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Ex-Gov. Gibbons, Mazzeo settle high-profile lawsuit

A former cocktail waitress has reached a $50,000 settlement in her high-profile, 2008 federal lawsuit against ex-Gov. Jim Gibbons, former Sheriff Bill Young, Republican political strategist Sig Rogich and the Metropolitan Police Department, a lawyer said Thursday.

Chrissy Mazzeo’s lawsuit stemmed from an encounter outside the McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant, near Flamingo Road at Paradise Road, following a night of drinking on Oct. 13, 2006.

Mazzeo said Gibbons, then a member of Congress campaigning for governor, walked her into a parking garage, threw her against a wall and threatened to sexually assault her.

Gibbons has said he walked Mazzeo to her car and grabbed her arm when she tripped and fell.

Mazzeo’s lawsuit alleged that the four defendants violated her First Amendment rights and that Gibbons, Young and Rogich conspired to discredit her after she filed a criminal complaint against the governor.

Gibbons was elected governor three weeks after the incident, and a criminal investigation ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing. In 2010, he became the state’s first sitting governor to lose a re-election primary when now-Gov. Brian Sandoval handily defeated him.

Attorney Walter Cannon, who represents Young and the Metropolitan Police Department, said the department paid Mazzeo $24,999, and Rogich’s insurance company paid her $25,001.

The payments were part of a global settlement with all the remaining defendants: Gibbons, Young, the Police Department and Rogich.

Cannon said the trial was expected to last three to four weeks and involve 40 to 50 witnesses, including five defense experts. The amount the Police Department paid Mazzeo represented the cost of two or three days of trial, he said.

“Metro decided to do the financially expedient thing and get out,” Cannon said.

He also said Young, head of security for Station Casinos, would have had to miss several weeks of work to attend the trial.

“Bill was willing to do it, in fact wanted to do it,” Cannon said.

The lawyer said he thought his clients had a strong case, and he was looking forward to trying it.

Until the agreement was reached, Cannon said, the lowest previous settlement offer made by Mazzeo’s lawyer was about $850,000.

Cannon said he understood that Gibbons was going to contribute something to the settlement by reimbursing the other defendants, but he did not know the amount. Gibbons’ lawyer, Pat Lundvall, could not be reached for comment.

Mazzeo’s lawyer, Robert Kossack, confirmed his client had reached a settlement.

Court records show the parties submitted a stipulation of dismissal on July 11 and that the case was terminated the following day.

“We did not sign any kind of confidentiality agreement,” Kossack said, but he would not discuss the amount of money Mazzeo received or any other details of the settlement.

“You’re just gonna have to read the book,” he said.

One factor in the settlement may have been the Nevada Supreme Court’s recent decision to suspend Kossack from the practice of law for 18 months. According to the May 24 order, the decision stemmed from complaints involving “misappropriation of client funds by Kossack’s nonlawyer staff.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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