The good news for John Conforte is that District Judge Valerie Adair thinks the alleged misconduct swirling around Family Court marshals is “deeply troubling.”
The bad news is she denied the California businessman’s bid to overturn his battery conviction stemming from a 2008 altercation with marshals in which he now claims he was a victim of excessive force. One of the marshals is facing unrelated allegations of excessive force at Family Court.
On Tuesday Adair denied a motion for a new trial for Conforte, telling his Las Vegas lawyer Chris Rasmussen that Conforte knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty in 2009.
“It’s deeply troubling what’s going on at Family Court,” Adair said. “But it’s too late. It’s over and it’s done.”
Afterward, Rasmussen said he would file a new motion addressing Adair’s concerns.
“The motion will address the voluntariness of his guilty plea,” Rasmussen said. “He took the plea on bad information.”
Conforte last month alleged in court papers that suspended Family Court Marshal Steve Rushfield was among the group of marshals who beat him Feb. 19, 2008, in a private hallway near a holding cell area.
Rushfield, who was a sergeant at the time, is now the central figure in an FBI investigation into excessive force and possible cover-ups at Family Court. He was suspended Dec. 18 amid an internal court investigation into unrelated alleged misconduct.
Federal authorities are investigating Conforte’s allegations.
Prosecutors, including a trial attorney with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, and a Las Vegas FBI agent interviewed him last month.
Amid the publicity over Family Court misconduct, Conforte stepped forward in an effort to overturn his gross misdemeanor conviction for battery on an officer and a lesser conviction for resisting an officer during his courthouse confrontation with marshals. He was accused of kicking a marshal during the scuffle.
Conforte had struck a plea deal in 2009 to avoid prison time and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. The marshals contended that Conforte was verbally abusive and combative when they first approached him.
Conforte insisted in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he didn’t resist the officers.
On Tuesday, Adair said two Family Court security videos she reviewed appeared to support Conforte’s claim that he was not combative with the marshals
One clip shows a handcuffed Conforte calmly being led by Rushfield and other marshals past a crowded clerk’s office to the private hallway. Conforte did not appear to be resisting
The other clip shows Rushfield and others opening the door at the other end of the hallway, picking Conforte up from the floor and walking him through a nearby door to the holding cell area.
The security video does not show what happened to Conforte in the hallway, which was a “camera dead spot,” according to Rasmussen.
Adair said it was obvious “something happened behind closed doors.”