Del Vecchio announces bid to unseat Kunzi

LAS VEGAS — Former Clark County Family Court Judge Nicholas Anthony Del Vecchio, who was removed from the bench by the Commission on Judicial Discipline after eight years in 2008, has filed to run against Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi.

Both candidates are Democrats.

Del Vecchio ran for DA during the heated contest in 2010, polling 655 votes in the Democratic primary, 26.43 percent, to Kunzi’s 1,823 votes, or 73.57 percent. Kunzi went on to narrowly defeat Republican Ron Kent in the November general election to succeed former DA Bob Beckett.

Del Vecchio said he worked in the Nye County district attorney’s office for one year in 1989 under former DA Phil Dunleavy. Del Vecchio said he used to pick up former Fifth District judge, the late John Davis, at the airport when he arrived for law and motion days. After working in Nye County, Del Vecchio moved back to Las Vegas and opened a law practice as a sole practitioner, where he was a conflict attorney prosecuting child support cases until he was elected to the bench in 2000.

Del Vecchio received his law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn. in 1987.

But Del Vecchio was removed from office after he admitted to having sex in hotels with a female staff member during working hours. He also made sexually suggestive remarks to another employee. He was also charged with inappropriate remarks to a Hispanic bailiff and a black employee.

In the 2010 race, Del Vecchio compared his behavior as less offensive than Beckett, who was arrested for driving under the influence in California and in Pahrump.

“You could question my candidacy, stepping in front of the firing squad,” he told the Pahrump Valley Times in an interview this week.

Del Vecchio felt he received harsher treatment than Eighth District Family Court Judge Steven Jones who recently received a three-month suspension by the judicial commission for having a romantic relationship with former prosecutor, the late Lisa Willardson, while she actively was litigating child welfare cases in his court. Willardson was found dead in her Henderson home Dec. 26. Jones was also indicted for using his position to help a $3 million investment fraud scheme from 2002 to 2012.

“My action involved none of my actions on the bench. I was one of the highest rated judges in family court in 2002 in the Judging the Judges poll. I received an 85 percent adequacy rating,” he said.

Del Vecchio also mentioned Michael Vick, a former NFL quarterback convicted of running a dog fighting ring, who later repented.

“I admitted what I did. I apologized for what I did and I attended and completed counseling. I still believe in our society everybody is entitled to a second chance,” Del Vecchio said. “You could call me the Michael Vick of the judicial system.”

It will be a rare Democratic primary in a red county in which Del Vecchio will face off against Kunzi June 10, the winner advances to the Nov. 2 general election to face Republican Angela Bello, a Las Vegas attorney.

“Nye County is historically Republican. Since I am a registered Democrat and I go way back, I didn’t think at this point to switch parties was appropriate. I just wanted voters to have a chance and what’s happened in the past is behind me,” Del Vecchio said.

Del Vecchio said he loves the more rural lifestyle in Pahrump where cars don’t require smog checks, where he can ride horses. He plans to buy a home locally if he’s elected. Del Vecchio remembers in 1989 when Pahrump had only 10,000 residents and people shopped at PJ’s Market.

Del Vecchio also wants to pursue his true love of the law, being a criminal prosecutor. He offered to personally litigate cases as DA from justice court arraignments all the way to the Supreme Court and boasted of his extensive court appearances at his law firm in the 1990s.

“I can bring a tremendous amount of experience to the juvenile court, family court,” Del Vecchio said, “my knowledge of child support prosecution, my knowledge of juvenile court and any connection domestic violence has with family matters and protective orders.”

While his primary expertise is in criminal work and family law, Del Vecchio said he’s done some civil litigation with licensing, permit work and small claims.

“I realize it’s pretty much a perennial case of David vs. Goliath, but the history of the Nye County DA, up until Beckett, for years the DA pretty much turned over every four years,” Del Vecchio said. “Who knows, history may come back again.”

Speaking of Kunzi, he said, “I can’t say anything disparaging about him and the non-Nye County political approach that defamed us out there. I hope he keeps it clean so to speak and to focus on our legal record and our experience.”