Sometimes confessing to a crime, even to police, is not enough to make the case.
Las Vegas attorney Stephen Stubbs is defending his decision to identify an alleged child molestor on Facebook and a YouTube video post because Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has so far declined to file charges.
Stubbs says he represents a Boulder City infant girl who was the victim of a sexual assault by a close family friend who admitted the crime to police but can’t be prosecuted.
According to police reports the suspect (who the Current is not identifying) allegedly admitted the assault during a polygraph examination as part of his application to become a Las Vegas Metropolitan police officer. The suspect told police he was 13 to 14 years-old at the time of the alleged crime, approximately ten years ago.
“Ten days ago I sat with Steve Wolfson, Mike Sweeney and two detectives and we went over all the facts of the case and tried to figure out a way around this rule.” Stubbs told the Current. “Wolfson said ‘If you can figure out a way for us to do this ethically, let me know.”
In the YouTube post from this week, Stubbs details the legal principle of “corpus delicti,” the obstacle to prosecuting the case.
“It means that a child rapist… cannot be prosecuted because his victim cannot remember or cannot testify against the assault,” Stubbs says in the video. “One of the big tragedies here is that Adam Laxalt tried in the last legislative session to modify the corpus delecti rule to the trustworthiness rule that twelve other states have adopted… That modification would have protected our children.”
District Attorney Steve Wolfson says his hands are tied, according to Stubbs, when it comes to prosecuting the suspect, ironically by a rule the Nevada District Attorneys Association lobbied against changing in 2015.
Legislative minutes reveals the DA Association, represented in the Legislature by Wolfson’s own prosecutor, John Jones, asked Attorney General Adam Laxalt to submit an amendment deleting the rule change from the bill.
“They (the DA Association) didn’t think it was necessary. There was no compelling story to make the case,” Stubbs says.
The section of AB 49 at issue would have allowed prosecutors to pursue cases in which a confession is currently not admissible because it is not corroborated. Twelve other states have passed similar measures.
The minutes from the bill’s first hearing before the Assembly Judiciary committee read “We have added an amendment to eliminate section 20 of this bill (Exhibit I). The Attorney General’s Office is accepting the amendments from the Nevada District Attorneys Association.”
Laxalt’s office offered Amendment #1, proposing to “Amend the bill by deleting Section 20 in its entirety. Purpose of amendment: This section proposes to add a new section to NRS Chapter 47 on the admissibility of certain statements; however, after discussing this proposal with prosecutors and defense attorneys, we do not feel this requires legislative action at this time.”
Neither Laxalt, Wolfson or the DAs Association lobbyist Jones returned calls for comment.
Boulder City police say they received information from Metro about an alleged crime committed by the suspect, a Boulder City resident.
“He (the suspect) made statements to Metro. We didn’t know the victim or location of the alleged crime. When we found out and apprised him of his Miranda rights, he refused to talk,” says Sgt. John Glenn.
The Boulder City police report from Glenn reads “I request this case be suspended. I also request that this case be reopened if the Nevada Legislation (sic) implements a law/rule trumping the Corpus Delicti rule in future cases similar to this.”
Stubbs says he’s not concerned that his social media posts could prompt vigilante justice against a man who was a juvenile at the time of the alleged crime and has not been arrested.
“This was a calculated decision,” Stubbs said. “The law did not pass when it was presented in 2015, and the law has to change. So, the compelling story has to be told. Then, legislators will be moved to act. There is a lot of political fighting in today’s political climate, so this has to pierce all of that and get done. The more outrage, the better chance of passing the law. I have been very clear with all my friends and associates that anyone taking the law into their own hands will hurt my chances of getting justice through legislation. I asked them very strongly not to do anything. No one will do anything.”
But Stubbs admits by publicly posting on YouTube, he’s given up control of the audience.
“What about people I don’t know? What about people I have no connection to? Not my concern.”