Friday, Oct. 20, 2006 | 7:58 a.m.
C laims that the Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Jim Gibbons, assaulted a woman last Friday were a shock, and the poor way he has handled this has been stunning.
And that says something about the man who could occupy the Governor's Mansion.
It took six days for Gibbons to say anything publicly, and when he did, at a press conference Thursday, he read from a prepared statement, repeating the story he told Metro Police, who investigated the alleged assault. He then hid behind his lawyer, Don Campbell, who attacked the woman's story, calling it "incoherent" and "inconsistent." Campbell then indignantly declared that Gibbons would not answer questions because the woman had retained a lawyer.
Before that, Gibbons said, "My good name is more important than any elected office." If he means that, he needs to answer questions, because the story he told police is different from the one his campaign has told .
Initially, the claims were brushed aside as nothing more than a drunken tale told by a 32-year-old waitress.
There have been tales told, all right, and by the Gibbons campaign.
First, it said that whatever happened - it says the congressman innocently tried to help the woman up after she tripped, while she says he pushed her against a wall and made an unwanted sexual advance - happened outside of McCormick & Schmick's, the restaurant where they were drinking. But now we have learned that the incident, according to the congressman and the woman, actually happened in the stairwell of a parking garage across the street.
Then the campaign said the woman, Chrissy Mazzeo, was so intoxicated that when she sobered up the following day she recanted. Mazzeo never recanted. According to Metro Police interview transcripts, Mazzeo simply said she didn't want to press charges, "mainly because of who he is." She said she didn't "want to go up against something like that."
It's no surprise why she felt that way. The Gibbons camp, led by powerful Republican consultant Sig Rogich, quickly called the claims preposterous and sad. A Gibbons spokesman even went so far as to say that Metro proved it didn't happen. That's flat-out wrong.
Metro closed the investigation after Mazzeo said she did not want to press charges. In Thursday's edition of the Las Vegas Sun, Sheriff Bill Young, who originally called the incident a misunderstanding, said the story told to police is "a pretty damaging report. But once an alleged victim declines to prosecute, we're pretty much done with it."
Gibbons' supporters have tried to deflect this as a he-said, she-said story. While we make no judgment about the veracity of Mazzeo's claims, so far what Gibbons has said - and his campaign has said on his behalf - have neither matched nor put the issue to rest. The prospect of the latter happening is reduced now by the fact that both sides have hired lawyers who clearly are advising them to keep silent. But in Gibbons' case, at least, that is a dangerous path to take for someone who wants to lead this state as governor.