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Lawsuit: Mistaken identity leads to arrest; Nye named

A longtime Las Vegas Strip and cruise ship entertainer is suing both Nye and Lyon counties after an unexplained series of events following his arrest back in late 2016.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court, District of Nevada, by Reno Attorney Terri Keyser-Cooper, claims Lyon County resident Sean Laughlin’s rights were violated by being denied his constitutional due process, requiring jailed suspects to see a judge within 72 hours.

Nye County officials and the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the matter.

Sharing a name

Laughlin just happens to share the same name of a Pahrump resident who was arrested on burglary charges in March of 2016.

As stated in the complaint, Keyser-Cooper said her 56-year-old client’s situation began on Dec. 12, 2016 when Laughlin was stopped for a minor traffic infraction in Carson City.

“A routine warrant check revealed he was wanted for the crime of failure to appear on a burglary charge out of Pahrump, Nevada, a small town he has not heard of or been to,” Keyser-Cooper stated in the 31-page complaint.

Though Laughlin told the trooper that he had no criminal record, had never been to Pahrump, or received a summons to appear in court, he was still arrested at gunpoint and booked into the Lyon County jail, where he remained incarcerated for 13 days, according to the complaint.

Excessive bail amount

Keyser-Cooper also questioned her client’s unusually high bail amount, for the burglary arrest.

Initially, the bench warrant was set at $450,000, but it was inexplicably raised to $675,000, according to the complaint.

The estimated value of the items stolen in the burglary totaled roughly $3,800.

“Laughlin learns he is accused of stealing items, including used women’s clothing, CDs and an electric screwdriver,” the complaint stated. “Laughlin strongly protests that the arrest is a mistake. He had not committed a burglary, he has never been to Pahrump, and he knows no one in Pahrump.”

Throughout his 18-day incarceration, Keyser-Cooper’s complaint stated that her client repeatedly protested to jail staff, fellow inmates, or “anyone who would listen,” according to the lawsuit.

Same name, different person

“They refused to check out his story,” the lawsuit stated. “He had no idea what was going on.”

What was going on, according to the lawsuit, was the fact that Laughlin, a resident of Silver City, in Lyon County, also performs as a comedian on a cruise ship, and just happens to share the same name of Pahrump resident Sean Laughlin, who at the time resided at 621 Jarvis Road, according to the complaint.

Additionally, Keyser-Cooper noted that Pahrump resident Sean Laughlin was, in fact, the man arrested on the burglary charges, and failed to appear in court.

On the other side of the world

According to the lawsuit, the burglary occurred between March 4th and 14th, back in 2016.

“On those dates, my client was in Australia,” Keyser-Cooper stated in the lawsuit. “Documents establish Sean Laughlin arrived in Australia on or about March 3, 2016, slightly before his contractual obligation to perform on the Royal Caribbean Voyager from March 7th through the 13th of 2016. The cruise commenced in Brisbane and ended in Sydney. There was no opportunity for Laughlin leave the ship to fly to America to steal used clothing, DVDs and CDs in Pahrump, Nevada.”

Additionally, the Keyser-Cooper noted that after the cruise, her client remained in Australia to await his next contractual obligation with Royal Caribbean.

“On or about March 21st and 25th, of 2016, Laughlin performed on the Royal Caribbean Explorer,” the lawsuit stated. “Documents show Laughlin remained in Australia. On April 2, 2016 Laughlin again performed on the Royal Caribbean Explorer, sailing from Noumea to Auckland on April 7, 2016. Passport documents, credit card receipts, airline itineraries, and a host of witness statements conclusively establish Laughlin was in Australia at the time of the burglary.”

Identifying the perpetrator

Moreover, Keyser-Cooper contends that law enforcement officers in Lyon and Nye County did not perform their due diligence in attempting to identify the actual man arrested for the burglary in Pahrump.

“Laughlin did not receive the summons to appear on Dec. 6, 2016 sent to 621 W. Jarvis Road in Pahrump because he did not reside, and never has resided at 621 W. Jarvis Road,” the complaint stated. “Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies did not physically go to 621 W. Jarvis Road, to arrest Pahrump resident Sean Laughlin even though it would have been easy for them to do so. The distance between 621 W. Jarvis Road. and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office in Pahrump is only 5.5 miles. If Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies believed the person residing at 621 W. Jarvis Road, was responsible for the burglary, they could have arrested and booked that person, and taken his fingerprints and photograph.”

First time in Pahrump

After spending 13 days in the Lyon County Jail, Keyser-Cooper’s client was transferred to the Nye County Detention Center in Pahrump, according to the complaint.

“Nye County officials knew or should have known there was an obvious error on Laughlin’s bench warrant, because Laughlin had no ties to Pahrump and possessed a driver’s license and other documents showing an address in Silver City, Nevada, some 388 miles north of Pahrump,” the lawsuit stated. “Instead of taking reasonable measures to verify Laughlin was the actual suspect, Nye County officials prolonged Laughlin’s incarceration by showing deliberate indifference for the need to verify Laughlin’s identity.”

Free at last, but no explanation

After roughly five days in the Nye County Detention Center, Keyser-Cooper said her client was eventually released from custody.

“On December 29, 2016, the Nye County justice of the peace entered an order dismissing the charges against Laughlin without prejudice,” the lawsuit stated. “Laughlin lost his job. Laughlin’s agent informed him that after missing two contracted scheduled performances, cruise ships found him unreliable and no longer employable. Laughlin also lost his agent. For the majority of 2017, Laughlin was unemployed, severely depressed, and worried this crazy scenario could happen again. In 2018, Laughlin took a job as a basic laborer.”

Keyser-Cooper did not specify what kind of general, special or punitive damages she is seeking for her client in the complaint.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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