The criminal case against Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall and sheriff’s department volunteer Ben Gulley, who are accused of stealing campaign signs, was referred to the Nevada attorney general’s office by Nye County commissioners Tuesday.
Commissioner Frank Carbone said this would be a good case to refer to a grand jury, a panel of citizens convened to consider a case and decide whether charges should be filed, an alternative to a justice of the peace weighing charges at a preliminary hearing.
Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi said he had a conflict of interest in prosecuting the case because of his close working relationship with Marshall. The action taken against detective David Boruchowitz, president of the Nye County Law Enforcement Association, who was put on administrative leave temporarily, creates additional conflicts for him as DA, Kunzi said, in his position as a member of the labor management team.
Kunzi’s written request stated, “the matters involving the arrest of the assistant sheriff, the circumstances surrounding the arrest and actions taken by the department in response to the arrests should be evaluated by an outside agency so as to ensure the public receives a fair and impartial evaluation.”
The county is required to pay reasonable legal fees, expenses and costs incurred by the AG’s office.
In November 2012, commissioners voted to refer Sheriff Tony DeMeo to the attorney general’s office for prosecution, but the AG declined to prosecute on the grounds the sheriff didn’t show intent to exceed his budget by more than $1 million. There was also no response from the AG on a request to investigate Public Administrator Falkon Finlinson.
Kunzi was a deputy attorney general before being elected DA in the 2010 election, where he used to prosecute cases of insurance fraud and worker’s compensation fraud. Kunzi said he had also asked for an AG investigation when employees of his office were accused of wrongdoing.
“This one is more personal to me as the county counsel working with both of these people on many issues regarding personnel and management. I think it creates an interesting problem for me to be impartial on any type of investigation of this matter,” the DA told commissioners.
Kunzi told Carbone this case would be a perfect one for a grand jury. But he said, “the problem is you have to have a prosecutor to present it to the grand jury. I think it’d be important to present this to the attorney general, then if a grand jury is empanelled by the court the attorney general would come down.”
Kunzi told him it’s very possible the county could get a grand jury to decide whether there’s grounds for prosecution.
“Knowing there could be a grand jury here in Pahrump for the first time, I want to push for that real hard,” Carbone said.
Kunzi said he could set up a grand jury to hear the case, however, a prosecutor from the AG’s office was needed to present the case.
Resident Dwight Lilly thought the county had qualified prosecutors with the capability to try the case.
“I don’t think we should be going outside the county to air our laundry in the state. We have a problem here locally and it should be taken care of locally,” Lilly said.
Kunzi said the code of ethics state because he has a conflict of interest, everybody in his office has one.
Lilly also suggested a citizen’s oversight board, describing a “chaotic atmosphere” in the sheriff’s department.