Henderson police overstepped their authority by ordering scantily clad women onto a public street and photographing them during a March 3 search of a home for drugs, a defense lawyer has alleged.
“They were supposed to be searching for evidence of marijuana, not taking photos of young exotic dancers in their underwear,” attorney Chris Rasmussen said this week. “They didn’t care about the marijuana. They were using that search warrant to find out why so many young women were living in that house.”
In court papers filed on Wednesday, Rasmussen described the conduct of officers during the 5:30 a.m. search of the 475 Toucan Court residence as “tantamount to a fraternity panty raid.”
He is using the photographs in seeking to bar federal prosecutors from using evidence seized in the raid against his client, Jordan Williams, 36, an ex-felon who is facing weapon possession and forfeiture charges. Because U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives agents also participated in the raid, the case landed in federal court.
Rasmussen also alleges in court papers that police made false statements in a sworn affidavit used to obtain the search warrant, including an accusation that women living in the house may have been prostitutes. Some, but not all, of the women worked as exotic dancers and none was a prostitute , he said.
“Not a single woman in the residence has any prior arrests or interactions with law enforcement,” Rasmussen wrote. “All of the women who do work in the adult nightclub businesses have legitimate Clark County Sheriff’s work cards.”
Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul referred comments on the court filing to federal authorities. But Thomas Chittum, a resident agent in charge of the Las Vegas ATF office, would not comment, citing the ongoing prosecution. Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said prosecutors would be “providing our response to the allegations in the court filings.”
Rasmussen wants a federal magistrate to hold a hearing on the evidence, but as of Friday no hearing had been set.
Williams, who is in federal custody on no bail, has a long criminal history in California and Nevada dating to 1991, with felony convictions for theft, receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, according to the police affidavit. A 2006 run-in with Henderson police led to the drug conviction.
One of the women living in the house, Jessica Medina, also was charged with making a false statement to acquire a firearm. She is free on a personal bond.
Rasmussen said five women were in the nearly 6,000-square-foot home at the time of the raid, including Williams’ wife, Jenny Quintana, who runs a business out of the home called Eye Candy Girlz.
The business, among other things, helps women find jobs as exotic dancers, Rasmussen said. The women generally are new to the area and may stay in the home leased by Williams and Quintana until they make other arrangements.
State records show the business was incorporated as Eye Candy Enterprises on July 15, 2008. Quintana is president and Medina treasurer. Both women also were topless dancers at the time of the raid, Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen’s court filing includes several photos of scantily dressed women taken by Henderson officers and provided to the defense by prosecutors. Police ordered the women, some of whom were asleep when the raid started, to go to the street in front of the house wearing whatever they had on at the time for the photographs, Rasmussen said. One of the photos filed with the court is a frontal close-up of a woman who has pulled down her panties to show a tattooed cluster of cherries that would otherwise have been obscured.
The women were not told why police were photographing them, Rasmussen said. He said a prosecutor later told him the photos involved efforts to determine if prostitution was occurring.
In their search warrant affidavit, police said they began to take an interest in Williams and the house back in August 2009 after they interviewed a woman who said she was a prostitute and that Williams was her pimp. The woman, Anna Oustain, said she occasionally lived at the home with Williams and several other women.
The affidavit said police independently had received information that residents of the home “were possibly involved in the acts of prostitution and pandering.”
The search warrant, however, did not authorize police to gather evidence of prostitution, Rasmussen said, adding that he was told that police planned to get a second warrant for that but failed to do so prior to the raid.
According to the search warrant affidavit Oustain told police Williams had guns and smoked a “large amount” of marijuana. It is illegal for ex-felons to possess firearms.
Police records show that officers and ATF agents seized boxes of ammunition and three loaded weapons, two revolvers and a shotgun, from Williams’ master bedroom during the raid.
Also among the items confiscated were two marijuana cigarettes, 1.4 grams of cocaine and several vials described as steroids, the records show.
Rasmussen said Williams pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in Henderson Justice Court and was given credit for time served. No other drug charges were filed against any resident of the home, Rasmussen said.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.