weather icon Overcast

Chiropractor sues Las Vegas police, Palms over sex assault case

When Arizona chiropractor Marino Scafidi met a woman through the online dating service Match.com, their match was anything but made in heaven.

Their September 2012 encounter at the Palms led to Scafidi’s arrest on three counts of sexual assault, but a Las Vegas judge later dismissed the charges after concluding that the state had destroyed evidence. And while prosecutors appeal the judge’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, Scafidi is pursuing a civil rights lawsuit against Las Vegas police and the resort where the encounter occurred.

According to the lawsuit, Las Vegas police and Palms security officers unlawfully searched Scafidi’s hotel room and conspired “to not preserve exculpatory evidence.” As a result, the complaint alleges, Scafidi was falsely charged.

Neither Scafidi, 34, nor his lawyers could be reached for comment. Representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department also could not be reached, and Palms spokesman Alex Acuna said the resort does not comment on pending litigation.

According to Scafidi’s lawsuit, he met a woman through Match.com, and they exchanged text messages before agreeing to meet. Although the woman’s name appears in court documents, the Las Vegas Review-Journal typically does not identify victims in sexual assault cases.

Scafidi and the woman went on a date on Sept. 1, 2012, at the Palms. During most of the date, according to Scafidi’s lawsuit, the woman “indicated her romantic interest” in him.

The woman drank alcohol during dinner and later in Scafidi’s hotel room, the complaint alleges. In the early morning hours, they went to the resort’s Rain nightclub to dance.

At about 3 a.m., according to Scafidi’s lawsuit, he and the woman went back to his hotel room, where she sent multiple text messages to her friends.

Eventually, the complaint alleges, Scafidi and the woman “engaged in consensual sexual acts” and “agreed to videotape portions of their sexual activity.”

The video recordings demonstrate that the woman “acquiesced in, and actively enjoyed, the sexual activity,” according to the complaint.

Later, the lawsuit alleges, the woman “began to experience symptoms of a psychotic episode.” The document suggests that the episode was caused by an adverse reaction between her alcohol consumption and a prescription anti­depressant, Wellbutrin.

According to Scafidi’s lawsuit, the woman walked into the bathroom, called 911 and stated, “He’s going to kill me.” She also falsely claimed that Scafidi had a gun, according to the document.

The woman “never mentioned anything related to sexual battery” during the call, which lasted about 30 minutes, according to the lawsuit.

Palms security officers and Las Vegas police responded and confined Scafidi in the resort’s security room, according to the lawsuit, where they “attempted to coerce Dr. Scafidi to talk to them despite the fact that he had invoked his constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent.”

“Defendants then forced Dr. Scafidi to disrobe and forced a cotton swab into his urethra,” the lawsuit alleges.

Scafidi was arrested “without probable cause” and taken to the Clark County Detention Center, where he was “falsely imprisoned” for four days, according to the lawsuit.

During the early morning of Sept. 2, 2012, the alleged victim was examined by Jeri Dermanelian, a nurse at University Medical Center.

Both Dermanelian and the hospital are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which claims the nurse set in motion a malicious prosecution of Scafidi and conspired with all other defendants to violate his civil rights.

“Due to pending litigation UMC is unable to comment on this case,” according to an email from UMC spokeswoman Danita Cohen.

According to Scafidi’s lawsuit, the alleged victim gave a statement to officers on Sept. 2, 2012, and “could not tell the police why she falsely claimed that Dr. Scafidi was going to kill her.”

The defendants “repeatedly attempted to elicit accusations of sexual battery” from her, “yet she continued to explain that she only said ‘no’ in a joking context,” according to the lawsuit.

Although the woman was taking her prescribed antidepressant, tests of her blood revealed that she did not ingest any illicit drugs, according to the lawsuit, which indicates she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent.

The lawsuit claims Scafidi also provided a blood sample, but the defendants destroyed it and chose not to test it for drugs or alcohol. The defendants also destroyed the alleged victim’s blood and urine samples, according to the document, and chose not to examine her cellphone.

