Suspended Family Court judge takes stand in own defense

Suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday, denying he mishandled a romantic relationship with a prosecutor who appeared before him.

Jones told members of the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline he “made some mistakes,” but he spent much of his several hours on the witness stand ripping into the district attorney’s office.

He said he was “exceedingly offended” by a photo a deputy district attorney snapped of him under a table at an Oct. 28, 2011, party with his hand near the knee of Lisa Willardson, the prosecutor he had started to see socially.

Several times Jones said the cellphone photo depicted his “crotch.”

The photo sparked a rift between Jones and the district attorney’s office that echoed through the hallways of the Clark County justice system and threatened to stall child abuse and neglect cases. It resulted in Willardson’s firing and a 12-count judicial complaint against the longtime judge.

Willardson’s boss, then-District Attorney David Roger, sparked the misconduct investigation. Roger testified earlier in the week for commission attorneys.

Jones — who was suspended by the commission after his November 2012 federal fraud indictment — testified that he was outraged that the district attorney’s office refused to discipline Edwards and another deputy in the child welfare unit, Janne Hanrahan, who helped disseminate the cellphone photo.

He also maintained that he never got any meaningful apologies from the deputies, while Willardson’s career was taking a nose dive.

He called the conduct of the two deputies juvenile and said he had a hard time sitting back and watching the district attorney’s office “condone this inappropriate behavior.”

Jones insisted that he didn’t consider himself to be in a romantic relationship with Willardson at the time of the party, which took place at a Mexican restaurant in Henderson.

Contrary to suspicions raised by Edwards and Hanrahan in their sworn testimony, Jones said he was not “affectionate” with Willardson at the party.

Commission members spent about 10 minutes with Jones trying to determine where his legs were positioned under the table in a giant blow-up of the photo. Willardson was wearing jeans.

Jones, who described himself as a man who “guards his privacy a lot,” said he didn’t consider himself in a romantic relationship with Willardson until Thanksgiving, when she invited him to meet her family in Utah.

Willardson took the same position in earlier testimony.

But Kathleen Paustian, a special counsel for the judicial commission, said investigators uncovered 2,500 text messages between Jones and Willardson between Oct. 17, 2011, and Dec. 15, 2011.

Jones insisted that there were very few texts and emails between them the last two weeks of October and early November when Willardson was still appearing before him in child welfare cases.

Before the Oct. 28 party, Jones said, he had only met Willardson for lunch one time and another time for dinner.

Under questioning from his lead lawyer, James J. Jimmerson, he said he was “very cognizant of his ethical responsibilities,” and his entire world centered around his judicial duties.

“I live to sit on the bench,” he said. “The bench is my life.’

Jones said he would have disclosed his involvement with Willardson when he felt he needed to disclose it.

But he added that he never got a chance to do that because of the gossip created by the party photo.

Earlier Thursday, Willardson appeared to have a difficult time dealing with cross-examination from Paustian.

Willardson had sworn under oath Wednesday that she didn’t appear before Jones while she was romantically involved with him.

On Thursday, after she again denied being involved with Jones the last two weeks of October 2011, Paustian showed her a copy of an Oct. 17, 2011, post on her Facebook page that said she was in a “relationship.” Willardson had trouble explaining the post, suggesting it had been backdated.

During her cross-examination, Washoe County District Judge Jerome Polaha, the commission member presiding over the weeklong hearing, questioned Willardson about whether she understood her ethical obligations to refrain from getting involved with Jones while appearing before him.

She insisted she understood the obligations and again maintained that she wasn’t involved with Jones when she was in his courtroom.

Willardson testified Wednesday that she used a poor choice of words when she called Jones “freaking hot” in an Oct. 17, 2011, email to one of the judge’s assistants.

At the same time, Willardson said, “I found Judge Jones extremely attractive, ridiculously intelligent and he ran a good courtroom.”

Willardson said her relationship with Jones began on Oct. 17, when they arranged the lunch.

She acknowledged that Jones kissed her on the cheek after the dinner date on Oct. 23.

Willardson also testified that there was no improper contact between her and Jones at the Oct. 28 party, but she admitted hugging the judge afterward, as she did with other guests.

On Tuesday, Family Court Administrator Leonard Cash testified that he had meetings in early December 2011 with other high-level court officials to resolve the rift between Jones and the district attorney’s office.

Jones had put the word out that he was so outraged over the party photo that he wanted to ban Edwards, Hanrahan and their supervisors from his courtroom.

Cash testified that he pitched a plan to court officials to try to persuade Roger to return Willardson to her position in the child welfare unit and let his successor decide her fate after his retirement in January 2012.

In return, Jones would not ban Edwards and Hanrahan from his courtroom.

Cash said Jones had signed off on the offer, and he thought he could call upon Roger “as a friend” to accept it. But Roger refused to accept it, and Jones issued an order formally banning Edwards and Hanrahan from his courtroom.

Soon after, Roger fired Willardson.

Jones is to resume his testimony today and face cross-examination.

Closing arguments also are expected, followed by the commission’s deliberations behind closed doors on the 12 counts against Jones.

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.

