Child sex charges against a former police officer were transferred Wednesday to a Las Vegas court after a Laughlin judge refused to pull himself from the case after lawyers said he was longtime friends with the defendant.
Christopher Peto, 47, was arrested last month on charges of engaging in sex acts for the past two years with at least two girls in the Laughlin area. Peto, who started with the Metropolitan Police Department in 1999, was relieved of duty without pay after his arrest, according to Metro officials.
A week ago, a prosecutor and Peto’s defense attorney filed court papers that stated Laughlin Justice of the Peace Tim Atkins should not hear the case. The judge had also rejected requests to voluntarily recuse himself from Peto’s case, so the lawyers agreed Wednesday that Atkins should be disqualified from any hearings about the officer.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Luzaich and defense attorney Josh Tomsheck, who represents the 20-year veteran of Metro, signed similar affidavits that stated Atkins and Peto had a personal relationship that included regularly playing golf together.
Atkins did not return a reporter’s phone message on Wednesday. Peto is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.
Tomsheck said last week that the relationship between two men “creates an actual or implied conflict, making it impossible for Judge Atkins to fairly preside over this matter without the appearance of impropriety and unbiased judgment.”
The Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct and state law, cited by the prosecutor, address possible conflicts.
“A judge shall not act as such in an action or proceeding when the judge entertains actual bias or prejudice for or against one of the parties to the action,” state law reads.
Detectives reported that Peto “encountered these girls at the Laughlin Jr./Sr. High School and during calls for service.”
Peto faces charges of lewdness with a child who is 14 or 15 by a person 18 or older, child abuse or neglect, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of soliciting a child for prostitution, and five counts of lewdness with a child under 14, Clark County Detention Center records show.
Peto is scheduled to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court next week.