Clark County prosecutors filed a criminal case against Scafidi in January 2013, and District Judge Michael Villani dismissed the case in June of this year.

According to the judge’s decision, the police detective who directed the nurse to perform the sexual assault examination failed to request the preservation of her blood and urine samples. Pursuant to the hospital’s policy, the samples were destroyed within 72 hours of collection.

A sample of Scafidi’s blood was taken at the jail but also has been destroyed and is “unavailable for testing for narcotics or alcohol,” according to Villani’s decision.

In addition, the judge noted that the detective elected to return the alleged victim’s phone to her before he or another officer examined the messages or obtained a record of them. The woman erased the messages, “which are now irretrievable and lost forever,” Villani wrote.

Since the woman was texting just minutes before the alleged assault, according to the ruling, “the text messages would establish her state of mind, her ability to communicate to her friends and to the defendant, her level of intoxication, and any side effects she experienced by consuming alcohol and Wellbutrin.”

“In certain circumstances, the state’s failure to preserve any single piece of evidence could prejudice a defendant, but said prejudice could be cured by an advisory jury instruction,” Villani wrote. “However, in this case, an advisory jury instruction cannot cure the prejudice of three missing pieces of crucial evidence. Accordingly, the charges against him must be dismissed.”

The judge also noted in his decision that another detective made “misleading, inappropriate statements” in an affidavit in support of a search warrant.

“Therefore, even if the present case was not dismissed, the evidence acquired as a result of the search warrant (which relies upon a false and misleading affidavit) must be excluded,” Villani wrote.

Prosecutors, who declined to comment for this story, appealed to the state Supreme Court in July. Scafidi filed his lawsuit in August in District Court in Clark County, but the case was moved to federal court on Nov. 20.

According to the Arizona Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Scafidi has been licensed there since December 2007 and has no complaints or disciplinary action on his record.

Scafidi is the founder of the Arizona Chiropractic &Holistic Health Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., according to the clinic’s website, which describes him as a New York native who has lived in Tempe, Ariz., since 2007.

