The special prosecutor for the Judicial Discipline Commission has accused Family Court Judge Nicholas Del Vecchio of sexual misconduct and abuse of power, including coercing a judicial assistant into having a sexual relationship with him.
The complaint alleges that the relationship dates to before Del Vecchio was a judge, when the judicial assistant, the daughter of his ex-wife, was 14.
Del Vecchio took nude photos of the girl when she was between the ages of 14 and 16 and had her perform oral sex on him, the 38-count complaint states. The complaint adds that Del Vecchio kept the photos after he became a judge but later destroyed them.
The document, which is not a criminal complaint, also accuses Del Vecchio of using racial slurs against black and Hispanic court staff and of coercing staff into buying him lunches and airline tickets.
The commission’s special prosecutor, Mary Boetsch, filed the formal complaint with the Judicial Discipline Commission on Friday.
The investigation into Del Vecchio’s behavior on the bench dates back to May 2006, when the Clark County Office of Diversity began looking into allegations of sexual harassment. The office investigates allegations of sexual, racial and religious harassment in the workplace.
Del Vecchio, 50, denied all accusations against him Friday night.
He said the diversity office found that there was "insufficient evidence as to all the charges."
Del Vecchio strongly denied that he had a sexual relationship with his ex-wife’s 14-year-old daughter in the early 1990s. She was named in the complaint as Rebeccah Murray.
"I feel confident that a hearing will clear my name," he said.
It was unclear whether authorities had or intended to file criminal charges against Del Vecchio.
Del Vecchio and Murray broke off contact in the mid-1990’s but she wound up working for him when he was serving on the bench in 2002.
Del Vecchio sought to arrange a special work schedule for Murray that would allow her to work for him, according to the complaint. The request was refused by Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle.
The complaint says he went around Hardcastle and adjusted Murray’s schedule to allow her to work and attend law school at the same time, but did so on the condition she have sex with him. Murray didn’t want to have sex with Del Vecchio and had to get drunk to do it, the complaint states.
When she tried to end the relationship, Del Vecchio was hostile to her and threatened to fire her, the complaint says.
Murray filed a sexual harassment complaint against Del Vecchio with the county’s diversity office in May 2006.
Del Vecchio sexually harassed other court staff, according to the complaint. He told a family court employee, Beata Funk, that he wanted to have sex with her and wanted her to wear tight shirts while campaigning for him, the complaint says.
The complaint also accuses Del Vecchio of:
• Telling another judicial assistant she should date certain attorneys because it would help him get campaign contributions from them.
• Making offensive racial comments to a Hispanic bailiff, calling him a "lazy Mexican."
• Directing a bailiff who had a part-time job with a commercial airline to obtain free tickets for him.
• And making staff baby sit the child of a girlfriend.
Only the Judicial Discipline Commission has the authority to suspend or reprimand a sitting judge, court officials said. Del Vecchio will have a chance to respond to the complaint. The commission could then have a public hearing to consider the merits of the charges.
Chuck Short, county court administrator, said the court began investigating Del Vecchio in 2006 and reported its finding to the Judicial Discipline Commission in the summer of 2006.
"At this point, the court hopes the Judicial Discipline Commission will move at lightning speed to take action due to the egregious nature of the charges," he said. "Anything less is a disservice to the community, the judge and the lawyers and individuals with cases pending before the judge."
Del Vecchio was first elected as a Family Court judge in 2000. He had lost seven previous elections. He has filed for re-election and drawn challengers Ellen Bezian, Cynthia Giuliani and Vincent Ochoa.
Ochoa, a family law attorney who has argued cases before Del Vecchio, said he was surprised when he learned the extent of the accusations. He said the judge never asked him for anything inappropriate such as a free lunch.
Ochoa said there were rumors around Family Court that Del Vecchio was being investigated, but he was shocked to learn the details of the inquiry.
"I knew he had some problems, but I never dreamed they were this bad," he said. "I think it’s an embarrassment to the judiciary."
Review-Journal writer Lawrence Mower contributed to this story. Contact reporter David Kihara at email@example.com or (702) 380-1039.