Major new developments were unveiled Thursday related to an FBI investigation into police corruption.
The Clark County District Attorney’s Office is voluntarily removing itself from cases involving two men serving life terms.
What happened at the courthouse Thursday is a huge development in the scandal first revealed last November. Since 2014, the FBI has been investigating possible corruption and sexual misconduct by at least one and as many as four Metro detectives, as well as possible conflicts of interest by the DA’s office.
Prosecutors have griped in court for months that this is nothing but a conspiracy theory made up by the I-Team. Thursday, the DA took a much different position.
“It’s way bigger than Chris Baughman. There’s other individuals who haven’t been named,” said convict Ocean Flemming in a previous interview with the I-Team.
The convicted pimp’s phone call from prison no longer seems so outlandish. Fleming is serving a life sentence for brutalizing women who worked for him as prostitutes but has argued from the beginning that something was fishy about the star vice cop who helped put him away.
Fleming alleged that former Metro Detective Chris Baughman had been sexually involved with prostitutes who were both victims and witnesses in his case.
The very same allegations were made by another pimp serving a life term, Raymond Sharpe, who provided text messages to the court which show Baughman had a romantic relationship with a prostitute who testified in his case.
The allegations by both men were given little credibility during their original trials, but have gained new traction since the I-Team revealed that the FBI is investigating Baughman, and possibly, other detectives as well.
Thursday morning, district court Judge Michael Villani said that a special prosecutor will be appointed in Ocean Fleming’s appeal in response to this motion, in which the DA’s office recused itself from the Fleming case.
There’s more. A nearly identical motion has also been filed in the appeal of Raymond Sharpe. Defense attorneys had argued that the DA should be removed because Deputy District Attorney Liz Mercer, who was not only the lead prosecutor against Fleming and Sharpe, but likewise had a romantic relationship with Detective Baughman and is now married to him.
Raymond Sharpe’s attorney explained the tangled web and what it means.
“The lead witness and the lead prosecutor were sleeping with the married detective who was the primary source of evidence, as gained through the warrant, taints the entire procedure so much that prejudice should be assumed,” said Jonathan MacArthur, defense attorney.
Until now, the DA wanted to stay on both the Sharpe and Fleming cases so it could oppose their requests for new trials. In a motion filed weeks ago, prosecutors said the allegations about an FBI investigation of Baughman, and possible conflicts by his wife, Ms. Mercer, were a mere conspiracy theory hatched by an unnamed TV station.
Now, the DA will step aside for special prosecutors in both cases. Two weeks ago, Fleming’s attorney Janiece Marshall was handed a file of information obtained from Metro about Detective Baughman. And the judge authorized defense attorneys to investigate further.
Marshall confirmed to us she sent eight subpoenas to Metro, seeking investigative files from both internal affairs and the intelligence bureau on four individuals: former vice Detective Baughman, his longtime partner at vice Detective Al Beas, intelligence Detective Warren Gray and former vice Lt. Karen Hughes, who oversaw the creation of Baughman’s anti-pimp squad. Fleming’s attorneys are casting a wide net.
“He raises allegations with respect to Detective Baughman which were previously based on other cases as well, and of course, as part of our representation of him, we need to explore those issues,” Marshall said.
Although the FBI does not, as a matter of policy, confirm the existence of an investigation, it’s now clear that this one is coming to a head.
Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo confirmed to the I-Team in April that his office is cooperating with the FBI. And by recusing itself from these two cases, the DA’s office has likewise acknowledged that this is a serious matter, and much more than a conspiracy theory.
Presiding Judge Doug Herndon will be the person who names the special prosecutors in both of the appeals cases.