Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Nye County Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall answers questions Thursday during a press conference. Marshall and a longtime NCSO volunteer were arrested on Tuesday.
Rick Marshall isn’t planning on letting a little thing like being arrested by his own department thwart his campaign to become the county’s next sheriff.
The current assistant sheriff and leading candidate to replace Sheriff Tony DeMeo in November’s election held a 30-minute press conference Thursday night to make public his side of the story.
Marshall and longtime county volunteer Ben Gulley were arrested Tuesday evening after they were caught with stolen campaign signs in their possession.
According to declarations of arrest released Wednesday, the men were caught on videotape destroying and stealing signs aimed at defeating Marshall in his bid to become sheriff.
Marshall told a collection of local and Las Vegas media outlets that he believes he did not break the law by removing signs from private property, nor did he resist arrest when apprehended for allegedly doing so illegally.
Two longtime Pahrump residents and property owners, Jan Jensen and Erik Peterson, joined Marshall at the press conference. Marshall’s criminal defense attorney, Josh Tomsheck was also there.
Marshall described how he typically checks on his campaign signs four or more times a week, after work and often with a campaign volunteer. He said that a number of property owners previously gave him permission to remove negative campaign signs from their properties if Marshall saw them there.
“Prior to the events on Tuesday, there were several requests from property owners for the removal of signs that were placed on their private property by trespassers,” Marshall said at the press conference.
Later he reiterated that statement, saying, “Several of them (property owners) were aware of the group that opposes me and said if you see any of these signs on my property, take them off. The signs were placed where they were blocking my signs and we removed them.”
Sheriff’s investigators had already targeted Marshall and Gulley before their arrests after receiving a report on Sunday from Steven Lee, a 15-year Pahrump resident and the president of Citizens to Elect an Ethical Nye County Sheriff, a political action committee.
Lee says he told police he suspected Marshall and Gulley of stealing and destroying between 40 and 50 of his political signs. The signs in question have the words “Anybody But Rick” printed on them.
Lee said he was unaware that any property owners were upset about his signs being on their property.
Marshall was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of stolen property and resisting arrest. Gulley was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of stolen property, according to police reports, which note that more charges are pending. Both were booked into the Nye County Detention Center, but were released on their own recognizance by a justice of the peace two hours later. A check of jail records showed Marshall’s bail was $3,780 and Gulley’s was $3,140.
The men were arrested at about 7:15 p.m. at the intersection of Blagg Road and Comstock Circle. Lee says he was doing surveillance in the area, watching his signs, when he observed Marshall take an “Anybody But Rick” sign out of the ground and throw it. “He then had observed Ben Gulley pick up the sign and put the sign into their vehicle … a dark Bronco towing a trailer with Rick Marshall campaign signs in the back,” police reports say.
A patrol deputy made a vehicle stop on the Bronco Marshall was driving. Gulley, 76, said he was shocked when at least half a dozen other sheriff’s cars descended onto the scene. Deputies pulled their weapons and ordered the men out of the truck.
“They hollered ‘don’t move, don’t move’ and I seen them take their guns out. I put my hands up, but I couldn’t put them up because I was sitting there and I thought, ‘they’re going to shoot us!’” he said. “I said what the f—k is going on Rick, they’re going to shoot us. Then I started to open the door and I just fell on the ground with my hands open.”
Gulley, who has worked as an unpaid volunteer for the sheriff’s office for more than 10 years, said the experience was terrifying. Marshall apologized to Gulley at Thursday’s press conference.
“I would like to publicly apologize to Ben Gulley for his treatment by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office … Ben certainly did not deserve the treatment that he received, and I can assure you, that is not the way we run the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, nor does it reflect the high standards set by Sheriff DeMeo.”
Gulley told the PVT that he did not witness Marshall resist arrest, but did see deputies get physical with Marshall.
“I heard him say ‘no, no, they’re too tight,’ when they were putting the handcuffs on him and when I turned around they were manhandling him. They were throwing him around and I was like ‘what are you guys treating Rick like that for? What are you doing? Why are you doing this to him?’ Last time I seen him they threw him into the back of the car and he hit his head. I said ‘you guys can’t do this, you can’t do this to him!”
