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Ex-Topgolf chef enters plea to resolve 3 sexual assault cases, avoid life sentence

Updated August 30, 2021 - 4:53 pm

A tentative deal with Clark County prosecutors will allow a former Topgolf Las Vegas sous chef accused in a series of sexual assaults to fend off a life sentence and convictions in two other criminal cases.

Silvino Hinojosa, 40, pleaded no contest this month to attempted sexual assault and child abuse, both felonies, in a case that prosecutors have said involved a 4-year-old victim.

He originally was charged in the case with one count of sexual assault against a child younger than 14 — a charge that would have sent him to prison for the rest of his life had he been convicted.

Now, according to the plea bargain, he is expected to be sentenced to four to 10 years in a state prison. His sentencing is set for late September.

The deal, upon sentencing, will resolve two unrelated sexual assault cases against Hinojosa, described in court documents as a “serial sexual predator” whose behavior was protected and enabled for years by a “fratboy culture” among Topgolf Las Vegas executives and kitchen management.

Those descriptions of the well-known golfing company’s workplace environment — where kitchen managers and sous chefs “protected each other from any discipline” — are laid out in hundreds of pages of court documents filed in two ongoing lawsuits and were first reported in October by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to the lawsuits, at least five former kitchen employees have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse or harassment by Hinojosa, their direct supervisor, that they claim extended from April 2016 to May 2018, when Hinojosa was fired.

Ciara Williams, Elba Servin and Brian Gomez are among at least five former Topgolf kitchen empl ...
Ciara Williams, Elba Servin and Brian Gomez are among at least five former Topgolf kitchen employees who have spoken out publicly about alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the well-known sports entertainment company's Las Vegas flagship. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Topgolf has declined to comment on specific details of the lawsuits, citing ongoing litigation, but in an April statement to the Review-Journal said the allegations “certainly are not representative or reflective of Topgolf, our associates or our culture.”

“Let us be clear that any type of harassment has absolutely no place at Topgolf, and we have robust policies and procedures in place that prohibit this type of behavior,” the statement continued.

The most serious allegations against Hinojosa include claims that he lured prep cook Elba Servin to a vacant home and raped her in June 2016 and that he assaulted pastry chef Ciara Williams inside a walk-in freezer in Topgolf’s kitchen a year later. Their accusations led to the criminal charges filed in the two pending cases that will be dismissed as part of Hinojosa’s plea deal.

The Review-Journal typically does not identify victims of sexual assault, but both women previously gave the newspaper permission to use their names.

Their attorney, James J. Lee, declined to comment on the deal. But earlier this year, he told the Review-Journal: “It takes tremendous moral courage to come forward with these allegations, and it is my hope that this process can play a role in helping these survivors reclaim some of what was taken away from them.”

According to Servin, prosecutors had not consulted with her about the deal prior to extending the offer to Hinojosa, though it was not clear on Monday whether prosecutors spoke with Williams ahead of the plea bargain.

Records show that Hinojosa will remain in custody at the Clark County Detention Center pending his sentencing. He has been in custody at the jail since his arrest in July 2019.

On Monday, Hinojosa’s attorney, Patricia Doyle, did not comment on the deal other than to confirm that it will resolve all three of her client’s cases.

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Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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