Suspended Family Court Marshal Steve Rushfield, already under investigation by local and federal officials, is now accused of covering up another marshal’s groping of two teenage girls in 2010, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.
The Family Court assaults are alleged to have happened on the same day and involved former Marshal Ron Fox, who later was fired after accusations that he fondled a Las Vegas woman, Monica Contreras, in a witness room in 2011.
Fox is alleged to have touched the breasts of both teenagers while searching them. Las Vegas police investigated the allegations, but no charges were filed. The investigation of Rushfield’s involvement in a possible cover-up of the groping incidents is part of an internal courthouse investigation into his conduct.
Rushfield, a longtime supervisor of Family Court marshals, is at the center of an FBI civil rights investigation into complaints of excessive force and possible cover-ups at Family Court.
In April, Rushfield took a voluntary demotion after the Review-Journal reported on the allegations, and he became a courtroom marshal for Family Court Judge Frank Sullivan. Last month, Rushfield was suspended from that position amid the FBI and internal investigations.
His attorney, Neil Beller, did not return phone calls Monday.
Fox’s attorney, Adam Levine, said police found a “lack of evidence or merit” to the groping allegations in 2010.
“My understanding is that the female juveniles at issue were taken into custody and transported to a holding cell by Marshal Fox in the presence of juvenile probation officers,” Levine said. “There was nothing to cover up, and I do not know why they need to investigate matters which have been closed for four years, unless their actions are being dictated by pressures from the press as opposed to the fact.”
The Aug. 8, 2011, groping case involving Contreras, 28, has attracted the interest of the FBI and has been widely publicized because of a courtroom video showing her complaining to a hearing master. Contreras was in court for a hearing in regard to her 3-year-old daughter.
In the video, an emotional Contreras is shown complaining that Fox had inappropriately touched her in the witness room while claiming to be searching for drugs. Contreras was ignored and arrested for complaining.
Fox has denied the accusations and has sued to get his job back. Contreras has sued Fox.
Rushfield is accused of trying to cover up both the Contreras case and a May 20, 2010, Family Court incident in which he is accused of choking a Las Vegas woman while she was confined to a restraining chair in a holding cell. Rushfield was a supervisor at the time of both incidents.
While grabbing Crystal Williams by the throat, Rushfield is alleged to have said, “You’re in my house, b----. Shut the f--- up.”
Williams, 28, testified before a federal grand jury last summer.
Clark County District Court officials recently turned over to the FBI investigative reports of the incidents involving the teenagers. Last summer, the FBI under subpoena took boxes of court internal files involving allegations of marshal misconduct.
Investigators reportedly have found a witness who can corroborate the allegation that Fox groped the teenage girls.
Rushfield was interviewed by court investigators last week at the Regional Justice Center in the presence of his attorney.
District Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said Monday that Rushfield is on “paid administrative leave” because of a personnel investigation. She would not provide details of the investigation.
“When allegations of malfeasance are made, the law requires that a fair and thorough investigation be conducted to ensure that the allegations are true before the court takes any action,” Price said in a statement. “The court is also required by law to keep confidential the allegations, investigation and outcome of personnel matters.
“All court employees are expected to treat those who enter the courthouse with professionalism and courtesy,” she said. “The court has and will continue to take appropriate disciplinary action against any employee who is proven to be in violation of that code of conduct.”
Marshals have told the Review-Journal that there was an “oppressive culture” at Family Court when Rushfield was their supervisor.
Family Court, a division of District Court, has 20 judges who oversee domestic issues, including divorces and cases of child custody or abuse. Located at 600 N. Pecos Road, away from the Regional Justice Center, the court has in recent years become more autonomous, with its own presiding judge.
Allegations of misconduct and abuse by marshals have been a source of friction between Family Court and District Court.
Family Court judges have frustrated efforts by Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti to fire Rushfield and another marshal involved in the Contreras altercation, James Kenyon, who works in the courtroom of Family Court Judge William Gonzalez.
Another allegation of excessive force involving Rushfield surfaced last month. California businessman John Conforte stepped forward to allege that he was beaten and shocked with a stun gun by Rushfield and other marshals while he was handcuffed on Feb. 19, 2008.
Conforte alleged in court papers that the marshals beat him in a private Family Court hallway near a holding cell, in an area not covered by security cameras. Federal prosecutors and an FBI agent involved in the excessive force investigation interviewed Conforte last week.
Conforte hopes to overturn his gross misdemeanor conviction for battery on an officer and a lesser conviction for resisting an officer, both charges stemming from the incident at the courthouse. He struck a plea deal in 2009 to avoid prison time and was sentenced to probation. The marshals contended that he was verbally abusive, resisted arrest and kicked a marshal trying to detain him.
Conforte acknowledged having “words” with the marshals. Security videos his lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, filed in court last week tend to support his contention that he did not resist arrest.
One clip showed a handcuffed Conforte calmly being led by Rushfield and other marshals to the private hallway. The other showed Rushfield and others opening the door at the other end of the hallway, picking Conforte up from the floor and walking him through a door to the holding cell area.