LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Clark County’s top prosecutor and two prosecutors in his office have called out a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney after he made gestures in court.
Deputy District Attorney Morgan Thomas told the 8 News Now Investigators that she believes that defense attorney Jonathan MacArthur was gesturing to slap her behind.
“As a female attorney, I find the actions of Mr. MacArthur to be highly offensive and inappropriate,” Thomas wrote in a statement. “His actions were not only offensive but confusing. I have never experienced that level of disrespect in open court.”
Thomas said that MacArthur was making slapping noises while making the gesture and she later viewed a courtroom video to figure out what he was doing.
The 8 News Now Investigators also obtained the video.
“Mr. MacArthur showed a lack of respect towards myself and the court,” she wrote. “His behavior was completely unacceptable.”
Thomas, Chief Deputy District Attorney Jake Villani, and MacArthur were in court on Wednesday to reset a trial date after a hung jury in a sexual assault case.
The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to MacArthur.
“While the court was addressing a matter different than ours, I made a gesture implying that I metaphorically intend to spank Mr. Villani during the next trial,” MacArthur wrote in a statement. “The gesture was made at Mr. Villani’s expense, but made in order to entertain a senior DA from his office also present in the audience.”
MacArthur said that he and Villani have had a contentious relationship for years.
“While my conduct this morning was less than formal, I have built a career upon not cowering to prosecutors when they attempt to bully me or my clients,” MacArthur wrote.
The 8 News Now Investigators also reached out to Villani.
“I don’t know why that would be directed at me, and it’s completely inappropriate regardless,” Villani said.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson also weighed in.
“I believe attorneys should act with respect and dignity toward colleagues and the court and act professionally at all times,” Wolfson said. “If any of my prosecutors engaged in this level of behavior, there would be consequences.”
It is unclear whether Clark County District Court Judge Monica Trujillo saw MacArthur making the gestures.
“Attorneys are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards at all times,” according to courtroom protocol on Judge Trujillo’s Clark County District Court webpage. “They are to be civil to one another as well as to all parties, witnesses, and court personnel – whether in front of a jury or the court.”
The 8 News Now Investigators also reached out to a spokesperson for Clark County District Court.
Spokesperson Mary Ann Price cited Eighth Judicial District Court Rule 7.72 on courtroom conduct and attire that “Proceedings in court should be conducted with dignity and decorum.”
“Violations of this rule should be raised with that court,” Price wrote in an email.
Jonathan MacArthur’s full statement has been provided below.
Last Friday, August 4th, 2023, DA Jake Villani, his co-counsel Morgan Thomas, and myself completed a two week trial that resulted in a hung jury. As a result, the case will have to be retried before a different jury in October of this year. None of the following should reflect negatively on Ms. Thomas in any way as she remained a consummate professional throughout.
In court this morning, and while the court was addressing a matter different than ours, I made a gesture implying that I metaphorically intend spank Mr. Villani during the next trial. The gesture was made at Mr. Villani’s expense, but made in order to entertain a senior DA from his office also present in the audience. That DA and I enjoy a much more collegial relationship and found it quite funny. That attorney’s laughter may be visible in audio/video recordings from the hearing.
Mr. Villani and I have shared a contentious professional relationship for many years. Outside of courtroom settings, we have postured and exchanged insults on many occasions. This case has been no exception. Given the amount of mutual acrimony between DA Villani and I, I am surprised that he has resorted to complaining to the media to tip public perception in his favor.
In prior cases, Mr. Villani has wagered that he would convict my clients of crimes even when the evidence strongly suggested that the charges should be dismissed. To his credit, he paid the wager when those charges were properly dismissed by a district court judge. I still proudly display the bottle of alcohol surrendered by Mr. Villani in the attached photo to remind me of those victories.Jonathan MacArthur, Esq.
While my conduct this morning was less than formal, I have built a career upon not cowering to prosecutors when they attempt to bully me or my clients.
A full statement from Morgan Thomas has been provided below.
As a female attorney, I find the actions of Mr. MacArthur to be highly offensive and inappropriate. This incident occurred in the middle of open court, during a criminal calendar, with numerous attorneys and inmates present. His actions were not only offensive, but confusing. I have never experienced that level of disrespect in open court.
While in court there should be a level of decorum and respect for the system, the process, and the party standing on the other side. Mr. MacArthur showed a lack of respect towards myself and the Court. His behavior was completely unacceptable.Morgan Thomas, Clark County Deputy D.A.