According to the website, Scafidi received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 2003 and a chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier, Calif., in 2007.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
CCSD police on the arrest of Deamonte Warren - VIDEO
CCSD police arrested Chaparral High School custodian Deamonte Warren on Friday on three counts of a school employee having sex with a student and an additional count of providing alcohol to a minor. (Courtesy CCSD Police)
Woman charged with sex trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip (Michael Quine)
Gigi Mitchell faces seven felony charges including sex trafficking and child abuse for bringing an 11-year-old girl to the Las Vegas Strip to work as a prostitute.
Bel Air Drive Officer Involved Shooting Presser - Video
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly goes over the officer-involved shooting on Bel Air Drive.
Former Las Vegas police officer get 25 life sentences for sexually abusing child
Former Las Vegas Police officer Bret Theil was sentences to 25 consecutive life sentences at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, May 15, 2019, for sexually abusing a child over a decade. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Man pushed off bus in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police arrested 25-year-old Cadesha Bishop on May 6, after she allegedly pushed Serge Fournier, 74, off of a parked bus near Fremont Street and 13th Street about 4:50 p.m. March 21.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
$1 million bail set for mother charged with drowning 2-year-old daughter
The 44-year-old mother who police say drowned her 2-year-old daughter in a bathtub in a northeast Las Vegas apartment on Saturday made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 14th.
Officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child appears in court
Matthew James Terry, a Las Vegas police officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child, appears in court Monday morning, May 13, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek hit-and-run driver
A motorcycle officer pulled over a Mercedes SUV, and after the officer came to a stop, it shifted into reverse, intentionally hitting the officer.
Thedrick Andres becomes Henderson Police Department acting chief
Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks about his goals in his new position at the Henderson Police headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead, 1 wounded after east valley neighborhood shooting
One man and one woman are dead and another man wounded after a shooting Thursday afternoon in an east valley neighborhood.
Bail denied for former police detective charged with murder
Bail was denied Tuesday for former Metropolitan Police Department detective, Pamela Rene Bordeaux who is accused of fatally shooting her daughter’s ex-husband during supervised visitation with his child.
Third suspect in death of California doctor appears in court
The third and final suspect in the killing of a California doctor, Jon Kennison, 27, appears in court Friday, April 19, 2019. Kennison, Kelsey Nichole Turner, a former model, and Diana Pena, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Richard Cleaves of Pahrump arrested in burglary on former Binion property
Updated press release regarding burglary on a former Binion property: Richard Cleaves, 56 of Pahrump, has been arrested on a warrant for burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and destruction of property. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Judge denies bail for suspect charged in the killing of California doctor
Diana Pena, one of three people charged in the killing of a California doctor, is being held without bail after her fingerprints were found on the car where Dr. Thomas Burchard's body was discovered.
Ex-NFL player and girlfriend held without bail in child’s death
Former professional football player Cierre Wood and his girlfriend, Amy Taylor, face charges of murder and child abuse in the death of Taylor's 5-year-old daughter. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP identifies man who was shot by trooper on Mount Charleston
Nevada Highway Patrol updates the media on the April 2, 2019 officer involved shooting on Mount Charleston. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas court grants '90 Day Fiancé' defendant continuance
"90 Day Fiance" stars Colt Johnson and his mother Debra left the Las Vegas Justice Center Thursday, after the court granted Larissa dos Santos Lima a continuance in her misdemeanor case, in which she is accused of domestic violence against Colt. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Details released on in-custody death
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank addresses media about details of an in-custody death at Clark County Detention Center on March 31. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man hurt in shooting with Nevada troopers at Mount Charleston
A man was injured in a shooting involving Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon at Mount Charleston on state Route 157 near Echo Trail. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer wounds inmate during escape attempt
An officer fired on an inmate who stole a vehicle and tried to flee, ramming several cars and leading officers on a chase until he ran out of gas.
Man fatally shot during a 'beer skip'
A store clerk is being questioned after a man was fatally shot during a robbery at a gas station Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Las Vegas police give details on fatal shooting
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer gives a briefing on a fatal shooting near downtown Las Vegas that occurred on March 27, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas community pays tribute to boy killed by car
The community joined friends and family at Wilbur & Theresa Faiss Park, Wednesday evening, to remember the boy who was struck and killed by a car crossing South Fort Apache Road from Faiss Park, near West Maule Avenue, on Monday. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Person of Interest Found For Downtown Las Vegas Bar - Video
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking help to find a person of interest in a potential homicide case at a bar in downtown Las Vegas.
Metro briefs media on OIS near downtown Las Vegas
Police address media about officer-involved shooting that started on Maryland and Vegas Valley, and concluded downtown, near the Golden Nugget.
Update on OIS at Vegas Valley and Maryland
The incident began at the Steinberg Diagnostic Medical parking lot and ended downtown.
Amy And Spencer Powell Recount Hit And Run
Amy Powell and her son Spencer recount the day Spencer was hit by a truck while riding his bike. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah arrested in Amarillo, TX
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah was arrested in Amarillo, TX on a Nye County warrant for open murder, burglary, obtaining money under false pretense, use of credit card w/o owner consent, and destruction of evidence. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Metro Presser For OIS 6 (Full)
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Metro Presser For OIS 6
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Domestic disturbance call ends in suicide
A man died by suicide after police tried negotiating with him outside of his ex-girlfriend’s home on March 13. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by Las Vegas police
A 20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by a Las Vegas officer on Saturday night is also accused of burglarizing a Boys & Girls Club minutes before the shooting.
Commercial Robbery On 3000 Block Of North Las Vegas Blvd - VIDEO
On February 19th, 2019, at approximately 10:23 am, a robbery occurred to a business located on the 3000 block of North Las Vegas Boulevard. The pictured suspect entered the business, approached the counter and pointed a firearm at the victim demanding money. The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.
DEA Launches New Program To Combat Opioid Epidemic
The Drug Enforcement Administration is launching a new effort in Nevada to combat the opioid epidemic.