The man who was wrongfully arrested for impersonating a police officer and demanding sex from prostitutes is alleging in a federal lawsuit that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police “policy and practice of concealing police misconduct” prompted Metro to “cut corners” to find a suspect and divert attention from the police department, which was the focus of an FBI investigation at the time.
Jesus Carvajal was arrested two years ago and charged with a series of sexual assaults of prostitutes. Some of the victims said their assailant identified himself as a Metro detective named “Lee” and threatened them with arrest if they failed to comply.
“At the time of his arrest for the above charges, the LVMPD’s Vice Unit was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) for serious police misconduct involving the LVMPD Vice Unit relating to the protection of pimps, arresting their competition, and certain Vice Detectives being sexually involved with prostitutes in the Las Vegas area that compromised the prosecution of numerous defendants by the CCDA’s office,” Carvajal’s attorneys Michael Macavoyamaya and Timothy Revero write in the complaint.
Carvajal filed a federal lawsuit Saturday against Metro, Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and his office, the City of Las Vegas and Clark County. The suit comes a day before the two-year anniversary of his arrest. Carvajal was released two months later when police arrested another man, Tommy Lee Provost, for an incident on Oct. 21, 2018 that police say “shared details” of the assaults originally attributed to Carvajal.
“The victim provided the officer’s (sic) information which led them to identify Tommy Provost as a possible suspect,” Las Vegas Metro Police said in a news release at the time.
The mugshots of the two men showed a remarkable resemblance.
“I still believe if Provost hadn’t been arrested I would have been incarcerated longer,” Carvajal says.
A report obtained by the Current and attached to the lawsuit, compiled by Gavin Vesp, a private investigator hired by Carvajal’s former lawyer to prove police had the wrong man, inexplicably contains a photo of Provost. The report was completed before Oct. 19, 2018, two days before the alleged sexual assault that led to Provost’s arrest and Carvajal’s exoneration.
The photo of Provost appears in a section on other named possible suspects, but the report makes no mention of Provost by name.
Police and the District Attorney declined to say whether Provost was a suspect before the alleged assault on Oct. 21, 2018 that resulted in his arrest.
Earlier this year, Provost’s attorney, Robert Draskovich, told the Current he needed to “ask for a hearing on that.”
No hearing has been held and Draskovich has not responded to calls. Provost remains in custody and is scheduled for trial in October.
Vesp, a former Metro cop, declined to comment on the photos, as did Carvajal’s former attorney, Lance Hendron.
The suit says Wolfson met with Vesp and Hendron about Carvajal’s effort to recover attorney fees and seal his record, but that Wolfson told them he would oppose sealing the records if Carvajal did not drop the motion for attorney’s fees.
“At first, Vesp was like ‘This is bad. I’ll fight for you.’ He was a cop for 20 years. He had nights he didn’t sleep,” says Carvajal. “After that meeting with Wolfson, Gavin said ‘You shouldn’t sue. A lot of good cops are going to get in trouble.’ He stopped taking my calls. I couldn’t get an attorney because Gavin wouldn’t respond to them.”
The lawsuit alleges:
- Metro Detective Ed Charaska misrepresented evidence in obtaining a search warrant from Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman for Carvajal’s home, car, and computers. Charaska told Goodman two victims identified Carvajal with “100 percent certainty” when one victim was unable to do so.
- Charaska failed to tell the judge one of the victims said she saw the perpetrator while Carvajal was actually home and under police surveillance.
- Charaska “intentionally concealed” from Goodman the fact the alleged suspect‘s vehicle, a Dodge Challenger, “supposedly registered to Plaintiff’s residence” belonged to his landlord and was not accessible to Carvajal.
- Charaska failed to tell the judge one victim presented with a line up that included Carvajal told police she was “100 percent positive none of the men are him.”
- Charaska informed the judge that photos from social media showed Carvajal holding firearms while wearing police style body armor and a vest, but did not inform the judge the photos were labeled “paintballphotography.com.”
- Charaska told the judge a victim said the suspect was driving “a silver Dodge Charger” when the case report states the suspect approached her in a “silver four-door vehicle,” not a Dodge Charger.
- Charaska failed to tell the judge two victims described the suspect as short — about 5’7” or 5’8”. Carvajal is 6’2”.
Charaska’s “misrepresentations and omissions to the judge that issued the probable cause warrant violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights resulting in the unlawful search of his home, unlawful seizure of his person and property, and denial of due process,” the suit says.
“After Defendants’ (sic) unlawfully arrested Plaintiff and publicly defamed him as a rapist, Defendants LVMPD and the CCDA failed to disclose significant exculpatory evidence that ultimately resulted in Plaintiff’s prolonged unconstitutional confinement resulting in Plaintiff losing his job, his home, his car, and his girlfriend,” according to the complaint.
The suit alleges police refused to turn over exculpatory information for more than two months after Carvajal’s arrest.
“It was not until October 19, 2018 the CCDA produced the full amount of discovery relevant to the case,” the suit says.
The District Attorney dropped the charges against Carvajal two days later, after Provost was arrested.
The suit says Carvajal’s vehicle was towed and auctioned by police “without notice or due process while Plaintiff was in jail.” He is still making payments on the car.
He was also denied unemployment benefits.
“A notification from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation says Carvajal was ‘discharged because you were incarcerated. The employer reported you were incarcerated for criminal behavior. You acknowledged the allegation. Failure to report to work because you were incarcerated due to your off-duty behavior, is considered to be misconduct in connection with the work.’”
“Plaintiff has suffered irreparable damage to his reputation and Defendants have still failed to take down the twitter post that included his photograph and press release accusing him of being a rapist,” the suit says.
Neither Lombardo nor Wolfson responded to requests for comment. The City of Las Vegas and Metro Police say they do not comment on litigation. Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa was unaware of the lawsuit.