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Nevada Supreme Court: North Las Vegas police negligent in 2017 arrest

It took North Las Vegas police more than two years to arrest a man charged with sexually assaulting a child. For that, his charges have been dismissed.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in December that a 26-month delay in the 2017 arrest of Rigoberto Inzunza was caused by the North Las Vegas Police Department’s “gross negligence.”

The delay between when Inzunza was charged and arrested deprived him of his right to a speedy trial, the court ruled. The ruling affirms a decision in Clark County District Court.

The lag appears to have been from a lack of communication between the Police Department’s records staff and Detective Mark Hoyt, according to events recounted in the ruling.

The department said it has made internal changes “to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Inzunza had been charged with 11 counts of sexual assault of a minor under 14 and five counts of lewdness with a child under 14.

The victim spoke of the alleged sexual abuse to her therapist approximately six years after it took place. She said she experienced the abuse when she was 9, and the abuse allegedly continued for at least a year until Inzunza moved to New Jersey, according to the ruling.

When the therapist told her mother, the victim and her mom reported it to North Las Vegas police in 2014.

The mother informed Hoyt that Inzunza lived in New Jersey and gave him printouts of his Facebook profile depicting his car, license plate, employer’s work truck with the business’s name and number.

Policy issue

A month after the victim reported the alleged sexual assaults, a criminal complaint was filed, and records staff filed an arrest warrant into the National Crime Information Center database. However, “consistent with NLVPD policy, no one informed Detective Hoyt, and Hoyt made no further effort to follow up on the case,” the ruling stated.

The state argued that though authorities knew Inzunza was in New Jersey, it would have been “futile” for North Las Vegas police to contact New Jersey authorities before the state obtained an arrest warrant.

“It further explained that the State’s policy does not alert the detective when the warrant issues, so the error was in the NLVPD ‘failing to check up and then seeing that a warrant was approved and then following up on the information from New Jersey,’” according to the ruling.

There is also no evidence indicating Inzunza knew he had been charged before his arrest in January 2017 in New Jersey by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

Hoyt indicated it was not the Police Department’s policy to follow up on a case once submitted to the district attorney’s office, call other jurisdictions without a warrant or follow up on Facebook leads, according to the ruling.

“Finally, Detective Hoyt explained that it was not customary for the already taxed police department to expend additional resources in tracking down the perpetrator in a case that was not ‘high profile,’ but rather a ‘common sexual assault case,’” according to the ruling.

If Hoyt had been informed, steps could have been taken to arrest Inzunza, which could have created justification for the delay between the charges and the arrest, according to the ruling.

“The crimes alleged against Inzunza are serious,” the ruling stated. “But the unusual facts concerning pre-arrest delay compel our affirmance of the district court’s findings and conclusion that Inzunza properly invoked his speedy-trial right.”

In a statement, North Las Vegas police spokesman Eric Leavitt said, “The Police Department proactively changed its internal processes nearly four years ago to ensure that detectives are now notified whenever the District Attorney issues an arrest warrant. Unfortunately in this case, the detective was never notified. Our detectives work tirelessly on every case that comes across their desks, which reflects the dedication of our police chief and her leadership team to keep North Las Vegas’ citizens safe. We want to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Hoyt is still with the department and is a member of the FBI Internet Crimes Against Children team, according to North Las Vegas spokeswoman Sandy Lopez.

In 2018, Hoyt was recognized by the FBI’s Las Vegas office as Officer of the Year.

Hoyt was not available for an interview Monday, according to Leavitt.

Contact Alex Chhith at achhith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0290. Follow @alexchhith on Twitter.

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