after the story, Rushfield gave up his rank of lieutenant and became a regular courtroom marshal for Family Court Judge Frank Sullivan.
Rushfield and court officials have declined comment.
Rushfield also has been accused of trying to cover up allegations that another marshal groped Monica Contreras, 28, who was in Family Court on Aug. 8, 2011, for a hearing related to her divorce.
In a courtroom incident captured on videotape, Contreras complained to Hearing Master Patricia Doninger that the marshal, Ron Fox, assaulted her in a nearby witness room under the guise of searching for drugs. Doninger appeared to ignore her pleas.
Earlier this year, Goodman, who also represents Contreras, filed a federal lawsuit alleging court officials violated her civil rights. Fox was fired after an internal investigation, and Doninger was let go last month amid publicity over the incident.
Goodman amended the federal lawsuit last week to add the name of a third marshal involved in the incident as a defendant.
He also filed a complaint on Contreras’ behalf in District Court naming the state of Nevada as a defendant.