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Stress deputies ordered to see county shrink

David Boruchowitz
David Boruchowitz
<p>Rick Marshall</p>

Rick Marshall

Bill Becht </p>
Bill Becht

Six county sheriff’s deputies out on stress leave are not expected to return to work until at least August, sources tell the Pahrump Valley Times.

The deputies walked off the job in May in protest after participating in the April 22 arrests of Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall and Ben Gulley, an elderly volunteer at the NCSO, who’s worked there for more than a decade.

The deputies who left their posts are David Boruchowitz, Harry Williams, John Kakavulias, Christopher Gelson, Adam Tippetts and Logan Gibbs. A seventh deputy, Brian Jonas, resigned his position with the department. All the deputies but Jonas were involved in Marshall and Gulley’s arrests.

The “stressed” deputies have been given an ultimatum to report to a county psychiatrist to be evaluated. Workman’s compensation claims filed by the deputies have all been denied. If the deputies fail to see the psychiatrist, sources say they could be fired for abandoning their jobs. Federal law allows 12 weeks of “job-protected” leave, however.

Sheriff Tony DeMeo said that since the six deputies have been gone, his staff has grown closer, deputies covering for each other and working together to overcome the manpower shortage.

“Since we’ve had these individuals out on sick leave, I haven’t had one grievance land on my desk. Before they left, I used to have several (on a daily basis),” he said. “Everybody’s concentrating on these six deputies that are out, but let me tell you the deputies that are here are bending over backwards to help us through the situation. I will say this, the people who are on right now, who are showing up for work right now, I have seen nothing but people who will someday make good leaders to serve this county in the future very well. The men and women on the job right now impress me to no end.”

DeMeo says internal affairs investigations await all of the “stressed” deputies who wish to return to work.

Meanwhile, Nevada Department of Public Safety investigators are wrapping up their investigation of Marshall and Gulley, who may face criminal charges related to the theft of about $6 worth of political signs owned by Citizens to Elect an Ethical Nye County Sheriff. That group is responsible for the “Anybody but Rick” advertising campaign, the mission of which is to prevent Marshall from becoming the county’s next sheriff.

Despite the vitriolic campaign against Marshall, he advanced out of the June primary. He faces Sharon Wehrly, an investigator in the district attorney’s office, in the November general election.

Ryan Miller, deputy chief of the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Investigation Division (NDI), said his agency should submit its findings to the state attorney general’s office by mid-July.

“I can confirm that we are investigating theft allegations involving campaign signs, Asst. Sheriff Rick Marshall and Ben Gulley; however, I am unable to provide an update other than to say that the case remains under investigation,” he said via email in response to questions.

Asked about reports that a separate investigation is underway involving the officers who arrested Marshall and Gulley, Miller said there is no other probe ongoing.

“We are not conducting any other ancillary investigations involving Nye County Deputies at this time,” he said.

However, Boruchowitz, the ringleader of the group of stressed officers, who is president of the local deputies union, the Nye County Law Enforcement Association, is coming under an increasing amount of scrutiny. This time it’s not for his role in leading a strike, but his conduct as a detective.

Last week, the sheriff’s office turned over files to a Las Vegas attorney named Jeff Pitegoff in response to a federal subpoena for the controversial detective’s personnel records, past internal affairs complaints against him, disciplinary history and a still-confidential state Investigation Division report detailing an episode last year for which disciplinary action has been ordered by DeMeo.

Pitegoff is representing Bob Beckett in a federal civil suit brought by the detective against the former district attorney and the county in 2011. Beckett ordered Boruchowitz’s arrest in 2010 during a massive imbroglio involving Beckett and the sheriff’s office. The detective was cleared and Beckett forced to resign. Boruchowitz is claiming civil rights violations in his suit.

Pitegoff did not return phone calls to his office seeking comment.

He is one of three attorneys looking closely at the detective’s past. Warren Geller, another Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, recently requested similar internal records about the detective on behalf of a client named Ronald Berglund, who was set to go to trial this month on sex-related offenses. Boruchowitz was the lead detective in that case.

Geller requested the material after reading numerous media reports involving the detective. The attorney’s motion for the material cites a 2013 Federal 9th Circuit Court decision in Milke v. Ryan, where a Phoenix murder conviction was overturned because prosecutors failed to allow defense attorneys to review and present to a jury the personnel records of a detective who repeatedly engaged in questionable conduct.

