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DA: Prosecutors lacked evidence to charge ex-Raider Damon Arnette

Prosecutors opted not to file charges against former Raiders player Damon Arnette because Las Vegas police did not provide enough evidence, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Friday.

But the Metropolitan Police Department disputed that assertion, claiming in an emailed statement that police had turned over the requested information within an agreed-upon period.

During an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday, Wolfson said information provided by Metro was “inadequate” and did not address prosecutors’ concerns over how police obtained a gun that Arnette was accused of pointing at Park MGM valets during a confrontation on Jan. 28.

“There were potential Fourth Amendment violations,” Wolfson said. “Nothing was intentional, OK? But sometimes police officers do great work, and sometimes they don’t.”

The Fourth Amendment protects the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Wolfson said prosecutors had submitted a request to Metro for additional information on Feb. 23, about a month after the confrontation.

When prosecutors did not receive a response by May, they filed paperwork to deny the case, meaning the district attorney’s office declined to formally charge Arnette and his co-defendant, Markell Surrell.

After the paperwork was filed, Wolfson said Metro provided some information to his office, but prosecutors still had questions. Police also failed to provide a copy of a search warrant requested by prosecutors, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jessica Walsh, the assistant team chief of the office’s case assessment unit.

Metro said there was a delay in receiving the request for additional information because a detective on the case had changed assignments. The department said Metro responded to the request within 72 days, which was within a 90-day period agreed to between the agencies.

When asked if a deadline had been provided to Metro, Walsh said the district attorney’s office wants the information “as quickly as possible.”

“Right now we’re kind of looking at, please provide it within 90 days,” Walsh said about the request process.

Wolfson said his office met with Metro and other law enforcement agencies earlier this year to encourage police departments to share information faster, to avoid cases “languishing” in his office without formal charges.

“They know that if they don’t provide us with information … within a couple to three months, it’s most likely going to be denied,” the district attorney said.

Wolfson did not reply to follow-up questions on Friday.

‘The public deserved an explanation’

Prosecutors announced they would not be filing charges, without giving a reason, during a court hearing on Thursday. Wolfson said on Friday that his office was “still determining certain things on the case” after the hearing.

“I think the public deserved an explanation (for) why the case was denied,” Wolfson said. “Because with what we have now, it doesn’t reach our standards. Our standards are we have to be able to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, and we can’t.”

But because charges were never formally filed, if prosecutors receive more information that satisfies their Fourth Amendment concerns, they could bring charges against Arnette in the future, Wolfson said.

Metro claimed the department had already addressed Wolfson’s concerns.

“LVMPD provided a response to all the questions provided by the DA within the agreed upon timeline,” Metro said in its statement. “The responses provided to the DA clarify their questions regarding their concerns over the 4th Amendment.”

Metro did not reply to a follow-up question asking to elaborate on its response to the district attorney’s office.

The arrest report

At about 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 28, police received a report of a person with a gun at Park MGM, according to a Metro arrest report. Police were told that a man had pointed a firearm at an employee before driving away from the valet area.

Officers then stopped Arnette, who was driving a Mercedes G Wagon, at a nearby gas station, the report said. Police took Arnette and Surrell into custody, and found a gun in Surrell’s hoodie during a pat-down.

“While officers were conducting the vehicle stop an additional handgun was observed in the driver’s side door where Arnette had been driving,” the report said.

However, an officer wrote later in the report that an officer identified as “D. Courtney” had “recovered” a FNX-45 gun in the “passenger side door panel.” A different detective also found a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun in the “rear pocket of the driver seat,” the report said.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli said it was unclear from the report which officer conducted the pat-down on Surrell and who found the firearm Arnette had allegedly used.

According to the report, Arnette told police that he was angry with valets for asking for his parking ticket, which he had thrown out. Arnette said he pulled a FNX .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun out of his waistband and put it in the driver’s side door of his car while arguing with the valet, the report said.

An officer wrote in the report that video surveillance of the confrontation showed Arnette put the gun in the driver’s side door, and that Arnette began screaming at a valet who walked away from him.

“Arnette then appears to reach down and charge his pistol using both hands,” an officer wrote in the report when describing the video.

The report’s author did not clarify whether the video showed Arnette picking up the gun after he had placed it in the car.

Arnette has denied that he pointed a gun at anybody, defense attorney Ross Goodman has said.

Goodman said Friday that he has never seen the surveillance video, and he was not aware of Fourth Amendment concerns from the district attorney’s office.

“I was presuming that the video evidence corroborated what Damon said from day one, but it wouldn’t surprise me that there was also a search issue,” he said.

Walsh said that when Metro sent information in May, the department included a CD copy of the video. But because the video wasn’t uploaded to a database used to share information between prosecutors and law enforcement, Walsh said, she was unable to view the video.

Wolfson said that his office usually doesn’t have to submit requests for additional evidence from Metro, but the agency’s system works better when information is provided quickly.

“The good news is this is the exception rather than the rule,” he said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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