According to Marshall’s arrest report, deputies allege it was he who got physical first.
“He attempted to use his feet to take deputies off balance and grabbed onto the metal bar on the trailer in an attempt to prevent them from putting his hands in handcuffs,” according to the report. “Subsequently, once placed in the vehicle he used his feet to keep NCSO deputies from closing the door.”
Marshall said during his press conference that video of his arrest would show he did not resist. His attorney called the resisting arrest charge “ludicrous.”
“There was probably eight or nine law enforcement officers involved in the arrest of these two individuals. Mr. Gulley is 76 years old and Rick is 55 years old. And they were both known to all of the people involved. I think the idea, the accusation that there was a resist to the level that would ultimately lead to a charge is ludicrous,” Tomsheck said.
After the men were detained, police conducted a consent search of the Bronco and found two “Anybody But Rick” signs underneath Marshall campaign signs stacked on the trailer.
Gulley said he and Marshall were originally booked on multiple felony charges. But the felony charges were eventually replaced with misdemeanors and lower bail amounts.
Gulley was placed on administrative leave Wednesday. He was forced to return a sheriff’s vehicle and items he normally used in the line of duty — Gulley often served as a transport person for criminal evidence as well as performing other tasks, including running the sheriff’s prescription drug disposal program.
Gulley resigned his volunteer position Thursday, though he told superiors at the sheriff’s office he would not be back following his arrest.
“They want me to sit for an IA (internal affairs investigation). I told them I won’t be coming back,” he said on Wednesday.
Gulley refused to discuss the allegations that he stole or destroyed Lee’s signs, saying that he needed to talk to a lawyer first.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong. I just don’t know. I’m confused. If I did something wrong, I want a court to tell me. I will take any punishment I deserve,” he said.
According to his arrest report, Gulley told investigators that Marshall “had told him to pull the signs up and told him that they had permission of owners to do so.” The report goes on to say that Gulley admitted to taking signs on numerous other occasions before Tuesday’s incident.
Sources tell the Pahrump Valley Times that Marshall was also placed on administrative leave by DeMeo, who is traveling outside the country. However, Marshall, who was left in charge in DeMeo’s absence, was able to convince DeMeo to change his mind.
At his press conference, Marshall said he did not know how DeMeo would deal with the incident when he returns.
“We have not discussed the incident,” he said.
Lt. Frank Jarvis, when reached for comment, said he could not release any details beyond what was contained in Marshall’s declaration of arrest, per DeMeo’s orders. A phone call to DeMeo was not returned.
Marshall was back at work Wednesday morning. One source inside the department said the implications of his return to the office were “astronomical.”
“He has access to the evidence against him. He has the only key to the evidence room,” the source said.
Lee admits that he and Marshall have had past disagreements.
Lee is a former Clark County School District police officer. His now-deceased father, Don Lee, ran for Nye County sheriff twice, once in 1998 and again in 2002, the younger Lee said. Lee said he wanted to work for Nye County and applied to become a deputy.
“Rick ran me through the ringer,” Lee said. “My father ran for sheriff two times and he (Marshall) didn’t like it.”
Marshall said Thursday he had no idea why Lee was targeting him, but that the negative attacks on his campaign have been frustrating.
“I knew it was going to be negative, but not like this,” he said.
Marshall faces a number of opponents in his bid for sheriff, but is clearly a leading candidate, winning the endorsement of DeMeo earlier this year. However, his campaign has been anything but smooth.
In January his son-in-law, NCSO Sgt. Michael Horn, was arrested for stealing narcotics from the sheriff’s evidence room and from at least two local residents. Horn’s criminal case is pending. Coincidentally, Gulley’s job overseeing the prescription drug disposal program makes him a key witness in that case.
Horn’s arrest is not the only black mark on Marshall’s campaign. His brother, James Marshall, faces child pornography charges after his arrest in March 2012. His trial isn’t scheduled to take place until after the November election.
Asked how he plans to lead such a fractured agency should he emerge unscathed and win in November, Marshall said it will take a cultural shift from inside the department.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi could not be reached for comment, but sources say he is planning to turn over the cases against Marshall and Gulley to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
So far no official charges have been filed against Marshall or Gulley.