According to informed sources, District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker will be responsible for determining whether the material meets applicable standards cited not just in the 2013 federal court decision but also the earlier 1963 decision in Brady v. Maryland.

Brady material, as it is usually termed, can be used to impeach a police officer’s testimony in court. Prosecutors shun cases brought by police officers who have credibility issues.

Boruchowitz is at the center of so many successful prosecutions in Nye County and is such a controversial figure that if he should be deemed a “Brady cop” it could lead to lawsuits against the county and conviction reversals.

The third attorney attempting to access the internal sheriff’s records on Boruchowitz is local defense attorney Tom Gibson. Gibson first sought the material after he and his wife became involved in a 2013 scandal involving the detective, who had allegedly coerced one of Gibson’s clients, a woman named Antionette Bell, to file a false complaint against Gibson’s wife, who works at the school district. Bell, Gibson and Gibson’s wife complained and an investigation was launched into the allegations.

Investigators with the state’s Investigations Division were brought in and compiled a still-secret report that knowledgeable sources say implicate Boruchowitz, Williams, one of the stressed deputies, as well as former NCSO captain and recent sheriff’s candidate Bill Becht.

The report documents the aftermath of a June 2013 case in which Boruchowitz confiscated videotapes from the home Bell shared with her mother. Both women are prolific customers of the county’s judicial and penal system. Barbara Bell, in fact, is currently in state prison.

The investigative report says that the videotapes in question showed multiple sex acts being performed by the women. In fact, they were to be evidence in a pandering case brought against the elder Bell, who was accused at one point of trading sex with her minor daughter for drugs. That case was later dropped.

According to the investigative report, Boruchowitz not only showed the original tapes to multiple people, but he actually recorded some of the footage with his personal cell phone and showed that footage to multiple people. He told investigators it was for “comic relief.”

Also, the report details allegations that the detective engaged in inappropriate phone conversations with the younger Bell.

More startling, the report details that Williams, also a detective with the sheriff’s office, attempted to cover for Boruchowitz during questioning. Investigators later got him to admit that he lied to help his fellow officer.

One local judge, when told of this was shocked, saying the detective had testified in his court a dozen times or more recently.

Becht, who left the NCSO in September, and who came in third place in the June primary election for sheriff, said he had no idea what a reporter was talking about when called for comment Thursday.

“I don’t know anything about it. The NDI investigated Boruchowitz?” he said when asked if he knew his name was in the report.

Asked about an allegation in the report that he viewed the videotapes confiscated from the Bell home, he said he didn’t know anything about them, but that he would ask Boruchowitz, the source of the allegation, about it. Boruchowitz told investigators that he felt he didn’t do anything wrong since Becht, his superior, watched the amateur pornography alongside him.

Boruchowitz has reportedly been given only a minor suspension for his role recording and showing the private material. One source said he is appealing the punishment. But another source disputed that and said that a disciplinary hearing hadn’t even been held yet — ostensibly because the detective remains on leave — and so no punishment had even been meted out.

Sources inside the sheriff’s office say state investigators recommended firing Boruchowitz and Williams. Instead, DeMeo contacted an outside attorney who recommended suspending the detective since Becht, his superior, was involved and went unpunished, sources say.

Later on Thursday, Becht said he talked with the detective. He said he could not comment because the detective told him this case remains under investigation.

“They could have called me in to question me. They did about the Horn matter. I can’t comment because this is under investigation. I would call into question the ethics of anyone who is sharing this information with you,” he later told a reporter. The “Horn matter” Becht refers to is the February arrest of Sgt. Michael Horn, who was caught stealing drugs from the sheriff’s office. Horn happens to be Marshall’s son-in-law. Also of note, Gibson is defending Marshall’s brother, James, in a child pornography case, the investigation of which was headed by Boruchowitz.

Boruchowitz said he did not wish to comment on the specifics of this story, yet called the information being shared with the PVT “outright lies.”

He asked if the newspaper had been furnished a copy of the NDI report in question — it has not — and then said that only half the story is being provided.

“We (deputies) are bound by rules that our administration refuses to follow,” the detective said, referring to policies that prevent subordinates from speaking to the media. “I would love to clear the air and defend the lies mentioned in the article, however, someone has to remain ethical.”

An attempt to reach Williams was unsuccessful. Boruchowitz did not wish to comment on Williams’ role.

District Attorney Brian Kunzi declined to comment, citing rules related to personnel issues. He and the county’s human resources department are handling the return or terminations of the six stressed deputies.

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