Gorman football standout appears in court on felony attack charges

A standout football player from Bishop Gorman High School made his first court appearance Thursday after his arrest on several felonies that stem from an attack on his ex-girlfriend.

Justin Chaisson, an 18-year-old senior who has received a full scholarship to football powerhouse Oklahoma, is scheduled to return to Las Vegas Justice Court on April 29 for a preliminary hearing.

"Certainly this is a difficult period of time for him and his family, and we intend to defend the charges and work toward a resolution," said his lawyer, Michael Cristalli.

Cristalli said Chaisson, whose grandfather once owned Chaisson Motor Cars in Las Vegas, was arrested in his vehicle Tuesday afternoon "without incident" and was released on bail that evening.

Chaisson faces three felonies: assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and coercion. He also faces a gross misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor charge of battery constituting domestic violence.

The charges stem from a March 17 incident that began at Bishop Gorman.

According to a Las Vegas police report, witnesses reported that Chaisson and his ex-girlfriend exchanged words in the parking lot before Chaisson followed the 17-year-old girl to a coffee shop at 6105 S. Fort Apache Road.

Outside the coffee shop, according to the report, Chaisson grabbed the girl's arm and forced her into the back seat of his sport utility vehicle, a GMC Denali. His younger brother also was in the back seat, the report states.

The girl told police Chaisson punched her in the ribs and drove her to the desert before pulling her out of the vehicle. She said he then placed a screwdriver to her neck and threatened to kill her.

When two of the girl's friends drove up to the scene, she told police, Chaisson again grabbed her and put her in his vehicle.

One of the friends called 911 while following Chaisson's vehicle. According to the police report, the incident ended after Chaisson drove his ex-girlfriend to a storage facility and told her to exit his vehicle.

After the incident, according to the report, the girl's stepfather met with Chaisson and his father, Jim.

"Mr. Chaisson mentioned that he has his son in anger management classes tomorrow, March 18, 2009," the report states. "Mr. Chaisson also mentioned that his son has 53 days left in town before going to Oklahoma University for a football scholarship."

According to the police report, Chaisson and his ex-girlfriend had dated for 21/2 years before breaking up in February.

Cristalli said Chaisson has not returned to Bishop Gorman. "He is finishing his high school," the lawyer said. "We're not sure if he's going to be finishing it at Bishop Gorman in light of the underlying circumstances."

Cristalli described Chaisson as "one of the top student-athletes in our state" and said he never has been in trouble before.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 285-pound Chaisson led Bishop Gorman in sacks with five and was fifth on the team in total tackles this season with 46.

In February, Chaisson, arguably one of the top and most-feared defensive linemen in Southern Nevada, signed his national letter of intent to attend Oklahoma, which lost to Florida in the national championship game in January.

It was not immediately known if Chaisson's scholarship to Oklahoma would be affected. Sooners spokesman Kenny Mossman said the school would not comment until it received more information.

Chaisson was named to the all-state first team in each of the last two seasons and played in the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla., this winter.

He was ranked the 73rd-best high school senior in the country by Rivals.com. Scout.com lists Chaisson as being able to bench press 395 pounds and squat 575 pounds.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Reporter Bartt Davis contributed to this report.