Magistrate upholds federal indictment against suspended judge

A federal magistrate Friday recommended upholding an indictment accusing Family Court Judge Steven Jones of participating in a decade-long investment fraud scheme.

Attorneys Robert Draskovich and Gary Modafferi had argued in court papers that the 20-count federal indictment should be dismissed against Jones because it violated the five-year statute of limitations.

They contended the actions alleged in the indictment were vague and old, making it difficult for the judge to defend himself. Key witnesses in the FBI investigation, including the judge’s father, have died over the years and no longer are available to be questioned, the lawyers argued.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. concluded that the charges laying out the protracted scheme in the indictment did not violate the statute of limitations.

“The indictment on its face, sufficiently alleges that (Jones) participated in conspiracies to commit wire fraud and launder money, and that overt acts in furtherance of those conspiracies were committed within five years of the filing of the indictment,” Foley wrote.

Draskovich said Foley did not prohibit the defense from raising the statute of limitations issues later in the case.

“I can understand at this point in time he’d be reluctant to grant the motion, but nonetheless his order allows us to refile the motion in the future,” Draskovich said.

Jones, 54, first elected to Family Court in 1992, was suspended from the bench after his November 2012 indictment. He has continued to receive his $200,000 annual salary.

The longtime judge was charged with using the power of his office to carry out a $3 million investment fraud scheme, which authorities alleged began in 2002. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

Jones, his former brother-in-law, Thomas A. Cecrle Jr., and four others face criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. They are to stand trial March 3.

Jones also faces state judicial misconduct charges. He is accused of violating the state’s Judicial Code of Conduct by mishandling a romantic relationship in 2011 with a prosecutor who appeared before him.

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline has scheduled a Dec. 2 hearing on the allegations in Las Vegas.

Last week, Jones’ civil attorneys filed notice they were appealing a decision by District Judge Kathleen Delaney dismissing his suit seeking to block the disciplinary proceedings. Delaney ruled from the bench in August that she lacked authority to stop the judicial commission from moving forward.

Jones, who denies the misconduct allegations, contends the judicial commission failed to follow its own rules and violated his due process rights during its investigation into his relationship with former Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson.

The commission in December alleged Willardson “actively litigated cases” in the judge’s courtroom while she maintained a relationship with him in 2011. Jones didn’t disqualify himself from her cases.

The State Bar of Nevada, which regulates lawyers, declined to discipline Willardson, who was fired from the district attorney’s office after the relationship was revealed.

Contact reporter Jeff German at or 702-380-8135. Followhim on Twitter @JGermanRJ.

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