News
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Crime
North Las Vegas robbery at a business
Robbery of a business in the 1600 block of North Main Street in North Las Vegas. If you know the suspects or have seen them before please contact the North Las Vegas Police Department at 702-633-9111 or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
Burglary at Made In Argentina restaurant
Pablo Rodriguez, owner of the Made in Argentina restaurant on Valley View Boulevard, describes the scene of the burglary that took place at his business on Sunday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Nevada Highway Patrol vehicle hit on US 95 in Las Vegas
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Adam Whitmarsh was on a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 95, north of Ann Road, about 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Feb 16, 2019, when a Honda CRV struck the back of the patrol car, causing the car to crash into the stopped vehicle. (Nevada Highway Patrol)
NYE Homicide suspects (1 of 2)
Las Vegas police are asking for help locating three men suspected in a deadly shooting on New Year’s Eve inside a southwest valley home. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
NYE Homicide suspects (2 of 2)
Las Vegas police are asking for help locating three men suspected in a deadly shooting on New Year’s Eve inside a southwest valley home. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police look for masked armed robbery suspect
Las Vegas police are looking for a masked man suspected of an armed robbery Feb. 14 in the west valley. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police officer found guilty of sexually abusing a child
Las Vegas police officer Bret Theil was found guilty Wednesday of 28 counts, including sexual assault, lewdness with a child, child abuse and kidnapping.
Police, friends gather to bring attention to Celia Luna-Delgado's homicide case
Las Vegas police and loved ones of Celia Luna-Delgado, a homicide victim, gathered in an attempt to bring attention to the case. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nye County couple face 43 counts of allowing child abuse or neglect
The attorney for Marcel and Patricia Chappuis, operators of a private boarding school at the center of an ongoing abuse investigation, accused the Nye County Sheriff’s Office of harrassing and targeting the couple following a bail hearing Thursday morning.
Home security camera captures man stealing packages
Packages were stolen from outside a Las Vegas home on Feb. 7 and one of them contained chemotherapy drugs for a young cancer patient. (neighbors.ring.com)
North Las Vegas Police Release Info About 1986 Cold Case
North Las Vegas police released new details of a 1986 case involving 3-year-old Francillon Pierre. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
The creation of the Southern Nevada Sex Trafficking Multidisciplinary Team.
Several organizations and law enforcement agencies came together to announce the creation of the Southern Nevada Sex Trafficking Multidisciplinary Team. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
LVMPD Addresses January 17th OIS (Short)
Las Vegas Metro Police Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman address members of the press regarding the officer involved shooting that took place on. January 31, 2019, in the vicinity of I-215 and Alta. Suspect Christopher Ashoff was shot, and is in stable condition. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police address officer-involved shooting on Jan. 31 (Full)
Las Vegas Metro Police Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman gave details on the officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 31, 2019, in Summerlin. Suspect Christopher Ashoff was shot and was in stable condition. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Child Abuse Investigation At Northwest Academy
An investigation is currently underway by the Nye County Sheriff's Office at Northwest Academy for child abuse.
Lockdown ends at 2 Summerlin schools after Las Vegas police shooting
A man wanted on “violent felonies” was hospitalized in critical condition after he was shot by Las Vegas police Thursday morning during a standoff in a west valley neighborhood.
Krystal Whipple Appears In Court For The First Time
Krystal Whipple, who is charged in the death of a nail salon manager, appeared Thursday before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Amy Chelini, who scheduled a status hearing for April 1.
Metropd Addresses Ois From Jan 27 2019 (Short)
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly addresses members of the media regarding an officer involved shooting that took place on Jan. 27, 2019. The suspect in the incident was unharmed, but placed under arrest and charged with several crimes. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police addresses officer-involved shooting
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly addresses members of the media regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 27, 2019. The suspect in the incident was unharmed, but placed under arrest and charged with several crimes. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Addresses Recent Ois (Short)
Las Vegas Metro Police Assistant Sheriff, Brett Zimmerman addresses the officer involved shooting on January 24,2019, where suspect Isai Rodriguez was fatally shot, either by officers, or self inflicted.
Las Vegas Metro Police Department addresses recent officer involved shooting
Las Vegas Metro Police Assistant Sheriff, Brett Zimmerman addresses the officer involved shooting on January 24,2019, where suspect Isai Rodriguez was fatally shot, either by officers, or self inflicted. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
OIS press briefing Badura Avenue
Las Vegas police investigated an officer-involved shooting in the south valley, the department announced Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media briefing on Antwon Perkins arrest
LVMPD sex crimes bureau Lt .David Valenta speaks to the media about the arrest of Antwon Perkins, the suspect in Thursday’s abduction and assault of a Cadwallader Middle School student who was walking to school. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County Sheriff’s Office testing weapon mounted cameras
On Wednesday, January 23, 2019 the Nye County Sheriff’s Office announced the testing and evaluation of Weapon-Mounted Cameras (WMCs) from Viridian Weapon technologies at the Las Vegas Shot Show.
North Las Vegas OIS (Jan. 21)
North Las Vegas police provide information on an officer-involved shooting Monday night near Lake Mead and Fifth. (Mike Shoro/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police Update on Fremont Street Shooting
Lt. Ray Spencer gives an update regarding a homicide investigation that occurred in front of a bus stop near Fremont Street and Casino Center, involving a security officer and another male.
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Alleged Las Vegas casino con man, who was on the run, appears in court
Mark Georgantas -- who entered a plea deal on a charge of stealing from people he met at Las Vegas casinos, but failed to show up for sentencing -- appearing in court after being captured in Utah. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Memorial service for Kwavon’tia Thomas
Timika Thomas sings during a memorial service for her son, Kwavon’tia Gregory Thomas, at Unity Baptist Church in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 12, 2019. Kwavon’tia was shot and killed on Christmas Eve. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVMPD Looking For Blue Bucket Bandit - VIDEO
On December 31, 2018 detectives with the LVMPD Northwest Area Command Patrol Investigations Section received a report of the theft of a surveillance camera from the front porch of a residence located in the area of West Lake Mead Boulevard and North Rampart Boulevard. The victim in this case became aware of other residents in the neighborhood who had been the victim of similar crimes.
16-year-old boy fatally shot in North Las Vegas
North Las Vegas police were investigating the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, marking the department’s first homicide investigation this year. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing - 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing