The Metropolitan Police Department has denied a public records request for the arrest report of an officer accused of lewdness with at least two girls — nearly two months after the department initially denied a request for an arrest report involving a retired officer.
On Wednesday, Metro denied a request by the Las Vegas Review-Journal for Christopher Peto’s arrest report. Peto, 47, is a 20-year veteran of the department and was arrested Jan. 31 after being accused of engaging in sex acts over the last two years with at least two girls in the Laughlin area.
Metro distributed a news release about Peto’s arrest on Jan. 31. The department said he was later relieved of duty without pay.
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. He has been held at the jail since his arrest.
Detectives believe that Peto, who has worked for Metro since 1999, “encountered these girls at the Laughlin Jr./Sr. High School and during calls for service,” Metro said Friday.
Metro gives 2 reasons for denial
In the denial, Metro’s records division cited an open investigation, saying the information “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings” or could “deprive a person of a fair trial.”
The denial also cited a “balancing test” established by a 1990 state Supreme Court decision, now a common method of blocking public access to government records. Donrey of Nevada v. Bradshaw allowed governments to withhold records not deemed confidential if officials decided secrecy was in the best interest of the public.
Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said in an emailed statement Thursday that releasing Peto’s report could compromise the investigation.
“At such time when detectives have completed their investigation, the report will be released with redactions of privileged and confidential information,” he said.
Benjamin Lipman, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for the Review-Journal, said the department “should be upholding the law, not finding ways to avoid it.”
“It is frustrating that Metro routinely denies public records requests without legitimate basis for doing so,” he said.
Since Metro began releasing arrest reports through its online records portal system in late October, the department has released dozens of reports to the media for suspects in ongoing criminal investigations. The number of granted requests is unclear because Metro’s system automatically purges records after 14 days.
Other requests denied
Metro previously denied a request to release the arrest report for Kirk Hooten, a 51-year-old retired Metro officer who was arrested Nov. 21 on a charge of soliciting a child for prostitution. The department denied the request less than two hours after the Review-Journal submitted it Nov. 22.
The department later released the arrest report after the newspaper challenged the denial. The report was released hours after Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan signed off on the release of the report from Las Vegas Justice Court.
According to Las Vegas Justice Court records, Amezola is to be tried as an adult in the case.
In Nevada, minors 16 or older accused of murder are automatically certified as adults in the court system, while children 13 or older may be certified and tried as an adult upon a motion by the district attorney and after a full investigation and hearing by the court.
Las Vegas Justice Court previously has released to the Review-Journal the arrest reports of minors charged with murder who were certified as adults.
The reasoning provided by Metro for denying Amezola’s records was the same given for the denial of Peto’s arrest report.