By Rolando Larraz
Las Vegas Tribune
In Las Vegas, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Or even better, who likes you. And sometimes, it’s who is afraid of you because you either know too much or because you may have more powerful connections.
Every day police officers, city marshals, North Las Vegas, Henderson and even Mesquite police officers verbally and physically abuse citizens during their shift – for one reason or another – on a daily basis.
A few years back, Las Vegas Tribune kept Judge Don Mosley’s bailiff (that’s what we called them in those days; they are marshals today) on the front page because of his abusive behavior toward prisoners and anyone else who had the misfortune of having their case assigned to that marshal’s court.
Yes, to that marshal’s court because the judge apparently has no opinion and no say-so as to that marshal’s conduct and will never reprimand him or order him to stop acting so abusively, giving the impression that he approves the marshal’s actions.
In the old courthouse, by the judge’s chambers, there were holes in the wall made by the heads of those abused by Judge Mosley’s marshal, who was also moonlighting as a bouncer at Olympic Gardens.
The Las Vegas Tribune never mentioned the marshal’s second job because it never heard that he was abusive with the patrons of that establishment, but the newspaper was concerned for the well-being of the court visitors.
For years Family Court judges have had a very bad reputation and have been known, in many if not most cases, for being unfair by not following or enforcing the statutes and rules of civil procedure, but no one has done anything to hold them accountable.
Now Lt. Steve Rushfield becomes the fall guy by being transfered to another Clark County Court’s department under the specific protection of Family Court Judge Frank P. Sullivan in Department O, to secure his retirement after 25 years of service with the courts.
Lieutenant Rushfield, during his long career, built his reputation upon being a decent officer, protecting judges as well as visitors to the Clark County Courts, then later at the Regional Justice Center, and now in Family Court.
Lieutenant Rushfield must have created a very powerful enemy because while other marshals, staff members, and even judges were exonerated for abusive behavior for broken rules and regulations while on duty, no one has lost their rank or their job.
Judge Steve Jones was accused and arrested more than one time for accusations of domestic violence and was transfered from Family Court to Juvenile Court, even though the voters elected him to Family Court.
Now Judge Jones has been suspended from the bench because the feds have indicted him in another and unrelated case; but he’s still a judge, being protected by county officials.
In a Family Court video, Court Hearing Master Patricia Doninger shows her lack of consideration and respect for people that are going through Family Court when she ignores the plea of the lady that was being abused by the marshal while she played around with the little girl that later is seen in the video pleading with the marshals to let her mother alone.
Court Hearing Master Patricia Doninger turns her back to the lady and the marshal’s event and ignores the yelling and crying of the woman in distress.
The video gave the impression that Court Hearing Master Patricia Doninger is afraid of the marshals and that is why she allows such cowardly behavior in her court.
Court officials have not conducted an investigation into whether or not the Court Hearing Master should be disciplined for her lack of interest in the woman’s well-being, but court officials pressured Lt. Rushfield, threatening him with losing his position, stepping down from his supervisory position which would probably reduce his salary and perhaps his retirement as well.
Everyone who has been in any court, including Family Court – even if it was not their case being heard – more than one time knows that cell phones are not allowed in court; and as anyone with a badge and a gun does, the marshals impose their rule as it is best for them.
A Family Court source told the Las Vegas Tribune that the incident was not that deep and tragic as they wanted to make it appear. “I have the feeling that some of the higher-ups in downtown don’t like Steve and they are looking for excuses to get rid of him,” the source explained.
The possibility that someone with power is trying to seclude Lt. Rushfield is very obvious; Lt. Rushfield is being used as a scapegoat and the Las Vegas Tribune knows that because he has always returned the newspaper’s calls and this time he has not; can it be he is now ignoring the phone calls, or are they not giving him his messages?
The woman who answers the calls at the security office must have recognized the voice because she very arrogantly told us when we asked if she’s been passing on the messages to Lt. Rushfield – something which she did not confirm or deny – that he is not going to return any calls to the Las Vegas Tribune because he is not allowed to comment to anyone.
Las Vegas Tribune has obtained a copy of the now infamous video tape showing two marshals intimidating, threatening and verbally abusing a woman who refused to allow a male marshal to check under her bra and requested a female officer to do that.
The male marshal denied her request for a female officer to come to assist her so she wouldn’t have to expose her breasts to a male officer, and it shows in the video that he is threatening her with arrest if she does not recant her story that the marshal fondled her breasts on the pretext that he needed to search under her tank top.
The woman is a litigant in a divorce case and was there with her daughter, probably about three years old or so, and in a stroller; she was most likely known to the marshals since she had previously appeared in court several times during this process.
In a telephone conversation with the court spokesperson, Marianne Price, she explained that the matter is under investigation and they could not make a comment, but she told the Las Vegas Tribune that Family Court employs six female officers.
In another telephone call, with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, watch commander Lt. Mark Reddon told the newspaper that the department does not accommodate the suspect, but to prevent harm to both parties the search needs to be conducted immediately for investigative purposes and the arrestee cannot deny the search in a Terry stop; but immediately Lt. Reddon explained that if there is no female officer available, it is within the power of the officer at the scene to conduct a pat-down search.
A telephone call to Clark County Court Administrator Steven D. Grierson was not returned in time for this article, but Assistant Court Administrator Tim Andrews called the newspaper with the same information they had given all day long, saying that Steve Grierson was in a meeting with the Chief Judge and could not be interrupted. The misleading information may work for other people and reporters, but for those of us at the Las Vegas Tribune who have been covering the court for many years and also know the Chief Judge for as long as she has been on the bench, it’s a known fact that the Chief Judge is a workcoholic and she is not going to spend four hours in a meeting with the court administrator, regardless of what title he likes to use.